Construction Permit - Establishing Use

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What Is It?

Our Land Use Code specifies the type of development, called the use, allowed on property in different zones. It requires that all uses be established by permit. Examples of different types of uses are single-family homes, multifamily residences, office buildings, and warehouses.

A permit to establish use is needed to change the use on your property, for example, from an office to a retail space. You need an addition / alteration permit to open a new business even if you're not remodeling the space. If you’re also renovating or remodeling your building, you can change your use as part of your addition / alteration permit without a separate permit to establish use. If the new use is not allowed outright under our Land Use Code, you need to apply for a conditional use permit.

You may also want to obtain a permit to establish a use that is not currently established by permit. You may want to do this if you have a use on your property that was legal when it started but is not permitted under current land use cod regulations or development standards. You will need to show that the use:

  • Meets all Seattle Municipal Code and Seattle Building Code standards were in effect when the use began, or that the use pre-dates code requirements
  • Has been ongoing since the use originally started
  • Has never been legally established by permit

How Much Does It Cost?

Our fees are based on the value of your project. You pay approximately 75 percent of your fees when you submit your plans and the rest when you pick up your permit. Use our fee estimator to calculate how much your permit will cost.

How Long Does It Take?

We try to finish our initial review of simple permit applications in 2-3 weeks and complex permits in 8 weeks. How long it takes to get the final permit depends on how complex your project is and how many corrections, if any, you need to make.

Steps to Get Your Permit


1. Research

Get your property information. Find property information to help you plan your project.

Determine restrictions to your project. Research our codes to determine allowable uses and construction and life / safety requirements.

Find incentives for your project. Research the City's different incentives that might apply to your project.

Attend a coaching session. We offer 20 minutes of free coaching at the Applicant Services Center to answer drainage, land use, geotechnical or construction permit questions.

2. Start Permit Application

Get a project number. Get a project number by starting your application online or by submitting a preliminary application form. You will need to include a preliminary site plan with the form. You can use the number to track your project.

Prepare your plans. Plans should be to scale and easy to read and scan.

Fill out forms.

Coordinate with other agencies. You may need permits or approvals from other agencies. These are the most common agencies you may need to work with for your permit type:

3. Submit Plans

Get your project screened. We screen your application to make sure it’s ready to submit. Screening is available on a walk-in basis at the Applicant Services Center or through your Seattle DCI Project Portal.

Schedule an intake appointment. Call (206) 684-8850 to schedule an intake appointment at the Applicant Services Center, or schedule an electronic appointment. You may schedule an appointment without screening if you are a consistently prepared applicant with a rating of 80 percent or better.

Pay fees. Approximately 75 percent of your permit fees are due at intake. The fees are calculated based on your project value.

Make corrections and resubmit your plans. Your project reviewer will send you a corrections letter if changes are needed.

4. Get Permit

Pick up or print permit. You will be contacted when your plans are approved. You can pick up your permit and approved plans at the permit issuance counter in the Applicant Service Center. If you submitted your plans electronically, you can print your permit and approved plans from your Seattle DCI Project Portal.

Pay fees. You will need to pay all outstanding fees to pick up your permit.

Display your permit. Place your permit in a visible location on the project site.

Get related permits. You may need to get additional permits or approvals from other departments.

5. Schedule Inspection

Request an inspection. See the construction inspections page for when to call us and how to schedule your inspection.

6. Complete Project

Receive your certificate of occupancy.

Close your permit. Your permit information will be archived in our electronic document management system.

What Do You Want To Do?

Still Need Help?

 Ask Us

  • Call us at (206) 684-8850