Shoreline Exemptions

What Is It?

Many types of projects, such as construction of a new commercial or multi-family residential building within Seattle's shoreline district, require a Shoreline Land Use Permit. The shoreline district includes Elliott Bay, Lake Washington, the Ship Canal, Lake Union, the Duwamish River, Green Lake, and associated wetlands and all land within 200 feet of these water bodies.

Certain projects are considered exempt from this permit requirement if the proposal meets specific criteria in the City’s Shoreline Master Program.

Some common types of projects that are typically considered exempt:

  • Normal maintenance and repair of existing structures or developments, including damage by accident, fire, or natural elements
  • Construction of a single-family residence and accessory structures by the owner for his/her own use, on dry land only
  • Demolition of structures, not having a major impact on the shoreline character
  • Any development with a value of less than $7,047.00 that does not materially interfere with normal public use of the water

If your project qualifies for a shoreline exemption, you must obtain written approval from us before a construction permit can be issued or the project can be implemented. For more information on the process of obtaining a shoreline exemption, see below.

All development within the shoreline district, even where an exemption from the requirement for a Shoreline Land Use Permit is granted, must be consistent with the policies and regulations of the State’s Shoreline Management Act and Seattle’s Shoreline Master Program.

How Much Does It Cost?

The fee for your application is based on how long it takes us to complete the review:

  • We charge an hourly review fee (the SDCI base fee)
  • You must pay for one half hour of review when you submit your application
  • You pay additional review fees prior to receiving our decision

How Long Does It Take?

We try to finish the initial review of the application within 2 weeks.

Steps to Apply

You must receive an shoreline exemption decision from us before your intake appointment for a building permit or a master use permit. 

  1. Attend a coaching session. We recommend that you speak with one of our staff before you submit your exemption request. Coaching is available at the Applicant Service Center on the 20th floor of the Seattle Municipal Tower.
  2. Start your application. Begin your preliminary application and request your exemption or relief online through your Project Portal. You will need to upload a site plan and any documents you have to support your application. Examples of supporting documents include a geotechnical report, topographic survey, historical street grade profiles, and photographs.
  3. Schedule a pre-application site visit. You'll receive an email once we have added the pre-application site visit (PASV) fees to your project. (Most projects require a PASV.) After you have paid the fee, we will perform the inspection. Your preliminary application materials will be sent to other departments for their review and comment as part of this process.
  4. Submit additional information. As we review your application, we may ask for additional information.