Street, Alley, and Pedestrian Improvement Exceptions

What Is It?

Our Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) requires street, alley, or pedestrian improvements for some types of projects. Improvements required depend on the location of your property and the size of your project, and can be one of the following:

  • Installing sidewalks, drainage, or street trees
  • Surfacing streets or alleys with paving or gravel
  • Providing a signed agreement to help pay for future street or alley improvements  
  • Designing your project so access to the site won’t be affected by future street or alley improvements
  • Additional structure setbacks from property lines next to streets or alleys
  • Dedicating property to the City for future street or alley widening

How do I find out if my project needs improvements?

You can find out whether you will need improvements early on in your project planning at the preliminary application stage through:

  • A pre-submittal conference. We recommend pre-submittal conferences for very complex projects, including buildings with unusual structural systems, substantial alterations, or work in environmentally critical areas or shorelines. One-hour pre-submittal conference fees vary based on the type of conference you need.
  • Land use coaching. We offer one-hour coaching sessions for a fee.
  • A preliminary assessment report. If you are doing a land use or new construction project, you’ll receive this report soon after completing your preliminary application.

How Much Does It Cost?

We charge hourly review fees for your street improvement exception request. You pay for 2 hours of review time when you submit your request. We may charge you additional hours depending on how long the review takes.

How Long Does It Take?

The review of your exception request can take 4 to 6 weeks. The amount of time depends on the materials you provide in your application and the complexity of the request. Make sure your initial application for the exception is as complete as possible to avoid delays.

Steps To Get Your Exception

  • Include supporting documentation with your application. Examples include:
    • Topographic survey and other physical features that affect improvements
    • Geotechnical reports (if located in ECA Steep Slope)
    • Wetland or riparian corridor delineation reports
    • Arborist or landscape professional reports
    • Copies of flood maps
    • Photos showing existing buildings or structures affecting improvements
    • Permits establishing the age of existing buildings which encroach into the set-back or dedication area
    • Diagram of alternative improvements proposed in lieu of code requirements
    • A written description of why you believe your project is exempt based on the Land Use Code
    • Statement of Financial Responsibiltiy
  • Submit a preliminary site plan.

You need to submit your application materials through the Seattle Services Portal

  • Go to the My Records page and find your permit
  • Click Make Changes (you can only submit an exception request when the Make Changes option is available)
  • Select the Exception/Exemption Request option
  • Click the Street, Alley, and/or Pedestrian Improvement Exception Request
  • Select if the exception request is for a street, alley, or pedestrian improvement
  • Select the applicable exception criteria

How to Apply for an Exception or Exemption

Apply as early as possible to delays in the permitting process.

You can apply for a street or alley improvement exception:

  • After your completed preliminary application is accepted
  • After you receive your preliminary assessment report
  • During your building permit intake appointment
  • During our project review of your building permit application

We'll review your application materials to determine if you meet the Land Use Code exceptions. We'll also consult with an analyst from the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to make our decision. You'll receive a correction letter if we need changes or additional documentation. You need to respond to corrections through your Seattle Services Portal account by clicking the Make Changes button in My Records and uploading your corrected documents.

Once we make a decision, we'll notify you and document the decision in our records so it is available to everybody associated with your project.

We may deny some or all of your exception request as a result of our review. If that happens, you will need to provide the necessary improvements and include that information in your project plans. Street, alley, and pedestrian improvements require additional review and permits from SDOT.