Street Improvement Exceptions

What Is It?

Our Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) requires street or alley 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 your application intake appointment or project review, or  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 20 minutes of free coaching in the Applicant Services Center. If you need longer coaching, we offer one-hour 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 a $500 deposit on the review fee 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 from a few weeks to several months. 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

  • Prepare supporting documentation:
    • Photos
    • Technical reports from qualified professionals
    • Plans clearly showing the site characteristics that make improvements impossible or infeasible
    • A survey showing topography or other features that affect improvements
    • A written description of why you believe your project is exempt based on the Land Use Code 
  • Complete the right-of-way improvement exception form
  • Provide 2 copies of a preliminary site plan

You need to submit your application materials through the Seattle Services Portal. You can only submit your exception request once you see the Make Changes option next to the permit record in My Records.

Apply as early as possible to decrease chances of the request delaying your 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 will review your application materials to determine if you meet the Land Use Code exceptions. We will also consult with an analyst from the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to make our decision. We will send you a correction letter if we need changes or additional documentation. You need to respond to corrections through the Seattle Services Portal by selecting Make Changes in My Records and uploading your corrected documents.

Once we make a decision, we will 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 and alley improvements require additional review and permits from SDOT.