How to Request a Code Interpretation

What Is It?

A code interpretation is a formal decision on the meaning, application, or intent of any development regulation in our Land Use or Environmentally Critical Area codes. Interpretations are site-specific. They do not address how a standard applies in general, but rather how it applies to a specific site or development proposal. You can request an interpretation that is not related to a pending project, that is related to a pending project, or that is related to a pending project that is subject to appeal. 

If you want to request an interpretation for a project subject to appeal, you must either submit your request during the public comment period for the project or as part of an appeal. Examples include questions of how structure height or setback is properly measured, or how a proposed use should be categorized. If you do not request an interpretation, you may not be able to raise the issue on an appeal of the project.

See Tip 256, Land Use code Interpretations, for more information about interpretations and related timing issues.

How Much Does It Cost?

The initial fee for an interpretation is 10 times the hourly rate set for land use review in our Fee Subtitle. If you appeal an interpretation to the Hearing Examiner, we will also bill for the time we spend defending our interpretation. We may require separate interpretations, with separate initial fees, for requests with more than one question. Depending on how long it takes us, we may charge you for more than the initial fee.

How Long Does It Take?

If your interpretation request is not related to a project, or is related to a project not subject to an appeal, we can usually publish our interpretation within six weeks. We may require more time for complex issues. 

If your interpretation request is related to a project that is subject to appeal, we will publish our interpretation when we publish our project decision.

How to Request an Interpretation

To file an interpretation, you need to pay for the first 10 hours of review. You will be billed an hourly fee for each additional hour of review. See our Fee Subtitle for current hourly rates.

You can request an interpretation during the official comment period for a specific land use project. You must submit your request before 5:00 p.m. on the day the comment period, or extended comment period, ends. You can also request an interpretation as part of an appeal after we publish a decision, during the appeal period. You must submit your request before 5:00 p.m. on the day the appeal period ends. To request an interpretation:

  • You must submit a Land Use Analysis request (under Permits - Trade, Construction & Land Use) through the Seattle Services Portal. You will need to complete and upload the Statement of Financial Responsibility form as part of your application.
  • You will need to pay all fees before we issue you our Code Interpretation.