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AG 1090: Private Structures and Uses

Private uses in public-right-of-way such as retaining walls, fences, balconies, and stairs are permitted with an annually renewable Long Term Use permit. We permit structures on, below, or above the public right-of-way. Private structures are discouraged in the right-of-way. We encourage these uses to be located on private property unless there’s a reason why that is not feasible. In addition, we will consider if the private use can be sited in a way that meets our standards and priorities for transportation and utility uses of the public right-of-way before approving a private use. Locating uses on private property is also beneficial to the owner, as you may be required to remove your structures or uses in the future. Additionally, Long Term permits include issuance, inspection, occupation fee (if applicable) and an annual renewal fee, subject to increases over time. See fee schedule here for current fees. You must maintain the Long Term Use permit as long as the structure remains in the right-of-way. 

Examples of private uses we authorize are: 

  • Retaining walls, rockeries, fences, and stairs  
  • At-grade structures (i.e., small storage sheds, portions of historically built garages) 
  • Above-grade structures (i.e., bay windows, balconies, and roof overhangs), and  
  • Below-grade structures (i.e., below-grade building walls or non-utility vaults)

Related permits 

In most cases, structures connected to a building or partially on private property and partially in the right-of-way (e.g. bay windows or balconies) require both a building permit regulated by SDCI and an SDOT Long Term Use permit. Check out this SDCI webpage to determine if a permit is needed for your project.  

Any construction-related impacts in the public right-of-way, such as staging materials and/or equipment to install your structures, will require a Right-of-Way Construction permit, even if you are building or modifying a structure completely on private property. 

If you have a Street Improvement Permit (SIP), your Project Manager will identify if your project also needs a Long Term Use permit. Our reviewer will work with the SIP team to review the private encroachment concurrently with your SIP.  

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Step 1: Consider if your proposed project is allowed   

Step 2: Collect the required documents 

Step 3: Apply for the permit 

Step 4: Application review, fees and decision

Step 5: Permit issuance and initial inspection

Step 6: Maintaining your permit 


Step 1: Consider if your proposed project is allowed   

We discourage private structures from being in the right-of-way. Your project should be designed to accommodate all private structures on private property whenever possible. If there is a need to use the right-of-way for your project, we may consider allowing private uses. Long Term Use permits are temporary in nature, are subject to issuance fees, occupation fees (if applicable) and annual renewal fees, may be required to be removed, and your permit may be revoked in the future.  
 
Typically, structures built in the right-of-way are built to City of Seattle Standards, or in some cases, we may allow them to be built to the Seattle Building Code or Seattle Residential Code standards instead. In addition, you’ll be required to show that your proposed structure can comply with all applicable clearances listed in the City’s Right-of-Way Improvement Manual, Streets Illustrated.   

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 Step 2: Collect the required documents 

After you’ve confirmed you would like to apply, it’s time to collect the documents required to support your application!

  • Letter of Authorization (Required if the Applicant or Financially Responsible Party (FRP) contact is different from the Owner contact, such as if you want the architect or designer to serve as the applicant)
  • Site plan, meeting the requirements of CAM 2116 and including elevation view detailed/cross-section with wall material type
  • Technical review may require for applicant to submit stamped plans, calculations, or a geotechnical report
  • For installations requiring construction/installation activity, you will also need:
    • Right-of-Way Impact Plan (ROWIP) per CAM 2116
    • Traffic Control Plan (TCP) per CAM 2111

Due at Review Evaluation

  • Based on time during the year or location of the proposed construction work, you may also need:
  • Temporary No Parking Confirmation (for paid parking areas) – Temporary No Parking Permits 
  • Additional Letter of Authorization, if needed
    • A separate LOA form is required for each permit application if the applicant and/or FRP is different from the owner. For example, an LOA is required if you will have a contractor serving as the applicant or FRP on your Construction Activity permit. 

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Step 3: Apply for the permit 

When you are ready to apply, head to the Seattle Services Portal

To make changes to an existing record, you can request a permit revision. See more info in Step 6.

Note: if you've never used the Portal before, you'll need to register and set up an account first. See this helpful article or video on how to do this. Once you are logged in, follow the steps below:  Once you are logged in, follow the steps below: 

  • Under "Create New" select "Permits-Street Use"  
  • Navigate to and select the "Long Term Use" and "Private Structures/Uses" record type.
  • When prompted to input “Use Code Description,” based on your project scope, you can choose “Wall/Fence/Rockery/Other Access or Minor Structures" and/or “Below/Above-grade Structures” and/or “At-Grade Structures.

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Step 4: Application review, fees and decision  

Depending on the complexity of the project, the review time can take up to 8 weeks or more. You can check the status of your permit online through the Seattle Service Portal. Read more about our Street Use Permit Process here. You can also find current Street Use permitting timelines here
 
We will review the application and may contact you either to request additional information or to request corrections. For responding to corrections, read our help article (including a video on how to upload documents). 
 
For private structures where construction activity is proposed, a Right-of-Way Construction Use permit may also be required. This permit covers the temporary right-of-way impacts of activities related to the installation/construction of your private structures. While this is a separate permit, we do not require a separate application and will review and issue both permits together. If a Right-of-Way Construction Use permit is required, we will notify you of additional review documents that need to be submitted.  

Prior to issuance, we will prepare an Indemnity Agreement document and send to you with instructions for recording with the King County Recorder. The agreement will be recorded against the title of the property associated with the structure.  

Issuance and occupation fees (if applicable) are due once an application has been approved and must be paid before a permit is issued. For detailed information, visit our page on How to Estimate and Pay Permit Fees.

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Step 5: Permit issuance and initial inspection 

Once your permit is issued, it’ll be uploaded to the Seattle Services Portal. You should review the permit and approved documents, paying close attention to the approved site plan and conditions. Need help finding and printing your permit? Check out this help article
 
Remember that project notification is required for permits – check out CAM 2117 to ensure you properly notify affected parties ahead of any construction activity. 
 
Make sure you have non-paid or paid parking notification and permits per our Temporary No Parking Permits website if you need to use curb space for installation activities. 
 
We will perform an initial inspection to ensure installation meets our approved permit and plan. Inspections are billed at an hourly rate and will be invoiced separately from other permit fees.  

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Step 6: Maintaining your permit 

Long Term Use permits are renewed annually. The yearly permit fees include the renewal fee and occupation fee (if applicable), see our Street Use Fee Schedule PDF on this page for more information. If the use is in good standing, our permitting system will automatically renew the permit and invoice the permittee.    

You are expected to maintain the private structures according to your approved plan and permit, including complying with all permit conditions. If applicable, we will conduct inspections to ensure the use remains as approved. 

Need to make changes? You can request a permit revision through our Seattle Services Portal.

If there is a change in business or property ownership and no change to the use, the new owner must apply for a new Long Term Use permit. In the application, note “transfer of ownership” in the project description. In addition, the existing permit holder should submit a withdrawal amendment to notify us of the update through our permitting portal. 

Also, it’s important to understand that the Long Term Use permits we issue are wholly of a temporary nature, vest no permanent rights, and are revocable pursuant to SMC 15.04.070. If a permit is revoked or terminated, the right-of-way shall be returned to its original condition. 

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Transportation

Greg Spotts, Director
Address: 700 5th Ave, Suite 3800, Seattle, WA, 98104
Mailing Address: PO Box 34996, Seattle, WA, 98124-4996
Phone: (206) 684-7623
684-Road@seattle.gov

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