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AG 1091A: Retail Merchandise Displays in the Frontage Zone

Updated 1/2023

General Requirements for All Merchandise Displays 

  1. Merchandise displays must be removed entirely from the right-of-way outside of business hours
  2. The display area may only be used for display of products and goods
  3. Other than standard product packaging, advertising, logos, or other promotional materials are not allowed
  4. The display shall not contain alcoholic beverages, tobacco, firearms or munitions, or any article that a minor is prohibited by law from purchasing, or any material restricted by the Fire Code from direct access or handling by the public
  5. No noise-making devices or amplification are allowed 

If you have questions about these rules or our need help with our Applicant Guides, please email us at publicspace@seattle.gov for additional coaching or information.

The Two Types of Merchandise Display Permits

Ground floor retail businesses may place goods, merchandise, or products offered for sale by the business on the adjacent sidewalk abutting their storefront. Some common examples of merchandise display include clothing racks, shelves of books, or seasonal items such as plants or outdoor furniture.  

There are two ways to place a merchandise display on the sidewalk: 

  1. Without a permit in the building frontage zone, provided you meet the General Requirements for All Merchandise Displays, and follow our standards for size and placement found in the Merchandise Display – Frontage Zone (no permit required) section further below.  

The figure shows the Frontage Zone (seen here with a red background), which is the sidewalk closest to a building. Merchandise displays may be allowed in the Frontage Zone.

Figure 1: Building Frontage Zone

2. With a permit in the furniture zone, provided you meet the General Requirements for All Merchandise Displays, and follow the steps found in the Merchandise Display - Furniture Zone Applicant Guide.

The figure shows the Furniture Zone (seen here with a red background), which is the sidewalk closest to the sidewalk edge or curb. Merchandise displays may be allowed in the Furniture Zone.

Figure 2: Furniture Zone

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Retail Merchandise Displays Siting Standards 
Retail Merchandise Displays Design Standards 

Retail Merchandise Displays – Frontage Zone (no permit required) 

In addition to the general requirements above, you’ll also want to ensure you meet the following siting and design standards. 

Siting Standards 

The figure shows common siting standards for frontage zone merchandise displays, shown here with two rectangles shaded with pink backgrounds, which are fully described in the below list.

Figure 3: Depicting siting standards for frontage zone merchandise display 

If you cannot meet the standards of this section, you are not eligible to have a merchandise display without a permit. Review the following siting standards to see if your space and display design are eligible for the no-permit option! Note: The numbers on the siting standards below correspond to the numbers in Figure 3 above

  1. Placed in the Frontage Zone abutting the storefront
  2. Placed to provide an unobstructed corner clearance zone 
  3. Sited to maintain an unobstructed pedestrian clear zone abutting the entire length of the merchandise display. The width of the pedestrian clear zone is determined by the street type where the merchandise display is located as defined by Streets Illustrated 
    1. The minimum required pedestrian clear zone width is 6 feet in most neighborhoods
    2. We require an 8-foot minimum width on Downtown Streets - see Streets Illustrated section 2.3). You can use the Street Type Map to look up your location and find your street type.
    3. Merchandise displays shall provide at least one foot of additional pedestrian clear zone clearance on the adjacent sidewalk to account for people stopped and standing at the display if the display is located:
      1. On a Downtown Street or Downtown Neighborhood Street, as defined by Streets Illustrated,
      2. In a pedestrian-designated zone, or 
      3. On a block face designated as a Frequent Transit Network on SDOT’s Transit Master Plan.
    4. You can find out if your location requires this additional space by using the Streets Illustrated Street Type Map. Navigate to your location and then click on the street. You’ll find a pop-up box that will show you the needed information (Street Type for Downtown or Downtown Neighborhood Streets, Transit Master Plan for Frequent Transit Network, and Urban Village P-Zone for pedestrian-designated zones), see examples in this figure, whch shows the first pop-up box, and this figure, which expands on the previous pop-up box.
  4. Sited so that the merchandise display footprint width is not greater than the width of the pedestrian clear zone, see this figure, which shows both zones.
  5. Sited to provide an unobstructed 3-foot-wide pedestrian straight path within the designated pedestrian clear zone that extends along the permitted area and for 25 feet on either end of the permitted area's boundaries along the block face. The straight path runs along the display's boundaries and must be a continuous straight route that indicates the path of travel and parallels the curb. See Figure 3 above for an illustration of the pedestrian straight path. 
  6. The merchandise display shall comply with clearances required in Streets Illustrated (see Section 3.3). In addition to any other required setbacks, the merchandise display: 
    1. Shall not be sited in a manner that adversely affects pedestrian mobility directly beyond the permitted footprint area or inhibits the operation, maintenance, or functionality of any utilities or street fixtures
    2. Shall not be located within any curb ramp element, including the curb ramp landing
    3. Shall be at least 10 feet from alleys and driveways
    4. Shall be at least 5 feet from Fire Department connections, hydrants, and fire escapes.
  7. The merchandise display activity shall not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act. Display equipment shall meet ADA requirements for cane detection or diverters shall be required, see Design Standards section below for more information. 

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Design Standards

Please note the following design considerations when designing your merchandise display (note you may also need a Department of Neighborhood Certificate of Approval for your display when located in a historic district or adjacent to a designated landmark): 

    1. No objects shall be bolted or affixed to the sidewalk surface
    2. All display equipment must be easy to move in and out daily. No equipment shall be stored in the right-of-way
    3. Display equipment shall be durable and made of surfaces that are easy to clean and maintain
    4. Display equipment with wheels shall have locks
    5. Display equipment shall meet ADA requirements for cane detection or diverters shall be required (see diverter details below)
    6. Lighting specifically for the display shall not be allowed
    7. Umbrellas shall not be allowed
    8. Display equipment shall be stable 

Diverters, if required because the display equipment is not cane-detectable, shall be placed on either end of the display and included within the display footprint and shall meet the following design standards: 

    1. Be between 30 and 42 inches tall
    2. Extend the entire width of the footprint either as: (a) a single object detectable by cane or (b) multiple elements with no more than 24 inches of space in between
    3. Abut the adjacent building and extend at a 90-degree angle from the building face
    4. Be able to withstand wind, adverse weather conditions, and incidental contact
    5. Not have supports or any elements that protrude beyond the display boundary
    6. Not be bolted to the sidewalk
    7. Be constructed of materials that are of one or more contrasting colors to the sidewalk surface and to the building to increase visibility for the visually impaired 

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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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