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AG 1092: Areaways

Updated 1/2023

This is a long term, annually renewable permit for existing areaways. An areaway is a space below the street level supported by a street wall. Most areaways are located in the downtown area, and over 260 known areaways have been inventoried by our Areaways Program. Typically, we own the street wall, and the adjacent property owns the structural sidewalk. Sometimes, the street wall is also privately owned. Areaways are considered private structures, and, as such, a Public Space Management Long Term Use permit is required for this use.  
 
New areaways are not allowed in public right-of-way. In most cases, our permit process is for the change in use of an existing areaway, due to change in property ownership, or if the areaway is in need of repair or maintenance. To make changes to an existing areaway permit, you can request a permit revision through our Seattle Services Portal

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Step 1: Determine if your areaway is active or inactive  

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: Determine if your areaway is active or inactive 

An active areaway is an area where the property owner or tenant has access to the areaway space. The space does not need to be actively in use to be categorized as an active areaway. Typical uses for active areaways are storage, parking, utilities, and lightwells. A square footage occupation fee is charged for the active areaway space. An inactive areaway is not in use and cannot be accessed by the property owner or tenant. Typically, inactive areaways have been filled in or walled off. A lock on the door does not mean the areaway is inactive or inaccessible, even when property owner and tenant does not have the key. Inactive areaways are not assessed square footage occupation fees.   

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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 or FRP)
  • Site plan meeting the requirements of CAM 2116 and including elevation view detailed/cross-section with wall material type. The site plan should also include the following:
    • Dimensions of the entire areaway on public right-of-way
    • Height of areaway
    • Property line 
    • Call out any existing infrastructure in areaway (such as shoring poles, utilities, coal chute, etc.)
    • Call out the entrance/exists on how you can access the areaway
  • We may require structural calculations stamped from a Washington State licensed engineer, including specifications and a brief analysis documenting the current condition of the areaway and its components. The information should be combined in a clear format; a simple memo is acceptable.  
  • Certificate of Approval from the DON Historic/Landmark preservation board is required if there are proposed changes to a designated feature of a City Landmark or if located within a historic district. 
  • 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 

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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

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,” choose “Active Areaways” or/and for inactive areaways, choose “Wall/Fence/Rockery/Other Access or Minor Structures”  

In cases where there is a change in business or property ownership and no change to the areaway, the new owner must apply for a new Long Term Use permit with the required documents. In the application, note “transfer of ownership” in the project description field. 

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Step 4: Application review, fees and decision

Depending on the condition of the areaways, the review time can take up to eight 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 and Status here. You can also find current Street Use permitting timelines here

We work closely with the Roadway Structure Division to coordinate a technical review for the safety and stability of the areaways. 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 areaways where construction activity is proposed: 

Your Long Term Use permit is for the ongoing use of the right-of-way. When construction activity is proposed, however, a Right-of-Way Construction (SUCONST) permit may also be required. A SUCONST permit covers the temporary right-of-way impacts of construction activities related to the installation/construction of your encroachment(s). While this is a separate permit, we do not require a separate application and will review and issue both permits together. We will ask questions to determine if you need a SUCONST permit during our Long Term Use permit review. If a SUCONST permit is required, we will likely identify and 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 How to Estimate and Pay Permit Fees page

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Step 5: Permit issuance and initial inspection 

Once your permit is issued, it will be uploaded to the Seattle Services Portal. You should review the permit and approved documents, paying close attention to the approved site plan and permit conditions. Need help finding and printing your permit? Check out this help article
 
If applicable, we will perform an initial inspection to ensure modifications meet 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 yearly. 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 areaways according to your approved plan and permit, including complying with all permit conditions. We will conduct inspections to ensure the use remains as approved. In the event of damage occurring to the sidewalk above your areaway or the underlying support structure, you are responsible for promptly notifying us via sdotpermits@seattle.gov, procuring the required permits, and repairing the areaway and sidewalk in a timely manner. 

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

If there is 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 field. In addition, the existing permit holder should submit a withdrawal amendment to notify us of the update through our permitting portal.  

It’s important to understand that the Long Term 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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