Public Space Management Permits

What are public space permits for?

To help keep our shared spaces accessible and in good repair, permits are required for any work in, or occupation of, the public right of way. A public space permit is a type of permit that enables individuals, organizations, and businesses to enhance neighborhoods and strengthen communities by enlivening public spaces in ways that encourage social activity, help local businesses thrive, and create safer, more attractive streets.

How do I get a permit?

To get a public space permit, find the specific use of public space you are interested in below and follow the instructions provided. As noted in each section, some types of public space permits may require the submission of additional documents. Depending on your specific project type and location, these additional documents may include materials not listed on this page.

Activities such as farmers markets can enliven neighborhoods, encourage walking, and support local businesses. Organizers are required to apply for a special activities Street Use permit to authorize the temporary closure and use of streets and sidewalks.

Required documents:

  • Public space permit
  • Site plan (11”x17” preferred)
  • Proof of neighbor notification
  • Certificate of insurance with endorsements
  • Access affidavit (at the request of the permit reviewer)

The Office of Economic Development (OED) administers the farmers market program for the City. An organization must meet the definition of a farmers market in order to qualify for this type of Street Use permit.

If your organization qualifies, OED will convene all necessary City departments in order to streamline the permitting process for the applicant. Similar to other special activity permits, farmers markets may only occur on non-arterial streets and is discouraged on Metro bus routes.

Related program: Community Activation

This permit type allows for the siting of retaining walls and rockeries, fences, stairs, steps and railings in the public right of way. Please note that this type of use of the right of way is typically discouraged, but may be considered in some cases when necessity and/or public benefit is demonstrated.

Required documents:

  • A public space permit
  • Site plan (11”x17” preferred) including the area needed for construction staging
  • Elevation (11”x17” preferred)
  • Design proof(s)
  • A cross section (including dimensions)
  • Certificate of insurance with endorsements
  • Construction use permit application
  • An engineer's report may be required at the discretion of the permit reviewer
  • If work will be taking place on an arterial or in a "high-impact" area, a traffic control plan (TCP) will be required

All fences, walls, and stairways located fully or partially in the right of way require both a public space management permit and a construction use permit. Your Construction Use permit must be approved before our Public Space Management team can review your plans. Once approved, your public space permit will be processed.

If approved, an indemnity agreement will be drafted and you will need to record against the title of the property at King County Records prior to your annual permit issuance.

Note: Depending on the scale of your project, other materials may also be required. Permit for structure on private property.

Permit for structure on private property

If your proposed fence, wall, stairway, etc. will be located entirely on private property, your permit(s) will need to be obtained through the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections (SDCI).

A key point of clarification - a project located completely on private property still requires a Street Use construction use permit if some of the associated work (e.g., material storage, equipment crossing the sidewalk) will take place in the public right of way.

Note: There are different requirements for permitting structures on private property as opposed to in public right of way. For example, SDCI does not require a permit for fences or walls constructed under a certain height, but any fence or wall in the right of way requires a permit, regardless of height.

Related Program: Fences, Rockeries, Walls, Stairs, Handrails

Festival streets are designated portions of streets that can be opened for pedestrian-focused events on multiple occasions. A festival street designation allows community members to plan a series of events throughout the year with a single permit, instead of requiring a special activity permit for each event.

Required documents:

  • Public space permit
  • Site plan (11”x17” preferred)
  • Proof of neighbor notification
  • Certificate of insurance with endorsements
  • Access affidavit (at the request of the permit reviewer)

Festival streets are intended to help build neighborhood connections by hosting events that reflect the community's unique identity and interests. A proposal for a new festival street designation can be submitted by community groups, individuals, or any other organized local interest. As per SDOT Director's Rule #2-2012, the proposed festival street must have support from the surrounding neighborhood and requires the SDOT Director's final approval.

Currently, Seattle's designated festival streets are:

  • Canton Alley in the Chinatown-International District
  • South Roberto Maestas Festival Street in Beacon Hill
  • Nord Alley in Pioneer Square
  • Triangle Festival Street in West Seattle
  • E Denny Way in Capitol Hill

If you're interested in designating a festival streets event in your community, view our Client Assistance Memo 2504 for more details.

Related program: Community Activation

This permit type allows for temporary moorage in state waterways for up to 30 days.

Required documents:

  • Public Space Permit
  • Site plan (11”x17” preferred)

This permit type allows for the placement of event-related or neighborhood-identifying banners on City-owned utility poles.

Required documents:

  • A public space permit
  • Pole map (11”x17” preferred)
  • Elevation (11”x17” preferred)
  • Design proof(s) complete with size and colors. 
  • If you're installing brackets, submit specifications for your installation system.
  • If your proposed banner is in an historic or landmark district, you must get a certificate of approval for those areas.
  • Certificate of insurance with endorsements. Refer to Client Assistance Memo 2102 for further details

When creating a diagram or map of the specific poles to be used for banner installation, include the vertical pole numbers located on the street-side of the pole, and the streets where the poles are located. Provide a photo or other way to identify the pole if no pole number is available. Pole banner installation diagram.

Related Program: Pole Banners

This permit type allows for the siting of private utility infrastructure in the right of way.

Required documents:

This permit allows for the long-term private use of a designated shoreline street end by adjacent property owners. Community groups interested in improving a shoreline street end for public use should visit our program page. Additionally, a Shoreline Substantial Development Exemption may be required.

Required documents:

Related program: Shoreline Street Ends

A sidewalk café permit allows the owner of a food service establishment to set up tables and chairs on the sidewalk immediately next to their business, and provide table service within the new seating area. Alcohol may be served, if the establishment has an active liquor license. Sidewalk cafés are for the exclusive use of the sponsoring business, and require a railing, unless the business is participating in the fence-free pilot permit program. For more information on the fence-free pilot program, please visit our sidewalk cafés program page.

Required documents:

  • A public space permit
  • An application-review deposit. Please see the current Street Use fee schedule for current hourly rates. Please be aware that the review fees are an estimate of how much time we anticipate it will take to review your application. and we may need to assess additional review fees depending upon the completeness of the application and complexity of the review process.
  • Site plan showing dimensions of the proposed sidewalk café as well as any additional proposed elements, available pedestrian clearance, and a fencing delineation plan. See Director's Rule 4-2011 and Client Assistance Memo 2503, Section VI. B. Sidewalk Cafe Standards. (11"x17" preferred)
  • Elevation (11”x17” preferred)
  • Certificate of insurance with endorsements See Client Assistance Memo 2102.
  • If the seating area will be in a designated historic district, a certificate of approval from the appropriate community board or commission is required before applying. See historic district designations.
  • Fence details 
  • Sidewalk café letter of authorization confirming that the hosting business is a food-service business
  • Construction use permit application

Note that platforms and elevated structures in the right of way are discouraged, and are only permitted where topography (8% grade or more) is a concern. Platforms require additional application review and fees.

If approved, a permit fee and current per-square-foot fee will be assessed when the permit is issued. This covers the first year of the café permit. You will be invoiced annually thereafter.

Related program: Sidewalk Cafés

This permit type allows business owners to display merchandise on the sidewalk in front of their building.

Required documents:

  • A Public Space Permit
  • Site plan (11”x17” preferred)
  • Elevation (11”x17” preferred)
  • Certificate of insurance with endorsements

A tables-and-chairs permit allows a business to set out tables and chairs on the sidewalk immediately adjacent to the business. These are open for use by both customers and the public. Table service may not be provided, and alcohol cannot be consumed. Tables and chairs must be removed daily and no fixed improvements (e.g., a railing) may be installed.

Required documents:

  • A public space permit
  • An application-review deposit. Please see the current Street Use fee schedule for current hourly rates. Please be aware that the review fees are an estimate of how much time we anticipate it will take to review your application. and we may need to assess additional review fees depending upon the completeness of the application and complexity of the review process.
  • Site plan and/or floor plan (11”x17” preferred). See Client Assistance Memo 2503, Section VI. B. Sidewalk Cafe Standards.
  • Elevation (11”x17” preferred)
  • Certificate of insurance with endorsements See Client Assistance Memo 2102.
  • If the seating area will be in a designated historic district, a certificate of approval from the appropriate community board or commission is required before applying. See historic district designations.

If approved, a permit fee will be assessed when you obtain your permit. This covers the first year of your permit. You will be invoiced annually thereafter.

Related program: Sidewalk Cafes

This permit allows signs, awnings, and graphics to be affixed to buildings and positioned over the public right of way.

Required documents:

  • A public space permit
  • Site plan (11”x17” preferred)
  • Elevation (11”x17” preferred)
  • Design proof(s) complete with size and colors
  • Certificate of insurance with endorsements. Refer to Client Assistance Memo 2102 for futher details.

Signs

For more information about signage code in Seattle, please see Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) 15.12.

Awnings

Awnings hanging over the public right of way require a Street Use Construction Use in the Right of Way Permit, as well as permitting and review from the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections. If an awning includes a business name, then the awning requires a Public Space Management Permit.

For more information about Seattle’s code requirements for awnings and similar decorative elements, please see Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) 15.10.

Related program: Awnings and Portable Signs

Special activities are small events that temporarily close a non-arterial street and are open to the general public. Special activities are larger than neighborhood block parties, which close residential streets and are only for people living along that particular block.

Different activities including street fairs, farmers markets, and other community events can enliven neighborhoods, encourage walking, and support local businesses. Organizers are required to apply for a special activities Street Use permit to authorize the temporary closure and use of streets and sidewalks.

Required documents:

  • Public space permit
  • Site plan (11”x17” preferred)
  • Proof of neighbor notification
  • Certificate of insurance with endorsements
  • Access affidavit (at the request of the permit reviewer)

During a special activity, "STREET CLOSED" signs and barricades are required. These signs must meet SDOT requirements and be supplied by the group or person issued the Street Use permit. For specific details, visit the Seattle Traffic Control Manual webpage or view Chapter VIII Detours and Street Closures, to learn how to properly set up barricades. Neighborhood block party or play street closure signs are not acceptable for special activity closures.

Heavy items that cannot be easily moved are not allowed in the street area during the event, and a street that is on a bus route cannot be closed.

See CAM 2500, Street Use Permits for Special Activities, for additional information.

Related program: Community Activation

This permit type allows permittees to store materials in a pre-defined location in the public right of way. The permit must be renewed annually as long as the material continues to be located in public space.

Required documents:

This permit allows for the installation of street improvements such as furniture, planters, bike racks, street murals, and artwork on traffic-signal control boxes.

Required documents:

  • A public space permit
  • An application-review deposit. Please see the current Street Use fee schedule for current hourly rates. Please be aware that the review fees are an estimate of how much time we anticipate it will take to review your application. and we may need to assess additional review fees depending upon the completeness of the application and complexity of the review process.
  • Site plan and/or floor plan (11”x17” preferred). See Client Assistance Memo 2503, Section VI. B. Sidewalk Cafe Standards.
  • Elevation (11”x17” preferred)
  • Certificate of insurance with endorsements See Client Assistance Memo 2102.
  • If the seating area will be in a designated historic district, a certificate of approval from the appropriate community board or commission is required before applying. See historic district designations.
  • Construction use permit application

Decorations like Street Murals, Intersection Painting

Street murals, such as painted intersections, help add color and prompt creativity on residential streets while promoting community building within Seattle's neighborhoods. While a street mural is not an official traffic calming device, it may have an indirect impact on traffic speeds by encouraging drivers to be respectful of neighbors who live in the area.

Street murals are completely community-driven and community-designed projects, and funding for these projects is available through the Department of Neighborhood's Neighborhood Matching Fund Program.

All mural designs and locations are subject to a review by SDOT's Traffic Operations Division. If you are interested in a street mural for your neighborhood, Client Assistance Memo 2506 provides all the information you need to know for your project.

Before applying for permits with Street Use, you need to get design approval from our neighborhood traffic group, in SDOT's Transportation Operations division. Call or email the team with your idea (206-684-0353; neighborhood.traffic@seattle.gov).

Signal Box Artwork

You must submit an artwork proposal to be approved by the Office of Arts & Culture. Instructions on submitting an artwork proposal are included our Signal Box Artwork Proposal Guide.

The Office of Arts & Culture staff will consider the following when reviewing proposed designs:

  • Artwork should have a consistency of style and medium to create a unified aesthetic between signal boxes. Think of them as a series, rather than individual pieces of art.
  • Designs for the boxes contribute to the visual quality of the streetscape. For example, consider using a limited palette of colors and simple graphic images to avoid visual clutter.
  • If original artwork is being created, a lead artist/designer should be responsible for designing the images.
  • Artwork should contribute to a public benefit. Community support for the designs is a must.
  • Images that convey messages appearing to advertise or promote a private entity corporation, neighborhood business, chamber of commerce, or other community organization) will not be accepted.
  • Images that create a driver distraction or could be confused with traffic signs will not be accepted.
  • Arts representatives will review locations to determine proximity to artwork in the public art collection.

Additional information on permitting signal box artwork is available in Client Assistance Memo 2505.

If you are ready to start planning your design, you may find our signal box artwork design template helpful.

Related program: Street Furniture and Decorations

This permit type allows for the siting of structures such as platforms, ramps, and structural building overhangs like bay windows, decks and balconies in the public right of way.

Required documents:

Don’t see what you’re looking for?

Please let us know – we are always happy to hear about new ideas for improving public spaces and the shared right of way!

If you are interested in applying to host a play street, block party, parklet or streatery, PARK(ing) Day installation, these activities have their own unique application forms, and no public space permit is required. To access these application forms, please click the link to the corresponding permitting page below:

Play Streets

Block Parties

Parklets & Streateries

Vending Permits