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FAQ

What is the right of way?

The right of way refers to all publicly-managed space that lies between parcels of land, including sidewalks, streets, planting strips, and alleys. The right of way makes up 27% of the total land area in Seattle. The Public Space Management Program is exploring the potential for new uses of this space. 

If the right of way is public, why are certain private activities allowed?

Use of the right of way is often needed for private activities that can be implemented without resulting in significant public mobility impacts. SDOT manages these activities through a permitting process and works to ensure public uses of the right of way are maintained.

Shouldnt the right of way be used for transportation rather than all of this activation stuff?

While transportation is the primary function of Seattles right of way, many portions of the right of way are currently underused or can be activated without impacting transportation. SDOT evaluates the mobility impacts of each permit application received and will not issue any permits for right of way activation projects that have significant adverse impacts on any mode of transportation.

What should I do if I have an idea for transforming the right of way?

Public Space Management Program staff members are always happy to hear about new ideas for improving public spaces and the shared right of way. If youre just looking to permit an activity that already has an established permitting process, visit the SDOT Street Use Permitting webpage.

If you have a completely new idea for a right of way transformation, feel free to email us at AnnualPermits@seattle.gov or call us at (206) 684-5267.

Are the program areas permanent or temporary?

The right of way improvements addressed by the program areas vary in their level of permanency. Many of the program areas, such as the Adaptive Streets program, explore temporary interventions as a potential precursor to a more permanent transformation. Other program areas will permit new uses with a revocable permit that may be renewed annually.

Supporting new and creative transformations in the right of way is a central goal of the Public Space Management Program and ideas will initially be implemented and evaluated on a temporary basis.

Do all activities within the right of way have to be permitted?

A Street Use Permit is required for any work or occupation in the right of way. Permits allow SDOT to ensure that the right of way remains in a state of good repair and free from encumbrances. The permitting requirements and fees differ depending on the type of work or activity that is being proposed.

Additional information on permits can be found on the Street Use Permitting webpage or the Public Space Management Program webpage.

If I have an issue with a neighbor’s “improvement” in the right of way, what can I do?

Most improvements in the right of way are permitted with a revocable Annual Public Space Permit. If you have an issue with a permitted use, please report this issue to AnnualPermits@seattle.gov or (206) 684-5267 and Public Space Management Program staff will look into it. Some new Public Space permits also have an opportunity for public notice and comment before permits are issues.

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