Land Use / Master Use Permit - Conditional Use

What Is It?

Each Seattle zoning designation specifies allowed uses. Some uses are permitted outright while others are subject to additional criteria and review. These uses may be allowed through an administrative conditional use or council conditional use approval.

An administrative conditional use is a type of Master Use Permit that has a public comment period, a review and decision by the Director of SDCI, and an appeal process. Examples of administrative conditional uses include:

  • Private schools in a single-family zone
  • Community centers in a single-family zone
  • Religious facilities in a single-family zone

A council conditional use is a type of land use action that has a public comment period, a review and written recommendation by the Director of SDCI, and a written recommendation from the City Hearing Examiner, followed by a decision made by the City Council. An example of a council conditional use is a public facility, such as a fire or police station, in a single-family zone.

We may consider the following when we review potential impacts of your proposed conditional use:

  • Height, bulk, and scale of your proposed building
  • Location of your building in relationship to adjacent uses
  • Landscaping
  • Potential noise impacts
  • Light and glare
  • Parking and traffic

If your development exceeds size thresholds, you may also need an environmental review (SEPA).

How Much Does It Cost?

We charge an hourly review fee based on our Fee Subtitle. You need to pay a minimum fee when you submit your land use application. After we accept your application, we will send you a monthly invoice for all review time completed in that billing cycle. If you do not pay your invoice, we will stop reviewing your project.

How Long Does It Take?

An administrative conditional use permit will take several months for our review and a decision. A council conditional use will take over 6 months. Exactly how long it takes us to complete our review of your proposal depends on several factors, including the:

  • Complexity of your proposal
  • Quality of your plans and project documentation
  • Timely response to correction letters and requests for further information
  • Public interest

Steps to Get Your Permit

Find your property information. Research your site to help you plan your project.

Determine other requirements for your project. Research the Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) to determine standards that will apply to your proposal.

Attend a coaching session. We offer virtual paid coaching and pre-submittal conferences for Land Use Code and project assistance through our Applicant Services Center (closed until further notice, see available online services).    

Start your application. Complete the Building & Land Use Pre-Application online using the Seattle Services Portal. You will need to answer questions about your proposal and upload a site plan. You'll receive an email once we have added the pre-application site visit (PASV) fees to your project. (Most projects require a PASV.) After you have paid the fee, we will perform the inspection. Your preliminary application information will be reviewed by other departments for comment.

Review your preliminary application report. You will receive a preliminary application report that will include critical information about whether you need Design Review, SEPA, or street improvements. Our report will include information from the utilities about your specific site and proposal. Our report will also identify potential project stoppers.

Request a pre-submittal conference. We recommend pre-submittal conferences for very complex projects, including work in environmentally critical areas or shorelines. You must pay a minimum two-hour pre-submittal conference fee before we schedule your appointment. We might charge additional hourly fees based on the number of City staff attending the conference, and the amount of follow-up time required. 

Apply for exemptions. You may be eligible for exemptions from code or permitting requirements if your project is located in an environmentally critical area or near the shoreline. You need to apply for and resolve any exemption requests during the preliminary application process before you submit your permit application. Submit your exemption requests using the Seattle Services Portal.

Coordinate with other agencies. You may need permits or approvals from other agencies. These are the most common agencies you may need to work with for your permit type:

Prepare your plans and technical documents. Your plans should be to scale. You may need to upload technical documents including a survey, geotechnical and wetland reports, and other types of reports. Our Tips and code standards provide additional detail on the type of plans and reports we require to review your proposal.

Schedule an intake appointment. Schedule an intake appointment using the Seattle Services Portal. You must upload all application documents by 7:00 a.m. on the day of your appointment. We may contact you that day for more information.

Pay fees. You must pay a minimum fee for your review, any accrued land use hourly fees, and intake and notice fees at intake. You will receive an email once we have added fees to your project. You must pay your fees using your portal before we will post any public notice or conduct any reviews. We will invoice you monthly for additional fees during the review process. We will stop reviewing your project if you do not pay your monthly invoice.

Wait for public notice. We will issue a public notice for your project as required by SMC 23.76.012. If required, you are responsible for building and installing a large land use notice sign. (This sign must remain in place until the end of the appeal period or the Hearing Examiner decision, if applicable.) Once you've installed the sign, let us know by submitting an Environmental Sign Installation Notification using the Seattle Services Portal so that we will begin reviewing your proposal.

We'll consider all public comments we receive during our review and before we publish our decision.

Make corrections and resubmit your plans. Once all of our reviews are done, you will receive an email telling you that corrected or additional documents can be uploaded into your portal. Your project may require multiple correction rounds before our reviews are complete.

Pay outstanding fees. Once our review is complete, you will get an email for any outstanding fees. You must pay these fees in your portal before we publish our decision.

Read our decision. We will send a notice of our decision to you and everybody that submitted a public comment on your project. We will also publish our decision on your project in our Land Use Information Bulletin. Our decision will include any required conditions of approval, some that you must meet before we issue your permit.

Submit an appeal. If you or a member of the public disagree with our decision, you or they may file an appeal with the Seattle Hearing Examiner within 14 days from when we publish our decision.

Note the expiration date. The expiration date of your permit is based on the date of the end of the appeal or the City Hearing Examiner decision. Your permit may expire, and therefore your application may expire, without having a permit issued.

Pay final fees. We will notify you if you need to pay any final fees before we issue your permit.

Print your permit. We will notify you when we have issued your permit and the documents are available in your portal.

You may apply for a construction permit at any time once you submit a land use application. However, the project can change and evolve through the land use application review process. Corrections required by our decision may require building plan changes that can result in costly design changes.