Street Use Inspections

Citation Penalty Updates


Our legislative proposal to update our citation penalty fee structure passed out of the Sustainability and Transportation Committee on 9/20. These proposals were unanimously adopted by the Seattle City Council on 9/23. The adopted legislation now goes to Mayor Durkan and will go into force thirty days after her signature. Since the citation section was first adopted in 2002, we have made minor updates, but we have not carried out a holistic review of penalties until now. 

What's happening?

We are adjusting our citation penalty amounts and creating a new citation penalty schedule for violations of the Street and Sidewalk Use Code (Seattle Municipal Code Title 15). Citation penalties will be based on the type of right-of-way use and the adjacent zoning to ensure that the fees encourage compliance, but do not disproportionately affect individuals and small business owners. Additionally, with this legislation, we will be able to more easily amend penalty amounts in the future and implement annual adjustments tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI). 

Who will be affected by these changes?

Only those working without a permit or outside the terms and conditions of their permit will be affected. Citation penalties will decrease for certain permitted activities (such as vending, sidewalk cafés, block parties, urban forestry, and building maintenance), while penalties will increase for utility permit and code violations. There is no change to penalties for construction permit and code violations in single family zones, while penalties will increase in all other zones.

Permit Type Single-Family Zones All Other Zones
Public Space Management
Action: Reduce citation fees in all areas of the city
Proposed: $250 /$500/$1,000(for first/second/third violation)
Utility Action: Increase citation fees in all areas of the city
Proposed: $1,000/$2,000/$4,000(for first/second/third violation)
Construction Action: Maintain citation fees in SF zones
Proposed: $250 /$500/$1,000 (for first/second/third violation)
Action: Increase citation fees in all other areas
Proposed: $1,000/$2,000/$4,000(for first/second/third violation)

Why are these changes being proposed?

Our goals with this proposed legislation are to:

  1. Make our citation penalties more equitable
  2. Create an escalation scale prior to issuing a stop work order
  3. Simplify the penalty sections of the Street Use code

Currently, the citation penalty is now lower than the cost of obtaining a typical permit to use the right-of-way for construction or utility work. This means that there is little incentive to obtain a permit. Additionally, citation fees are the same in all parts of the city, and do not account for the higher and lower impact activities in the right-of-way. To help minimize disproportionate impacts on small and minority owned businesses, we will be lowering penalty amounts for some permit types.

What We Do

Street Use inspectors are responsible for enforcing the right-of-way rules and regulations of the City of Seattle, including the permit conditions. This is to ensure that all construction, safety, and accessibility requirements of the permit are met as approved. All inspections are billed at an hourly rate.

Inspectors both proactively inspect project sites and respond to inquiries from the traveling public. Simple projects and right-of-way uses (such as moving containers and dumpsters) are only inspected if a problem warrants it, while more complex projects fall into a routine inspection schedule.

The inspection schedule for complex projects is as follows:

  1. Initial inspection: To ensure traffic-control and stormwater best management practices are set up correctly, and to review the project at the very start.
  2. Periodic site inspections: To ensure that all work is staying in compliance with the terms of the permit. The periodic inspection schedule varies in association with the possible impacts to the transportation network and surrounding land use.
        • Every 10 days for arterials, high-impact areas, or urban villages
        • Every 20 days for low-impact areas
  3. Final inspection: To ensure that the street and sidewalk are clear, and that all infrastructure is properly repaired.
  4. Acceptance inspection: To ensure that any restoration is functioning and without defect.

Program Goals

The Street Use inspections team seeks to:

  • Ensure that work permitted for the right of way is done in accordance with the terms of issued permits
  • Identify unpermitted work taking place in the right of way and take action to either halt the work or bring it under permit

Inspection Districts and Assigned Inspectors

The Inspection Districts map shows the various inspection districts within Seattle, along with the name of the inspector assigned to each district. In addition to assigned district inspectors that primarily focus on use of the right of way, we also have street improvement inspectors who inspect new infrastructure being built in the right of way. These inspectors work closely with the district inspectors, but are assigned on a project-by- project basis.

For general questions about Street Use inspections, please call the Street Use permit counter at 206-684-5253.

Click the inspection map to open a larger, printable version. 

Inspection district map with names of the inspectors

So You Want To...

All inspections are billed at an hourly rate and will be based on the time spent on the project site. The current hourly inspection rate is listed on the Street Use permit fee schedule.

Please note that working in the right of way without a permit covering all needed uses of public space may result in issuance of warnings, citations (with monetary penalties), and/ or stop-work orders.

If you would like to report a concern or request an inspection of construction activity in the right of way, please use the City of Seattle Customer Service Bureau (CSB) service request form, or contact a CSB representative at 206-684-ROAD.

To notify SDOT of a time sensitive safety-related issue please call our 24-hour dispatch office at 206-386-1218

If you would like to learn more about City of Seattle right-of-way codes and rules you may want to start with the following links:

Additional information and tools to help you plan specific types of projects in the right of way can be found on our permit templates and checklists page.