Land Use / Master Use Permit - Shoreline

What Is It?

Properties within 200 feet of the shoreline are regulated by the Seattle Shoreline Master Program (SMP) in addition to our zoning requirements. Therefore, you need to apply for a land use permit for any project on a shoreline.

Our shoreline district includes Elliott Bay, Lake Washington, Puget Sound, the Ship Canal, Lake Union, the Duwamish River, Green Lake, associated wetlands, and all land within 200 feet of these water bodies.

The SMP includes specific rules and restrictions, including rules about:

  • Uses (for example, industrial, residential, or commercial)
  • Environmental impacts
  • Public access
  • Views
  • Height

Types of Shoreline Permits

Shoreline substantial development permit. Required when developments are proposed within the shoreline district. In addition to specific use and development standards, we review the environmental impacts of proposed development to shoreline waters, fish, and wildlife.

Shoreline substantial development permit exemptions. Some developments within the shoreline district do not require a shoreline permit if they are considered exempt. For more information on the types of projects that are typically exempt, see the shoreline exemption page.

Shoreline conditional use and special uses. Each shoreline area has a designation that specifies how you can use it. Some uses may be allowed outright, while others are not allowed or are subject to additional criteria. Some uses may be allowed as a shoreline conditional use or a shoreline special use if your project qualifies. Shoreline conditional use applications also require Washington State Department of Ecology approval.

Shoreline variance. A variance allows us, in conjunction with Washington State Department of Ecology, to grant relief from certain code requirements. Variances are requested from development standards listed in the shoreline section of the Seattle Municipal Code (SMC). You may not request a variance for a type of use.

If you want to develop near a shoreline that is in a fish and wildlife habitat conservation area, you may need to get an environmental (SEPA) review for your project.

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. All fees are subject to an additional technology fee. See our Fee Subtitle for details.

How Long Does It Take?

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 restrictions to your project. Research the Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) to determine standards that will apply to your proposal.

Attend a coaching session. We offer 20 minutes of free video coaching through the Applicant Services Center to answer drainage, land use, geotechnical, or construction permit questions. If you need a longer coaching session, we offer paid one-hour sessions.

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 site visit. 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 conference 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. 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. You do not need to be onsite during your intake appointment. However, you do need to be available for questions. We may call or email you on your appointment 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 environmental public 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 and Environmental Sign Installation Notification using the Seattle Services Portal.

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 and/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 publish our decision on your project in our Seattle Services Portal. We will also send a notice of our decision to you and everybody that submitted a public comment on your project. 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 may file an appeal with the Seattle Hearing Examiner within 14 days from when we publish our decision. If appealed, the appeal will be heard by the Shorelines Hearings Board.

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.

Construction and Inspections

Nathan Torgelson, Director
Address: 700 5th Ave, Suite 2000, Seattle, WA, 98104
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 34019, Seattle, WA, 98124-4019
Phone: (206) 684-8600
Phone Alt: Violation Complaint Line: (206) 615-0808
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SDCI issues land use, construction, and trade permits, conducts construction and housing-related inspections, ensures compliance with our codes, and regulates rental rules. SDCI is committed to an antiracist workplace and to addressing racism through our work in the community.