Construction Permit - Establishing Use

What Is It?

Our Land Use Code specifies the type of development, called the use, allowed on property in different zones. It requires that all uses be established by permit. Learn how to get a building permit. Examples of different types of uses are single-family homes, multifamily residences, office buildings, and warehouses.

A permit to establish use is needed to change the use on your property, for example, from an office to a retail space. You need an addition / alteration permit to open a new business even if you're not remodeling the space. If you’re also renovating or remodeling your building, you can change your use as part of your addition / alteration permit without a separate permit to establish use. If the new use is not allowed outright under our Land Use Code, you need to apply for a conditional use permit.

You may also want to obtain a permit to establish a use that is not currently established by permit. You may want to do this if you have a use on your property that was legal when it started but is not permitted under current land use code regulations or development standards. You will need to show that the use:

  • Meets all Seattle Municipal Code and Seattle Building Code standards were in effect when the use began, or that the use pre-dates code requirements
  • Has been ongoing since the use originally started
  • Has never been legally established by permit

How Much Does It Cost?

Our fees are based on the value of your project. All fees are subject to an additional technology fee. You pay approximately 75 percent of your fees when you submit your plans and the rest when you pick up your permit. Use our fee estimator to calculate how much your permit will cost.

How Long Does It Take?

We try to finish our initial review of simple permit applications in 2-3 weeks and complex permits in 8 weeks. How long it takes to get the final permit depends on how complex your project is and how many corrections, if any, you need to make.

Steps to Get Your Permit

Get your property information. Find property information to help you plan your project.

Determine restrictions to your project. Research our codes to determine allowable uses and construction and life / safety requirements.

Find incentives for your project. Research the City's different incentives that might apply to your project.

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 session with a land use planner or a geotechnical engineer, we offer one-hour sessions for a fee.

Start your application. Complete the Building & Land Use Pre-Application online using the Seattle Services Portal. You will need to upload a site plan and a complete legal description for your site.

Prepare your plans. Plans should be to scale and easy to read.

Fill out forms.

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:

Get your project screened. We screen your application to make sure it’s ready to submit. Screening is available through your Seattle Services Portal. You may schedule an appointment without screening if you wish, but we recommend that you get your project screened if you haven't submitted many applications.

Schedule an intake appointment. Schedule an electronic intake appointment through your 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.

Tip: Submit your completed application early to be eligible for an earlier appointment in case of a cancellation. Once you submit your application, we'll add your project to The Intake Express Lane. This means your application will likely be taken in well ahead of your scheduled appointment. We can usually take in your application within 2-3 weeks after you upload your complete application. For more information, read How Can I Get in the Intake Express Lane?

Pay fees. Approximately 75 percent of your permit fees are due at intake. The fees are calculated based on your project value.

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 final fees. We will notify you 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 Seattle Services Portal. Print the permit and approved plan set and have it on site for our inspector.

Display your permit. Place your permit in a visible location on the project site.

Get related permits. You may need to get additional permits or approvals from other departments.

Request an inspection. See the construction inspections page for when to call us and how to schedule your inspection.

Receive your certificate of occupancy. You only need a certificate of occupancy if you have changed the use of, or number of residences in, your building. Single-family and duplex projects never need a certificate of occupancy; you just need a final "approved" inspection for your project.

Close your permit. Your permit information will be archived in our electronic document management system.

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
Contact Us

Newsletter Updates


Sign up for the latest updates from Construction and Inspections

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.