Land Use / Master Use Permit - Rezone

What Is It?

A land use rezone permit allows you to change your property’s land use zone, which can change the size of what you can build and how you can use your property.

A rezone of your property leads to one of these changes:

  • Upzoning - May allow larger buildings and potentially more options for how to use your property. For example, when you change your property’s land use zone from multifamily to commercial you may build a structure with both commercial and residential uses.
  • Downzoning -  Allows smaller buildings and fewer options for how to use your property. For example, when you change your property’s zone from multifamily to neighborhood residential you may only build a single-family house and other structures we allow in a neighborhood residential zone.

Your proposed rezone must meet our criteria for development in land use zones. For example, in our Neighborhood Commercial One (NC1) zone, we encourage development of a variety of small businesses that people can walk to from the neighborhood. Therefore, our rules restrict the size of commercial businesses and require stores to be at ground level facing the street. See our development standards by land use zone on our zoning page.

We also review how your proposed rezone supports or impacts:

  • Seattle's Comprehensive Plan
  • Council adopted neighborhood plans
  • Surrounding property uses and land use zones
  • Housing, public services, pedestrians, shoreline, transit service, street capacity, and water and sewer capacity

We usually require State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) review at the same time you apply for a rezone. If you apply for a specific project associated with a review, you may also need Design Review.

Sometimes, the City will conduct area wide rezones. This happens when the Seattle City Council or Mayor ask City staff to study an area or neighborhood for possible rezoning to attract or limit development as outlined in the Seattle Comprehensive Plan. This review is usually done by the Office of Planning and Community Development. The review process for this type of area-wide rezone is different from the process for a more limited site proposal.

Examples of area-wide rezones include:

  • South Lake Union Rezone
  • Yesler Terrace Rezone
  • Station Area Overlay Incentive Zoning

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?

Rezoning a property is a complex process that involves City Council action and can be quite costly. We highly encourage you to schedule a pre-submittal conference before starting your application. Meeting with staff can help you determine the merits of the rezone. A pre-application conference is an opportunity to have a detailed discussion of the possible pitfalls, timeline, and issues involved in the rezone.

How long it takes us to complete our review of your proposal depends on many factors, including the: 

  • Complexity of your proposal
  • Whether environmental review is required
  • Whether Design Review is required
  • 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 Virtual 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.

Attend a pre-submittal conference. We require pre-submittal conferences for all proposed rezone applications. At a pre-submittal conference you will discuss our rezone requirements and our application process. 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 

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 an Environmental Sign Installation Notice 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 recommendation. We will publish our recommendation on your project in our Seattle Services Portal. We will also send a notice of our recommendation and of the required public hearing 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.

Attend the public hearing(s). The Seattle Hearing Examiner will hold a public hearing on our rezone recommendation, along with any appeals on your project. The Hearing Examiner will also issue a recommendation to the City Council. The council will vote on your rezone request based on the information provided during the public hearing process.

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, or it may be different if it's specified in the City Council adopted rezone ordinance. 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. Once City Council has approved your rezone, 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.