Land Use

Who We Are

Land Use division staff process and issue land use permits, also called master use permits (MUPs). Our work includes:

  • Processing land use permit applications
  • Establishing development sites
  • Reviewing plans
  • Providing public notice
  • Publishing land use decisions
  • Issuing land use permits

We also conduct:

  • Specialized reviews in land use, zoning, and environmental regulations on proposed development
  • Public meetings on proposed development, including Design Review Board meetings
  • Land use analyses and Land Use Code interpretations

We offer free and paid video coaching and pre-submittal conferences for Land Use Code and project assistance through our Applicant Services Center.   

What Is Land Use?

In Seattle, the use of land (i.e. what you can do on private property) is regulated by the Land Use Code (Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) Title 23). The Land Use Code protects and promotes public health, safety, and general welfare. It does this through a set of regulations and procedures that implement the City's Comprehensive Plan.

The Land Use Code establishes noticing procedures to promote informed public awareness of land use permit applications. The Land Use Code also establishes procedures for the coordination of review processes. The Land Use Code classifies land within the City into various zones and overlay districts to regulate uses and structures. The zoning regulations are designed to:

  • Provide adequate light, air, access, and open space
  • Conserve the natural environment and historic resources
  • Achieve a compatible scale between zones
  • Enhance the streetscape and pedestrian environment

The Code seeks to guide the efficient use of land with limited impact to the natural environment. The Code also directs development toward lots with adequate services and amenities that support the use. Other City regulations apply to development in Seattle, including Building and Construction Codes (SMC Title 22) and regulations for environmental review, critical areas, noise control, tree protection, and historic preservation (SMC Title 25).

What We Do

We facilitate Master Use Permits from application intake to permit issuance. For a complete overview of the MUP process, including "Steps to Get Your Permit," visit our Land Use/Master Use Permit - Overview of MUP webpage.

We implement the Land Use Code, as well as policies and regulations for SEPA environmental review, environmentally critical areas, and tree protection, through specialized reviews. In addition to land use and zoning reviews, a master use permit application may include review of transportation, trees, critical areas, shorelines, etc. For more information on the codes we enforce and to preview code changes, visit:

We administer the Design Review Program. Through the design review process, we apply the adopted Design Guidelines, review requests for development standard departures, and support the volunteer Design Review Boards. For more information on the Design Review Program and different types of design review, visit:

We offer free and paid video coaching and pre-submittal conferences through the Applicant Services Center. Through coaching and pre-submittal conferences, we discuss project proposals, permit requirements, and the application process with the public or permit applicant. For more information, visit our Applicant Services Center or download the Pre-Submittal Conference Application.

We issue public notice to increase awareness of land use and development proposals, master use permit applications and decision, and public meetings and hearings. Certain types of master use permit applications require public notice. Based on the application type, we post the public notice in SDCI's Land Use Information Bulletin, mail it to property owners, and post it at the site. For more information on noticing requirements and to see current notices, read:

We provide opportunities for public comment on land use and development proposals requiring a master use permit. For more information on how to effectively comment on a project, visit our Comment on a Project webpage.

We conduct land use analyses and Land Use Code interpretations. A land use analysis can be requested through an opinion letter. The opinion letter describes SDCI's analysis of an issue relating to how the standards of the Land Use Code or related codes apply to a particular site, use of land, or development proposal. For more information, visit our Opinion Letter webpage. A Land Use Code Interpretation is SDCI's formal decision about the meaning, application, or intent of a regulation in the Land Use Code or regulations for environmentally critical areas. For more information, read Tip 256, Land Use Code Interpretations.

We confirm developer contributions for master use permits and building permits required through the incentive zoning (IZ) and Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) programs. Developer contributions may address local needs for affordable housing, childcare, open space, historic preservation, and preservation of regional farms and forests. For more information, visit our Incentive Zoning Program webpage. For more information, visit our Incentive Zoning Program and Mandatory Housing Affordability webpage.

We provide additional services through the Public Resource Center. For more information, visit our Public Resource Center webpage.

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.