Term Permits and Street Vacations

Updated 11/2022

What are term permits and street vacations?

A Council Term Permit is for significant structures occupying the right-of-way such as utility tunnels, vehicle bridges and ramps, public plazas, artwork, and skybridges. Applicants must provide a necessity statement describing why there are no feasible options to accommodate the structure on private property, and how it meets the criteria in SMC 15.64 (skybridges) or SMC 15.65 (significant structures). The Council Term Permit requires Seattle City Council approval. A Council Term Permit is for a period of 15 years, with one renewable 15-year term. After the final term expires, the applicant may apply to permit the existing structure.    

Street Vacations allow property owners to petition the Seattle City Council to acquire public right-of-way next to their property from the City. Street vacations “vacate” the public’s right to use a street and return it to private property. Street vacations are only applicable when there is an adjacent development project planned. The Street Vacation Policies state a preference for retaining right-of-way in neighborhood residential zones.  In addition to the basic street purpose of access and utilities, streets in residential areas provide for things like open space, consistency in the development pattern, natural drainage, wildlife corridors and other things.  

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between a Council Term permit and a Long-Term Use permit? 
A Council Term permit is for significant structures in the right-of-way and the applicant must provide a compelling necessity statement describing why there are no other feasible options to address the need. Term permits require City Council approval, whereas Long Term Use permits are approved by us. 
When should I apply for a street vacation instead of a term permit? 
A term permit has a maximum duration and can be revoked by the City of Seattle. If revoked, the permit holder would be required to remove the structure and restore the right-of-way. Street vacations permanently change the nature of the right-of-way and return it to private property. Street vacations are only applicable when there is an adjacent development project planned. 

Council Term Permits

Ready to Apply? 

Click the Applicant Guide links below that apply to your project for more information about requirements and guidelines:    

Permit Renewal and Change in Ownership
Council Term permits are billed annually, and payment may be made online. If there are any proposed changes to the use, you must request a change by contacting publicspace@seattle.gov. Changes in the use require City Council approval.

If there is a change in property ownership, the new owner must contact publicspace@seattle.gov. Changes in ownership do not require City Council approval.  

Permit Duration
Council Term Permits are for 15 years, with one renewable 15-year term.  At the 15-year midpoint, the property owner is required to apply for a renewal through our Seattle Services Portal. We review the renewal application to ensure the current use is consistent with City Council’s original approval. City Council approves the renewal for the final 15-year term. 

At the end of 30 years, the property owner may apply to permit the existing structure. At this time, we will review the application to determine if the structure is still necessary and there are no other feasible alternatives to accommodate the use on private property. 

Street Vacations

Ready to Apply?
Click the links below for more information about requirements and guidelines:


Greg Spotts, Director
Address: 700 5th Ave, Suite 3800, Seattle, WA, 98104
Mailing Address: PO Box 34996, Seattle, WA, 98124-4996
Phone: (206) 684-7623

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The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is on a mission to deliver a transportation system that provides safe and affordable access to places and opportunities for everyone as we work to achieve our vision of Seattle as a thriving, equitable community powered by dependable transportation.