Seattle has made considerable progress in planning for housing growth in both its comprehensive plan and land use codes. In recognition of that progress, the Washington State Legislature has amended (Senate Bill 5412) the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) to help reach those goals by expediting the review of development that includes housing. As of July 23, 2023, most projects proposing additional housing units will be exempt from SEPA review, including several types of residential and mixed-use developments that would have previously undergone SEPA review. This SEPA change does not affect other SDCI discretionary approvals, such as Design Review, that may be required for specific proposals. This SEPA amendment will be in effect until September 30, 2025, when the Seattle Comprehensive Plan Update provides new housing growth targets and updated SEPA thresholds.
SEPA review triggers a Master Use Permit (MUP), which requires a public permit process including notice of the proposal, public comments, and the ability to appeal SDCI’s final written decision. An exemption from SEPA for projects that include housing means some projects may no longer require a Master Use Permit and can move straight to a construction permit.
Construction permits do not require public notice and are not appealable to the local Hearing Examiner.
This change streamlines permitting for new housing proposals and provides more certainty in the timing of permit approvals and eventual construction of housing.
Project applications currently under review for SEPA that are proposing housing will be able to withdraw the SEPA component of their MUP, or in instances where SEPA is the only component of a MUP, will be able to cancel their MUP. Project applicants should complete and submit a SEPA removal request form to SDCI to begin the process of opting out of SEPA review. Project applicants will also receive direct communication from SDCI with more details on this process in early July.
For questions about a future housing proposal not yet submitted for a permit, please submit your questions using our online form.
Here are responses to some frequently asked questions.
Created in 1971, SEPA was intended to be a mechanism for regulatory agencies to analyze adverse impacts and require mitigation associated with government decisions on a proposal where existing codes and rules were not adequate to address the identified impact(s).
In Seattle, SEPA is typically required for legislative changes and permits related to larger development proposals. Over the last 50+ years, our local codes and rules have been consistently strengthened with updates to incorporate much of the SEPA mitigation regularly applied to topics such as building form, noise, traffic, trees, and stormwater.