On May 24, 2023, the State Building Code Council (SBCC) held a special meeting to discuss the 9th Circuit that found the City of Berkley’s Energy Code violated federal preemption over state rules and a new lawsuit against the State Codes for a similar violation. In the new lawsuit, several organizations are seeking to prevent enforcement of the Washington State Energy Code’s ban on natural gas appliances that are regulated under the federal Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA). The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington.
Fixing the Bricks: Upcoming Presentations of Proposed Minimum Seismic Standards for Unreinforced Masonry Buildings
After several years of collaborating with seismologists, geologists, and geotechnical and structural engineers, the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) is sharing its draft Unreinforced Masonry (URM) Technical Standard. This document is the first step in establishing minimum seismic standards for the earthquake retrofit of Seattle’s 1,100 vintage brick buildings which are prone to collapse in an earthquake due to lack of structural reinforcements.
In 2021, an effort spearheaded by the Alliance for Safety, Affordability, and Preservation (ASAP!) and Councilmember Herbold resulted in the passing of Joint Resolution 32033. That resolution declared the intent of City Council and the Mayor to establish a mandatory retrofit program and directed SDCI to develop a retrofit standard. While a mandatory ordinance is still a few years away, this Technical Standard will serve as a voluntary option for URM owners wanting to retrofit their building. This Technical Standard will be used to develop a future mandatory retrofit ordinance.
Low-Income Housing/Affordable Units Land Use Code Omnibus Amendments
In One Seattle, every person deserves to have a safe and affordable place to call home – this is critical to our efforts to create a safe, welcoming, and thriving Seattle of the future. Now more than ever, we must advance bold action to address the housing affordability and homelessness crises by helping people move indoors with access to services and preventing homelessness in the first place.
Seattle Code Updates
SDCI and Washington state update their adopted construction codes every three years. The current updates creating the 2021 series of codes for SDCI and Washington state where slated to be adopted and implemented by July 1, 2023. However, SDCI’s proposed updates will be delayed.
The 2021 Seattle Construction Codes effective date of July 1, 2023 is delayed to no sooner than Monday, October 2, 2023 to accommodate a City of Seattle legislative review process which is longer than anticipated this code cycle.
Updates to Seattle Tree Service Provider Regulations
In April, 2022 the City of Seattle passed regulations to help protect our urban canopy. Those regulations require tree service providers to register with the City of Seattle before conducting commercial tree work, consultations on private property and posting a public notice on-site for any tree work beyond minimal routine maintenance. In February 2023, the City passed additional legislation to modify and clarify those regulations. See the SDCI tree code webpage for the detailed registration and notice requirements.
SEPA Parking Amendments Effective January 20, 2023
On January 20, 2023, the state proposed SEPA related amendments removed parking as an element of the environment and revised the environmental checklist. As a result of new state law, SDCI will no longer identify and analyze parking impacts in its SEPA analysis. A new Environmental (SEPA) checklist is available on the City forms page and required with submittal of a Master Use Permit for project proposals that require SEPA.
2023 Fee Changes
On January 1, 2023, SDCI will be implementing a compounded inflationary increase of 9.16% to most fees. This increase follows two consecutive years in which SDCI did not implement fee increases, and is designed to re-align SDCI fee levels with the current cost of business. These fee increases will result in an SDCI base hourly rate of $252/hr, and Land Use hourly rate of $430/hr. New for 2023, most SDCI fees will also be subject to a 5% technology fee.
New Code Interpretation for Fire Wall Continuity at Offsets
Fire walls are the most robust form of fire-rated assemblies in the Building Code and have strict rules for their construction and continuity. In Seattle, fire walls are being used more frequently for a variety of reasons, including: Fire walls are required for compartmentalization when building 6 stories of wood construction using the Seattle amendment to promote more affordable housing (SBC 510.10); and Fire walls are used to subdivide a building into separate “buildings,” either to change the occupancy designation or to separate new construction from existing.
2021 Seattle Construction Codes Adoption Process
We are now accepting code change proposals as part of the update of the Seattle Construction Codes from the 2018 to the 2021 code editions. Anyone proposing a code change for the building, residential, mechanical, fuel gas, existing building, and plumbing codes is encouraged to do so by January 1, 2023. SDCI and the Construction Codes Advisory Board will review these proposals and any staff-proposed code changes for potential inclusion in the new codes beginning in January 2023.
Seattle Tree Service Providers Must Register and Post Public Notice
The City Council passed Council Bill 120207 requiring 1) tree service providers to register with the City of Seattle before conducting commercial tree work and consultations on private property and 2) property owners to post a public notice on-site before any tree work beyond routine maintenance. The tree service provider registry will be accessible to the public so that owners, residents, and neighbors can be assured a registered company knowledgeable with tree regulations and best practices is completing work in their neighborhood.
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