Noise Variances

See also: Noise Code

What Is It?

A noise variance may allow you to vary from the limits of the noise control code under specific circumstances, usually for a limited period of time.

There are four kinds of noise variances:

Temporary. We may grant a temporary variance for up to 14 days for an activity, use, process, or equipment that does not annoy a substantial number of people or endanger public health or safety. SDCI approval of your temporary noise variance application is not guaranteed. All application fees are non-refundable. If you have questions about approval of your specific activities, contact a noise control specialist (see sidebar for contact information).

Technical. We may grant a technical variance for a specified period of time in situations where noise 1) is unavoidable, 2) can’t be practically prevented or controlled, and 3) does not endanger public health or safety. We determine the period of time when we review your variance application.

Economic. We may grant an economic variance where measures to reduce noisy activities must be spread over a period of time because of their extent or cost. We will only grant economic variances if we conclude that the noise will not endanger public health or safety.

Major public project construction. We may grant these variances for projects that meet all of the following criteria:

  • Project is for a public project or City facility (a public project is a facility that is owned, operated, or franchised by a government agency except for the City of Seattle)
  • Project will last at least six months
  • Project will improve access to public services (such as transportation) and public health, safety, and welfare

In deciding whether a proposal is eligible for this variance, we consider:

  • Expected size, length, and complexity or cost of construction
  • Size of expected impacts on traffic and transportation
  • Degree of impact on access to public services during construction

How Much Does It Cost?

The application fee for a noise variance is the SDCI base fee. We may charge additional hourly review fees for technical, economic, and major public project construction variances. Please see our Fee Subtitle for current rates.

How Long Does It Take?

Temporary variance. You must tell neighboring, affected properties that you are applying for a noise variance 72 hours before your start date.

Major project variance. We may need several months to process your major project noise variance. How long it takes us to process your variance depends on the quality of your application. Major project variances can be appealed.

Steps to Get

Temporary variances. If you need relief from nighttime noise restrictions, you need to submit a temporary noise variance application. Be sure to answer all questions and provide detailed information about your project, including your key contact information (phone, email, and mailing address).

You need to apply for a temporary noise variance online, through our Seattle Services Portal. To apply, follow these steps:

  1. Login to your portal account.
  2. Click on Permits - Trade, Construction & Land use
  3. Select Noise Variance Request and then click Continue Application
  4. Follow the screen prompts to submit your application and pay the initial non-refundable fee

After you have submitted your application, we will review it and either approve it with conditions or deny it. If we approve it, we will send you an approval document with conditions and dates. You'll be notified if you need to pay any additional fees.

Post the approval document on your work site.

Economic, technical, or major public project construction variances. For application requirements for these variances, review Director’s Rule 3-2009, Variances from the Standards of the Noise or contact a Noise Control Specialist.

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.