Opinion Letters

What Is It?

An opinion letter describes our 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. Our opinion letters provide helpful information about how we believe particular code standards would apply. You cannot appeal an opinion letter.

You may request several different opinion letters from us:

  • Legal Building Site Letter
    (To address whether a particular parcel qualifies for separate development. Please see Tip 255, Legal Building Site Letters for more information.)
  • Open Space Remainder Letter
    (To get an exemption from platting.)
  • Development Potential Letter
  • Transfer of Development Rights Letter
    (To determine the amount of gross floor area that is available to send from a site. This request can also be made for Transfer Development Potential (TDP) letters.)
  • Tow Lot/Salvage Confirmation Letter
    (We typically require a permit to establish a tow lot. However, you do not need a change of use permit when an automotive tow/impound lot is created on a property that has an established outdoor storage use.)
  • Reasonable Accommodation Request
    (A request under the Federal Fair Housing Act, as referenced in SMC 23.40.040, for ramps or other accommodations within a setback where they would not typically be allowed.)
  • Preliminary Zoning Analysis Opinion Letter 
    (For the analysis of a single development standard such a determination of alley versus street access to off‐street parking, or review of Type 1 exceptions from street level development standards in commercial zones. Use this option for covenant release and easement analysis requests. We do not generally recommend this option for projects that are going through the Master Use Permit approval process.)
  • Detailed Zoning Analysis Opinion Letter
    (For the analysis of more than the development standard. We do not generally recommend this option for projects that are going through the Master Use Permit approval process.)

How Much Does It Cost?

Our fee for most opinion letters is a minimum of 4 hours for research and analysis. In many cases the initial fee is sufficient. You may need to pay additional fees for more review if the issue is complex or requires significant additional research. If we do conduct more than 4 hours of review and analysis, you will need to pay the balance before we will issue our opinion letter. See our Fee Subtitle, Table C-1, for current hourly rates.

Exceptions to the 4-hour minimum are:

  • Reasonable Accommodation Request: no charge
  • Special Accommodation Request: minimum is the first 2 hours
  • Preliminary Zoning Opinion Letter: minimum is the first hour 

How Long Does It Take?

Our opinion letters typically take four to five weeks to research and write. We may need additional time in cases requiring complex research, analysis, or when we request additional information from you. If you need your letter quickly due to an impending closing or contractual deadline, we do our best to meet your needs. To request expedited service, contact us through our Building or Land Use Question tool.

Steps to Get


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.