AG 1091B: Retail Merchandise Displays in the Furniture Zone

Updated 1/2023

General Requirements for All Merchandise Displays 

  1. Merchandise displays must be removed entirely from the right-of-way outside of business hours
  2. The display area may only be used for display of products and goods
  3. Other than standard product packaging, advertising, logos, or other promotional materials are not allowed
  4. The display shall not contain alcoholic beverages, tobacco, firearms or munitions, or any article that a minor is prohibited by law from purchasing, or any material restricted by the Fire Code from direct access or handling by the public
  5. No noise-making devices or amplification are allowed 

If you have questions about these rules or our need help with our Applicant Guides, please email us at for additional coaching or information.

The Two Types of Merchandise Display Permits

Ground floor retail businesses may place goods, merchandise, or products offered for sale by the business on the adjacent sidewalk abutting their storefront. Some common examples of merchandise display include clothing racks, shelves of books, or seasonal items such as plants or outdoor furniture.  

There are two ways to place a merchandise display on the sidewalk: 

  1. Without a permit in the building frontage zone, provided you meet the General Requirements for All Merchandise Displays, and follow our standards for size and placement found in the Merchandise Display – Frontage Zone (no permit required) Applicant Guide.  

The figure shows the Frontage Zone (seen here with a red background), which is the sidewalk closest to a building. Merchandise displays may be allowed in the Frontage Zone.

Figure 1: Building Frontage Zone

2. With a permit in the furniture zone, provided you meet the General Requirements for All Merchandise Displays, and follow the steps found in the Merchandise Display - Furniture Zone section below.

The figure shows the Furniture Zone (seen here with a red background), which is the sidewalk closest to the sidewalk edge or curb. Merchandise displays may be allowed in the Furniture Zone.

Figure 2: Furniture Zone

I want to learn more about...

Step 1: Determine what permit type works best for you

Step 2: Review siting standards to see if your space is a good fit!  

Retail Merchandise Displays (Furniture Zone) Siting Standards 
Retail Merchandise Displays (Furniture Zone) Design Standards 

Step 3: Draw your site plan 

Step 4: Apply online!  

Step 5: Application Review and Decision 

Step 6: Permit Issuance and inspection 

Step 7: Permit renewal and maintenance 

Step 1: Determine what permit type works best for you 

  • Long-term Use permit: This is a renewable permit that allows year-round use of the public right-of-way. You will receive yearly invoices and we will conduct periodic inspections to ensure your display continues to meet permit conditions. 
  • Seasonal Use permit: This is a permit that allows merchandise display between April 1st and October 31st of the permitted year. You must reapply each year.  


Step 2: Review siting standards to see if your space is a good fit! 

Siting Standards

The figure shows common siting standards for furniture zone merchandise display (shown here with red rectangles), which are fully described in the below list.

Figure 3: Depicting siting standards for furniture zone merchandise display  

You site must be:

  1. Placed in the Furniture Zone abutting the storefront.
  2. Placed to provide an unobstructed corner clearance zone. 
  3. Sited to maintain an unobstructed pedestrian clear zone abutting the entire length of the merchandise display. The width of the pedestrian clear zone is determined by the street type where the merchandise display is located as defined by Streets Illustrated.
    1. The minimum required pedestrian clear zone width is 6 feet in most neighborhoods.
    2. We require an 8-foot minimum width on Downtown Streets - see Streets Illustrated section 2.3). You can use the Street Type Map to look up your location and find your street type.
    3. Streets Illustrated calls for wider minimum pedestrian clear zone dimensions depending upon street type and adjacent land use. You may be required to provide more width if you are in a pedestrian-designated zone or near a high-capacity transit zone. We will work with you during the review process to identify if this is the case for your location.
    4. Merchandise displays shall provide at least one foot of additional pedestrian clear zone clearance on the adjacent sidewalk to account for people stopped and standing at the display if the display is located:
      • On a Downtown Street or Downtown Neighborhood Street, as defined by Streets Illustrated,
      • In a pedestrian-designated zone, or
      • On a block face designated as a Frequent Transit Network on SDOT’s Transit Master Plan. 
        • You can find out if your location requires this additional space by using the Streets Illustrated Street Type Map. Navigate to your location and then click on the street. You’ll find a pop-up box that will show you the needed information. See the examples in this figure, which shows said pop-up box.
  4. Sited so that the merchandise display footprint width is not greater than the width of the pedestrian clear zone, see this figure, which shows different configurations that are allowed and not allowed.
  5. Sited to provide an unobstructed 3-foot-wide pedestrian straight path within the designated pedestrian clear zone that extends along the permitted area and for 25 feet on either end of the permitted area's boundaries along the block face. The straight path runs along the display’s boundaries and must be continuous straight route that indicates the path of travel and parallels the curb. See this image for an illustration of the pedestrian straight path. 
  6. The merchandise display shall comply with clearances required in Streets Illustrated or successor rule. In addition to any other required setbacks, the merchandise display: 
    1. Where on-street parking exists, shall have a 4-foot-wide clear path-of-travel for every 20 lineal feet of sidewalk length. This is required to allow for pedestrian access from the curbspace to the sidewalk area. 
    2. Shall not be sited in a manner that adversely affects pedestrian mobility directly beyond the permitted footprint area or inhibits the operation, maintenance, or functionality of any utilities or street fixtures
    3. Shall be at least 2’ from curb when adjacent to vehicle travel lane
    4. Shall be at least 3’ from curb when adjacent to parking (4’ from ADA parking or bus zones) 
    5. Shall be located at least 5 feet from curb ramps, curb ramp landings, alleys, driveways, and Fire Department connections and fire escape ladders.
  7. The merchandise display activity shall not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act. Display equipment shall meet ADA requirements for cane detection or diverters shall be required, see Design Standards section below for more information. 


Design Standards

Please note the following design considerations when designing your merchandise display (note you may also need a Department of Neighborhood Certificate of Approval for your display when located in a historic district or adjacent to a designated landmark):

    1. No objects shall be bolted or affixed to the sidewalk surface
    2. All display equipment must be easy to move in and out daily. No equipment shall be stored in the right-of-way
    3. Display equipment shall be durable and made of surfaces that are easy to clean and maintain
    4. Display equipment with wheels shall have locks
    5. Display equipment shall meet ADA requirements for cane detection or diverters shall be required (see diverter details below)
    6. Lighting specifically for the display shall not be allowed
    7. Umbrellas shall not be allowed
    8. Display equipment shall be stable 

Diverters, if required because the display equipment is not cane-detectable, shall be placed on either end of the display and included within the display footprint and shall meet the following design standards:  ]

    1. Be between 30 and 42 inches tall
    2. Extend the entire width of the footprint either as: (a) a single object detectable by cane or (b) multiple elements with no more than 24 inches of space in between
    3. Abut the adjacent building and extend at a 90-degree angle from the building face
    4. Be able to withstand wind, adverse weather conditions, and incidental contact
    5. Not have supports or any elements that protrude beyond the display boundary
    6. Not be bolted to the sidewalk
    7. Be constructed of materials that are of one or more contrasting colors to the sidewalk surface and to the building to increase visibility for the visually impaired 


Step 3: Draw your site plan 

This figure is an example of a hand-drawn site plan showing the merchandise display footprint and key details such as sidewalk fixtures and tree pits and the building. Figure 13: Hand-drawn Site Plan

Based on the requirements in Step 2, prepare a site plan. Your site plan needs to include the dimensions of your proposed merchandise display footprint as well as right-of-way features with dimensions.  See the example below to help you draw your site plan. 


Step 4: Apply online!  

When you are ready to apply, head to the Seattle Services Portal. Note: if you've never used the Portal before, you'll need to register and set up an account first. See this helpful article or video on how to do this. Once you are logged in, follow the steps below: 

  • Under "Create New" select "Permits-Street Use
  • If you wish to apply for a long-term, renewable, year-round permit, navigate to and select the "Long Term Use" and "Private Structures" record type.  
    • When prompted to input “Use Code Description,” choose “Merchandise Display.” 
  • If you wish to apply for a seasonal (April 1 through October 31) permit, navigate to and select the “Short Term Use” and “Seasonal Business Uses” record type.
    • When prompted to input “Use Code Description,” choose “Seasonal Merchandise Display.” 

Required Documents  

At submittal: 

  • Site plan (see above for an example)
  • Photos and/or details on proposed merchandise display equipment
  • Letter of authorization, if the Applicant or Financially Responsible Party is different from the Owner 
  • Diverter design details (if required)
  • Photo or conceptual image(s) of your site to help orient us to the street condition – it can be helpful to stand about 10 feet away from the proposed operation and take a photo of the proposed area on several sides         

Prior to permit approval: 

  • Historic/Landmark District Certificate of Approval (if in an historic district


Step 5: Application Review and Decision 

You can check the status of your permit online through the Seattle Services Portal. We will review the application and may contact you either to request additional information or to request corrections. After our staff review is complete, we will either approve, approve with modifications, or (in rare cases) deny the application. 


Step 6: Permit Issuance and Inspection 

Once your permit is issued, it will be uploaded to the Seattle Services Portal. You should review the permit and approved documents. Then you are ready to set up your tables and chairs!   

Make sure you place the display according to your approved site plan and let us know if you have any questions by emailing us at An inspector will go out and confirm the merchandise display placement conforms to the approved permit and plan.   


Step 7: Permit renewal and maintenance 

Long-Term Merchandise Display permits are renewed yearly. There is a yearly permit renewal fee. See our Street Use Fee Schedule PDF on this page for more information. If the use is in good standing, our permitting system will automatically renew the permit and invoice the permittee.   
Seasonal Merchandise Display permits expire on October 31st of the permitted year. If you wish to set-up a seasonal display the following year, you must submit a new permit application.    
You are expected to maintain the permitted use according to your approved plan and permit, including complying with all permit conditions. Permittees must comply with the operational requirements established in Section 6.9 of the SDOT Director’s Rule 02-2023: Merchandise Displays in the Public Place including keeping the sidewalk clean and safe for pedestrians. We will conduct inspections to ensure the use remains as approved. In the event that a merchandise display does not meet the terms and conditions of the permit, we may issue penalties including additional inspection charges or citations.     
Need to make changes? For proposed changes to your display, you can request a permit revision through our Seattle Services Portal.   
If there is change in business or property ownership and no change to the use, the new owner must apply for a new merchandise display permit. In the application, note “transfer of ownership” in the "project description" field.     
It’s important to understand that all Street Use permits are temporary in nature and do not grant you permanent rights to occupy the public right-of-way. We may revoke permits according to Seattle Municipal Code 15.04.070. We may require that you remove your merchandise display permanently to accommodate other uses of the right-of-way, such as when new transportation, utility, or development projects are planned that will not allow for continued private use. It’s important to be aware of the temporary nature of right-of-way permitting and make sure you consider that when deciding what to build. We do not reimburse for the costs of removal, and you are responsible for any restoration required to the right-of-way.  
In the case of a major public event, such as a parade, we may ask your business to temporarily remove your merchandise display with at least 24 hours-notice. In an emergency, we may immediately clear the merchandise display without notice to preserve public health and safety. If this should occur, we will not be responsible for damages.   
We are also able to modify the conditions of your permit if necessary for safety, traffic management, or any other public-use purpose as long as we provide written notice 10 days before modifying the Street Use permit.   



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

Newsletter Updates


Sign up for the latest updates from Transportation

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.