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The alphabet soup of city departments can, at first, seem impossible to decode, and once decoded, navigating those departments as a newcomer can be intimidating and frustrating. If you are an artist or an arts organization working through a cultural space issue with another city department, we might be able to assist. Contact us at the phone number or email listed above of this page for more information.

We have also compiled links to resources at the bottom of this page that you might find useful below.


We have also compiled links to resources in other departments that you might find useful below.

Finance and Administrative Services / Real Estate Services (FAS/RES)



King County has good on-line resources for researching property and the process required for permits. If the property you are interested in is within the boundaries of the City of Seattle, the King County Assessor’s office is still the place to look for information.

King County Assessor’s Office

The Assessor’s office website allows you to search for properties using the address. The information includes the name and address of the owner, appraised value of the land and buildings, zoning designation tax history, square footage and building condition and other details. (LINK)

King County Permitting

If your site is in King County, but not in an incorporated jurisdiction, you will need to obtain permits through the County. Unincorporated areas in King County include White Center and Skyline. Permitting is done through the Department of Local Services. (LINK)



Other counties in Washington have websites that allow you to research property and to research permitting requirements. Understanding the characteristics, value and zoning of any property you are interested in is an important first step.



Each jurisdiction, whether a county or an incorporated city, will have its own zoning code with specific requirements. There are often similarities, but the specifics are critical. For example, you will need to understand if your intended use is permitted (allowed outright) or can be done as a conditional use. For example, jurisdictions will have different takes on what you are allowed to do in a single-family zone (can I build an accessory dwelling unit? Can I have a home business, or a cultural use?). There are difference is the required setbacks from adjacent properties, the amount of the lot you can cover, parking requirements, etc. Don’t assume you can do something if it is not specifically permitted in the use chart that will typically be found in the zoning code.



Different jurisdictions have basic similarities in the permitting process, but it is critical to know the specifics of the city or county. There will be land use issues (primarily zoning) and building permit issues. For building permits, most jurisdictions will be using a suite of regulations based on the International Building Code (IBC) as adopted by the State of Washington, so regulations across building, fire, plumbing etc have similarities across the State. It is important to verify the requirements of each jurisdiction, and some jurisdictions such as Seattle, make modifications to these model codes. This is complicated stuff, and you are likely to need professional help to do anything other than a small project. City and County staff can be very helpful. Know that in the codes, the challenge is not what you find in the document, but the sections of the codes that you don’t find that can totally change the equation.

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