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Tukwila Categorical Exemptions/SEPA

January 31, 2024

The City of Tukwila is moving forward to implement changes to its SEPA environmental review process. According to city staff, the proposed changes are intended to streamline and update the permit process, reduce staff effort, reduce permit review times, and cut down on paperwork in a way that will provide a faster and more predictable experience for applicants, without changing the substantive outcomes regarding environmental protection.

When the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) was adopted in the early 1970s, it was the only significant piece of local environmental regulation. However, numerous subsequent regulations have been adopted that tend to make SEPA review superfluous, while also being time consuming and expensive. As a result, state law now allows cities to choose to bypass SEPA review in urban areas when other protective regulations are in place, such as critical areas, concurrency, traffic mitigation, and design standards.

Accordingly, Tukwila is raising thresholds and limiting the application of SEPA to more impactful projects, as follows:

tukwila chart

The objective is to have the same threshold of 30 single family units regardless of size. That is because Tukwila’s code does not distinguish between single family homes of different sizes. It is also unlikely the City would see a future subdivision of over 30 houses given the limited vacant land in Tukwila.

The elimination of SEPA review for projects beneath the new thresholds should have minimal or no impact to public review and commenting opportunities. Most of the projects that fall between the existing and proposed levels are either already exempt from noticing, or subject to noticing because they trigger land use approvals with independent notice requirements, such as design review.

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