Councilmember Mike O’Brien has introduced legislation “to make it easier for more homeowners to build backyard cottages and mother-in-law units.” His bill would make a series of changes to the existing land-use code to allow larger buildings, more buildings on a lot, and more residents per building. O’Brien’s avowed intention is “to increase the housing supply,” but his larger objective is to breach the restrictions against multi-family development in single family zones.
This proposal – just one of many to be imposed under the HALA agenda – “would seriously impact and erode almost all Seattle single family zones and neighborhoods,” according to Martin Henry Kaplan, a former member of the Seattle Planning Commission:
As I served on the Seattle Planning Commission during the time that we proposed and helped craft the [currently existing] DADU legislation, we took a very measured and educated approach in evaluating the conditions whereby someone could add a dwelling unit onto their single family zoned property.
Critical to this discussion is the fact that we must honor the investment, security, privacy and critical expectations of homeowners when they invest their lives, families, and finances in a home and within a neighborhood and a specific land use zone. There indeed is an expectation that our quality of life should be protected from abuse by neighboring properties that build beyond what a community expects and for which zoning codes define. After all, that is the foundation and obligation of a zoning code and City Hall enforcement.
Mr. Kaplan’s complete comments on this issue for the Queen Anne Community Council’s Land Use and Planning Committee are available as a PDF, here. A clear point-by-point briefing on Backyard Cottages is available from the Wallingford Community Council, on this web page.
Call to Action
O’Brien’s bill will be considered by the City Council’s Planning, Land Use, and Zoning (PLUZ) Committee in July (exact date unknown), with a possible Council vote on the final legislation in August. The public comment periods at those meetings will be a battleground. The industry-sponsored fake-grassroots campaign “Seattle For Everyone” is holding workshops now to teach people how to speak to the Council. We must match their effort, though we do not have their resources.
Max Nicolai at the Wallingford Community Council is leading the effort to assemble a corps of speakers from all parts of the city to appear before the Council. If that strikes you as important, send him an email.
The Wallingford Community Council has posted an online Call-to-Action on this web page, with suggestions about specific language you can use in an email to members of the City Council.
Click “Continue” for a complete list of references on the issue of Backyard Cottages.
Project documents from the Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD):
- Director’s Report: A plain-language explanation of the proposed changes, with illustrations. – PDF, May, 2016
- Proposed Ordinance: The actual law to implement the land-use code changes. (May be amended by the Council.) – PDF, April 13, 2016
- SEPA DNS (State Environmental Protection Act, Determination of Non-Significance): An official finding by OPCD allowing the legislation to go forward; we have not evaluated it. – PDF, May 19, 2016
- SEPA Checklist: Supporting document for the DNS. We have not evaluated it. – PDF, May, 2016
- OPCD background page on Backyard Cottages
From Councilmember Mike O’Brien:
- Press Release announcing DADU legislation – May 19, 2016
- O’Brien’s background page on Backyard Cottages
- Wallingford Community Council online Call-to-Action
- Wallingford Community Council background page on Backyard Cottages
- Queen Anne Community Council – Land Use & Planning Committee comments, by Martin Henry Kaplan, AIA – PDF, May 14, 2016