City seeks feedback on proposed legislation to regulate Seattle’s microhousing

The City of Seattle's map of current microhousing projects in the city

The City of Seattle’s map of current microhousing projects in the city

227 Boylston Ave's latest microhousing addition to Capitol Hill (Image: Calhoun Properties)

227 Boylston Ave’s latest microhousing addition to Capitol Hill (Image: Calhoun Properties)

In May, CHS reported on the effort inspired by Capitol Hill pushback to overhaul the city’s regulations around microhousing to close loopholes allowing developers to escape the design and environmental review process most standard apartment buildings are subject to. Monday is one of many deadlines in the process as proposed microhousing legislation — that includes potential design review for the projects as well as a host of other changes and limitations like restriction from single family zones — undergoes a State Environmental Policy Act review. DPD’s call for feedback and comment on its plan is below.

While many have called for increased regulation, developers and others have pointed at the neighborhood and greater Seattle’s need for more affordable housing as a primary driver for taking a more laissez faire approach to the industry.

According to the DPD director’s report on the legislation, the new rule set includes these 10 “actions.” The entire report and information on providing feedback on the proposed legislation is below.

1. Define “micro-housing” and “micro” under Residential Use within the Land Use Code.

2. Prohibit micro-housing developments in single-family zones.

3. Apply a design review threshold for micro-housing and congregate residences by the size of the building (not number of dwelling units).

4. Update development standards for micro-housing and congregate residences to add a minimum size requirement for shared kitchens and common areas.

5. Limit kitchen components in individual micros and sleeping rooms to differentiate from dwelling units.

6. Update development standards to ensure appropriate size of refuse collection areas in micro- housing and congregate residence developments.

7. Update development standards for quantity of required vehicle and bicycle parking in micro- housing and congregate residence developments.

8. Clarify eligibility for Restricted Parking Zone (RPZ) passes for occupants of micro-housing and congregate residences.

9. Account for micro-housing and congregate residence sleeping rooms in progress towards residential growth targets.

10. Deepen the required affordability levels for participation in incentive zoning for affordable housing for projects with micro-housing or congregate residences, and for very small studio apartments.

You’re invited to add your comments on the proposed legislation in this first round of review:

We welcome your comments on our proposed micro-housing legislation. Read the new regulations on our project documents page and then e-mail your feedback or ideas, by October 21, to mike.podowski@seattle.gov or geoffrey.wentlandt@seattle.gov.
State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) Review Draft
On October 7, 2013 we released proposed new rules for micro-housing and congregate residences along with a Director’s Report. We also published notice of a Determination of Non-Significance (DNS) on the proposed rules, as a part of the required State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) review. The SEPA comment period runs from October 7 through October 21 of 2013.

Staff Draft – Micro-Housing Preliminary Recommendations
Our preliminary recommendations for code changes to address the permitting and design of micro-housing is discussed in the memo below. We’ve drafted our preliminary recommendations based on input from elected officials, residents, and property owners.

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9 thoughts on “City seeks feedback on proposed legislation to regulate Seattle’s microhousing

  1. These buildings should all be demolished. I have seen some bad architecture in the city, but these pod-apartments or whatever they call them are whole nother piece of ugly. There’s one on 11th Ave between Republican and Harrison that may be the worst architectural atrocity I’ve ever seen. A massive, ugly block set amongst some beautiful old homes. My friend lives across the street from it, and I really feel for him. There’s no doubt that this monstrosity will affect the value of his home as well as the overall vibe of his street. Just an unforgivable insult on the neighborhood!

  2. There HAVE to be some regulations put in place regarding the construction of these aPodments because of their impact on existing sewer systems, parking (to attempt to convince everyone that none of these aPodment dwellers will have cars is unrealistic at best and deceitful and duplicitous at worst), and any number of other density issues because these structures are being built in many cases on what previously were single-family lots. Unfortunately, it is too little too late in the case of a lot of these structures that have already been allowed to be constructed but let’s get these things under control. There are going to be all sorts of problems in the not-too-distant future if we don’t make certain that the existing infrastructure can handle these aPodments.

  3. I think that there need to be some regulations of aPodments and new buildings, but they are absolutely needed right now. I live in the building pictured (not aPodments, but studios and two bedrooms), and it was hell trying to find a place to live on Capitol Hill… much less a place that would allow two very large dogs. I would much rather be living in a vintage building, but no one would allow both of my dogs (keep in mind that their breed has no “issues”, and we have several glowing references). The building has only been opened for a month, but a lot of the units are already taken. There isn’t a lot of parking for the building, but it hasn’t been an issue at all yet… which shows that there are plenty of people in the building who don’t own cars.

    I have a couple of friends living in aPodments- all out of necessity. None of them have cars, and they really like the setup they have. There’s definitely a current need for units like that, which translates into lots of these buildings popping up.

    I do understand the concern, though. My biggest concern is what is going to happen to those buildings in the future. Seattle’s population is going to level off and grow older, and there won’t be such a high demand for housing (especially temporary, convenient housing like aPodments). It would be nice if those buildings had some type of plan in place for how they could remodel the units to transition into apartments for families or seniors. Then again, none of us can predict the future… Seattle could end up becoming like Manhattan in 20 years.

    Let me just say how conflicted I’ve felt since moving to Seattle, though. I used to despise the “tear down” developments in my old neighborhoods in Chicago (none of them added more density to the neighborhood, and plenty of old, beautiful homes were torn down to make way for ugly new ones). But Chicago (and plenty of other cities, for that matter) doesn’t have a need for housing the way that Seattle does… period. I love the history of old buildings, and I know that the building next door undoubtedly has way more character than my building. There just isn’t enough housing in Seattle, which means that neighborhoods like Capitol Hill are going to change A LOT to accommodate for that.

  4. I live right by the new building on 11th Ave. I am pretty sure that there are no parking spaces for that building. Parking in the neighborhood was already bad before. And since they have opened, I have noticed it has gotten worse and the building isn’t even full yet. I really wish there would be a law put in place that mandates a certain amount of parking be built for a new construction building, to help with the already awful parking problems we have.

  5. Pingback: Neighborhood groups try to halt new microhousing rules in fight for tighter restrictions on aPodments | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle

  6. Pingback: CHS Year in Review 2013 | Capitol Hill development and the quest for affordability | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle