Queen Anne appeal delays Seattle ‘backyard cottage’ plan

(Images: The backyard cottage blog)

(Images: The backyard cottage blog)

That plan to make it easier to turn the backyard of Capitol Hill and Seattle single family homes into new housing to help ease the city’s crunch…

“No one needs to be told that we’re in a housing crisis right now,” Mike O’Brien said. “Backyard cottages are a great place to add more capacity. They could happen in our single family neighborhoods, which cover the majority of our real estate, and [they] can be done in a way without having some of the visual impacts that some neighbors are concerned about.”

has hit a speed bump in Queen Anne:

The legislation encouraging more backyard cottages has been delayed due to an appeal filed by Marty Kaplan of the Queen Anne Community Council. We are now hoping to vote on the legislation by the end of the year. On May 19th, when the legislation was made public, the Office of Planning and Community Development for the City of Seattle issued a determination that the legislation would not have significant adverse environmental impacts. The Queen Anne Community Council is challenging that determination and will appeal to the Hearing Examiner. The process of being heard by the Hearing Examiner can take anywhere from 3 to 6 months, and we should have a better understanding of the timeline in the next few weeks as the hearing date is scheduled.

An email from Council member Mike O’Brien’s staff revealed the filing Friday afternoon. The appeal document is embedded below.

The staffer email says O’Brien “will continue to pursue non-regulatory strategies to make both backyard cottages and mother-in-law apartments more affordable for homeowners” including “trying to work with the County on reducing or subsidizing the sewer capacity charge, looking into establishing a series of ‘pre-permitted’ designs, creating a guide for homeowners interested in building a backyard cottage, and working with lenders on creative financing tools.”

The appeal comes as Seattle looks for way to increase its housing stock even in areas where single family homes still dominate and amid debate about the role community councils should play in determining city policy and how much clout the groups should hold at City Hall.

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15 thoughts on “Queen Anne appeal delays Seattle ‘backyard cottage’ plan

  1. Bleeping nimbyites. This is a reasonable plan that can easily accommodate the styles and preferences of existing single-family neighborhoods. It’s infuriating that it would be delayed for no substantial reason whatsoever. You just get the sense certain people want to keep their district exclusive.

  2. Looking at the reasons in the appeal above:

    – Affordability : the cost of building a DADU is considerably less than buying a 2 bed condo in an area like cap hill. This means that the owner can rent for less $. The unit doesn’t have HOA fees, and other costs are split with the main residence. I am able to charge 10-15% less than a 2 Bed condo rental. The next step would be to offer a property tax reduction for home owners who provide greater affordability from their DADU. Developers of larger properties get incentives such as this, so why not the homeowner?

    – Parking : If we are spending $3B on transit, I would assume that we would need less cars. In dense areas such as Cap Hill many developments occur without providing parking for every resident – indeed this is encouraged. So why not with DADU?

    – Airbnb : Building a DADU to target AirBnB is an expensive approach when you can rent out a room or basement in an existing residence. If AirBnB would provide the data, I would imagine that almost none of the units are DADU.

    Making it easier to build a DADU in Seattle is valuable for homeowners to provide income against ever rising costs, making housing cheaper, and allowing people to age in their neighborhoods.

  3. As long as we do something about the proliferation of Airbnb using whole home residences, we’re good. those things are terrible. worse than bedbugs or cockroaches!

  4. The city’s has a stated goal of increasing tree canopy. Backyard cottage construction will accelerate loss of tree canopy. Mature trees are being cut down on the hill all the time already, greenwashing by the “Ecodistrict” notwithstanding.

    • Which he speaks to in his appeal in C.2.d. questioning the claim that there are no environmental impacts? Everyone is so quick to dismiss this appeal as NIMBY’ism (probably without even reading his appeal), but his points are very well taken.

    • I agree with Ed F and Jim98122. There is a large environmental impact from removing trees and we should pay attention to policy changes that will accelerate that loss. Trees and plantings in yards are important for air quality also reduce run-off into Puget Sound, Lake Washington, and Lake Union.

    • Another factor negatively impacting our tree canopy is when private homeowners cut down trees on public property (planting strips, etc), without first getting an inspection and permit from the City. This happens frequently on Capitol Hill, usually on the wealthier streets. The City Arborist sometimes hears about this after the fact, when it is too late. A retroactive permit is supposed to be required, the stump removed and the tree replaced…..but in practice this is usually not done because the City does not do effective followup.

    • The city of Seattle has a program that defines exceptional trees and regulates when they can and cannot be removed. Get over yourselves. This is a classic case of nimbyism and it is blatantly obvious.

    • Agreed. Instead of cutting down a few trees in an urban area, let’s cut down trees in the exurban areas, adjacent to our forests and parks. Cause people got to live somewhere.

  5. Appeal write is Martin Kaplan, who owns a 1.5+ million dollar home in Queen Anne. I seriously doubt he cares about anything other than protecting the privacy of his luxury property from low level cottage dwellers.

  6. I just humble opinion will be leave for others to read it senior citizens don’t have enough places to live in no money higher than 800 dollars a month their request among building and complex calling senior living? who has their pension more a 900 dollars ? if they make this plan real might be a solution for people third age can live in with their low income pension from social security.. understand others why are so expensive?

  7. The appeal writer, Kaplan, was also a key figurehead who helped write current city of Seattle backyard cottage regulations years ago. I’m sure he relished the opportunity to help write legislation that would restrict “low level cottage dwellers” back then, and he’s certainly not about to let these regulations now be changed in his own neighborhood. What does he care about affordability – he lives in an uber-luxe home himself.