Don’t mess with a Seattle neighborhood cider bar. While solutions for the city’s biggest problems around equity, police violence, and homelessness have been elusive, the Seattle City Council is quickly nailing down the red tape that allowed complaints to take down a much loved neighborhood business in Greenwood.
A new “Bringing Business Home” bill introduced Monday would give more flexibility in city codes for small businesses run out of apartments, homes, and garages while Seattle remains under its COVID-19 emergency:
Councilmember Dan Strauss (District 6 – Northwest Seattle), Chair of the City’s Land Use and Neighborhoods Committee, together with Council President M. Lorena Gonzalez (Pos. 9 – Citywide), introduced C.B. 120001 on Monday, titled “Bringing Business Home, a Small Business Flexibility Bill,” in an effort to provide additional support and a means towards economic recovery for small businesses adversely affected by current land use codes during the pandemic. After hearing from a small business impacted by the current rules, Strauss drafted, and González co-sponsored, legislation to adopt interim regulations to allow businesses greater flexibility to operate out of garages and residences.
“The proposed changes recognize that while the current COVID-19 economic recession has forced small, independent businesses to find creative solutions to survive, City regulations have not kept up,” the announcement reads. “This legislation allows small businesses to bring their businesses home, reducing one of their largest expenses, rent.”
The new legislation is hoped to loosen the environment for business run from non-commercial properties by temporarily suspending a set of requirements “for the next year” required of current home-based businesses:
- Customer visits are by appointment only
- There is no evidence of the home-based business visible from the exterior of the structure
- No more than two persons who are not residents of the building may work in a home-based business
- The home-based business shall not cause a substantial increase in on-street parking congestion or a substantial increase in traffic within the immediate vicinity
Home-based businesses would also be allowed “to operate in a house’s off-street parking stall or garage and have one non-illuminated sign with the business name if it is not larger than 720 square inches,” the city says.
The legislation has emerged quickly after neighbor complaints forced the shutdown of cider provider Yonder Bar, a garage-based business in Greenwood.
The city council announcement points out that the city’s smallest businesses are disproportionately run by BIPOC owners:
Seattle has over 4,000 active business licenses for restaurants, caterers, and other businesses in the food industry; the 2016 Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs estimates that nearly 48 percent of the firms in the accommodation and food services industry in the Seattle metropolitan area are owned by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.
The council’s announcement does not address how the legislation could impact renters and apartment dwellers where tenants will also be subject to lease terms and building rules.
The city council’s land use committee will take the proposal up Wednesday with a final vote expected in March.
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