Thursday, February 26, 2015

Bill Fails At State Level Yesterday That Would Have Provided Notice To Surrounding Neighbors Of Tall, Skinny Homes Built On SideYards Of Upcoming Construction

Tall, skinny house under construction
on former side yard on NE 40th Street in 2012

Yesterday in Olympia, State Representatives Pollet, Tarleton, Ryu, Santos and Gregerson tried to get passed legislation (HB 1084), trying to force the City of Seattle to provide the surrounding neighbors with official notice when the Seattle Department of Planning and Development is considering allowing a developer to build a new, full-size home in the backyard or side yard of an existing home.

One Home Per Lot, a multi-neighborhood Seattle-wide grassroots movement fighting small, skinny homes, which also includes Laurelhurst residents, sent out this update following yesterday's meeting:
Thank you to all who wrote, emailed and made phone calls in support of state house bill 1084, which would have forced the city of Seattle to provide neighborhood notice whenever a new home is proposed for construction in a single-family neighborhood.
Unfortunately, we just learned that the bill failed to be voted out of committee (the first step for any state legislation). That means it's dead and will no longer be considered this year.  
This is the second year in a row that the bill failed to be voted out of committee. It often takes several tries, so maybe next year state representatives will be more supportive of Seattle's neighborhoods. 
In the meantime, we continue to wait for the Seattle city council to consider similar legislation.
The Laurelhurst Community Club supported the bill saying:
Without this change in law, neighborhoods have 21 days to challenge a land use decision—but they have no notice of the decision. This is not due process. With the pressure for increased density, property lots continue to be subdivided far below the lot size specified in Seattle’s Land Use Code, as there are exceptions that allow this with no notice to affected neighbors.   
These new developments more often than not exceed height and lot coverage restrictions and setback requirements.  Neighbors should have an opportunity to comment before the bulldozers show up. Affected neighbors and community councils should have notice of proposed development on these undersized lots, an opportunity to comment and the right to appeal to the Hearing Examiner.  Currently, this exception is considered a Type 1 decision with no notice, opportunity to comment or appeal to the Hearing Examiner.
Zoning loopholes, exploited by some developers, have resulted in building inconsistent with the height, bulk and scale of surrounding homes on lots as small as 1,050 square feet in Single Family 5,000 zones.  This infill development is destroying the character of neighborhoods with major adverse valuation and aesthetic impacts upon surrounding homes.  In addition, existing privacy evaporates with the new intrusive views, and window placements.
Nick,  a Laurelhurst resident, who lives near a tall, skinny house, wrote in a Blog post in 2012 about his experience with a new construction home right across from him, titled, There Goes The Neighborhood — And Yours May Be Next saying "It could happen to you with no warning."

John, who lives directly behind the new home, commented in a Seattle Times article, that the looming presence over his back yard is like “a guard tower.” He said the neighbors had no notice from the city or the developer that a new house was being crammed in between two existing houses, on what had been the old house’s yard.

The house, southeast of Laurelhurst Park, sits on a piece of property only 30 feet wide, which was segmented out of a larger one only 80 feet wide leaving only three feet in between the houses.  The house covers all the land, except for 10 feet of the house's previous yard.

Dan Duffus, a developer, is well-known around the city for building these tall skinny houses on very small lots, of which the houses are  modern in style, towering over the established homes beneath them and don't fit in with the character of the neighborhood.

For more information on the issue go here and here to learn more about One Home Per Lot.

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