Tuesday, January 19, 2016

LCC Weighs In Regarding City Encouraging Backyard Cottages

The City is holding an Open House Tonight on Encouraging Backyard Cottages at 6pm at the Filipino Community Center (5740 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way).  There will be a second community meeting at the Wallingford Community Center ( 4649 Sunnyside Avenue) on February 3, 2016 at 6pm.

The press release says:
Councilmember Mike O’Brien and the Office of Planning & Community Development will host an open house this evening regarding ways in which the City can encourage more backyard cottages. The meeting will provide Seattle residents the opportunity to learn about the barriers that frequently deter or prevent homeowners from building a cottage.  The public can also provide input and feedback regarding potential to solutions to encourage more of these affordable units.
Backyard cottages are small dwelling units on the same lot as, but physically separate from, a single-family house. They’re allowed in all single-family zones, but only about 200 have been constructed since Council authorized their construction in 2009. Expanding the production of backyard cottages could provide new housing throughout Seattle and give homeowners an opportunity to earn extra income and remain in their homes.

The Laurelhurst Community Club Board (LCC) has written many letters to the City regarding this long debated issue.
One recent letter said:

LCC has reviewed the Mayor’s proposed ordinance that would legalize detached accessory dwelling units (DADUs) citywide, the Director’s report, the guide to backyard cottages in southeast Seattle and other materials.  Over the past few years, we have participated in focus groups and public forums on the issue. 
LCC believes that the proposal falls short in providing adequate protections to single-family neighborhoods, that it will result in loss of open space and trees and will create added parking problems and congestion.   
The proposed ordinance should be amended to prohibit conversion of detached garages and sheds into DADUs
This is important due to the lack of adequate parking in most neighborhoods and the fact that the Code allows eight unrelated people to live in the combined dwellings.  With conversion of a detached garage into a DADU, there will be no place for the homeowners to park, other than on already congested streets. 

Seattle should legalize DADUs citywide. DADUs should only be allowed as conditional uses.  Under the proposed ordinance, DADUs, as well as currently authorized attached accessory dwelling units, are allowed outright in single-family zones.  A conditional use permit for these units should be required.  This process would give neighbors notice of the proposed change and an opportunity to appeal DPD’s decision—important in light of the potential impacts of each conversion or development of new units. 
The proposed ordinance should be clarified regarding the square footage that is allowed for DADUs.  DADUS are limited to 800 square feet. 
The DADU proposed ordinance should reconsider the effectiveness of allowing tandem parking.  Tandem parking should not be allowed for DADUs or ADUs.
The DADU proposed ordinance should address the ineffective provisions relating to parking waivers. There is currently no requirement to provide notice to neighbors of parking waiver requests.  Neighbors should be given notice of waiver applications and an opportunity to comment—as they should be given notice of DADU and ADU applications. 
The proposed ordinance for DADUs and ADUs should require permanent owner occupancy.  The current requirement is six months and DPD may waive the requirement for three years for good cause such as job dislocation, sabbatical leave, education or illness.  Homes with DADUs and ADUs should be truly owner-occupied on an ongoing basis, other than for good cause for short periods.  Without owner-occupancy, the family home with an accessory apartment becomes a commercial investment. 
DPD should enforce the owner occupancy requirement.  Because legalizing DADUs citywide is essentially duplexing single family neighborhoods, it is particularly important that DPD have the tools to enforce the owner occupancy requirement.  With no such requirement, homes with DADUs and ADUs essentially become dwellings with absentee landlords.  Many absentee landlords do not take care of their rentals in the same manner that an owner living in the home would do.   This is unfair to homeowners who maintain their homes to comply with the Code and the character of the neighborhood.
            The proposed ordinance should provide more accountability and monitoring.  

DADUs should be mapped and photos taken similar to what has been done for those legalized in southeast Seattle.  We agree that these supplementary reporting requirements would help DPD and the Council to track the development of backyard cottages over time and determine whether any related changes to the Land Use Code may be needed in the future.      
            A six-month grace period for existing illegal DADUs should be added to the legislation with substantial penalties for non-compliance with Code requirements.  The goal here should be to ensure habitability, safety and Code compliance as soon as practicable.  Inspections should be mandated for existing illegal DADUs.
            Existing illegal DADUs should be included in the cap of 50 DADUs per year.  Including these illegal units and maintaining a reasonable cap will help regulate the pace of DADU development during the first few years of the program and ensure that changes occur gradually and that Council is able to respond to emerging issues.
            The maximum height of a DADU should be 18 feet with a roof pitch similar to the main house
Living space below grade should not be exempt from the 800 square footage limit.  This will avoid the problem that has occurred in southeast Seattle where there is a huge 1400 square foot DADU where that structure is out of scale.
            It is a misnomer to call detached accessory dwelling units (DADUs) “backyard cottages.”  The proposed ordinance should honestly reflect what the units are—detached accessory dwelling units.

No comments: