Small is the new green
Increasing environmental awareness along with economic and demographic trends favor smaller house sizes. Many cities are doing their part by updating zoning codes to allow cottage housing and small backyard cottages (detached ADU's) on residentially zoned lots. Seattle and Portland are two cities which allow backyard cottages up to 800 sq. ft. in size. These small houses provide opportunities for families, while increasing housing stock density and diversity. Continue reading for more information about small house design and Seattle's backyard cottage ordinance or contact us to find out if your lot is eligible for a backyard cottage.
Sunday, December 25
Tuesday, December 13
A year ago the City of Seattle announced plans to make code changes to encourage the construction of more backyard cottages. After months of wrangling the Seattle Hearing Examiner has upheld the Queen Anne Community Council appeal of those proposed changes effectively blocking their implementation.
a backyard cottage in the Rainier Valley used as a rental
The proposed code changes are significant. For the last year, and now for the future, the uncertainty of not knowing what the rules will be has added yet another barrier to backyard cottage development. Hopefully, Council member Mike O'Brien and the Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) will show that they do encourage backyard cottages by dropping the more controversial code changes and instead focus on means to reduce the cost of backyard cottages. Most significantly these efforts should include: working to reduce or eliminate the sewer capacity charge, working with lenders to establishing backyard cottage financing tools, and on simplifying the permitting process.
So what went wrong? Many of the proposed changes are minor tweaks to the existing land use code and make sense. These sorts of minor code updates are made as a matter of course without public outcry or even public input. However, given the backdrop of a Mayor who seems intent on eliminating single family zoning, those living in Queen Anne and elsewhere, might be forgiven for thinking that some of the proposed changes seem like a means to that end.
a summary of public input from one of OPCD's public hearings
Saturday, November 12
Learn more about Drew and her family's experience! Check out her blog,A BACKYARD COTTAGE: BUILDING OUR INTERGENERATIONAL HOME IN SEATTLE
Wednesday, October 5
Any other thoughts you'd like to share about building and living in a backyard cottage?
Take a peek into Patti and Austin's backyard cottage:
The home's open floor plan, with a second-floor master suite and office, allows for a well-appointed kitchen on the first floor. A rooftop deck overlooking the treetops creates a connection to the outdoors--where Patti and Austin can often be found biking, skiing or kayaking when they’re not enjoying their backyard cottage.
A formal entry is difficult to squeeze into an 800 sq. ft. backyard cottage but here the entry vestibule also serves the powder/mechanical/mud room. The mud room has an additional exterior entrance.
The generous kitchen features an adjacent daybed and opens out onto the yard. A wall of cabinets in the living room provide extra storage.
The 2nd floor bedroom opens out onto a private roof top deck with territorial views. A dormer to the north provides space for a home office. His and hers closets are located at either end of the study.
Varied stone creates discrete spaces for entertaining. A low stone wall creates outside seating just off of the kitchen . The fence separating the backyard cottage from the primary residence is a scale rendition of the profile of the Stuart Range.
Tuesday, October 4
Friday, September 9
This newly built cottage is 800 sq. ft. and includes a garage and 2nd floor 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom, carriage apartment. This cottage will be available for rent starting the end of September.
Friday, September 2
Wednesday, August 31
Wednesday, August 24
Wondering how the machinations of the Seattle City Council and the Queen Anne Community Council will impact your backyard cottage plans? Well frankly, so are we. Join us for a discussion on October 6th at the Phinney Neighborhood Association.
Sunday, August 21
Wednesday, August 10
If the appeal is successful, then the city must complete a full environmental impact statement (EIS) for the proposed changes. The EIS document is a collection of professional and expert studies and analysis, city department review and input, citizen review and input, multiple open and transparent public hearings, multiple drafts, and final approvals after public engagement.
If the appeal is not successful, then the legislation is anticipated to come to the Council’s Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee before the end of the year for discussion.
Tuesday, July 26
Thursday, July 21
Now that their children are grown, the cottage owners wanted to downsize from their beautiful but too large house but they didn't want to leave their neighborhood and friends. So they contacted Bruce Parker of microhouse to assist in the design of their new small dream home behind their current house. The lot is small, less than 4,000 sq ft and the cottage had to take advantage of every available square inch, of the allowable 800 sq. ft., and work with limited opportunities for light and views.
The stair is located on the south wall adjacent to the neighbors garage. High windows were used to let in natural light from up high above the garage. The kitchen is on the east wall facing the primary residence so no windows were placed on that wall the outside of which is now much needed storage for bikes, and garden tools.
A combination of wood soffit and exposed floor joists add richness and a feeling of openness to the living and dining rooms. These areas open directly onto the alley and parking pad so frosted glazing was used to provide privacy while allowing in the maximum amount of light. The primary heat source is radiant heat in the concrete floor.
The limited allowable height meant that we had to use vaulted ceilings with low perimeter walls which was done to dramatic effect.
The light filled study with its tree top views and large skylight is their favorite room in the house. A fold out sofa provides a place for guests to sleep.
Now that the cottage is complete the owner's are moving in and will rent out their lager primary residence.
Bike and garden storage is located to the back of the cottage facing the garden.
Monday, July 18
In the mean time, to find out how these changes might impact your specific plans feel free to contact us. We look forward to hearing how you plan to use our cottage.
Monday, June 20
Drew, Jacob, Meredith and Elyse are building a backyard cottage and a muli-generational household. You can follow their progress at the following link.
Friday, June 10
Tuesday, May 31
The city council is set to review the recommendations for easing land use restrictions on building backyard cottages. These recommendations will go to city council for approval with anticipated action in July. Join us for a workshop July 21st to dissect the recommendations after city council has had a chance to weigh in. We will have an additional workshop in September following the anticipated adoption of the revised land-use code.
backyard cottages code updates Thursday, July 21st, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm, West Seattle Office Junction 6040, Suite B, California Ave SW, 98136
To find out how these changes might impact your specific plans feel free to contact us. We look forward to hearing how you plan to use our cottage.
Thursday, May 19
The seattle department of construction and inspection (SDCI) has released it's recommendations for easing land use restrictions on building backyard cottages. These recommendations will go to city council for approval with anticipated action in July and possible adoption in August.
The recommendations look a lot like the ideas to encourage the construction of backyard cottages previously presented in public meetings. As a mater of fact all of the policy suggestions presented in the meetings are being proposed with some additional details.
The most significant changes are an increase in allowable size for detached accessory dwelling units from 800 sq. ft. to 1,000 sq. ft. and decoupling the garage area from the allowable size. An increase in height limit will also make a big difference in some situations. Under the proposal owner occupancy would be required for only one year, rather than being abandoned altogether, in an attempt to limit speculative development interests. There are also a host of common sense code updates that are likely to improve the design of cottages whether or not they actually encourage more people to build them.
For a complete summary of the proposed changes
proposed code revisions
The public can comment on the proposed revisions through June 2nd by emailing Nick Welch at firstname.lastname@example.org
For a list of self guided backyard cottage tours please sign up for our backyard cottage invite list.
Monday, May 16
So what do cottage owner's talk about when they get together? The number one topic of conversation, after Donald Trump, was the $10,000 King County sewer capacity fee assessed to backyard cottages. Recently king county has begun charging the sewer capacity fee for backyard cottages as if they were new single family residences. Conversely, a much larger attached accessory dwelling unit or renovation of an existing residence does not pay the sewer capacity fee. It sounds like we will find out Wednesday if Seattle city council has been able to exert any pressure on King County for a more equitable assessment for backyard cottages.
After a series of public meetings, reviewing public comments, and interviewing backyard cottage owners the Seattle city council and Office of Planning and Community Development are poised to release a draft proposal of measures to encourage the construction of backyard cottages.