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