[from our friends over at One Home Per Lot]
The new backyard / side yard house building codes currently under consideration by the Seattle city council Planning, Land Use and Sustainability (PLUS) committee still allow developers to do a whole host of things that drive neighborhoods nuts:
Build on teeny tiny lots — The new rules include a new minimum lot size (2,500 square feet), but the 100 Percent Rule that the PLUS committee is also considering allows developers to by-pass that restriction and go back to building on the tiniest of lots again. The 100 Percent Rule is a built-in loophole that the developers’ lobbyist was able to insert into the discussion.
Build towering 35-foot (three-story) houses — Instead of establishing an 18-foot base height limit that everyone can understand and appreciate, the PLUS committee is considering letting developers calculate the average height of the surrounding homes and build the new backyard / side yard house to that same height. If that idea sounds sensible, remember that the new backyard / side yard house is going to be wedged in between all the surrounding homes, with just five feet of space between.
Build on long-forgotten historic sub-lots again — The new rules make it tougher for developers to justify this practice, but it doesn’t stop it.
Transform a lot that was obviously never meant for building a home — Many historic, secondary lots were never meant for building a home. They’re long-forgotten, oddly shaped scraps of land leftover from Seattle’s pioneer days. But the new rules still allow developers to completely redraw all the boundary lines and transform these land specs into buildable lots for new backyard / side yard houses.
Move ahead with these projects without any warning to the surrounding property owners — The new rules will only require the Department of Planning and Development to provide the neighbors with notice for developments on the smallest of undersized lots. For all the other undersized backyard / side yard lots, there will be no warning / notice provided to the surrounding homeowners.
In short, the city has chosen to make some adjustments to the most exploited building codes, but it will still provide this small group of developers the cover they need to continue doing the things that drive neighborhoods all across the city nuts.
What do we mean by providing “cover”? The 100 Percent Rule is a loophole, plain and simple. It allows developers to by-pass the rules. And giving the loophole a non-descript name allows the city to create a new loophole without being straight with citizens; without telling the public, “We’ve decided to accept the idea brought to us by the developers’ lobbyist and eliminate the lot size minimum in neighborhoods where homes are already closely clustered together.”
The PLUS committee is planning to discuss the new building codes among themselves for one more day (Tuesday, May 6 at 2:00 in the city council chambers at city hall), then send them to the full city council for a final vote.
If you have a good argument for why one or more of the above should not be approved, we encourage you to contact the members of the PLUS committee:
- Mike O’Brien, 206-684-8800, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Tim Burgess, 206-684-8806, email@example.com
- Nick Licata, 206-684-8803, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Sally Clark, 206-684-8802, email@example.com
Here are examples of these projects squeezed into their small lot.