I wrote at Seattle’s Land Use Code about the upcoming emergency vote Councilmember Richard Conlin has proposed to stop development of some small lot cottage development in single-family neighborhoods. Why a few unique cottages being successfully developed under existing code is an emergency is still a mystery to me, especially since this is exactly the kind of infill development many of us wanted when the Council undertook a review of Detached Accessory Dwelling Unit regulations years ago. The emergency vote seems to be emblematic of the Seattle Problem—trying to make good things happen but then when they do, imposing rules that effectively prevent those good things.

Conlin on Land Use: What’s the emergency?

The substance of the issue is that a developer has figured out what the planners at City Hall call the arcane details of the land use and tax code to figure out how to build tall, cool looking cottages on small and irregular lots in single-family neighborhoods. This has provoked the ire of some single-family neighbors who, in turn, have provoked the Council to throw on the brakes. The truth is that there are very few of these houses being built, and what’s so bad about them being “out of scale” with the surrounding neighborhood.

The fact is that the emergency in Seattle is that we have yet to see innovative land use solutions for Transit Oriented Development, for infill, and for other housing options. It’s true we have apodments and other efforts are underway to make a dent in our need for more housing, so why would we stop something that seems to be addressing that need?

Contact the Council—there isn’t much time, the vote would happen Monday—and let them know what you think. I posted this message to Councilmember Conlin’s Facebook page (it was subsequently deleted by Conlin) and I urge you to give your thoughts about whether this issue even needs a vote. Shouldn’t we wait and see whether this is a problem? Maybe it’s actually a good thing.

What’s baffling to many of us is why stopping a developer that’s arguably doing a good thing is an emergency, while allowing cottages in the first place took years to tons of process. The Council initially limited cottage development to 50 units in one corner of the city, worried about a “rush” of requests. They got a few dozen. Similarly, the current legislation is premised on the idea that if the Council doesn’t act, a flood of out of scale cottages will overwhelm single-family neighborhoods. That seems very unlikely, since, after all, there are very few of these lots.

The best thing for the Council and City to do is watch what happens. At worst, we’ll have a few more housing options and at best we might learn how to better do infill in single-family.

Dear Councilmember Conlin,

The houses that have been built on smaller, undersize lots in single family neighborhoods are not a bad thing. I really doubt that there is a “rush” to get permits to do this.

Even if there were, we should be encouraging it. You supported regulatory reform because it would create jobs and reward innovation. That’s exactly what is happening here. Someone has figured out how to build more housing in single family neighborhoods. That creates housing, jobs, and certainly supports the broader agenda of making our city more livable.

The building of these houses hardly constitutes an emergency. I hope you’ll reconsider your efforts to stifle what I consider to be a good thing: someone taking their knowledge of the code and the rules and
using that knowledge to do something positive.

You should be patting Dan Duffus on the back, not trying to stop what he’s doing. Furthermore, this proves my point that Seattle is prone to making more rules just at the moment when there should be less. I hope you all will prove me wrong and let this play itself out.

Roger–

79 Replies to “Big Houses, Small Lots, and the Seattle Problem”

  1. Roger- You’re way off base on this one. The attempt here is to close a loophole that is being exploited by a developer to develop lots that are supposed to be unbuildable. The legislation is an attempt to close that loophole.

    1. You say “loophole”, I say “better legislation than the Council managed to pass”. You say “unbuildable”, I say “dense”. Potato, potato.

      The effect is creating dense infil and cool looking homes within single family neighborhoods. Try and get the Council to do that.

      1. The effect is reducing the predictability of land use regulations which is the basis of zoning. Stuff like this can have a chilling effect on efforts to increase density in the City.

      2. It seems like everything could have a chilling effect on density in Seattle. This is actually building a bit of density.

  2. You are confusing backyard cottages (detached ADUs) and what this legislation is about. Backyard cottages are great — they are small (max 800 sf) and have a whole set of development regulations specifically focused on keeping them small and in scale with the surrounding development. They offer affordable housing options for people. What Duffus and others are doing is entirely different. They are exploiting a loophole in the code to create new, incredibly undersized lots and putting enormous houses on them using the development regulations designed for lots that conform to the zoned lot size. Because they are using development regulations designed for normal lots, they also are able to take advantage of the many different exceptions in the code that allow larger buildings, smaller setbacks, shared use of space, etc. Those exceptions make sense when applied on conforming lot sizes, but not on these new “historical” lots that are much less than half the minimum lot size. The houses targeted by this legislation often exceed the square footage of the lots on which they sit, which makes them towers. I love modern architecture; but these things are just tall refrigerator boxes with a few nods toward modern materials. They ain’t sold cheap either! So, it’s not achieving the purpose of the detached ADU code. Rather, it’s merely a gold mine for a developer — using a loophole to create sellable lots out of thin air.
    Arguing for a hands-off approach on the basis of increased density is also a red herring. There aren’t so many of these happening around the city that they are making any measurable dent in the need for additional housing in the city (and certainly not affordble housing). If the city is serious about increasing density and creating more opportunities for housing, there are many other options available that would achieve those results without creating these things.
    The point is that no one with a concern about orderly development within our City’s neighborhoods would design a code to allow these things to be built. What Conlin is proposing is that we take a closer look at how the code allows this stuff to happen, and maybe to take a more ordered approach to them, as was done with the detached ADUs.

    1. There’s no confusion.

      The point is that way back when the DADU issue was being painstakingly researched and processed there was a realization that more housing variety in single-family would be a good thing.

      That took years.

      Now, when someone substantively doing what we said we wanted, we’re calling it a “loop hole” that has to be closed.

      The point is that the fact that someone has done something that was “unintended” doesn’t make it a bad thing that constitutes an emergency.

      1. “what we said we wanted” with the DADU legislation was small, low structures; not just anything that a developer thinks he can sell. These structures don’t even offer “variety” in the sense we were after with the DADU legislation. A goal of that legislation was to provide some variety in both price (read, affordability) and size. These loophole houses offer neither.

      2. Ah. So the goal of the legislation was to prohibit density, to make sure most of the lot space in Seattle is wasted, and thereby to make sure that housing prices go up and there is no affordable housing in Seattle.

        A secondary goal was to make sure that all housing was ugly and boring.

        OK, I guess you’re right, this is a dangerous loophole.

    1. Yes, that’s exactly what is going on here. The Duffus house down the street from me is listed for $850,000. Totally affordable for “poor people.”

      1. Generally, about the same or less.
        I suggest you folks step away from your computers and go have a look at these things before trying to pack this issue neatly into a NIMBY or “Seattle Liberal” box and dismiss it. To me, the whole “modern vs. craftsman” and “character of the neighborhood” things aren’t really the issue. I’m a proponent of urban densities, infill development, sustainability, transit, etc., etc., etc., which is why I read this blog. The question is whether ALL infill development is good, or do you want to try to put some reasonable limitations on it to be respectful of what’s already there (assuming that what is already there is something you’re trying to keep)? On this issue, the development regulations should be changed to put some constraints on this sort of thing. As I said in my original post, the regs applicable to houses on conforming single family lots (and all of the code exceptions available to those houses) don’t make sense on these tiny lots. If you want to have single family lot size minimums of 2,500 sf — fine, let’s have that public debate and figure out how to apply the development regs to them. But, applying the 5,000 sf regs to a 2,300 sf lot is just poor urban planning and leads to results that impose a lot of burdens on the immediate neighbors, that people get justifiably angry about, particularly when the lot in question didn’t actually exist before except in some arcane way in a dusty old filing cabinet at the County.
        If this “lot” had been developed using the detached ADU regs or something comparable that factored the sub-standard lot size into the restrictions, I doubt there would have been much fuss. And you would have had a house that was actually “affordable.” Duffus might argue that developing such a house isn’t “economically feasible.” But the purpose of the development code isn’t to create profit centers for developers; it’s to regulate how we want our city to develop. And the current “loophole” approach found in the Code is not how I want our city to develop, whether it’s happening in my backyard or in anyone else’s.

  3. Having everything be completely matchy-matchy from a size/scale standpoint seems like the values of suburbanites, not urbanites. It amazes me how Seattle residents seem unwilling, at times, to come to grips with the fact that they have chosen to live in a city. No one’s talking about building twenty-story skyscrapers in these neighborhoods. Oftentimes, the controversies erupt over a developer merely trying to build a three-story house amidst a bunch of two-story properties. As a former New Yorker, I have to chuckle over this kind of hair splitting by the outraged neighbors.

    1. “a three-story house amidst a bunch of two-story properties”

      Brian, above, calls them “towers”.

      1. Frequently, the houses around them are one story……..and these new houses tend to be cheaply built and are fairly unattractive. They do very little for the neighborhood and I would object to one going up on my street very vigorously.

        Some people on this blog have a hard time understanding that not all density is good or desirable.

    2. Two nights ago my wife and I were at Wabi Sabi in Columbia City. Across the street was the 3 story Weed building, which I had never really noticed until my wife made a not-childish-whatsoever joke based on the name. Once my attention was called to it, I started really looking at it, and the buildings to each side. To the North was a 2 story building and to the South a 1 story barbershop.

      The juxtaposition was so harsh, the building so out of scale, that I couldn’t continue eating and had to pay my bill and leave immediately. I don’t think I’ll be able to even walk down that block in the future, too unsettling.

    1. When those folks bought that house they made a reasonable assumption that they would have some measure of privacy in their back yard – a concern that things like the accessory cottage law take into account by limiting the size of accessory structures. The loophole in the law made it possible for them to lose the privacy they anticipated would be there. That makes this bad zoning and something that should be fixed. Had the area been rezoned for higher density and folks had had an expectation that this kind of thing could be built next door I don’t think there’s a problem.

      1. In Roger-land, those homeowners are NIMBYs. Probably too white, too old, and too rich. And very foolish to sink their savings into a house, based partly on a belief that their neighborhood wouldn’t be trashed.

      2. Plant a row of poplars along the fence. With the way they grow in Washington the homeowner will have their privacy back in two to three years. No emergency legislation needed.

      3. These homeowners are what is known as “NIMBYs”. Seriously.

        I have never had a “reasonable expectation of privacy” in my back yard. There’s a vacant lot across the street. I do not have a reasonable expectation that it will remain a vacant lot. If I wanted such an expectation I would have to buy an easement on it, or buy the lot outright.

        People should get a clue as to what they actually own. It’s less than some people think they own.

      4. @Nathanael

        The vacant lot has a zoning designation that gives you a reasonable expectation of what might happen there. Because of the loophole the development is exceeding the reasonable expectations that people had about future development. I imagine the folks in the photo were expecting (based on the City’s adopted land use policies) that the adjoining property was part of someone else’s rear yard setback.

  4. There’s a good article over at the Seattle Weekly; Dan Duffus’ Crowded Houses. It’s hard to really take a stand without viewing the respective property. A search with King County Parcel View shows a lot of new development of this kind along West Wheeler in Ballard. Maybe it’s time for the affected neighbors to push for a rezone and bookend Duffus’ three story bed box with 4-5 story apartments :=

    In Montlake I’m guessing it’s a different story. Seems to me that historic records should only be allowed to supersede current King County tax parcels after a notice of proposed change is posted and made public like any other change. The one couple has a good point that selling title to property doesn’t create a building site. The main problem I see with this “discovered lot” policy is, like the DADU ordinace, it subsitutes the peanut butter approach to density for real urban planning.

      1. Thanks for linking to that Brad. The person made it as a case against that type of development, but it convinces me that they are a great idea. Getting more people living in the same space is a good thing and necessary to ensure the city can continue to grow without spreading out and without major increases in home prices. Sure these properties are not affordable for most of us. They are brand new, what do you expect? But the people who buy those houses won’t be buying the fixer-upper down the street, which leaves it available for someone else.

        There are neighborhoods in Seattle which long ago got filled in with big homes on small lots. Capitol Hill near 15th Avenue for example. Obviously these are older style buildings (I get the feeling a lot of the negativity about this stuff is that people don’t like “modern” architecture), but I think they create a great, vibrant neighborhood. Here is a great example: https://maps.google.com/maps?q=15th+avenue,+seattle,+wa&ll=47.623949,-122.313607&spn=0.001792,0.004128&hnear=15th+Ave,+Seattle,+Washington&gl=us&t=m&z=19&layer=c&cbll=47.623851,-122.31361&panoid=-YrRGxk8YI65-_D4uI3TgA&cbp=12,100.46,,0,1.5

        Look at the satellite view, many of those are packed in real tight. Still a lovely place to live and the density means there are lots of businesses in walking distance to serve those residents.

      2. The house you linked to is very well done. It looks like the right had version of a remodel an architect friend of mine did just a few blocks away on 24th Ave. It’s pretty much the antithesis of the Duffus structures with flat roofs and miniscule overhangs that scream “made it California”. To be fair some of the homes linked to on the site do a fine job of fitting in where it was obvious the original house was sited to allow the addition of another building. Others are real warts which violate all contemporary codes and is what the design review process is supposed to weed out.

        the people who buy those houses won’t be buying the fixer-upper down the street, which leaves it available for someone else.

        Nope, the imports that buy this type of new construction were never in the market for that fixer upper down the street. But new construction that’s double the market value of surrounding homes ups the value of lots around it and puts that fixer upper squarely in the sights of the bulldozer.

    1. The owner in question isn’t rich or old. Oh wait………she’s white. Never mind………….let Duffus screw up her property.

  5. This is BS. There is no call for Emergency Legislation. If people wanting to encourage Sustainable Development have to go through the multi-year ‘Seattle Process’ so should those people wanting to discourage it.

  6. Roger, I do not use my personal Facebook account for City business in order to ensure that I am in full compliance with public disclosure laws. Please send any future comments to my city address, richard.conlin@seattle.gov, and I will be happy to respond.

    Richard Conlin

    1. But you rubber-stamped the so-called “regulatory reform” even after Roger was busted for concealing McGinn’s insider committee’s insider deliberations. You really have to love Seattle’s “progressive” open government.

  7. Don’t worry, Roger. The Best City Council That Money Can Buy will do what the real estate sharks want them to do.

  8. Contrary to some of the misinformation that is circulating about this legislation, it does not prevent development on small lots, and will not affect the ability of property owners who have approved buildable lots to proceed with constructing houses. The ordinance will make some changes in development standards, and will close a loophole in the City code to prevent new substandard lots from being created. This is an interim regulation, which will only be in effect for a few months until DPD and the Council have had the time to develop a more comprehensive code change.

    The ordinance closes a loophole in the City’s Land Use Code that allows developers to build large houses on very small lots – in at least one case, a three-story house on a lot of only 1050 square feet. The emergency ordinance is a rarely-used procedure in which the Council can act quickly to provide a short term fix (stopping problem activities) while it considers legislation for a long-term solution; in this case, land use standards that make sense on very small single family lots. The Council is considering this unusual step to ensure that developers do not try to apply for permits under the existing regulations, thereby allowing problematic developments to continue on these small lots.

    This issue came to our attention earlier this summer, when we learned from community groups that some developers were using an obscure provision of City code that allows lots that are well below minimum lot size requirements to be used for infill development. These substandard lots, often times well below 3,000 square feet, were often created before 1957 for tax purposes. In some cases these lots were actually created by mistake when lot descriptions on more than one line were transcribed from hand-written records as two separate lots. Others had been intended to be erased by new plats or subdivisions that established legally developable lots. When the Council adopted minimum lot size standards in 1957 and again in 1982, they allowed these lots to be “grandfathered” as legal nonconforming lots while the City developed new regulations; this allowed people that owned these lots time to develop them and recoup their investment within a reasonable time period.

    Unfortunately, there was no expiration date on the grandfathering clause, and recently some developers have rediscovered it and are using it to create infill housing that is not compatible with neighboring single family houses. Community members from a number of neighborhoods called this to our attention, and created a website at http://www.onehomeperlot.com They pointed out to us that, despite a small number of these occurring on a yearly basis, there is a software package planned for release in October that will allow these substandard lots to be identified quickly and easily. That means that we could see many more in the near future if we do not take immediate action.

    The emergency ordinance does not prevent all further development in these small lots, but sets up new criteria that:
     End the use of historic property tax records as a basis for qualifying for minimum lot area exceptions; and
     Allows development of lots with an area up to 75 percent of the general minimum lot area of the zone (i.e. lots up to 3,750 square feet in an SF 5000 zone), but only up to a limit of 22 feet in height (2 stories), which will significantly reduce the impact.

    Developers of these structures have argued that they should not be limited because they are building new housing, and that this loophole allows them to make it more affordable because the cost of land is lower for small lots. Actually, small existing houses are affordable – new construction will always be more expensive. One of the projects built on a 2400 square foot lot was listed for $665,000 – a pretty long distance from affordability. Under this legislation, smaller houses could continue to be built, which would be more affordable and appropriate for the size of lots that are being used. Contemporary trends are for people to downsize into smaller housing units, reversing the trend that led to the McMansion developments that are neither affordable nor sustainable.

    Last year, the Council adopted legislation that limited the amount of development that can occur on lots that are less than 2,500 square feet, including height limits and structure width and depth standards. These interim regulations would modify those regulations to limit all single family zoned lots that are less than 3,750 square feet to a principal structure limited to 22 feet in height.

    Under the State code governing emergency legislation, the Council will hold a public hearing on Thursday, September 13, at 9:30 AM in the Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability (PLUS) committee to hear comments on this legislation and on the plans for next steps. The Council legislation also creates a work plan for developing permanent legislation to address this issue. Under the work plan, new legislation will be developed by the end of this year, go through environmental review, and come to the City Council in the spring of 2013.

    1. Oh come on, councilman. Just do what the real estate sharks tell you to do. You’ve rarely failed them in the past, for God’s sakes.

    2. Mr. Conlin,

      I own a home in a single-family zone. The area where I live was platted into 3,000 square foot lots over a century ago. Most of the houses on my block are built on these “undersized” lots. Your proposal as explained here would limit my right to build my house higher, as several of my neighbors have already done. I cannot support this.

      Beyond my personal interest in this issue, I this type of regulation is generally moving in the wrong direction. House prices are so expensive around here in no small part because the 5,000 square foot minimum lot size puts a de facto maximum on the number of homes that can be built in the city. Maybe 1,050 square feet is too small to reasonably accommodate a detached single-family dwelling given the required yard sizes. However, 2,500-3,000 can definitely be workable.

      I don’t see why you shouldn’t be able to build a house just as tall in my neighborhood as you can in a neighborhood that has larger lots. What makes a tall, skinny house any worse for a neighborhood than a tall, wide house?

      Please reconsider this regulation.

    3. Mr. Conlin, you throw around words like “appropriate,” “compatible” and “McMansion” as if they were established facts. They are not. They are highly subjective terms. A lot of people in these neighborhoods do not feel like larger houses are out of keeping with their community. I’m one of them. We are going to challenge you on this.

      1. Evidently your challenge was overruled, as KOMO is reporting that Conlin’s measure passed unanimously. The developers speaking against the measure didn’t even have the integrity to present their case on-camera.

    4. I have two simple points.

      1) Restricting development raises housing prices, destroying housing affordability. It doesn’t matter that the new housing units are not affordable; in a world without the new units, the people who would have been occupying the new units will be occupying previously built units in the area. When people move to new housing units, the units they would otherwise occupy become cheaper than they would have been.

      2) By restricting development you are harming all renters in Seattle, all future residents of Seattle, all developers in Seattle, and all workers in Seattle to serve the interests of small number of property owners.

      1. If people didn’t want to live in Seattle, or if we could ‘build’ new land, then prices would not be going up. There are very few density limits on cities like Vancouver or Manhattan, and yet prices continue to skyrocket in those cities. Conlin’s law will have little impact on Seattle housing prices. There are much bigger factors at play that impact prices much more heavily. For an example, stop job growth and you won’t have to worry about housing prices going up ever again.

      2. “There are very few density limits on cities like Vancouver or Manhattan…”

        That’s not true. Even in downtown Vancouver, there’s a strong limit on total density, written in such a way that it encourages a “tower-on-a-base” design. In other parts of the city, especially those not near a rail station, there’s a lot of low-density zoning and neighborhood opposition to even midrise development. In Manhattan, there are also height limits and/or FAR restrictions, as well as a convoluted and unpredictable approval process that restricts development.

        Moreover, highrise development is by its nature expensive per square foot, which is why housing in Manhattan would be expensive even without density controls. Four-story apartment buildings — not so much.

  9. Density hawks, I think you’re missing the forest for the trees. What we need is a loosening of height and lot size restrictions in many places where there’s truly little to no impact on neighbors. Not a few scattershot loophole exploitations. What does this episode show? That Seattle is crying out for development room. Let’s allow it in the right places.

    1. “where there’s truly little to no impact on neighbors.”

      And where’s that? Out in the middle of the sound? Little or no impact on neighbors is a highly unrealistic expectation in an urban environment.

      Someone is always impacted. Someone’s view will always be blocked. Shadows will be cast where none existed before. And reasonable expectations of privacy will be dashed time and time again.

      That’s life in the big city.

      It’s hard to have sympathy for people objecting to what they consider to be grotesquely over-sized houses that are, in reality, merely one story taller than theirs.

      1. 1. In most cases around major arterial roads and transit corridors there really is no significant impact to a rezone, just a bunch of whiners. These whiners should be called out.

        2. But we wouldn’t need to call them out if we involved people in the planning process of upzones before the fact. Isn’t it the case that when we do that we get much better results, and the involvement of people that actually support projects instead of just a bunch of NIMBYs?

        3. The zoning code as it stands with these loopholes in place is stupid. There are a bunch of small lots where it’s legal to build new houses that aren’t legal to build on larger lots where they’d work better. That’s pretty much the definition of a loophole. We should limit height or floor area on tiny lots like this while relaxing limits, setback requirements, and parking requirements in most other places, especially along transit corridors and arterial roads. That makes the zoning code less stupid and the resulting behavior less incongruous. Historical property tax dodge strategies are no real basis for building permit policy.

  10. As someone who lives in a 70 story building built due to a loophole. I sort of think building buildings on loopholes conceptually is just awesome.

      1. Lake Point Tower, HAncock is 100 floors ish. LPT is the shortest 70-story tower in the world, and built on landfill, while the chicago code at the time said buildings couldnt be built on LAND east of LAke Shore Drive.

  11. This is all a pretty sad commentary on how poorly Seattle regulates land use. Seriously, Seattle has over 140 square miles of land. It’s density is just over 7k/sq-mi; not even the 8k ROT threshold for effective public transit. Or, to put it another way about 40% that of San Francisco. “There’s a shortage of developable land in Seattle.” BS, there’s a shortage of lots developers can make obscene profits on. There’s no shortage of development as proven by all the recent ground breaking. Go visit the Museum of Flight. Take the bus and look around. Come back and tell me you didn’t see any land that could be developed.

    1. Bernie, a small nit-pic. Seattle (according to Wikipedia) has about 84 square miles of “land”, 58 square miles of water for a total of 142 square miles.

      1. Why would we count water? Unless you’re talking about houseboats. I suppose we could allow development in Green Lake.

      2. Or, since this post is about lot size, ~4,000 sq-ft per person or a little over 8,000 sq-ft per household. Yes, I know that doesn’t take into account streets, parks, etc. but really Seattle isn’t nearly as built out as some people try and make it. No matter how many Duffus houses (what a perfect name) you cram into loophole lots it’s not going to make a hill of beans difference to the density or affordability. That requires actual planning like the Yesler Terrace redevelopment and the creation of “new” neighborhoods like South Lake Union

  12. Kent is actually taking the lead on this ideal form of housing.

    Kent public hearing set on cottage housing development

    Cottage-style housing developments feature small, detached single-family homes clustered around a common open space with garages and parking located away from the homes.

    The two-and-three bedroom units will range from 800 to 1,500 square feet. Cottages will sit in clusters of five or six homes with garages a short walk away in a detached building.

    The development is known as Blueberry Cottages after the blueberry bushes on the property. Access to the property will be from 116th Avenue Southeast and parking will be clustered on site.

    http://www.kentreporter.com/news/168190846.html

  13. This is a complex issue that requires any interested groups or individuals to hold several things in their heads at one time. Personally, as someone who both supports efforts to increase urban density and has been negatively impacted IMBY (in my own backyard), here’s what I enter into my brain in hopes that a rational answer will spit out.

    1. Increased urban density is a good thing (for reasons advocated above)
    2. Density can be increased in a well-planned fashion.
    3. The city appears to be taking a thoughtful approach. Richard Conlin’s comments above demonstrate a well-informed attempt to take a step back and weigh Seattle’s urban planning in light of new evidence and unintended consequences (read: loopholes). It is not an indictment against density proposals, nor an indication that the city has changed strategy
    4. Developers are opportunistic. That’s sometimes great, and sometimes it’s problematic
    5. Individuals will be impacted. that’s life in the city, so enjoy it if you can.

    As others have noted, there is an on-paper philosophical debate here where we can argue about ‘elite’ home owners vs. those with aspirations for affordable housing, NIMBYs vs. third parties, modernity and progress vs. ‘the way it was’..etc. Then there’s a more practical discussion about unanticipated development undertaken by savvy developers. To participate in the latter discussion, you really do need to go and see some of the places that have been built and decide for yourself if they indeed line up with your goals, irrespective of where you fall on the more philosophical debate.

    So for me, the answer spat out as follows: The specific developments in question do not create affordable housing, have a disproportionately negative impact on the immediate neighbors (who, to be clear, should have a high tolerance given where they live), and have exposed a clear loophole. The city is acting appropriately in giving this issue careful consideration. There are other, better ways to achieve increased urban density and the positive impacts that this increased density can have for our community

    1. Oh come on, let’s just do what the Best City Council Money Can Buy always does. Rubber stamp it. We all know that’s what Conlin will eventually do anyway.

    2. Agreed, this is well put. These are not vacant lots in any traditional understanding, but the side and back yards of modest sized parcels getting split off and built upon, degrading the quality of life and investment (er, “property rights”?) of their neighbors.

  14. Seems to me Seattle and Seattleites have a problem with not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.

    We need more housing, this is building more housing.

    Are there better ways to achieve density than having to exploit this loophole? Yeah, lots of them, but until those are passed, don’t stop what little progress in adding housing that we are making.

      1. Right, what we need is another real estate bubble. Closer to home you’ve got, Mercy Housing Northwest Affordable Housing Development and Columbia City project gets key approval. How’s the Station at Othello Park doing? Any takers yet on the retail? Apartments all rented? I hear you can get a screaming good deal on the PacMed building if you want to bankroll a condo redevelopment project. Or maybe start out small and take over the Smith Tower. You sure won’t make any headway building onesies twosies on little lotlets.

      2. You really want to keep people from building because you’re afraid of a real estate bubble? Or are you just making up reasons now?

      3. All of that would be some progress but it’s not enough. We need those AND onesies and twosies all over the city. We need to lower the barriers for DADUs. We need to expand our multifamily zoning. We need to raise density limits and FARs in our urban centers.

        We’ve got a long way to go to make housing affordable, we need all the tools in the toolbox we can get.

      4. Open your eyes, nobody is keeping anybody from building. But you sure don’t want a situation like we had in 2006-2008 where over building outpaces demand and are left, literally, with large holes in the ground. Many projects that were permitted and even started have yet to be resurrected. Yes land is expensive but guess what, the more you build the faster it goes up in value.

      5. We’ve got a long way to go to make housing affordable,

        The reason housing is expensive in Seattle is because duffuses are willing to fork over $600k for a piece of crap built sideways on a lot. If affordable is your thing try Spokane. Median income $40,367 and median home value $161,200; a 4x multiplier compared to Seattle’s 7.5. Yet Spokane is only 30% Housing units in multi-unit structures and Seattle is 50%. You want cheap housing here then drive away any good paying jobs. Or you can just guarantee banks they’ll be covered for as many bad construction loans as they can write.

    1. Oh please……….housing projects are going up all over the city. Density is happening even as you complain it isn’t. Some of you guys sound like twihards except your fan passion is density.

  15. “Open your eyes, nobody is keeping anybody from building.”

    Wait, so the City Council ISN’T considering EMERGENCY! legislation to keep Duffus from building more housing units?

    1. Duffus can build as much as he wants. Just like Buchan has and continues to do. This EMERGENCY! legislation doesn’t change that. You make it sound like they are proposing a moratorium on the sale of nails. But if you really think this is limiting your choices then buck up and buy! You can only come out a winner since if this passes the paltry pace of new construction will be driven to zero.

      1. Duffus can build as much as he wants.

        Yeah, and Gays are just as free to marry as Straights, just as long as it is someone of the opposite gender. *rolleyes*

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