NEW DADU CODE SHOWCASE - TONIGHT

Curious if you can build a DADU in your back yard? The rules for backyard cottages have been radically changed. Join Bruce Parker from Microhouse and Stefan Hansmire from Hansmire Builders to learn what is possible under the new code and how to establish a realistic budget for your cottage.

Thursday September 12, 7:00 pm.
West Seattle Coworking, LLC
6040/A California Ave SW, Seattle, WA 98136

Space is limited - please consider joining us on November 21st at the PNA.

Thursday November 21st,  7:00 pm.  

Phinney Ridge Neighborhood Association

6532 Phinney Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103

Register 


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HOW MUCH IS A DADU WORTH?

HOMEOWNERS AND APPRAISERS STRUGGLE TO DETERMINE A VALUATION FOR BACKYARD COTTAGES

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A backyard cottage for sale in Broadview

Real estate appraisers struggle with how to value backyard cottages and other ADU's primarily because there simply not enough comparable sales to serve as a guide. This is changing. Margo Hanson, of Market Appraisals Inc., noted that she recently appraised a house plus DADU in Greenwood and was able to find 30 comparable sales. While not as common here as in Vancouver B.C., there has also been an increasing number of DADUs being built and sold condominium units. These sales will increase the data available for valuing backyard cottages. Ms. Hanson noted that at this time she is not allowed to use condominiums sales as comps for single family residences. Perhaps, as this type of ownership becomes more common here that will change.


This cottage will be open for viewing 

Friday 9/6 from 4-6 pm.
Saturday 9/7 from 11-1 pm.
Sunday 9/8 from 2:30 -4 pm.

backyard cottage rules eased

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The Seattle City Council has voted on a host of rules predicted to increase the number of ADUs and DADUs


* Increases the allowed size of backyard cottages (DADUs) from 800 square feet to 1,000 square feet.

* Adds an additional 1-2 feet in height, allowing for more usable space in the units' interiors.

* Allows up to two attached accessory dwelling units (AADUs) or one AADU plus one DADU on a property.

* Limits the floor area ratio of new homes, while excluding the area of ADUs. Thereby encouraging homeowners to build an ADU when building a new home or remodeling.

* Eliminates the owner occupancy requirement.

* Removes the off-street parking requirement.

DADU proposed code change amendments

city council is debating which of the proposed code changes will go into effect and offering their own amendments

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a DADU used as a short term rental prior to grandfather's retirement

As city council prepares to vote on the proposed code changes to Seattle's single family zones, even amendments have been proposed.  These include owner occupancy restrictions for short term rentals and allowance for bike parking. 

Here is what we think is important.

  • The proposed code changes would remove the owner occupancy requirement. An amendment would add a 1 year requirement for the 2nd ADU. We believe that owner occupancy should be required for all properties with ADUS for a period of time (3 years).

The impact to removing the occupancy requirement is unknown. The environmental impact statement (EIS) prepared as part of the lawsuit doesn't appear to adequately predict the impact from removing this requirement. Detractors note that the EIS does not take into account the increasing trend to sell ADUs and their primary residence separately using a condominium or land-lease agreement. Owner occupancy for a period of time (3 years) is good and should minimize the destruction of naturally occurring affordable housing by speculative developers.  

  • Owner occupancy should be required for all properties used as short-term rentals.

A proposed amendment by Lisa Herbold would prohibit short term rental use for new ADUs. It would be far better to maintain the owner occupancy requirement. Allowing owner's flexibility is crucial to long term planning for those contemplating building an ADU.  The higher rate of return for a short term rental (STR) allows more ADU's and DADUs to be built.  A majority of the homeowner's we work with plan to use their cottages as short term rental at some point.  The magnolia cottage pictured above was rented out as a STR for a few years, which paid for construction, prior to the owner's father moving in.

  • SDCI should closely monitor ADU construction and report annually to City Council. 

Two proposed amendment would monitor ADU permitting and use this seems like a good idea.

  • Garage Space should be included in FAR calculations. 

The current proposal would allow the exclusion of up to 1,000 sq. ft. of garage space for ADUs. This is effectively a parking subsidy. A better solution would be limiting the exempted area to 200 sq. ft. or enough space for one car. One proposed amendment would allow 25 sq. ft. to be excluded for bike parking, seems unnecessary.  

Comments may be submitted to Lisa Herbold lisa.herbold@seattle.gov

Childhood Home Creates Options for the Future in Eastlake

In 2010 Colette and her family purchased her childhood Craftsman home in Seattle’s Eastlake neighborhood.  As Colette and Chris noticed similar houses nearby being replaced by rows of apartment buildings, they considered ways to preserve their own home and history. That meant improving and maintaining the original house, and also creating an income stream to secure their options for the future. A backyard cottage turned out to be just what they were looking for.

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How did the idea of building a backyard cottage come about?

Colette: My husband Chris and I moved back to Seattle in 2010 with our two children and were able to buy my childhood home from my family. The home needed extensive work so we did it at a very slow pace. Once the main house was close to being finished we noticed that many houses on our block were being sold to developers. What was once a quiet Craftsman lined street was turning into rows of apartment buildings.

That got us thinking about how to preserve my childhood home and invest and grow with the neighborhood. It was simple: build a backyard cottage and use it as a short-term rental to pay off the new debt, and later have a guest house. We also began to see it as a great investment into our retirement and something we can leave to our kids. We can live in the cottage when the kids are gone, or perhaps we can fly off to Italy and let the cottage and house support us in our next stage of life. The cottage suddenly gave us positive options for the future. 

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What did you enjoy most about the process?

Colette: I loved every part of the process. Because our lot was small and there were only a certain number of ways to build our structure, the design part became quite easy. Bruce and Stefan [of microhouse] were great at listening to what we wanted and were always willing to change things to get them right. 

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At one point in the build we had some large joists delivered that were used as our entryway ceiling and our loft floor. Garrick, our builder, set them up for me and loaned me his sander so I could work on them before they were installed. I really enjoyed that they allowed me access to work on projects for the cottage.

I was also able to design the inside of the cottage to fit furniture I was buying along the way. Walls were made to fit vanities and all the lighting was installed to my specifications for the fixtures I had bought. 

What challenges did you face during the process?

Colette: My biggest challenge in this process was my neighbor. They didn’t like what we were doing. They objected to noise, dust, and anything that needed to go over their property line. It became quite ugly and it was a sad break to a 30-year friendship.

For me, living through construction was pretty fun. It was great to look out the kitchen window and watch walls go up. Garrick and I became friends and it was easy to have him around. He was missed when the project ended. 

How long did the process take?

Colette: It took about a year to get the plans down just right. The build began just before fall of 2017 and ended in the spring of 2018.

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Is there anything you would do differently if you had to do it over?

Colette: If we ever decide to build again I would work with Bruce, Stefan and Garrick again. It was truly a pleasure. 

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What’s your favorite thing about your cottage?

Colette: I love the size of our cottage. It looks narrow and small from the outside, but when you enter it seems much, much larger. It feels like a trick of the eye. I love the shiplap wall we built as a focal point. I love that the appliances all fit into the kitchen I assembled. I love that I was very much a part of the build and that my ideas and creativity were used throughout. 

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Understanding Seattle's Proposed Land-Use Code Changes

City council has proposed significant changes to the Seattle Land-Use Code with the aim of increasing the construction of backyard cottages (DADUs) and attached accessory dwelling units (ADUs). These changes, in the making for years now, have been delayed by a lawsuit and appeal brought about under SEPA regulations. Seattle City Council held a public hearing to discuss the proposed code changes Tuesday, June 11th at 5:30pm in council chambers. Discussion and possible vote on amendments and the proposed legislation will be held on June 28th at 2:00pm.

What do these changes really mean for Seattle and for ADUs?

The proposed code changes include many items that are minor and could have been completed years ago. These include modest increases in size and height of allowed cottages, details about dormers, and the location of entries. The more significant changes proposed are as follows:

  • Allowing two ADUs on one lot

  • Removing the off-street parking requirement

  • Removing the owner-occupancy requirement

  • Increasing the household size limit for a lot with two ADUs

  • Establishing a new limit on the maximum size of single-family dwellings equal to one half of the lot size (FAR = 0.5)

This DADU was built for a grandparent in the Bryant neighborhood

This DADU was built for a grandparent in the Bryant neighborhood

Owner Occupancy

Of these we believe the owner-occupancy requirement is most important. Currently the owner is required to live on the property for a minimum of six months of the year.

The impact to removing the occupancy requirement is unknown. The environmental impact statement (EIS) prepared as part of the lawsuit doesn't appear to adequately predict the impact from removing this requirement. Detractors believe that it will lead to the destruction of large numbers of existing homes and their replacement with duplexes and triplexes. They also note an increasing trend to sell ADUs and their primary residence separately using a condominium or land-lease agreement.

Our Recommendations:

  • The original proposal to sunset owner occupancy after a period of time (3 years) is good and should minimize the destruction of naturally occurring affordable housing by speculative developers.

  • Owner occupancy should be required for all properties used as short-term rentals.  

  • SDCI should closely monitor ADU construction and report annually to City Council.

The builder plans to maintain ownership of this DADU and sell the primary residence using a condominium agreement

The builder plans to maintain ownership of this DADU and sell the primary residence using a condominium agreement

Floor Area Ratio Limits

The EIS finds that the most significant way to reduce tear-downs (i.e the removal of naturally occurring affordable housing) will occur by introducing a floor area ratio (FAR) limit. Currently the size of new houses is limited by setbacks and height limits. The trend in new construction is for very large houses (with correspondingly large price tags), which are typically beyond the means of median income earners. The FAR limit would reduce the size of what can be built but exclude ADUs and DADUs from the restriction. The goal being to prevent tear-downs and to encourage rather the construction of ADUs and DADUs.

Our Recommendations:

  • Approve a FAR limit of 0.5 for new construction.

  • Exemption of ADUs and DADUs from the FAR limit.

The City Council held a public hearing to discuss these proposed changes on Tuesday, June 11th at 5:30pm in council chambers. Discussion and potential vote on the amendments and proposed legislation will be held on June 28th at 2:00pm.

We encourage you to voice your opinion with your council members and look forward to moving ahead with sensible legislation.


a chef's kitchen, custom beer taps and abundant light

The owner built this backyard cottage as a rental but fell in love (with the cottage) during the design process and decided to rent out his house instead. Designed to emphasize custom details, this DADU reflects of the owner’s lifestyle.

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The overall strategy with this backyard cottage, as it is with most of our designs, is to keep the structure simple allowing a larger percentage of the budget to be spent on finishes. As the height and size of DADUs is limited based on the size of the lot, the maximum allowable footprint for this cottage was 328 sq. ft. 

It features an open floor plan on the ground floor with a kitchen, living and powder rooms.  Upstairs is a master bedroom complete with a kitchenette, and a bath with laundry room. 

Ceramic tile accentuates the entry area. The view from the entry towards the kitchen and patio beyond.

Ceramic tile accentuates the entry area. The view from the entry towards the kitchen and patio beyond.

The kitchen is located along one wall making it both compact and simple. A movable kitchen island creates a flexible work space and accordion doors open onto a new patio filling the ground floor with light. 

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Exposed wood joists add warmth and texture in contrast with the concrete floors

Exposed wood joists add warmth and texture in contrast with the concrete floors

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A door located at the bottom of the stairs allows for the two floors to be used independently.

A door located at the bottom of the stairs allows for the two floors to be used independently.

Where some houses may come with a man cave this DADU features a "man wall" with big screen tv, electric fireplace, weight rack and the ultimate amenity, beer taps. A keg fridge is located behind the wall in the under stair space.

Custom-built beer taps. A keg fridge is located behind the wall in the under stair space.

Custom-built beer taps. A keg fridge is located behind the wall in the under stair space.

The city of Seattle limits both the eave and ridge height of cottages allowing greater height for a gable roof which we took advantage of to good effect. The master suite features vaulted ceilings and abundant light. A kitchenette allows this room to be used separately from the first floor.

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The master bath features vaulted ceilings and skylight. A laundry room is tucked off to one side under the eaves, a shower under the other with beautiful tile work featured throughout.

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Seattle DADU code changes - almost there?

Closing arguments will be submitted on April 21st, and responses due April 26th, in the hearing concerning proposed land use code changes affecting backyard cottages and other ADUs. 

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this backyard cottage provides a home for proud grandparents in Ballard


Two years ago the City of Seattle proposed a number of code changes intended to promote the construction of DADUs and ADUs. Those changes include:

  • Allowing two ADUs on one lot

  • Removing the off-street parking requirement

  • Removing the owner-occupancy requirement and requiring one year of ownership when creating a second ADU

  • Modifying development standards that regulate the size, height, and location of DADUs

  • Increasing the household size limit for a lot with two ADUs

  • Establishing a new limit on the maximum size of single-family dwellings, excluding ADUs, equal to one half of the lot size (FAR = 0.5)

The city contends that the proposed changes will be radical enough to spur a wave of new construction in residential neighborhoods while not adversely impacting them. Others disagreed. In hearing an appeal brought by the Queen Anne Community Council, the Seattle Hearing Examiner ruled that City's original SEPA response was not adequate. This ruling launched a full blown study (EIS) into the potential environmental impacts of the proposed code changes. The Final EIS was issued last fall and the findings were again challenged. The appellants claim the EIS does not fully assess the impacts of increased development in residential neighborhoods. For the appeal, Tree PAC (concerned with the potential loss of urban tree canopy due to increased development), have joined the Queen Anne Community Council.


Whats Next?
If the Hearing Examiner rules that the EIS is sufficient, the City Council will consider legislation to implement the proposed Land Use Code changes as early as early summer.

PIngpong, Prince, and Permits: a backyard Cottage Story

Fremont residents Paul and Caroline’s backyard cottage project started as a teardown and rebuild of an aging garage behind their main house. The original goal? To have a new space for their pingpong table. But the plan evolved into a two-story structure of 800 square feet, with living space on the second story. Paul designed and built the backyard cottage and microhouse handled the permitting and land use requirements.

This interview with Paul and Caroline has been edited for length and clarity.

Read More

upcoming workshops

backyard cottages for fun and profit

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Backyard cottages can be used for many things including housing a family member or as a short term rental.  Join Bruce Parker from Microhouse and Stefan Hansmire from Hansmire Builders to learn more about how to plan for and establish a realistic budget for your cottage. Bring your ideas, after the presentation we will have plenty of time to answer questions about the specifics of your project. 


Upcoming workshop dates:

Thursday, March 7,  7:00 pm 
Phinney Neighborhood Center.
6532 Phinney Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103
Admission Price: $15 members, $25 general public

Register

backyard cottage open house Friday September 21st

Learn more about backyard cottages and meet others who have built or are thinking about building a backyard cottage! 

Colette and Chris built this backyard cottage as a short term rental. Their cottage cottage takes advantage of the sloping site to create a unique three level design.  It features a generous master suite, a living room with vaulted ceilings and an 2nd bedroom/office on the top floor.  2 Bedroom, 2  Bathrooms. The cottage will be open Friday September 21st from 4:30 to 7:00 pm. Email info@microhousenw.com for more information.

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