Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan signed the code changes approved by city council last week that are intended to increase the number of backyard cottages being built in Seattle. The Mayor also signed an executive order to address other issues that restrain construction including reducing construction cost, permitting time and complexity and exploring financing options for ADUs. The code changes will go into effect on August 8th. Limits to new house size (FAR restrictions) will go into effect six months from now.
city council is debating which of the proposed code changes will go into effect and offering their own amendments
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Join us for our fourth annual backyard cottage bike tour and informal cottage discussion. This will be a unique opportunity to see inside a number of cottages and speak with their owners, builders and designers. The tour will will encompass Fremont, Greenwood, and Ballard, neighborhoods. Email us for more information and to RSVP.
backyard cottages for fun and profit
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