Laurelhurst Community Club                                                     

Serving 2800 Households and Businesses in Seattle’s Laurelhurst Neighborhood

 

April 22, 2004

  

Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, Chair

Housing, Human Services and Health Committee

Councilmember Jan Drago

Councilmember Richard McIver

600 Fourth Avenue, Floor 2

P.O. Box 34025

Seattle, Washington  98105                                                      Fax 206-684-8587

 

RE:  Proposal to Legalize Detached Accessory Dwelling Units

 

Dear Councilmember Rasmussen and Members of the Housing, Human Services and Health Committee,

 

            The Laurelhurst Community Club Board of Trustees has reviewed the Mayor’s proposed ordinance that would legalize detached accessory dwelling units (DADUs) and the February 17, 2004 director’s report.  We participated in one of the focus groups on housing options, as well as the public forum.  We believe that the current proposal falls short in providing adequate protections to single-family neighborhoods, that it will result in loss of open space and trees and will create added parking problems and congestion—with no assurance that affordable housing will be created. 

 

            The Laurelhurst community has long supported measures to provide low-income and affordable housing.  Our neighbors overwhelmingly supported housing levies in 1981, 1986, 1995, and most recently in 2002.  In addition, our community council has supported measures to preserve or promote retention of existing affordable housing stock, as well as programs to provide transitional housing.  While the Mayor’s proposal to legalize detached accessory dwellings in single-family neighborhoods has the potential to address housing affordability from both the perspective of potential tenants and prospective homeowners, we believe that amendments are necessary to address the impacts upon neighborhoods.  Because the proposed ordinance as written would essentially duplex single-family neighborhoods, we ask that you consider amendments and address the following issues:

 

The proposed ordinance should be amended to prohibit conversion of detached garages into DADUs.  This is important due to the lack of adequate parking in most neighborhoods and the fact that the Code allows eight unrelated people to live in every dwelling.  With conversion of a detached garage into a DADU, there will be no place for the homeowners to park, other than on already congested streets.  If eight people live in a converted garage, it is expected that some of those individuals will have cars.  Even if a less number of people live in the garage unit, at least some car ownership can be predicted, particularly in areas that are not served well by transit—such as Laurelhurst. 

 

The Portland DADU ordinance prohibits conversion of detached garages located in the side, front or rear setback area to DADUs, with few exceptions.  Seattle should follow this example should it choose to legalize DADUs.

 

DADUs should only be allowed as conditional uses.  Under the proposed ordinance, DADUs, as well as currently authorized attached accessory dwelling units, would be allowed outright in single-family zones.  As an alternative to this approach, we urge you to consider requiring a conditional use permit for these units.  This process would impose a neighborhood notice and a public hearing requirement—important in light of the potential impacts of each conversion or development of new units.  At minimum, as some jurisdictions have provided, an alternative procedure could be imposed to allow an exemption from the public hearing requirement after notification of neighbors within a certain distance of the applicant’s property if the planning department receives no requests for a hearing. 

 

The DADU proposed ordinance should address the ineffective provisions relating to parking waivers.  In the proposed ordinance, there is a provision for one off-street parking place for each DADU.  The problem is that there are provisions for waiver of the parking requirement and these waiver requests under the attached accessory dwelling (ADU) law have been liberally granted by the Department of Planning and Development with no notice to impacted neighbors.  It is expected that this would continue with DADUs.  There is currently no requirement to provide notice to neighbors of parking waiver requests.  Neighbors should be given notice of waiver applications and an opportunity to comment—as they should be given notice of DADU and ADU applications. 

 

The DADU proposed ordinance should reconsider the effectiveness of allowing tandem parking.  There is no evidence that allowing tandem parking as opposed to off-street parking has worked for Seattle’s neighborhoods.  What happens is that because tandem parking doesn’t work, more cars clog already congested streets.  It makes no sense to accept the proposition that the property owner and tenant would rotate who pulls into the driveway parking area first and then change the parking arrangement to accommodate each other’s schedules each day—who goes to work first, whether one or the other has an evening meeting or has to go to the grocery store, etc.  Tandem parking should not be allowed for DADUs or ADUs.

 

            The proposed ordinance eliminates accountability and monitoring.  The proposed DADU ordinance eliminates the requirement under the current ADU law that the Department of Construction and Land Use (now the Department of Planning and Development or DPD) prepare a report for the Council every two years stating the number and location of permits issued for new accessory housing units.  This requirement provides a minimal effort on the part of DPD to enable the Council to assess the effectiveness of the program and to address issues that have surfaced. 

 

The City of Portland has required extensive monitoring reports to its planning commission with information about the various issues, neighborhood involvement, a report on enforcement activity that has occurred, an analysis as to whether the regulations have achieved the stated objectives and an examination of the number of accessory units permitted or built.  Seattle should require similar monitoring and accountability due to the major impact upon its neighborhoods.  Enforcement issues should also be thoroughly reviewed.

 

            Above our just our preliminary comments on the Mayor’s proposed ordinance.  We hope you will consider our comments and recommendations.

 

Sincerely,

Jeannie Hale, President

3425 West Laurelhurst Drive NE

Seattle, Washington  98105

206-525-5135 / fax 206-525-9631

jeannieh@serv.net