OPCD report on ADUs example from Portland.

In an announcement yesterday, Seattle City Council shared news that work on a land use proposal to encourage development of detached accessory dwelling units (DADUs) was moving forward. As part of that, the City Council is beginning the process of scoping environmental issues for an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on DADU legislation. DADUs are more commonly known as “backyard cottages” or “mother-in-law apartments” and serve as a small secondary residence on a lot.

The DADU issue has been swirling around Seattle for several years now. Councilmember Mike O’Brien first proposed a review of DADU regulatory policy in 2014. The City then went through a process of soliciting freedback and evaluating regulations that could be changed to encourage more of them. Nine key policy changes were proposed, such as removing off-street parking requirements, adjusting owner-occupancy requirements, and increasing maximum rear yard coverage and DADU height limit requirements. Regulatory changes were projected to boost DADU production significantly and add up to 4,000 units over twenty years. Less than 300 have been permitted since they were added as an option under Land Use Code in 2010.

However, last December the City Hearing Examiner ruled that the legislation needed to undergo full environmental review, including an EIS, after finding that the SEPA (State Environmental Policy Act) Checklist failed to adequately satisfy consideration and analysis of all relevant environmental issues. One of those issues specifically identified by the Hearing Examiner was impacts to parking. Leading the appeal against the SEPA Determination of Nonsignficance was the Queen Anne Community Council.

For now, the project is in the scoping phase allowing the general public to provide feedback on environmental issues that should be considered before conducting detailed environmental analysis and considering alternatives and possible mitigation measures. The comment period runs through Wednesday, November 1st. Two open houses for scoping comments will be held in October: one in West Seattle (Tuesday, October 17th) and another in Fremont (Thursday, October 26th). Comments can also be sent online to the planning team. A final EIS is anticipated to be completed in Summer 2018 meaning that legislation could follow thereafter for consideration and adoption.

Hearing Examiner Rules Seattle Must Do EIS, Delays Backyard Cottage Law

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Article Author

Stephen is a professional urban planner in Puget Sound with a passion for sustainable, livable, and diverse cities. He is especially interested in how policies, regulations, and programs can promote positive outcomes for communities. With stints in great cities like Bellingham and Cork, Stephen currently lives in Seattle. He primarily covers land use and transportation issues and has been with The Urbanist since 2014.