Saturday, October 31, 2009

ALERT - JUST SAY NO! DADU ("Backyard Cottage") vote Monday, November 2nd

Map showing how one DADU (Backyard Cottage") adversely affects five neighboring properties.

New DADU ("Backyard Cottage") at 1911 16th Ave South.


New DADU ("Backyard Cottage") at 7520 Military Road South.


New Dadu ("Backyard Cottage") in rear, 8630 Beacon Avenue S.


New DADU ("Backyard Cottage") at 6522 48th Avenue S.


New DADU ("Backyard Cottage) in rear at 3043 S Dawson Street.



PRESS RELEASE
By Marty Liebowitz [mailto:marty@madronacompany.com]

Regarding- Upcoming Seattle City Council Vote on Detached Accessory Dwelling Units (DADUs)

Note: The City has recently decided to call these structures “Backyard Cottages”.

"DADUs" is a crazy sounding abbreviation for “Detached Attached Dwelling Units”. Spelled out in its entirety, the acronym is long, un-sexy, and not very catchy. But next week, on Monday, November 2nd, when the full City Council is slated to vote on whether to allow them throughout the city, you will find that their klunky name has been changed to the more friendly sounding “Backyard Cottages”, and this will be judgment day for the fate of each and every single-family neighborhood throughout the City of Seattle.

The ordinance they are voting on is flawed - maybe 30% flawed. In that amount of written legalese, much of what we all love about our City could be destroyed. The decision will be largely invisible since it presumably affects only rear yards, so the damage may not be visible from the sidewalk. However the damage will be done- primarily to the backyard privacy that we and our trees, and our backyard animals now all enjoy.

As currently proposed, a 2 story 800 square foot home will be allowed to be built in the rear yard of any property with an existing single family home - in all the single family neighborhoods in Seattle. The new home which can be built will be allowed within 5 feet from rear and side property lines. It can be 15’ high at its eave and 22’ high at the ridge of a peaked roof. It can tower over the abutting 5 neighboring lots when built mid block. What is gained by 1 property owner in building one new Accessory Dwelling Unit is lost by each of the five abutting neighbors. This ratio 5 1 to 1, winner to loser, should not be acceptable in the City of Seattle or anywhere else.

While hyped as being “sustainable”, this is really not since we already have an attached Accessory Dwelling Unit ordinance which allows the same thing if it is attached to an existing building and maintains regular setback requirements in side and rear yards. Hence, there will be no more units created by this ordinance. Also, they do not provide “affordable” housing since this is in general new construction at new construction costs.

The City planners are telling us that this is no different than similar ordinances on places like Mercer Island. However, on Mercer Island, the minimal lot sizes are 1/3 acre, while in Seattle, the minimum lot size proposed is 1/10 acre - hardly comparable.

One glaring problem with the proposed ordinance relates to a similar one passed a few years ago for SE Seattle, which was to be a test of the DADU concept in Seattle. SE Seattle was chosen since politically the concept was a hot potato for neighborhoods in the rest of the city and SE Seattle was politically under-represented and an easy test case for the City Planners. Hence, under the cover of darkness (not unlike today) the Council benignly passed the experimental ordinance under the guidance of City Planners. In the last 2 years, about 17 of these new residences have been built - the majority of which are eyesores. However, as mentioned in the top of this posting, they usually cannot be seen from the street, and hence are only a burden on their immediate neighbors who see these things out of their kitchen, bathroom and bedroom windows every day. So, we could say “out of sight out of mind” and just walk away from this issue. But if passed on November 2nd, none of our rear yard sanctuaries is safe. Our backyard privacy is a thing of the past. No longer can we and our backyard critters enjoy a moment or careless, peaceful, private piece of mind.

So folks - that’s what’s really coming down next Monday. Not many citizens are aware of this. There’s been little public disclosure on something so far-reaching. But noblesse oblige, “the Council knows what’s good for us”. Tell your Seattle City Council that this is a half-baked ordinance. Tell them that you believe in sustainability but that this is not the way to achieve it. Turn on the fans to their smoke screen, clear the air, and just tell them to vote NO on November 2 on the DADU Ordinance.

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