The City of Seattle has proposed a comprehensive “Backyard Cottage Solution” to an existing problem that has been ignored for too long: The existence and need for regulation of backyard cottages in single family neighborhoods. This would be in the form of a citywide backyard cottage ordinance to address a situation that has been going on for a long time anyway.
I just read a blog post on the Crosscut.com site (an excellent site for indepth local news and views) by Kent Kammerer titled “Backyard Cottages for Seattle? Not so fast.” In it he outlines carefully thought out reasons why he thinks cottages in Seattle are a bad idea.
He points out that it's not fair to the neighbors who are affected by the increased density, siting they might loose their views or have the sunlight to their garden blocked. But these are not property rights that are guaranteed under current zoning or laws, unless you happen to live in one of the few areas of Seattle that have CC&Rs (covenants, conditions and restrictions)
Backyard cottages have been allowed in southeast Seattle since 2006. The city recently did a survey in south east Seattle neighborhoods in the immediate vicinity of 14 existing backyard cottages and found that the residents overwhelmingly supported of the rights of property owners to have this option in the right circumstances. And most agreed that backyard cottages would fit in with their current neighborhood and surrounding homes.
As a Realtor I often hear people bemoaning any development whatsoever. And many point to condo and townhome developments as examples of increased density solutions that they don't like. But it's rare to see alternatives that are attractive or practical. This backyard cottage solution is one. And with proposed limit of a maximum of 50 new cottages a year, this isn't going to dramatically change the Seattle landscape.
We are looking at staggering growth projections in Seattle in the next 30 years. The City of Seattle is expected to DOUBLE in population by 2040*. We can't just bury our heads in the sand. Without higher density planning we will see property values continue to skyrocket in the future, eroding the livability of one of the best places on the planet to live and work. It's time to be creative and realistic about how to accommodate this.
Note: There will be a Backyard Cottage Neighborhood Meeting on Aug. 3, 2009 at 6:00 p.m. Presentation to the Lake Union District Council at Fremont Neighborhood Service Center, 908 N. 34th St.
* Source: Puget Sound Regional Council – Vision 2040 Report