by Chrystine Kim, Matt Hutchins, Laura Loe
More Options for Accessory Residences, (MOAR), is a group of folks concerned with the future of the city, housing availability and affordability. We realized early on in our advocacy that we want to do more to reach out to all of Seattle, not just land use nerds. Last year we helped over 500 folks give the city feedback to make backyard cottages, mother-in-law units easier to build. Right now is a critical phase of public comment and we are trying to encourage as many people as possible to participate by June 25, 2018.
Many people are having a very hard time building this type of housing and it is impacting their families. One father wrote about his frustration: “Our daughter Fiona will not have a closet in her room growing up because city rules for building backyard cottages require us to build an extra car parking space for a car we don’t own.”
ADU or DADU?
Picture a backyard cottage. It is like a tiny home with a bathroom and a kitchen. Now picture a granny flat or mother-in-law unit. It is a basement apartment with a kitchen. (Fun fact: A “Fonzie flat” is an apartment dwelling built above a garage like the one Arthur Herbert Fonzarelli lived in on the classic show “Happy Days”!) The wonky official words for these housing options are Accessory Dwelling Units and Detached Accessory Dwelling Units: ADUs and DADUs.
Right now, Seattle’s rules for building one of these are highly restrictive and expensive to navigate. People who’d love to make more housing options for others in their backyard, make room for multigenerational living, or downsize or age in place, have a hard time doing it.
When our city prepares to implement land use changes, they create an intense study called an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The City asks for comment as the EIS processes, and we’d like to have residents tell the city they’d support more housing options like these in their neighborhoods.
Understanding the acronyms, jargon and code can be a daunting barrier to the average busy person who wants to engage on housing and affordability issues. Our group cares a lot about demystifying these terms, so here are two critical reasons Accessory Dwellings are a critical component in addressing our housing crisis:
- Backyard cottages and granny flats are a wonderful option for intergenerational living. One of our lead organizers has published their work with AARP. Check out pages 10, 11 and 17 from 100+ Inspiring Examples from America’s Local Leaders. AARP Livable Communities believes, like we do, that “communities should provide safe, walkable streets; age-friendly housing and transportation options; access to needed services; and opportunities for residents of all ages to participate in community life.”
- Equity. The city’s race and social justice analysis and the draft environmental impact statement are filled with reasons to support making these overdue changes. Expediting people’s ability to develop on their own properties is critical to a more affordable and equitable city. We recommend you read C is for Crank’s analysis of the ADU EIS.
We’ve created a step by step guide to comment on the ADU/DADU EIS just follow these steps:
Step 1. Go to: http://www.seattle.gov/council/adu-eis
Step 2. Click on “comment here” Google Form or go to this direct link: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdGm0qliWID1Te4zFbexQ5nXRkPYN-Szfxzpi43yuXQ_-htNA/viewform
Step 3. Enter your email address, scroll down and hit NEXT
Step 4. Scroll down to “Other comments about the Draft EIS” and start with a personalized response. For example:
My name is _______________
My household is made up of _________
I live in District ___________
I want more housing because _____________ (mention personal and also city-wide, region-wide and climate-friendly goals).
Step 5. Cut and paste all or any of the extremely pro-housing MOAR recommendations into “Your answer” space. It is also totally appropriate to say what is in your heart about the different sections the city asks about. Real people will read your answers and democracy is messy. Remember that anything you put in the city’s form or email to the city could be publicly searched and published.
Step 6. There’s an optional Demographic Survey
Step 7. Hit submit
Step 8. Tweet about this process or post on Facebook and encourage other folks to participate by June 25, 2018.
Follow us @MOARSeattle
Find us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/182017502319527/
In the next six months, we will host events to better understand the financing aspect of building backyard cottages and educate people about land use terms, like Residential Small Lot (RSL) zoning. Hope to see you there!
Featured image is a cc licensed photo attributed to Sara Barz