Curbed Seattle: City of Seattle starts review process for ADU rule changes


The City of Seattle has been angling for reforms to laws governing accessory dwelling units (ADUs)—small homes attached to, inside, or on the same lot as a single-family home—for quite a while now. City councilor Mike O’Brien first proposed reforms back in 2014, and they were among the recommendationsof the Housing Affordability and Livability committee.

But single-family zoning changes have been hard to come by, and ADU and backyard cottage rule reform is no exception. Back in December, a hearing examiner ruled that proposed changes to ADU laws had to go through a whole environmental impact process.

Which brings us to now. Early month, the city started that process by opening public comment on what to analyze about their proposed rules.

In addition to submitting comments online, people can submit comments in-person at two open houses: one Tuesday night at High Point Community Center and another October 26 at Hale’s Ales.

The city is asking people to review two options: either stick with Seattle’s existing rules, including limits to how many people can live in an ADU, rules governing how many can be on one property, and parking requirements, or adopt a proposed set of rule changes.

In the proposed alternative, a single-family lot could contain both an attached ADU—like a mother-in-law apartment—and a detached ADU, like a backyard cottage. Currently, rules only allow single-family homes to contain one or the other.

The proposal would also axe a requirement for an off-street parking space, which is still currently required in some cases. Homeowners would no longer have to live on the property to rent out an ADU. Maximum square footage would increase, and the minimum lot size would decrease.

The goal with the alternative proposal would make it easier to build ADUs, increasing density in single-family zones and expanding housing options.

The city is accepting public comment until November 1. Information on submitting comments, including open houses, is available on the city’s website.


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