Clotheslines banned at High Point – but maybe not for long

July 28, 2011 at 4:24 pm | In Environment, High Point, Utilities, West Seattle news | 38 Comments

Sightline Institute, which advocates for sustainability, recently set out to find out where in the Northwest it’s against the rules to hang your laundry out to dry. With help – including Diane‘s thread in the WSB Forums – they discovered several communities, including the High Point development here in West Seattle – a place where clotheslines aren’t allowed, though “green” features abound. Sightline says the ban is a missed opportunity for saving a significant amount of electricity. So why isn’t outdoor laundry-drying allowed at High Point? We asked the Seattle Housing Authority, which manages the development, and spokesperson Virginia Felton sent a lengthy reply – including word that the policy might be up for reconsideration:

It is correct that clotheslines are prohibited at High Point, by the “CC&Rs” at High
Point (Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions). Presumably these are read by prospective buyers before they decide to move in. In fact, the Homeowners Association at High Point is currently considering revisions to the design guidelines at High Point, and this issue could be part of that discussion. The issue has come up a few times in the past few years, but the Homeowners Association has, so far, not made a move to change the policy.

Some of the considerations include the following:

* While no one disputes that it is clearly a greener way of drying laundry, not everyone is thrilled at the sight of laundry drying. In fact some households have expressed a clear preference for not seeing other people’s laundry in their yards.

* High Point fences are purposely low, and the neighborhood is dense, and it would be very difficult for people to have clotheslines that were not visible from the street or others’ yards.

* Some of the High Point rental families are quite large – this could result in lots of laundry to be hung.

* The community is looking to have community-wide policies that apply to renters and home-owners alike. In the past, there have been separate rules for the renters and the homeowners. Having two distinct sets of rules has been part of the frustration expressed by homeowners. Because High Point housing is so dense, and rentals and market rate homes are integrated on most blocks, an allowance for homeowners would truly require making an allowance for renters as well.

High Point residents wishing to express an opinion on this issue may contact the HOA manager, Heather Hutchinson at Heather.Hutchison@cdcmanagement.com.

38 Comments

  1. I can understand why this is in place. Now, I am not opposed to clotheslines, I grew up with almost all of our laundry hung out to dry, even in the bitter of winter. Part of the issue is the potential unkept clothes lines, meaning things hanging for days or weeks and looking very worn or ragged. I could see something put in place that says you cannot leave clothes out overnight, or for extended periods of time. The other would be people stringing up lines on balconies or the porches, again, deturing from the look of the property. Perhaps the umbrella clothes line could be an option, they fold down and can be taken inside when not in use. Something could be put in place saying dawn to dusk, and put away when not in use? Just some thoughts.

    Comment by coffee — 4:34 pm July 28, 2011 #

  2. @coffee: I can just see the laundry police walking the beat. Will they chalk the clothes on the line and check back the next day?

    Comment by chrisma — 4:51 pm July 28, 2011 #

  3. Any home in an Association has a no laundry line rule in the CC&Rs. The rule is there for the reasons stated in the management company’s response. These no laundry line rules have been in existance for a very long time and are nothing new.

    Comment by Des Moines Dame — 5:13 pm July 28, 2011 #

  4. I would like to know if anyone (in High Point or anywhere else locally) has ever been cited (or whatever the action is) for hanging laundry outside. I live in High Point, and I have occasionally boldly hung a couple of wet dish towels, a blanket, or a piece of clothing that couldn’t be dried in the clothes dryer over my back deck railing. I am I think generally a pretty good citizen and find it ludicrous that a person could be fined for such an act in the name of community standards. We have a whole lot of rules here, some of them very silly indeed, put in place by well-meaning people who did not thoroughly think through what it would mean to actually live by those rules. Another thigh-slapper is the illegality of off-leash cats.

    Comment by Kayzel — 5:34 pm July 28, 2011 #

  5. DMD, certainly they’re not new. But it appears that Sightline’s point is – maybe it’s time to reconsider. There are a lot of old rules and laws that are worth revisiting (heck, my own industry is awash in them), so it seemed notable – TR

    Comment by WSB — 5:45 pm July 28, 2011 #

  6. Don’t worry about the “off-leash cats”, the coyotes will work that problem…

    Comment by marty — 6:07 pm July 28, 2011 #

  7. If you don’t control this through the CC&Rs that “lip stick on a pig” housing development will look more like the ghetto in no time! SOME people pay A LOT of money to live in that development; they keep up their yards and keep their homes clean, and respect the fact this is a high-density, culturally diverse, financially mixed living space. It’s a matter of pride in a place where SO MANY people live in such tight quarters, and for someone/anyone to be so bold, brash and ill-mannered to think it’s ok to hang your laundry outside to dry in such a tight living environment is ridiculous. I’d be pissed if my neighbor did that; I don’t want to see someone’s underwear hanging in my view! I get it; I have a clothesline in my backyard and use it regularly. However, no one can see it and it does not impose on others. CC&Rs for that place are very clear and those who live there sign off that they have read and understand. If people don’t like the CC&Rs don’t live there. Good for HP to impose this ban.

    Comment by WTF — 6:15 pm July 28, 2011 #

  8. another reason I have invested in property out of the city

    Comment by Paul — 7:08 pm July 28, 2011 #

  9. I live in High Point too so I’m curious if anyone responds to Kayzel’s question. We use drying racks in our guest rooom. It works pretty well only it takes longer to dry in the winter. We wouldn’t hang our clothes out on our deck because there are a lot of pigeons flying around that make our deck pretty dirty.

    Comment by MrsL — 8:07 pm July 28, 2011 #

  10. This is Seattle . . . we only have so many days that are dry and sunny enough to put out a line. Most days rain might sort of Defeat the Purpose.

    Comment by Noelle — 8:30 pm July 28, 2011 #

  11. How moot is this point in a city where we have about 7 days a year where clothes would actually dry outside? I have a clothesline and use it whenever I can. They were out all day today and still weren’t dry when I brought them in late this afternoon.

    Comment by Joan — 8:33 pm July 28, 2011 #

  12. “Lip stick on a pig” housing development? What do you mean by that phrase, WTF?

    Comment by Melissa — 8:38 pm July 28, 2011 #

  13. I live in High Point and while I don’t want to tell anyone what to do for the sake of aesthetics, there are compromises that I think people should be aware of that make this workable. We have two drying racks inside our house. One is a collapsible one on the wall above the stairwell and the other is a collapsible free-standing structure. They work great and we have the capacity for many more. We get to dry our clothes on them even when it’s raining, and no eyesores for the neighbors!

    Comment by John — 9:17 pm July 28, 2011 #

  14. No disrespect intended. To have a debate about such things as the legality of clothes-lines is a luxury. When one remembers that EVERY night 20% of the worlds population go to sleep hungry, NOT having enough food to eat, the importance of the clothes-line issue pales in comparison for me. The USA is truly blessed. Its people truly gifted. I welcome the day when the collective energy of the populace is focused resolving the nagging issues of hunger. Both abroad and here locally at home.

    Comment by Aman — 9:41 pm July 28, 2011 #

  15. I seriously miss the smell of line dried clothes from my childhood. City-folk don’t know what their missing….BTW the ordinance, or whatever the hell it is, is an inane bit of nanny state BS. Sometimes this city can just kiss my…oh, nevermind.

    Comment by JB — 10:07 pm July 28, 2011 #

  16. I find this utterly ridiculous. A housing development that prides themselves in being green and they don’t allow clothes lines? What a joke! And not only are they supposedly green, but also catering to low-income families who might appreciate a cheaper solution to doing laundry. Let’s stop worrying so much about looks and forcing people to conform to what some people think is right and let them function in an environmentally friendly manner. This city prides itself on being earth friendly in recycling and mass transit. There should be a ban against home owners associations forcing anti-green rules.

    Comment by Lynn — 10:32 pm July 28, 2011 #

  17. Keep the rule in place. We live in High Point and use indoor drying racks and it is a total non-issue.

    The reasons Heather provided are 100% reasonable. I’m green minded and I would fight Sightline, SHA, and High Point management all the way on this one. Outdoor laundry would have a very negative impact.

    Comment by JPS — 10:48 pm July 28, 2011 #

  18. I’d like to see a city ban on gas powered yard equipment that spew gas fumes, and wood burning fireplaces that spew gritty/stinky smoke on 60 plus days, and bbq briquettes/starter fluid; all of these toxic fumes blow into my apt from neighbors; but I just don’t get the big deal about clotheslines
    ~
    and what’s with the obsession with underwear; would not bother me; now if only the guy next door would just please stop walking around naked; seriously; it’s highly unpleasant to see that
    ~
    love the pic top of story of colorful laundry blowing in wind; that’s what I remember; and with the international populations at Highpoint, the clotheslines could be filled with rainbow of colors from all over the world

    Comment by Diane — 11:03 pm July 28, 2011 #

  19. Aman: Just because someone reads and responds to an article (as you yourself have done) does not mean that they are uncaring to the issues of global hunger.
    ~
    There has to be a starting point for learning hope, compassion, and action. If one cannot care for their immediate neighbors and environment then it cannot be expected that they hold concern for the unseen side of humanity; our neighbors in the human race.
    ~
    If kindness and cooperation begin at home locally, then it is possible to care for the human community as a whole.
    ~
    On a personal note, as someone whose only regular “meal” as a child came from my free school lunches, it was the mothers on my block who communicated and cooperated together to ensure that I was fed. I guess what I’m saying is that the point isn’t the clothes line but it’s about getting along.

    Comment by RG — 7:18 am July 29, 2011 #

  20. This is so revealing. While more than half this country is baking, one of the greenest cities in the US actually want us to spew more planet killing C02 into the air so that we can be happy little pigs with pretty little yards.
    Change your definition of BEAUTY.
    Better yet talk to some of the refugees living in HP about the effects of the worst drought killing thousands in their county. It’s all entwined, your dryer is killing the people. We need to wrap our heads around the fact that our consumption of energy is immoral.

    Comment by Neighbor — 7:42 am July 29, 2011 #

  21. Well said, Neighbor. I can’t believe that otherwise enlightened and tolerant Seattleites would stoop to the “clotheslines = ghetto” line of thought. Hey, one waste receptacle at the curb would be much tidier than three, but we still separate our garbage because it’s the right thing to do. Are we really more concerned about maintaining gentrified appearances than saving money and energy?

    Comment by KBear — 9:10 am July 29, 2011 #

  22. There are so many people living in that area, it wouldn’t take much for it to start looking run down. When you have that many people living so close to one another, there should be strict rules to keep the place looking the way it did when you moved it

    Comment by msc — 9:10 am July 29, 2011 #

  23. I’ll bet flagpoles are banned at High Point, too.

    Comment by KBear — 9:12 am July 29, 2011 #

  24. I recently found this outdoor umbrella clothesline. What I really like about it is that it totally folds up and is easily removable when not in use or for the winter.

    Since at least in my neighborhood the rules are about permanent clothes lines. Technically this was is not permanent and it holds 4 loads of laundry.

    I love finding loop holes in dumb rules.

    Comment by Mary — 9:31 am July 29, 2011 #

  25. It’s definitely time for the High Point community to demand that this part of their Covenant be eliminated. Maybe the community could choose to replace it with a ban on gas powered trimmers, edgers, and mowers (if that’s not already in the covenant). Those are some of the ugliest, loudest, smelliest polluters around. Just an idea.

    Comment by Yardark — 9:34 am July 29, 2011 #

  26. I think it’s about respecting the boundries of those who have agreed to the CC&R’s of their community…really is it anyone’s business but those who live in HighPoint who read and signed off on the CC&R’s before moving there? Is it not their choice and business? Living in density is tricky…keeping everyone happy!

    Comment by bebecat — 9:38 am July 29, 2011 #

  27. Good point msc!!!

    Comment by Lfauntleroy — 9:46 am July 29, 2011 #

  28. Bebecat, inasmuch as High Point is a part of the greater West Seattle community, and we all share the same fragile planet, YES, IT IS our business. Just because someone doesn’t live in High Point does not mean they’re not entitled to express their opinion. Also, signing a homeowner’s agreement is not much of a “choice”. You sign it, or you live somewhere else.

    Comment by KBear — 10:18 am July 29, 2011 #

  29. “…… so that we can be happy little pigs with pretty little yards.”

    I’m sad (and afraid) people live with that much bitterness. Nobody is being forced to use a baby eating or planet killing dryers against their will. Dry your clothes naturally by all means…..inside your own home.

    The outdoor ban has zero relation to environmental concerns. The whole premise is flawed. Sightline should focus it’s efforts where there is more real return. Perhaps they should start with the pro outdoor clothesline folks who drive baby seal killing automobiles.

    Comment by lmao — 10:22 am July 29, 2011 #

  30. I am a resident at High Point and I have dried laundry outside. I don’t leave it out longer than it needs to be there, generally do this during the week while others are at work, and I don’t hang “personal” items. My neighbors have all said they are fine with it.
    I agree there could be issues with some people not using common sense to take care of their laundry. I don’t agree that the rules have to be the same for home owners and for rental residents. For example, the pet rules are different (e.g. size of animal).

    Comment by anotheresident — 10:35 am July 29, 2011 #

  31. Anotherresident, If renters and owners live in the same development, I doubt there will be a different set of rules for home owner vs renters regarding hanging laundry. And in my opinion, I expect at least 60% of people do not use/have common sense. FYI, President Adam’s wife hung their laundry to dry in the East Room of the White House.

    Comment by msc — 11:15 am July 29, 2011 #

  32. I live in High Point and use a collapsing drying rack indoors. I would say 75% of my laundry is dried electrically, I dry the stuff where it doesn’t matter ( like jeans ). I do NOT want to see laundry lines all over. People like me moved to High Point BECAUSE there are rules that govern appearance of the community. With 1600 homes in the space that would hold 800 (using 6500 sq ft as avg lot size), and the homes put very close together and lots of acreage is as parks and gardens and streets, it would look horrific with laundry lines used on a large scale. There are about 30 home daycares here and seeing all of those yards filled full of plastic toys and stuff piled on front porches often outside of what’s permitted anyway, for those of you who call this a ghetto NOW I shudder to think what you would call my lovely community if it had laundry hanging everywhere. For people who find it important we hang indoors and are just fine.
    And to Neighbor who asks how we could we spew out “MORE CO2″, ummm we aren’t. We’re not spewing out any more CO2 than we ever have, and in fact the households here probably use less electricity drying their clothes than the average since all of the appliances are Energy Star Certified and the vents are cleaned on an annual basis. There are a lot of households who ignore the efficiency factor when it comes to outdoor maintenance of indoor appliances.
    I hope Sightline is paying attention to this conversation since several High Point residents have commented and all but one were against it in our own community. I understand the thought process behind it but perhaps if they drove through here and also talked to people who lived here they would understand they need to target something besides SHA mixed income communities jammed into the city limits. I am one of the greener people around, as a green real estate broker, but I will never support clotheslines in High Point.

    Comment by wendyhj — 2:43 pm July 29, 2011 #

  33. KBear, flags are not banned, it is against the law to not allow people the right to display an American flag. (I am not as sure about the Canadian flag hanging next door to the American one, haha). The only rules there are exist in the Condos, Redwood High Point, where I live. That does regulate HOW the flag is hung. It can not be mounted to the building, which is property owned in Common by all of the homeowners there (96), since doing so would penetrate the vinyl siding and allow for water intrusion leading to property damage and potentially mold. We are not allowed to hang anything in a manner that causes a hole ANYwhere. And that’s fine by me, there are hook systems specifically designed for vinyl siding that still allows for personalization.

    Comment by wendyhj — 2:58 pm July 29, 2011 #

  34. Maybe a reasonable compromise would be to allow only retractable outdoor clotheslines, one per household, and regulate their placement. However, calling it a “green-built” development while prohibiting clotheslines is utter hypocrisy.

    Comment by KBear — 4:45 pm July 29, 2011 #

  35. Hmmm, why not let the residents of High Point vote on the clothesline issue? Just an idea.

    As for me, I’m glad to be able to use several folding wooden racks, both indoors and out, as well as hanging clothes on my porch to dry. I don’t put undies outside, and I keep up the yard. Roses, herbs and perennials have taken the place of a lawn. Tomatoes and peppers grow in pots. The neighbors are friendly.

    No, I don’t have much money, but I try to do what I can to be more in tune with the Earth.

    Comment by Lany — 7:11 pm July 29, 2011 #

  36. I am the High Point homeowner quoted in the original article.
    Lany, Our HOA would never let us vote on issues that directly affect us. Why? There would never be enough board votes to approve letting home owners vote directly on an issue. Why? Because, as Virginia Felton failed to mention, the majority of the members of the High Point HOA don’t live in High Point. They are employees of the Seattle Housing Authority. The majority of the group that is “…considering revisions to the design guidelines at High Point….” also don’t live in High Point.
    Let’s go a little further with this scenario. Solar panels? Also not allowed on privately owned homes in High Point, but Neighborhood House is littered with them.
    Goose? Gander? Anyone?

    Comment by beth — 9:16 pm July 29, 2011 #

  37. I know some people who dry their clothes in their yard. Mostly, you can’t see it. Part of why they do it is to save money; part is out of principle — ‘going green’ (despite SUVs…but who’s perfect, right?)

    Anyway, perhaps there’s a way the High Pointers who want to do this can do it in a more private way? You know, string lines more out of sight of the main street, from a window in the back to a pole in the back, etc… The comments above demonstrate that people reasonably care about aesthetics — especially when you live in close quarters with others, like in High Point. Those commenters are also reasonable because, after all, this is Seattle in 2011, not 1930, and “clothes dryers” are available at laundromats and homes everywhere for not much cash. Yet, I also think we ought to eliminate carbon footprints, too. Banning clotheslines outright seems lame, intrusive, and kind of stupid — considering that clothes dryers waste a LOT of electricity or gas, plus, do we really want “laundry police”? Isn’t it enough we have police babysitting our roads from antisocial psychopaths who are too stupid and self-absorbed to simply abide by a speed limit?

    Balance is the answer here, I think. If people these days live close to one another — and in High POint a lot of good people plunked down considerable bucks to live side-by-side with have-nots — it is important to preserve community by simply being a bit considerate. Have-nots, haves, indeed, EVERYONE in a community owes an obligation to their neighbors to just be considerate. That means talking to your neighbors, not city hall, when you have problems. That means asking “hey, I hope you don;t mind my clothes line, what do you think? Is there a way to do thins you’d be OK with?”

    Now, I know I learned this kind of stuff in kindergarten, so I have to wonder: how old are all the people involved in the present kerfuffle?

    Comment by (required) — 9:10 am July 30, 2011 #

  38. KBear, you will see a lot of “green built” claims, but here in High Point we are Built Green Certified, which you can learn more about at http://www.builtgreen.net/checklists.html
    High Point is a Built Green Certified Community first, and then separately every single home here (home owned or rental owned by SHA) is Built Green Certified (they are two different check lists). Some are 3 star, some are 4 star (which required third party verification at three points during the construction process). There are lots of certification programs for housing, the local one was used in HP (Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish County is the parent of Built Green in this area). The term and claim of “green” is way overused and completely diluted. Every single person you ask will have a different definition of what “green” is. But in High Point at least our homes carry Built Green Certificates, which gives them a higher value and generally sit on market for shorter periods of time based on research done by Greenworks Realty. I hope that helps you understand what green in High Point means. And if you’ve never been here, and this invite goes out to everyone, People For Puget Sound are doing a tour of the Longfellow Creek Watershed that starts down in Delridge and then comes up into High Point to see how stormwater runoff is handled here, which is the main reason why this community has won so many awards and architects and community builders from over 20 countries have traveled to Seattle to see it in person. See http://pugetsound.org/events/West_Seattle

    Comment by wendyhj — 1:53 am July 31, 2011 #

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