City’s proposed microhousing rules now en route to council

April 11, 2014 at 3:44 pm | In Development, West Seattle news | 21 Comments

The proposed city rules about microhousing are officially on their way to the City Council. From the council’s Introduction and Referral Calendar for next week, see the council bill here. Among other things, it sets the threshold for Design Review, by “dwelling unit” (which usually equals one floor with a common kitchen and multiple “sleeping rooms”) – four in a Neighborhood Commercial zone, eight in a Low Rise zone. It includes the definition of a “micro”:

“Micro” means a room or rooms located within a micro-housing unit that includes a sleeping room and has all of the following characteristics:

a. contains 285 square feet or less of net floor area, including abutting ancillary areas such as a private bathroom, closets or a sleeping loft;

b. contains a bathroom with a toilet, bathing facility, and sink;

c. does not contain a food preparation area or kitchen; and

d. no toilet, bathing facility or sink is located outside of the bathroom.

It also spells out “a microhousing unit is not a single-family dwelling unit and is not a permitted use in single-family zones.” Regarding parking, while one space would be required for every four sleeping rooms in some areas, the proposal does not change the current standard of no parking required if “frequent transit” is no more than a quarter-mile away. The proposed rules have been in the works for months; they will go first to the Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability Committee.

SIDE NOTE: West Seattle has one microhousing project that recently opened, another almost complete, and at least three others in the works, as shown on the development-tracking map we finished and published earlier this week.

21 Comments

  1. c needs to be amended; developers are getting around this by installing a 12 inch counter with sink and microwave; NOT a kitchen

    Comment by Diane — 4:30 pm April 11, 2014 #

  2. so , in the “common area” that is shared, i.e., the kitchen area, there’s no stove? There’s only a micro and a sink? That’s a dorm ! That’s pitiful, if true. The city definitely needs to enforce more, if that’s true. :(

    Comment by JanS — 6:46 pm April 11, 2014 #

  3. or do you mean they’re putting a micro and sink in the room itself, so it can’t be called a kitchen?

    Comment by JanS — 9:12 pm April 11, 2014 #

  4. The entire concept is disturbing but its already been here. When I moved to Seattle in 2001 and viewed a number of apartments and neighborhoods I was introduced to the small one room apartment that came with plans to build your own loft bed that hung from the ceiling. Normalizing fragmented living conditions is a bad idea IMHO. For one thing I just cant see safe bathing or toilet use in the communal bathroom not to mention sanitary conditions in the bathroom-less apartments that I saw back then. I hope the city can make fail safe condition rules that hold.

    Comment by cj — 12:07 am April 12, 2014 #

  5. and what if you can’t stand one (or more) of your pod-mates. There’s no guarantee that you all will get along, unless a group of friends moves in. And then there’s the matter of storing food in a communal fridge…and stealing…and pots and pans…and cleaning up after yourself in common areas…and who takes the trash out. Will you all have to sit down and work out a schedule? And what if you work swing shift,or nights, and want to sleep when others are making noise…etc…and on and on…It just seems like such a bad idea…

    Comment by JanS — 3:25 am April 12, 2014 #

  6. cj…each room in the pod will/should have their own individual bathrooms…you get to clean your own. I don’t believe there’s shared bathroom, just “kitchen”, and laundry facilities.

    Comment by JanS — 3:26 am April 12, 2014 #

  7. Basically a rooming house- or hostel!
    Hopefully this will be for those who really- truly have no car & no intention of owning one. Those that would use- say- car-to-go– or flex car if they need a car on occasion.

    Comment by Gene — 7:47 am April 12, 2014 #

  8. Makes my dorm room in Waller Hall at WSU seem like a high class living space.

    http://housing.wsu.edu/reshall/waller

    Comment by Mike — 8:04 am April 12, 2014 #

  9. I think it’s time that a citizens initiative gets rolling stipulating that for every multi residential apartment building being built, there is a requirement that 75% of the units have at least one parking space and those that don’t, have a stipulation in the lease that the leasee WILL NOT own, or purchase a vehicle while renting a non-parking space unit. Those units without a parking space will have a secure lock space assigned to the unit big enough for a scooter or bike to be stored in.

    Comment by Ex-Westwood Resident — 9:51 am April 12, 2014 #

  10. Actually I’ve talked with quite a few people who like these. Mostly professionals who work long hours and don’t cook much, or students (who similarly work long hours and don’t cook much). Most of them don’t have cars, either.
    .
    I’m trying to figure out what’s inherently bad about rooming houses, since a lot of people seem to think so.

    Comment by datamuse — 10:31 am April 12, 2014 #

  11. @datamuse; where are the ones you mention? If on Cap Hill, it can work well; there is ample bus service there; in WS, we are already severely lacking in bus service, with overloaded buses; with 4,000+ apts and microhousing rooms being added with little or zero parking, ALL these people will expect to take the bus; we do not have enough bus service for the people here already; without more bus service, people will get back in their cars and drive, because they have to get to their job (or school); that is the #1 problem imo
    ~
    these projects are also allowed to discriminate against people with disabilities and seniors who need affordable housing; they have no elevators (another big savings for the developer); the nearly completed microhousing project next to 7/11 is 7 stories

    Comment by Diane — 12:21 pm April 12, 2014 #

  12. @JanS; the newly proposed rule that TR listed:
    ~
    “Micro” means a room or rooms located within a micro-housing unit that includes a sleeping room and has all of the following characteristics:
    ~
    c. does NOT contain a food preparation area or kitchen”
    ~
    some apodment/microhousing developers are already getting around this rule by installing a tiny counter with tiny sink and tiny microwave and then calling it a micro-studio apt
    ~
    there is still a common kitchen for all residents to use; but (c) allows them to play with the rules, to slap a hot-plate on a 12 inch counter and call it a kitchen; the rule related to definition of a “food preparation area or kitchen” inside the tiny room needs more detail, more clarity; what about a fridge in the room? “food prep area” does not spell out what specifics are required within the room to call it a “room” within a “unit”, or what specifics are required within the room to call it a “studio apt” aka it’s own separate “unit”; does (c) allow the developer to say “there’s a common kitchen where everyone can store their food, AND each room has it’s own food prep area with a hot plate and/or microwave, and by the new city rules, we are now allowed to call that a studio apt?”, and therefore charge a lot more for rent
    ~
    it’s been interesting to see how many of the microhousing projects already built, have circumvented all kinds of rules that are required of most housing projects because they got through DPD by defining each floor of 8 pods as a unit, and most/all got the MFTE 12 yr tax credit, calling them affordable (so they’re not even contributing any taxes to pay for street parking or buses); but then when it comes to actual renting, many of their ads then call the rooms/pods a “studio apt”, and do not even list the square footage, and the rents range from $850-$1300
    ~
    and guess what; since the city was not willing to put a moratorium on these a year ago when all this came to light, and the city has taken FOREVER to come up with even this meager set of new rules, the apodments have all just kept on getting permitted and built; so in WS we now have at least 5 built or in the process under the old rules

    Comment by Diane — 12:24 pm April 12, 2014 #

  13. and something that never gets mentioned in any city discussions of microhousing with common kitchen, that I thought about a lot this past winter (as a health/safety expert), what happens when one person gets the flu, and has to use the common kitchen because there is none inside their room? Flu germs are on the fridge handle, the kitchen faucet handle, on the stove handles; coughing/sneezing covers a much wider area than most people think, so virtually every inch of the common kitchen could be covered in flu germs; and in no time, everyone in a “unit” of pods has the flu
    ~
    I know during flu season that germs are everywhere, but at least when I am most ill, most contagious, I can use my own kitchen in my own apt without spreading germs to anyone else

    Comment by Diane — 12:26 pm April 12, 2014 #

  14. yes..and about that rent…nothing “micro” about that, huh. I get the feeling, Diane, that one of these is NOT in our future…..

    Comment by JanS — 9:33 pm April 12, 2014 #

  15. here you go Jan; sample ad by footprint microhousing
    ~
    falsely advertising this as a “loft” and “micro-studio” and “Mini Suites”
    ~
    for only $1062
    ~
    and that tiny counter with tiny sink, they’re calling a “convenience counter” (it’s not a kitchen; there is a pic of the shared kitchen)
    ~
    footprint also never shows the square footage of these tiny rooms
    ~
    pretty darn sure these are not LEED certified, but they say “Our buildings are built to L.E.E.D. Platinum Certified standards” to make it appear as if they are, with tricky wording
    ~
    the title says “ALL UTILITIES INCLUDED” but the details in the ad “cable and phone available through local providers”
    ~
    so rent plus cable/phone would be more like $1162/mo, for a teeny tiny room (granted some may not want cable or landline, so it would “only” be $1062)
    ~
    and all their ads say at the bottom “We are not an aPodment or aPodments!”
    ~
    “aPodment” may be trademarked, but these are exactly the same as aPodments
    ~
    http://seattle.craigslist.org/see/apa/4413624590.html
    ~
    “Only 1 Loft Left! Micro studio”
    ~
    “Our suites have private bathrooms and convenience counter”

    Comment by Diane — 8:23 pm April 13, 2014 #

  16. and this one is very similar to the one footprint has built on Avalon near 35th, next to the 7/11; this looks to be 6 floors, no elevator; therefore not ADA
    ~
    http://seattle.craigslist.org/see/apa/4413609839.html
    ~
    you can see the “convenience counter” just a few feet from the twin bed

    Comment by Diane — 8:27 pm April 13, 2014 #

  17. here are the official trademarked apodments
    ~
    you have to climb up a ladder to the sleeping loft
    ~
    I wonder if the 300ft includes the loft area
    ~
    so these are supposed to be affordable???? It’s $1,350/mo
    ~
    http://seattle.craigslist.org/see/apa/4412306302.html

    Comment by Diane — 8:42 pm April 13, 2014 #

  18. hahaha…that second one, in it’s ad, says that it has a “patio entrance”. That means an entrance directly off the street, not in a secure bldg. On Capitol Hill, I think it would leave you vulnerable to break-ins…the doors look like they are glass.

    Comment by JanS — 9:53 pm April 13, 2014 #

  19. and say there are 4-6 of these mini-whatevers in a group sharing one kitchen, and they all want to cook at 6-7pm after work. Or make breakfast at the same time…something more substantial than something made in a micro (and better for them) – something and someone is going to clash. They are all asking you to give up a modicum of privacy and they’re charging for it.

    Comment by JanS — 10:00 pm April 13, 2014 #

  20. Lots of reasons to not like them.

    But:::::::::::::

    “Only 1 Loft Left! Micro studio”

    (if true) SOMEBODY must like them! At those rates!

    Comment by bolo — 11:04 pm April 13, 2014 #

  21. Jan; typically there are 8 pods/rooms around a common kitchen
    ~
    yes bolo; if true

    Comment by Diane — 1:22 pm April 14, 2014 #

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