While the final vote on the bill was unanimous, the votes on two amendments were not – with one regarding developable lot size approved by a 6-3 vote, and one limiting height passing 5-4. That one was proposed by West Seattle-residing Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, who later said that zoning rules for small-lot development were “not about keeping people out, but about welcoming people in” within the context of neighborhoods’ existing character.
Those speaking in the public-comment period that started the council meeting included West Seattleites from the Benchview neighborhood, which has been prominent in the small-lot fight for a year and a half, since discovering a house on an 11,500-square-foot corner lot had been sold, after its owner’s death, to developers who planned to split it into three and add two new houses. Benchview residents took their concerns to court; while the judge partly sided with them, the city allowed a lot split and the new owners began building the houses, one of which was featured in neighbors’ projected-video protest this past weekend. (While some development advocates contend small-lot development is more affordable and environmentally friendly because the houses are “smaller,” the new Benchview houses are 3,162 square feet and 2,624 square feet; the pre-existing home is 2,380 sf.)
One of the earlier briefings on the city zoning changes even cited the Benchview case as one that would not have been allowed under the new rules, which will regulate lot sizes and shapes as well as characteristics of homes on the smallest lots. Councilmember Mike O’Brien, who chairs the Planning/Land Use/Sustainability Committee, said he expects followup legislation including some rules for neighborhood notification of lot-split proposals.