How small can a lot be? How big a home can a ‘small lot’ hold? City Council passes rules

May 19, 2014 at 7:03 pm | In Development, West Seattle news | 6 Comments

Two years after neighborhoods around the city started sounding the alarm about what became known as small-lot development, the City Council has passed new rules to regulate it.

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.

6 Comments

  1. So glad that the height restriction is being put into place. Too many box homes that go straight up and shadowing out their neighbors, while looking ridiculous in the neighborhood, because it just doesn’t fit in…

    Comment by ttt — 11:14 pm May 19, 2014 #

  2. If I owned one of those lots below 3,200 SF (of which there are several hundred, if not thousands in Seattle) or a lot below 2500 SF (which now is worthless), I would sue the City for unlawful taking of development potential. Taxpayers should brace for lawsuits!
    People do still realize that 30 foot tall homes may still be built on lots over 3200 SF, the only difference is that they can be even bigger, bulkier, and block more sun and view due to the larger lot size.
    I can’t believe how short sighted and reactionary this is. Conservative NIMBYism at its worst.

    Comment by jGo — 10:55 am May 20, 2014 #

  3. Conservative NIMBYism? I don’t know of any conservatives on the Seattle City Council. FAR, FAR from it! Most NIMBYs who are protesting the huge box houses are certainly not conservatives as well. It’s the green leftist liberals who want to cram huge residential structures on tiny lots.

    Comment by Bradley — 5:08 pm May 21, 2014 #

  4. JUST GOES TO SHOW THAT THE SEATTLE CITY COUNCIL IS FOR SALE TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER.

    Comment by Robert — 6:12 am May 22, 2014 #

  5. >> It’s the green leftist liberals who want to cram huge residential structures on tiny lots. <<

    You can add: "but would never be caught dead, living there."

    Comment by Peter — 1:12 pm May 22, 2014 #

  6. I understand how upset all of you are about the increased density. I know there have always been more and more people moving to WS since my family moved here 48 years ago. Knowing the history of Seattle people have been moving here since 1851. No one gives an alternative to all those wanting to move here just like all of us, or our families, did at one time. How about some ideas on what you would like to see instead of just bitching? Btw, since the WS Bridge was built that precludes those of you who’s first idea would be to pull up the draw bridges.

    Comment by WS since '66 — 1:30 pm June 4, 2014 #

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