Video: Seattle City Council committee OK’s rules for ‘microhousing’ apartments

(Added Wednesday morning: Seattle Channel video of this meeting in its entirety)
New city rules for “microhousing” apartments (backstory here) have just passed the City Council’s Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability Committee. We came in on the meeting broadcast late, but in time to hear the passage of two amendments – one requiring two sinks per unit (food-prep and bathroom areas), one that goes beyond microhousing, requiring a city study of residential-area parking policies, with recommendations to be presented next spring. Seven amendments in all were proposed – they’re all linked from the agenda for the meeting that just concluded. The full council will vote on October 6th. If the new rules pass, they won’t affect projects already in the pipeline, including at least two on the drawing board here in West Seattle, where two “microhousing” buildings are now open – both under the Footprint brand – one on Delridge, one on Avalon.

34 Replies to "Video: Seattle City Council committee OK's rules for 'microhousing' apartments"

  • KatherineL September 16, 2014 (4:41 pm)

    They also required covered bicycle parking.

  • Diane September 16, 2014 (5:55 pm)

    220 sq ft minimum per unit (NOT average) had most discussion, and big win; thank you to CM’s Tom Rasmussen, Nick Licata, Tim Burgess; boo to Mike O’Brien and Sally Clark

  • Ray September 16, 2014 (5:56 pm)

    It is sad that the city council refuses to require that ALL housing (houses, condos, microhousing, whatever) MUST include at least one parking spot per unit. No exceptions.

    Otherwise these units just spill into the main streets anyway, especially as many couples have two vehicles.

    • WSB September 16, 2014 (6:00 pm)

      Ray – that’s what the parking study will be about, among other issues. You’ll recall the “no parking required in some cases” arose a few years back, and it doesn’t seem the city has yet studied its ramifications.

  • Ruby September 16, 2014 (6:14 pm)

    What are they thinking??? We can’t even get out of our area of the city to get to work… now they want to stuff more people into an over populated area? Can the traffic get any worse? Two lanes in and two lanes out… that’s all we’ve got! Parking is only a small part of this major problem.

  • dhg September 16, 2014 (6:21 pm)

    I find the idea of microhousing in our neighborhoods very disturbing. The increase in density and noise will totally destroy the feeling of a neighborhood. The noble idea that these houses will appeal to those without cars is total BS. ESPECIALLY since metro is cutting routes, no one can depend on buses. The net effect will be that street parking in West Seattle will look like street parking on Capitol Hill: jammed and dirty (street cleaners can’t clean areas with cars parked 24/7). I moved here from Cap Hill to get away from that. Wonder if I’ll have to move again.

  • Gotb September 16, 2014 (6:22 pm)

    Design review should really be determined by floor are ratio rather than the number of units (however you count them), but I give the council a “B” on that anyway because it’s needed. The rest of this is a bunch if counterproductive nonsense that will severely restrict low income housing supply and raise prices. “F”s all around for the council. And an “A” to Ed Murray for his veto threat.

  • JayDee September 16, 2014 (6:28 pm)

    What I find astonishing is that so far the City appears willing to give parking requirements away without extracting something else of value from the developer.

    In downtown if you want your tower to exceed local height zoning limits, you need to include something the City values, like cheaper market rate apts in the final project.

    But in the case of microhousing the case could be made for a transit-oriented fee, approximately 1/3 or 1/2 of the cost of providing city minimum parking requirements. Parking spaces cost because there is only a one-time fee for the developer, but they also displace rent-paying microhousing residents (who of course don’t own cars (Yeah, right)). Rent is forever, but the cost of parking is generally a one-time cost.

    The developer would still score big time by stuffing resident(s?) into a 220 foot square space without having to do squat about parking so they make less money, but they still score.

  • John September 16, 2014 (7:04 pm)

    From the Sightline Blog, “There’s never been a good policy reason for minimum parking requirements. Their political rationale—preventing spillover parking—disappears when street parking is no longer free. Then, developers can figure out for themselves how much car storage to provide, just as they decide how many dishwashers, light fixtures, and bay windows to install. The market, a spot market, emerges.”

  • JayDee September 16, 2014 (7:30 pm)


    Whatever is required will encourage a market value; parking requirements, minimum parking requirements, or anything else. If we say minimal parking is required, the cars the tenants own will take away a public good (parking on City streets, free or not).

    I would still think that rather than giving developers a freebie (you need bare minimum parking if you are doing microhousing and you get to pocket the difference) we should require a transit offset.

    A lot of the West Seattle microdevelopments are clustered towards Avalon where street parking is a premium for single family and apartment dwellers alike. Oddly enough it is also along the last stops ANY Metro bus makes before the West Seattle Bridge. Why would we encourage microhousing where the residents would not be able to ride a bus because all the room on the bus is occupied? It doesn’t only apply to Avalon, but the problem would be magnified in that stretch.

    Instead, require developers and maybe even the microhousing property owners to pony up cash for transit. I don’t see a reason why we shouldn’t since a primary reason that people would live in these cramped spaces is that they don’t own a car and ride transit. Make them pay for it either in the rental or purchase price. That way owning a car is a disincentive and the increased transit funding would be an incentive. Pretty straight forward.

  • CeeBee September 16, 2014 (7:48 pm)

    Murray has threatened to veto the micro housing legislation? Where can I read about that?

  • YeloRose September 16, 2014 (8:28 pm)

    Parking shouldn’t be treated as a non-moneymaker. Almost every apartment I’ve looked at the last few years had an additional charge if I wanted to park in the building. If they didn’t rent all the spaces to the tenants, they rented them out to the public.

  • John September 16, 2014 (8:41 pm)

    Your assumption that the parking is a public good that certain people should be limited from using(late comers cause all of the problems) is exactly why it should be treated as a commodity with everyone paying actual use costs. You park on the street, you pay.
    This would encourage people to utilize their garages and driveways as intended. It would also get a certain number of people to give up a second or third vehicle as statistics show the number drivers going down while car ownership increasing.
    Of course it might eliminate car ranchers, motor homes and trailered boats now parked for extended periods illegally.

    Economists agree that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Their is no freebie to developers. The free market demand will determine the price and whether one wishes to pay for a parking spot.

    With parking and transportation as bad as claimed people with cars will make other choices and move where parking is available. As those frustrated with the expense and inconvenience of parking move out, those with no cars will fill in.

    For the hundreds of people right here in West Seattle, that work here but can’t afford a car and the bus takes too long to commute to Federal Way or further, why can’t they have the opportunity to rent here without being charged for parking space they have no use for?

    In the case of these West Seattle micros if they have some residents that as I described, live and work in the Triangle, Junction, Admiral areas and chose not to own a car, walk or bike to work, then why should they be penalized with special transit fees that they have no use for?

  • pupsarebest September 16, 2014 (9:03 pm)

    “Can the traffic get any worse?”


  • jw September 16, 2014 (9:07 pm)


  • wetone September 16, 2014 (10:08 pm)

    Regarding Murray’s letter, who’s padding his pockets or does this have to do with his new housing program for people that he wants to give free housing to ? This city is in some big trouble with Murray in office. The way he is trying to and raising taxes here we will all qualify for free housing very soon. Totally irresponsible or lack of knowledge management.

  • Mark h ws September 16, 2014 (10:29 pm)

    For the love of freshman econ, please never call curb parking a public good again. By its very soul it is excludable and rivalrous

  • Joe Szilagyi September 16, 2014 (11:01 pm)

    @Ray: “It is sad that the city council refuses to require that ALL housing (houses, condos, microhousing, whatever) MUST include at least one parking spot per unit. No exceptions.
    Otherwise these units just spill into the main streets anyway, especially as many couples have two vehicles.”
    What do we do with houses with no driveway, no alley access, and where their front yard isn’t a flat level because of hills? We have lots like that in Seattle. Will they be required to dig out their yards, build garages, or whatever is required? Such a restriction to be fair would need to apply to all existing structures, not just new ones, or else those of us with houses already get an unfair edge.

  • Badger September 16, 2014 (11:45 pm)

    Live in one of these micro studios and will say parking is horrible where I’m at on Avalon Def built for commuters on bus and transit. I don’t like bikers

  • WestofJunction September 17, 2014 (6:18 am)

    Joe, these cover new developments. Development rules change over time. Don’t be silly. Retroactive changes rarely occur.

  • datamuse September 17, 2014 (8:14 am)

    I find the idea of microhousing in our neighborhoods very disturbing. The increase in density and noise will totally destroy the feeling of a neighborhood.
    I kind of find this line of thinking disturbing. We do live in a city, after all.
    But, you could come down to Highland Park. It’s still mostly single-family houses down here. Plenty of parking, too!
    The noble idea that these houses will appeal to those without cars is total BS.
    Oh, I don’t know. Everybody I know who lives in one doesn’t have a car.
    I don’t like bikers
    Sorry you feel that way. Fortunately for you, I live nowhere near Avalon, so you can easily avoid me.

  • John September 17, 2014 (8:36 am)

    One thing you rarely find here is how the problems came to be. And yes, they did exist prior to the recent boom.
    Years of political passivity and lax enforcement have led to the current parking woes. The hubris of established residents, as so commonly expressed here, has led us to expect free available parking simply because we were here first. Never mind that we all share responsibility.

    The simple equitable solution is to charge for all on street parking.
    This would be fair to those who own a house without off street parking as well as everyone else as those owning a house without car parking already received a discount in lower purchase price as well as continued lower taxes.

    A good local example are the empty public streets of Fauntleroy. This area adopted residential pay parking permits to discourage ferry commuters from stashing cars overnight in the neighborhood. Even the relative wealth of Fauntleroy residents has not lead to most buying street parking. They park off-street and street parking has largely been abandoned.

  • au September 17, 2014 (12:04 pm)

    This is more than about parking. For me this is about developers making a lot of extra money without having to provide anything for infrastructure needs.
    I can’t recall the exact numbers off the top of my head but I do remember that the price per sq ft for these so called affordable living places is significantly higher than most anything on the market.
    It just sucks that there is so much development happening in Seattle right now, a lot of money being made here, yet its the property owners and residents that are picking up the tab for the infrastructure to make all this happen.
    All this development has consequences and it seems that the cost of these consequences aren’t being accounted for. Instead DPD is allowing development to happen without any seeming concerns for the neighborhoods and communities.
    If more people in less area means more bus riders than why isn’t that a cost to developers who profit handsomely from constructing these high density micro units. Why is it the bus rider who needs to bear more of the burden and not those who profit?
    Also I wish the falsehood that these are somehow affordable would just end. They are NOT affordable.

  • higgins September 17, 2014 (2:26 pm)

    Glad to hear about the two sink requirement. Out of curiosity, I toured the Footprint building on Avalon when it opened and was a little sketched out that there was only one sink in each unit. I’m by no means a germophobe, but it just seems common sense that bathroom and food prep areas should be kept separate.

  • sam-c September 17, 2014 (3:57 pm)

    I don’t think that parking near Avalon is at capacity yet. I think there are people using Yancy as a park and ride, catching the RR in the morning.

    ie, I drive through in the mid-day and both sides of the street are full of cars. Drive through there around 6:30 or so and all the cars are gone. If the micro-housers parked there, people would have to find another spot for makeshift park and ride.

    (I mean, that area is nothing like Capitol Hill yet)

  • John September 17, 2014 (7:58 pm)

    @ au,
    The cost per square foot comparison is a well worn fact that has little to with affordability. Of course the cost of construction per square foot is higher in a smaller unit all things equal.
    Now to that higher cost of construction, add parking @ $100,000 per space and charge renters for that even if not needed and things really get un-affordable.

    Affordability has to do with the actual price one pays. Here in Seattle rents of $800 -$1000 are more affordable than the now average rent of $1100.

    In demonizing developers absolutely no facts are presented, just that someone is making too much money.
    How much is too much in this town of Amazon, Microsoft and Starbucks?
    Should developers be singled out and limited in income unlike any other private sector business?

    The consequences were here before the current cycle of demand and the sooner we all take responsibility, rather than point fingers, the better our city will be.

  • au September 18, 2014 (1:37 pm)

    I am not demonizing developers. I think the responsibility lies with the city that’s why I mentioned DPD.

    I feel any company that profits while the residences pick up the tab for extra or more infrastructure should be contributing to the cost of that infrastructure.
    Also I thought parking cost was $40K not $100K.

    Now since providing parking isn’t always required is this savings being passed on to the future renters? If its assumed that these folks will take the bus or bike is the developer required to help offset those infrastructure costs? It seems to me that certain consequences of development aren’t being factored into the equation, instead the cost gets born by the community and not those profiting.

    And No, $800-1000 is not affordable for a tiny space with a shared kitchen.

  • Diane September 18, 2014 (1:42 pm)

    @higgins; I also toured the Footprint at Avalon and was shocked at how tiny the units, how high the rent, how narrow the stairwells, how tiny the common kitchens (which the leasing manager told me “no one uses”); and no sink in bathrooms; do you really want someone putting their poopy hands on the kitchen sink handle? very common sense health issue

  • Diane September 18, 2014 (1:45 pm)

    @John; where are you getting “add parking @ $100,000 per space”; every architect/builder/developer I’ve talked to says it’s average $30k per underground parking; and the developer is pocketing that money, while tenants with cars are now parking on city streets, paid by all of us

  • Diane September 18, 2014 (1:49 pm)

    and btw; the Footprint at Avalon that I toured, rents were $900 for the teensiest room, and $1200 for the tiny room with ladder up to tiny bed loft; NOT affordable

  • John September 18, 2014 (5:22 pm)

    A good primer on costs of underground parking.

    If anyone knows of any architect/builder/developer that can add underground parking for $30,000, please share their names?

    Also King County info on urban parking price (that’s not even high priced Seattle) is now $344 per month.
    “The unbundled price of parking per stall is based on the location of the parcel(s) selected (Suburban = $242/month; Urban = $275/month; CBD = $344/month).*” –

    Why will no one comment on the people that live, work and play in our community, and have no use for garage? If they can not afford a $1,200 – 1.400 apartment that includes one parking space, would a $900 apartment without parking be affordable?

  • au September 19, 2014 (7:54 pm)

    ah but the microhousing units aren’t apartments
    they are tiny living type situations
    which should come with a tiny type rent too
    because NO, a small space to lay my head and shower for $900/mo is NOT affordable.
    also, what does this do to rents for family living situations if a microunit is upwards of $900/mo?

    these type of developments don’t seem right to me
    it seems like we aren’t setting ourselves up very well for the future. i hope i am wrong…

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