For three years (2012 to 2015), our group (representatives from 20 neighborhoods all across the city, backed by more than 600 supporters) worked tirelessly to educate the public, lobby the city council and work with the Department of Planning and Development to close the loopholes that a handful of developers were using to justify the construction of towering, three-story homes in the backyards and side yards of existing homes.
See how our efforts closed many of those loopholes.
See a summary of all that transpired during our campaign.
To counter our efforts, the developers hired a full-time lobbyist and formed a lobbying group with the appealing name Smart Growth Seattle. That group, led by lobbyist Roger Valdez, proved especially effective at pressuring city council members and confusing the public (see a summary of the misleading arguments).
In the end, our efforts to close the most outrageous small-lot-development building-code loopholes was so successful that the development of backyard / side yard houses in the city of Seattle has slowed dramatically — an accomplishment that made the developers’ lobbyist furious (see his angry blog post).
The mayor’s new plans
In June of 2015, Mayor Murray called for the Department of Planning and Development to be “dismantled.” Its director retired, and an all-new department was created (the Office of Planning and Community Development) to better plan neighborhood development. That seemed like a good step in the right direction.
But then in July of 2015, Mayor Murray said he was supporting a list of recommendations that would TRIPLE the housing density in single-family neighborhoods. According to the Seattle Times, the mayor’s plan to rezone all the single-family neighborhoods would mean developers could replace one single-family home (on a standard size lot) with three new, potentially much larger homes.
However, after Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat wrote several very critical columns about the mayor’s idea, and neighborhoods all across the city complained vehemently to the mayor and city council members, the mayor backtracked on his plans to “upzone” the city, but continues to push for other ways to build more housing.
Our group has disbanded. Our work to eliminate the most egregious small-lot building-code loopholes is finished. And we leave it to Seattle Fair Growth to battle against the mayor’s new development plans.
To see photos of side yard/backyard house projects, click here.
See all the news coverage this issue has generated.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to avoid living next to one of these projects.