Gwen Davis
Small lot development was the topic for the Seattle City Council on April 18. Council member Mike O'Brian at the head of the table chaired the meeting. To the left is council member Tim Burgess. The other participants make up officials engaged in this issue.

Small lot development regulations up for consideration: heated feelings on both sides of the issue

By Gwen Davis

Small lot development: is it efficient at providing people with satisfactory housing, or does it degrade the beauty and enjoyment of the neighborhood?

That depends on who you ask.

Last Friday, April 18, the Seattle City Council held a planning and development meeting, where dozens of people gave testimony for being pro or con the ‘One Home Per Lot’ effort, which advocates for permanent restrictions on the construction of new, tall houses in small lots.

The committee heard passionate testimony about how squeezing tall buildings into small lots harmed views and spoiled the beauty of the area. Those in favor of the effort said they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford living in their current residence.

Susan Neaton, Seattle resident is against the effort because the regulations wouldn’t make the situation any better.

“The City of Seattle can't come up with good design standards for other zones,” she said. “What makes you think they could do a decent set of standards for this?”
However, others feel regulations are necessary.

“Small is beautiful,” said a downtown Seattle resident who preferred not to be identified. “Can we get some height limits? I find shadowed streets with claustrophobic skyscrapers and McMansions way more offensive than little cottages in someone's backyard.”

“Seriously, I just came back from NYC and those sunny streets with big sidewalks were so refreshing,” she said.

Residents of the central district are given the short end of the stick, according to some.

“I go and visit a friend in the central district quite often,” said Mary Magenta, south Seattle resident. “Her view of the mountain has just now been completely blocked by a big box. Vistas are important to have, especially when you've come to enjoy it so.”

The committee will not make a decision until the beginning of May, at the earliest. Several different solutions are being considered.

This issue stems from a loophole that allows developers to buy historic properties and add a second house.

The loophole evoked contention last year when a certain development converted a backyard on Blaine Street into a legal, buildable lot. Frustrated neighbors came together with those in other neighborhoods who also experienced living with tall, crammed houses. They lobbied the council for a moratorium.

Since then, the topic and the council’s consideration of regulations have gathered intense scrutiny.

The four council members who are part of the Planning Land Use and Sustainability Committee are Mike O’Brien, Tim Burgess, Nick Licata and Sally Clark.

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