Interim measures approved for small lot development

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Seattle City Councilmember Richard Conlin
Department of Planning and Development Director Diane Sugimura


Interim measures approved for small lot development
City to evaluate small lot exceptions for single family homes

SEATTLE – The Seattle City Council today approved legislation that puts interim controls in place on small lot development in Seattle.

While the City has generally been supportive of urban infill development, some single family development approved under current lot size exceptions, has resulted in structures that are out of character with surrounding conditions and inconsistent with the policy intent for infill development. Interim measures were adopted today to allow adequate time for analysis and discussion of permanent standards.

“This legislation is not about density – the modest number of homes that can be built under this loophole are not a significant addition to the housing stock. And it is certainly not about affordable housing,” said Councilmember Richard Conlin, Chair of the Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability Committee. “Rather, it’s about replacing a random pattern with no rhyme or reason, dependent on a developer happening to find archaic lot lines that were not intended to define a buildable lot, with planning in a systematic and thoughtful way.”

Interim measures were adopted so that development is more proportionate to the lot size. The proposed interim measures would:

  • Limit application of the lot size exception to lots with an area of at least 50 percent of the minimum requirement for the zone; prohibit development on lots that are less than 50 percent.
  • Disallow reliance on historic tax records as a basis for qualifying for the lot area exception.

Limit the height of development on lots less than 3,750 square feet to 22′.

The City Council adopted the following schedule as part of the legislation, calling for the City to adopt permanent regulations within a year:

Draft legislation, SEPA checklist, SEPA decision and Director’s Report

September through December 2012

Public hearing on interim legislation in Council Committee

September 13, 2012, 9:30 a.m.,
Council Chambers

Publish SEPA decision

mid-January 2013

SEPA appeal period ends

end of January 2013

Mayor’s Office Transmits legislation to City Council

March 2013

Council deliberations, public hearing and vote

April through July 2013

Permanent regulations replace interim controls

August/September 2013

Lot size exceptions for historic lots were meant to preserve the investments of property owners who had acquired lots prior to the adoption of minimum lot size standards in the 1950’s. These exceptions have allowed development on some very small sites. This has resulted in complaints that houses on such lots do not fit in with their surroundings, and that in some cases the exceptions allow development of lots that were never intended for separate development.

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