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‘McMansion’ ban, new rules for backyard cottages enter home stretch

Seattle Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda posed this image of a backyard cottage in Seattle. (Teresa Mosqueda, Twitter)

A measure easing restrictions on backyard cottages and banning “McMansions” in Seattle was passed out of committee on Tuesday, and will now head to the full council for a final vote, where it’s expected to easily pass.

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“Backyard cottages and in-law units provide opportunities for multigenerational housing, help us decrease our environmental footprint, and provide homeowners with a way to generate income — an important benefit as the cost of living rises in Seattle,” Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda said following the unanimous committee vote.

The proposed plan would increase the existing size of ADUs from 800 to 1,000 square feet, and allow them to be built on smaller lots. Both backyard cottages and mother-in-law units could be built on the same property, while the owner occupancy requirement would be lifted. The proposal also would crack down on so-called “McMansions,” by limiting the square footage of new homes relative to the size of a lot.

A trio of potentially controversial amendments failed to pass through committee, although SCC Insight’s Kevin Schofield noted in his own coverage that all three could still “come up for reconsideration when the bill is in front of the full Council on July 1.”

The first of the failed amendments would have prohibited “short-term rentals” for new ADUs, something often employed by homeowners going through AirBnB. The second would have required a homeowners to live in a home for a year before they could built a second ADU. The third would have upped the allowable square footage to account for indoor bicycle parking.

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The saga might not be entirely over if the legislation passes, though. As Schofield pointed out, neighborhood groups that oppose the measure could potentially “challenge the adequacy of the Environmental Impact Statement.”

“The Hearing Examiner upheld the EIS’s adequacy, but by law any further appeals must come after legislative action,” he said.

A recent analysis found that the measure would add twice as many ADUs over the next decade, up to 4,400 from less than 2,000. It also found the number of older homes being razed to make way for bigger homes would decline by 22 percent. If passed, the legislation will take effect after six months.

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