City could ban big houses on tiny lots


by KING 5 News

Posted on September 6, 2012 at 7:15 PM

Updated Thursday, Sep 6 at 7:25 PM

Big houses on tiny lots - Seattle is considering emergency legislation to stop them from being built.

In one north Seattle neighborhood, where craftsman bungalows line the street, neighbors are fuming.

“These days I make a concerted effort because when I do, it gets my blood boiling,” said Peter Krause, homeowner.

Looming over Krause’s grassy back yard is a tall house on a tiny lot. It went up practically overnight in his neighbor’s backyard.

“It’s essentially building a three-story home on a piece of property you or I would put a greenhouse or a child’s play set,” said Krause.

Small lot development is happening all over Seattle - and it’s legal.

A loophole exempts certain lots created before 1957, when the city adopted its first zoning laws. These building lots were grandfathered in and have no zoning regulations.

“This property was probably remodeled and resold, and then this home was built,” said Gabe Rosenshine, land broker.

Developers are taking advantage of the loophole to build affordable housing for buyers who want a new home with no land. The tiny lot houses go for half the price.

“If we don’t have these types of housing, we are not going to see middle class people be able to afford to be in the city anymore,” said Rosenshine.

But is it fair to neighbors, who say the privacy invading monstrosities ruin their property values.

They’ve taken their case to City Council Member Richard Conklin, who has introduced an emergency law to ban tiny lot building.

“This is simply random old things people have dug up from old records. And this is no way to run a city. It should be according to law,” he said.

It’s a battle over property rights in a growing city, where there is little room to grow.

Also part of the debate is the homeowners, many of whom are seniors who have homes with large yards that could be buildable.

KING 5's Linda Brill and Liza Javier contributed to this report.

The Seattle City Council is scheduled to vote on the emergency measure on Monday.