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Back-and-forth debate over backyard cottage rules in Seattle continues

A public hearing was held at Seattle City Hall around whether to expand backyard cottages within city limits.

SEATTLE — A public hearing was held Tuesday at Seattle City Hall around backyard cottages within city limits.

Seattle is considering changes that would allow backyard cottages to expand to 1,000 square feet, up from 800. The buildings could also be 1-2 feet taller than current regulations. It's part of a plan to deal with the city's housing crisis.

The backyard cottages, also known as Accessory Dwelling Units, received a lot of support from people who showed up for the evening meeting.

"The benefits of ADU's outweighs the negatives," said one woman.

Another person stood up and said, "Me and my family live in a quadruplex that started out as an ADU. We are in a former garage, and it has allowed us to live in a walkable neighborhood that we wouldn't have access to otherwise."

Martin Henry Kaplan of Seattle said he see problems with the proposal.

"The proposal before you today dismantles these regulations that guided our research and founded the current code," he said during the hearing. 

Kaplan cautioned the city council to not be reckless.

"I want to see us include neighborhoods in the discussion," he said.

John Keatley has a backyard cottage that he had built seven years ago. He is an artist and currently uses the space to create. However, Keatley and his wife have talked about using it to provide housing.

"We would love to. The added income would be fantastic. I think what is difficult for us is that we need the space," he said.

Also, taking on a tenant comes with more city rules.

"I think the city is talking out of one side of its mouth about wanting to become more urban and reducing cars and parking and stuff, but then you have this rule where you can't have a backyard cottage without a parking space right now," Keatley said.

Making adjustments to loosen limits on backyard cottages will be discussed next week at City Hall. Councilmember Mike O'Brien said his proposal also aims to discourage so called "McMansions."

A vote on proposed amendments could happen on July 1.

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