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Seattle officials take a crack at limiting 'McMansions'

Seattle City Council reintroduced draft legislation that would ease regulations on backyard cottages while limiting the growth of ‘McMansions.’

Seattle is taking another look at perhaps easing regulations on backyard cottages, which are often called mother-in-law apartments.

The city council reintroduced draft legislation which would allow for the expansion of backyard cottages, while at the same time limiting the growth of mega-mansions, or McMansions, on single-family parcels.

“[It's] an attempt to discourage these McMansions from being built and rather say if you want to build more square footage, why don’t you add accessory units as opposed to one big structure,” Councilmember Mike O’Brien said of the legislation.  

The complicated package has been on hold waiting for an appeal before the City Hearing Examiner over the environmental review of the legislation.

Also see | More backyard cottages may come to Seattle under new rules

O’Brien believes the legislation is an approach which could add 400 to 500 units of housing a year to the city while encouraging homeowners to maximize space with more than one living space.

O’Brien’s legislation, which is in draft form, would allow backyard cottages to be 1,000-square-feet instead of 800-square-feet, and be 1-2 feet taller than current regulations allow. It would also allow a homeowner to have a mother-in-law unit and backyard cottage versus one or the other.

Parking mandates would also be eliminated under the legislation.

“I see this as a good housing type that makes neighborhoods stronger,” said O’Brien. “We can allow that flexibility so homeowners in these neighborhoods can have this option.”

Also see | Tacoma moves to allow more backyard cottages

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