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Council News Release

11/2/2009  3:10:00 PM
Dan Nolte, Clark Office, (206)684-8802 Dana Robinson Slote, (206) 615-0061

Councilmember Sally J. Clark

Council unanimously approves code revisions on backyard cottages
Amendments on construction of detached accessory dwelling units provides more housing options

SEATTLE The Council today adopted legislation to allow the construction of backyard cottages on eligible lots in single-family zones throughout the city. Backyard cottages also referred to as detached accessory dwelling units, have been permitted in Southeast Seattle since 2006, and approximately 20 have been constructed since that time.

This is a smart and modest step to create affordable housing options, help someone pay their mortgage, get older on their property, or to make a room for a son or daughter moving back home," said Councilmember Sally J. Clark.

After more than a years work involving public testimony, surveys, meetings in the community, briefings, and tours, the Council voted to carry over the development standards from Southeast Seattle to the rest of the city. Backyard cottages will be limited to 800 square feet, including garage and storage space. The legislation also prohibits the construction of backyard cottages on lots less than 4,000 square feet or located in a Shoreline District.

The property owner must live in either the principle structure or the backyard cottage for at least six months out of the year. Other requirements include a side yard setback of at least five feet and limiting the total lot coverage of the principle residence, backyard cottage and any other accessory structures to 35 percent.

The legislation also states that if a homeowner currently has an attached unit, such as a basement or attic apartment, those homes would not be eligible to build a backyard cottage.

Amendments to the legislation include reducing the maximum permitted height to 22 feet unless the lot is at least 50 feet wide or served by a rear alley. It also eliminates the earlier proposed cap of 50 on the amount of cottage permits allowed per year.

We learned a lot looking at the cottages in Southeast and the older ones in the North neighborhoods, Clark said. This will be a tool that gives people a new housing option while preserving single-family density and building rules.

The full bill with amendments, C.B. 116528 is available on line from the City Clerk website .

Council meetings are cablecast live on Seattle Channel 21 and Webcast live on the City Councils website at Copies of legislation, archives of previous meetings, and news releases are available on Follow the Council on Twitter at and on Facebook at Seattle City Council.

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