Today's loser: Density, which lost on two counts yesterday.
First, microhousing, the sub-studio-size apartments that have been so controversial among single-family homeowners in neighborhoods like Eastlake and the University District, saw a setback this week as city council members decided on Tuesday to add new restrictions to the apartments, including new design review requirements that would, proponents argue, make it easier for neighboring residents to sue to stop the developments; and new minimum size requirements (285 square feet, to be exact) that would prohibit smaller (and cheaper) apartments).
At a meeting of the council's planning and land use committee last night, the public comments veered into odd territory, with (mostly self-identified single-family homeowners) decrying the "transients" and other low-class types who they believe will take over their neighborhoods if small apartments are allowed.
One such resident, Ballard homeowner Jan Katzenberger, said allowing microhousing in neighborhoods would be just like forcing neighborhood residents to subsist on ramen noodles, "and let me just give you a reminder of what ramen is. It's a dangerous, high-sodium product that has little or no nutritional value that people eat when they’re sick or it makes them sick, because it makes them feel full when they’re hungry. It’s the same thing with microhousing. People might not necessarily want it, but it’s all they can afford, so what you’re creating is a race to the bottom for unregulated boarding houses."Gary Friedman from the Roosevelt Neighbors Alliance compared microhousing to porn—"you know it when you see it"—and said that because of the three-to-six-story buildings, the city's "streets are being turned into canyons" filled with "stacked and packed monstrosities."
She added that the space used up by microhousing units "could be used for families" instead , a sentiment echoed by Capitol Hill homeowner Carl Winter, who called microhousing "unfair to those who want to build multifamily units that couples and families can reside in."
Meanwhile, Gary Friedman from the Roosevelt Neighbors Alliance compared microhousing to porn—"you know it when you see it"—and said that because of the three-to-six-story buildings, the city's "streets are being turned into canyons" filled with "stacked and packed monstrosities."
Roger Valdez, a consultant for Smart Growth Seattle, a pro-microhousing group, brought a sink as a prop to demonstrate the silliness of some activists' (and council members') concern that microhousing units should be required to have more than one sink. "We need to stop the micromanagement of microhousing," Valdez said.
Valdez (pictured in back in the ponytail, above, as Stand Up America activist Alex Zimmerman delivers a profanity-laced rant against the council) is also active in promoting small-lot development—small, tall single-family houses on so-called "undersized" lots in single-family-zoned neighborhoods in Seattle. As a result, he's pretty bummed that the city council yesterday voted for legislation that will limit the height and size of new houses on single-family lots, effectively excising around 250 lots from the city's current developable land.
An earlier version of the small-lot proposal would have required the maximum developable lot to be at least 100 percent of the "block face"—that is, the street-facing portion of a lot—as the average lot on a block. The new version eliminates that requirement and reverts to a complicated formula called the "75-80 rule," which requires a lot to be 75 percent of the size of the average lot on the block and 80 percent of the average block face. The new rules also impose complicated new regulations on the height of allowable new houses, based on the average height of the currently existing houses adjacent to the new home.