UPDATE: The council was not cowed by Mayor Murray's letter. In addition to unanimously passing new regulations on aPodments this afternoon, the council's land use committee added a series of amendments that put tougher restrictions on microhousing developers.
"Regulations are needed for this type of development, but our regulations need to help and not hinder the process and the outcomes we are hoping to achieve. And one of those achievements is more housing. That is a priority." —Mayor Murray
The baseline legislation brings aPodments into the design review threshhold, which aPodment developers had avoided since the microhousing innovation started getting popular almost two years ago by under-counting dwelling spaces. (Eight spaces, for example, only counted as one unit due to lax definitions). The legislation triggers design review by forcing aPodment developments to count each actual living space.
However, the council added a series of amendments to the legislation today—requiring two sinks, requiring .75 biking spaces per unit, setting a square footage minimum (220 square feet) as opposed to an average—that Murray opposed.
The full council will take up the legislation on October 6.
"You're clamping down on what can be built and that means bigger—and fewer—units," says developer lobbyist Roger Valdez. "They're eliminating supply."
As the City Council's land use committee was meeting today to vote on regulations for aPodments, Mayor Ed Murray sent a letter warning them against passing a series of amendments to the legislation.
The amendments, Murray worries in his letter would increase the price of the units.
Specifically, the amendments would: increase the number of sinks required in the units from one to two; increase the size of the required communal space (and not allow the laundry facility to count toward that calculation); increase the number of required bike parking spaces; and set a hard unit size minimum at 220 square foot.
O'Brien's current proposal sets an overall average square footage per unit at 220 square feet, which in theory, allows a range of smaller and bigger sizes.
Murray wrote today:
As you know, I sent down legislation, C.B. 118067 earlier this year. My intent was to better regulate the development of micro-housing and congregate residences by defining this type of development within the Land Use Code; prohibiting micro-housing development in single-family zones (congregate residences are already prohibited); applying a design review threshold by the size of the building (not number of dwelling units); and providing notice to neighbors as part of the Design Review process.
These were the concerns I was hearing and that is why I responded quickly with legislation.
Wanting to conduct more outreach, Council convened a working group to dig deeper into the issues that were of most concern. As a result of that stakeholder group, a substitute bill was introduced.
For the most part, I was supportive of the proposed approach of C.B. 118201, to regulate small efficiency dwelling units and congregate residences, though I was mindful about how more restrictive regulations could make these types of developments too cost prohibitive to build.
Several amendments are being considered at today’s Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability Committee. As you review the proposed amendments to the legislation, I urge you to keep the affordability issue in mind. I am concerned about indirectly regulating density through land use code standards related to storage space and other amenities, and the unintended consequences that may occur as a result.
Regulations are needed for this type of development, but our regulations need to help and not hinder the process and the outcomes we are hoping to achieve. And one of those achievements is more housing. That is a priority.
With that in mind, I look forward to working with you and the Housing Advisory Committee on the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda in the months ahead, and developing a bold and actionable suite of recommendations to increase housing affordability and options and neighborhood livability in Seattle.
Mayor Edward B. Murray
"Yeah," Murray communications director Jeff Reading tells PubliCola.