Last week Nina Shapiro again wrote about the controversy surrounding Seattle-area developer Dan Duffus and the massive houses he's made a practice out of building on tiny, backyard lots. In the story's latest twist, Seattle City Council member Richard Conlin recently introduced emergency legislation to momentarily stop Duffus from the building practice until a more permanent solution can be found.
City Council member Richard Conlin has a message for neighbors who are furious with developers building big houses on tiny, backyard lots. "The heat is on," he wrote to Tangletown resident Peter Krause in a Tuesday evening e-mail.
In fact, Conlin has officially anointed the big-house-tiny-lot phenomenon--reported on in a July cover story by Seattle Weekly--an emergency. On Tuesday, he introduced emergency legislation that he says will address neighbors' concerns until a permanent fix can be worked out. The council is scheduled to vote on the temporary measure on Monday.
As our story explained, some builders--many of them financed by prolific developer Dan Duffus-- are using a loophole in the zoning code that allows them to erect houses on lots that fail to meet minimum size regulations. Most of these "lots" were not considered lots at all for decades, but were part and parcel of somebody's back or side yard. But in some historical document--a tax record, perhaps--fhey are recorded as separate, small lots. If developers can find the records, the city usually will grant them a building permit.
Krause and residents of other neighborhoods affected by Duffus projects have been complaining to Conlin and other city officials for months. To neighbors, the projects are sunlight-blocking, privacy-invading monstrosities that ruin their bucolic backyard experience. To top it off, they are offended by the modern style of many of these new houses, which in their view don't fit in with the historic character of their neighborhoods.
As has been fairly typical of the local reaction to Duffus' homes, Daily Weekly readers once again used Shapiro's most recent post as a chance to passionately vent.
Commenter westseattlebob writes:
It's only a "taking" when the homeowner knows about the tax lot loophole. Duffus relies on the fact that the seller of the property isn't aware of the "Hidden potential" of the tax lot loophole.
Dan Duffus has discovered a loophole to enrich himself at the expense of Seattle neighborhoods. Not a single house he has built has done anything but denigrate the architectural and cultural life of the neighborhood in which he has built it. The customers who purchase these skinny McMansions - green only in the sense that they make a pile of cash for Mr. Duffus - are essentially buying cheap into neighborhoods where the quality of living is high exactly because of the lack of density. By inserting themselves -through Duffus' handiwork- into these low density neighborhood they are benefiting at the expense of their neighbors. Watching the structure being built at 4810 NE 40th Street in the Laurelhurst neighborhood as it grows out of a lot just a few feet larger than the actual house is truly depressing. All of the neighbors whose property abuts the new lot oppose the construction of this house. Every single one! How will whoever buys and eventually lives in this house fit in to a neighborhood where they are not wanted?
Previously on The Daily Weekly:
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