Dan Duffus-style development is officially an emergency, says Seattle City Council. In a unanimous vote, the council approved a measure that will immediately suspend a zoning code loophole that has allowed Duffus, and an array of other builders, to erect three-story houses on undersized, backyard lots.
A slew of media quickly put together stories on the controversy. Tangletown resident Peter Krause, who has been galvanizing opposition to backyard homes ever since one began going up a couple doors down from him, says he woke at 4:30 up yesterday morning to find a news crew broadcasting on his street. "Quickly shaved, popped a breath mint and did an on-air interview at 4:45," he says. Krause and neighbors like him hold that such projects are monstrosities that block their sunlight and privacy.
Some bloggers, though, have reacted negatively to Conlin's measure, saying, like Duffus, that undersized lots allow for urban density in a city bereft of building space. (See posts in PubliCola and the Seattle Transit Blog.)
Meanwhile, Duffus has been circulating an e-mail in the real estate community, calling the bill a "taking" without "due process" that would most severely impact senior citizens (his reasoning being that seniors own many of the lots that are being subdivided). He asked for help in lobbying the council.
Conlin put out a statement in response. "Contrary to some of the misinformation that is circulating about this legislation, it does not prevent development on small lots," he wrote. Rather, he said, it affects only lots allowed by an obscure provision of the zoning code--usually lots that were long considered part and parcel of a larger property until a developer found a record of them in historical records.
"In some cases these lots were actually created by mistake when lot descriptions on more than one line were transcribed from hand-written records as two separate lots," Conlin said.
By yesterday morning, it seemed that neighbors opposed to small-lot development were winning the PR war. Conlin says the roughly 160 e-mails and phone calls he had received were running seven to one in favor of his bill.
The afternoon vote mirrored that trend. Nearly all the public speakers, including Krause, urged council members to pass the measure. They did. The council now needs to decide on whether the moratorium will become permanent.
Previously on Daily Weekly: