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Seattle – Watch Us Grow – Part III: ADU’s & DADU’s Considerations and Requirements

Mayor Murray, the City of Seattle, and the controversial HALA (Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda) committee has been all over the news this summer as all entities move forward with changing legislation and policies to meet current housing demands. (We covered some of the issues in our previous posts: Seattle – Watch Us Grow – Part I: Housing concerns; Why home additions and conversions are rising to meet demand.” And, “Seattle – Watch Us Grow – Part II: Zoning, permitting, design and building issues; What are your options?”)

There were many items presented and addressed in Mayor Murray’s recent Action Plan, and  September 1, Mayor Murray and Councilmember O’Brien introduced legislation to build new affordable housing. Read about it here. This will be an on-going discussion for legislative consideration. While this will change the fabric of new development and  increase affordable housing opportunities,  the discussion has increased the demand for additional housing in the form of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU’s) and Detached Accessory Dwelling Unit’s (DADU’s.)

Mayor Murray’s ‘roadmap’ calls for increased “Diversity and Flexibility of Single Family Areas.” It states,”Single Family areas can welcome more housing options within the scale of the existing neighborhood, such as cottage housing, small duplexes and backyard cottages.” The professionals at live-work-play are often asked about the possibilities and potential considerations for a property owner to initiate new construction or renovate an existing structure.  Here are some things to consider:*

  • Even if your lot is 4,000 square fee or greater, do you have extra space to share?
  • How will your neighborhood look with an ADU or DADU?
  • Will the design maintain your privacy and that of your neighbors?
  • Will you rent the unit? Who is your potential renter and can you build to meet the demands of the rental market?
  • Will you have time to care for and maintain an additional unit?
  • Can you convert an existing detached garage?
  • Will you consider “Green” design components? Universal Design components?
  • Besides the exterior and interior work, are you prepared for the disruption of extending the sewer, water, and electrical connections?
  • Will you want to have separate meters installed?
  • How will tenants access the unit? Side yard? Alley?
  • What professionals will you need to hire to design and build the unit?

While we’re focus on City of Seattle requirements here, keep in mind every city and county jurisdiction has its own code requirements and permitting process. (Many will be very similar to Seattle and we’d be happy to help  you  investigate those areas!)

The current requirements in the City of Seattle for permits include that you, as property owner, or your property co-owner, must occupy either the main house or the attached or detached ADU for more than six months of each calendar year; you or your property co-owner who live on the property have a 50 percent or greater interest in the property; and that you meet the required standards and codes.*

More specific current requirements for ADU’s (attached):

  • An ADU is limited to 1,000 square feet in a single-family structure and up to 650 square feet in a rowhouse or townhouse in a lowrise zone
  • The ADU must meet current standards of the Seattle residential, building, mechanical, electrical and energy codes
  • One off-street parking space is required for the ADU except for a rowhouse or townhouse in designated urban villages and urban centers and in lowrise zones.

And for DADU’s (detached):

  • The minimum lot size required for a DADU is 4,000 square feet in single-family zones
  • A DADU is limited to 800 square feet of gross floor area, including garage and storage areas, in single-family zones and 650 square feet in a lowrise zone
  • The DADU must meet current standards of the Seattle residential, building, mechanical, electrical, energy, and environmentally critical areas codes
  • One off-street parking space is required for the DADU, except in designated urban villages and urban centers and in lowrise zones.

Before you move forward, you might want to speak with your neighbors, think about the issues they could be concerned with, e.g. parking, construction disruption, window light, access to the sun, noise and views. What could hinder their livability?

Then of course you need to consider costs.**

Hard Costs:

  • Demolition
  • Site preparation
  • Utilities
  • Construction (materials and labor)
  • Landscaping

Soft Costs:

  • Financing (second mortgage or construction loan)
  • Professional design and engineering services
  • Planning
  • Building permits
  • Development fees
  • Utility hook up fees

(Read the live-work-play post here for answers to the question “How much will it cost?”)


Check out past, current and future live-work-play ADU and DADU projects for ideas and inspiration.  The professional architects of live-work-play will help you determine the steps necessary to complete a project; from site plan to best positioning and location, to privacy and parking access. We’ll help you design your project with all components and specifications that a contractor would require to build. Through our professional relationships and partnerships in the community we can connect you to a general contractor or sub-contractor, a landscape architect, an interior designer, specialty professionals for green building systems, top engineers and salvage experts.


Call or e-mail live-work-play now to discuss your new design or remodeling project. 206.726.0077

Article references content from City of Seattle:
**“A GUIDE TO BUILDING A BACKYARD COTTAGE,” June, 2010; City of Seattle; Seattle Planning Commission; Department of Planning and Development.



















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Seattle – Watch Us Grow – Part II: Zoning, permitting, design and building issues; What are your options?

The City of Seattle is continuing to move forward with changing legislation and policies to meet current housing demands. We covered many of the issues and concerns in our previous post, “Seattle – Watch Us Grow – Part I: Housing concerns; Why home additions and conversions are rising to meet demand.” Read post here.

Here, in “Seattle – Watch us Grow – Part II,” we’ll share the current status of the zoning issues that are being addressed by the Seattle City Council and staff.  In the next post in our series, “Seattle – Watch Us Grow – Part III: ADU & DADU Requirements and Considerations,” we’ll give you a summary of requirements for obtaining a permit, and considerations for design and construction.

Mayor Murray’s 28-member HALA (Housing Affordability and Livability Committee) has been meeting the past few months with direction to provide a set of recommendations to the Council for approval. They’ve been working in seven smaller, strategic ‘deep-dive’ work groups, focusing on specific areas. Recommendations were expected at the end of May, but the Mayor has extended the deadline to end of this month (June, 2015) for more fine-tuning from the committee. The discussion is continuing, with some controversy, to meet the initial demands required of HALA along with input from neighbors who don’t want “more people or more buildings.” HALA is determined to present recommendations providing increased livability to residents, meeting their live and work needs, while keeping the balance of the neighborhoods. Read about HALA here.

One of the strategy work groups is “Zoning and Housing Types,” which is examining code requirements and barriers standing in the way of increased production of a broader variety of housing.

Two areas under consideration for changes are cottages and Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU’s). Revisions to the code are needed to make it easier for the development of cottages in single-family neighborhoods. Currently, code allows for construction of ADU’s and DADU’s (detached units) but development has been lacking and building criteria has been limiting.

As we all plan and anticipate what recommendations will be presented, and what will be implemented by the City, those of us in the A/E/C industry (Architecture, Engineering and Construction) move forward presenting opportunities and choices to our clients meeting their individual housing demands. (One example, the use of a clerestory, a windowed wall above eye level, should be given a more flexible design standard.)

No matter the reason for your need to build an ADU or DADU, (see previous blog post) we want to help in your decision process by providing the necessary information to get started.

Live-work-play continues to work with clients to meet their personal needs in this ever-growing community.  Read our blog post coming soon, “Seattle – Watch Us Grow – Part III: ADU’s & DADU’s Requirements and Considerations.” And you can be sure when any news hits our desk from the Seattle City Council or the HALA Committee we’ll keep you informed.  In the interim, feel free to call or e-mail us for an initial consultation.


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Seattle – Watch Us Grow – Part I: Housing concerns; Why home additions and conversions are rising to meet the challenge

“As the fastest growing city in America, Seattle is undergoing record growth and development.” Mayor Ed Murray

Since the nationwide housing collapse in the mid 1990’s through the 2000’s; the economy has become more stable and we’ve seen significant growth, and the construction industry and real estate and mortgage industries are recovering.

The City of Seattle and surrounding communities, as I’m sure you’ve probably heard and read about from numerous sources, sees thousands of additional residents moving into the area each year, raising demand and creating exceptionally high costs for new home purchases and barely attainable options for rental units. You may have seen the article in the Puget Sound Business Journal on the home in 1,100 square foot home in Ballard that sold for $717,000. According to a report by GeekWire this past March, Seattle ranks No. 10 when it comes to the median price of a one-bedroom apartment at $1,600.

In 2014, population was estimated by City of Seattle staff to be 640,500. (The 2010 population count of 608,660 was 8% higher than reported in 2000.) King County forecasts the county’s population will grow from about 1.9 million persons in 2010 to about 2.4 million persons in 2040. City growth targets estimate 47,000 additional households between 2005 and 2024 with 29,330 net new housing units added from 2005 to 2012 (about 62 percent of the 2005-2024 target).

What does all this mean for live-ability in the City? It means the building landscape will change significantly. Single-family dwellings in dense, populated neighborhoods will be transforming into new styles of living to meet demand. We’ve already seen a rise in multi-family housing, and can’t walk a few blocks without seeing construction cranes. There are high rise apartments and townhomes, micro-housing (or tiny) efficiency apartments, boarding house type developments. Then there’s the trend for co-housing in outlying areas (e.g. Vashon Island); communities of private homes with shared facilities. Multi-family housing is booming!

In fall of last year, to address these housing concerns, the Seattle City Council passed Resolution 31546 creating The Housing Affordability and Livability Committee (HALA). Asked to identify ways to deliver housing affordability across all income levels, the Committee will look at every piece of the housing puzzle, including incentive zoning rules, the potential for linkage and impact fees, the impact of accessory dwelling units (ADU’s), new efforts to preserve existing affordable housing, opportunities to stretch our valuable Housing Levy dollars using public-private partnerships, and more. After public meetings over a period of several months, HALA has been tasked with evaluating potential strategies and delivering a set of recommendations. As of this writing the committee has presented some recommendations and solutions to the Council and action is expected soon.

Smart Growth Seattle, a local advocacy group, is also becoming prominent in their collaboration with home builders and community stakeholders to help government adopt codes that are appropriate for meeting housing demand and preserving neighborhood character and managing growth.

More and more residents are looking for housing alternatives, and renovating homes is becoming ever more popular. Millennials, young single professionals, parents with young children and boomers with aging parents are seeking new solutions for changing lifestyles, additional income, work-at-home options and intergenerational family living.  Those in the architecture, construction, engineer and contractor professions are seeing increased demand for multi-family dwellings; duplexes, triplexes, mother-in law wings; single person apartment add-ons and backyard cottages.

Live-work-play, continues to work with clients to meet their personal needs in this ever-growing community.  In my next blog post, “Seattle – Watch Us Grow – Part II,” I’ll talk about the different options and what type of structures or additions you should consider for your property including Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) and Detached Accessory Dwelling Unit (DADU.) We’ll talk about zoning, permitting, design and building issues. And you can be sure when the news hits our desk from the Seattle City Council chambers we’ll keep you informed.

Call or e-mail live-work-play now to discuss your new design or remodeling project; 206.726.0077 or


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