I’d like to see a discussion about the provision in the zoning code that allows boarding houses in single family zones. Up to eight unrelated adults can live in a single family house. This allows investors to buy houses in single family zones and rent the rooms individually. Ironically, one of the tests for a house being a boarding house is that bedrooms do not have private bathrooms or cooking spaces. Therefore, a minimal amount of retrofit is required for maximum profit. No review is required for the increased density this creates in the neighborhood.
At a minimum, there does not appear to be an equal amount of scrutiny for increased density through this method as opposed to others (ADUs, etc.). Increased density has impacts on neighborhoods, which is why review processes are in place elsewhere. This seems to be a gaping hole in the zoning code. I’d be interested in hearing what others think.
Cheri sent along the Department of Planning and Development’s Director’s Rule 6-2012, which “clarifies the distinction between a single family dwelling unit and a boarding house for the purpose of applying the Seattle Building Code (SBC).”
From my perspective, density isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it can be a good thing: density fosters locals businesses to serve the growing number of residents, which makes the neighborhood more walkable and more interesting.
I also feel that the focus on “boarding houses” may carry a hint of unconscious classism, since it invokes “working poor” imagery, at least for me. If we were strictly worried about density, I would expect more of an outcry over the “aPodment” ultra-efficiency apartments such as the Footprint Wallingford. It’s 40 units of tiny, less than 300 sq ft apartments stacked 5 stories high in the heart of Wallingford.* That’s some density!
* I’ll admit to being a bit of a bad reporter here. I’m sure this was Footprint property (as articles like this can attest), but now there’s no mention of it on Footprint’s web site, nor any other obvious listing of it anywhere else. I’m writing this at 10:30 pm for publication in the morning, so I’ve done all the research I can for now, but maybe someone can let me know what’s happening with this property, and I can update this story?