Under current zoning laws, Bellingham homeowners are permitted to build Attached Accessory Dwelling Units (AADU’s) in their yards. The unit must be connected with a wall and a common foundation, IIRC. In practical terms, this means not very many have been built over the years they have been permitted. I know of only one in my entire neighborhood (York). The City now proposes, in order to mitigate a housing shortage and a massive affordability crisis in the City to permit the construction of Detached Accessory Dwelling Units (DADU’s) in single family neighborhoods.
This seems to me to be a pretty good idea - given the astronomical house prices in town how on earth can a young family afford to buy a home other than by sharing their space with relatives or friends in order to cover the mortgage? And if they can build a small DADU or granny flat in their back yard, this can be part of a solution to both the housing shortage and the affordability crisis.
But the devil is in the details - I met a lady whose quiet enjoyment of her backyard was ruined by the neighbor’s construction of a massive DADU that both shaded her garden and destroyed her privacy with several windows that overlooked both her yard and into her house. Obviously this is unacceptable. And another unacceptable thing would be to permit commercial landlords to build DADU’s and further cement the grip of commercial rentals on our single family neighborhoods.
So my proposal for permitting DADU’s to take these factors into account would be:
1) Only permitting DADU construction by owner-occupiers;
2) Maximum DADU living space of 400 sq. ft. - no monster DADU’s;
3) No DADU windows can overlook their neighbors’ yards;
and 4) a new DADU could not shade its neighbors’ gardens between 9 am and 3 pm at midsummer’s day, the summer solstice.
A few explanatory comments:
1) In order to avoid stealth DADU construction by commercial landlords, renting the DADU as a separate unit would only be permitted to owner-occupiers.
2) the proposed 800 sq ft. limit appears to me to be excessive - it is certainly too much for the smaller lots in the older parts of town such as York or Sehome, where lots are in the 4000 sq. ft. range. However, perhaps larger footprints could be permitted on larger lots in, for example, Birchwood, where lots of a quarter acre or more are common.
3) It seems reasonable to me that a neighbor’s new DADU should not result in my every move in my yard being monitored by its inhabitants. This may well mean that a DADU can only have skylights for natural light, maybe a frosted bathroom window as well.
4) My own front garden is shaded by large trees and effectively moves us a full climate zone north - our plums and apples ripen about three weeks later than those on the next block. So my proposal is to provide a simple method of DADU height control based on an easily-measured shading indicator. And considering that we are near the 50th parallel, the time of year shading is measured is critical - I can shade my neighbor’s yard this time of year by sticking my head over the fence!
I think that with these safeguards to protect neighbors’ and community rights, DADU’s can provide additional housing in our housing-short town, help young families to afford to buy a house in town, provide employment for those very same young families, increase the tax base, and improve the housing stock, all with no government money and using private financing and labor.
However, to hear the people vociferously opposing DADU’s, they are the righteous fighting the invasion of the the most evil proposal that has ever infected City government. They are inviting out of town activists to bolster their cause, sponsoring petitions, and attacking proponents using insult and threat. I’m not naming any names in any of this, but these people are all retired, privileged and if not wealthy, very comfortable financially. I’ve been personally insulted by one of them on Nextdoor for daring to disagree on this issue - and he’s supposed to be a moderator on Nextdoor! One of my neighbors swears that one of these anti-DADU types turned him in to the City over some renovations he was doing to his back house. And another neighbor is afraid to speak up because he’s an AirBNB host and has had veiled threats (which I’ve also heard) “I don’t know why these AirBNB people are speaking up when they are operating illegal businesses”. All this is very disturbing - very improper shutting down of public debate using tactics that can only be called draconian.
I’ve been working up a collective name for the anti-DADU types - the “Axis of Nimby” is sort of applicable, but they are trying to interfere with YOUR private enjoyment of your private property - perhaps the “AXIS of NIYBY” (Not In Your Backyard)! And maybe this is the key to their methods - they don’t care about your private property rights - because they know better and are righteous and you are wrong and to be shut down by all means - which is why they use Stalinist methods - they are collectivists!
Well, they are wrong in my opinion. This is America, not a totalitarian state and private property is the basis of our economic system. And involving myself in this thing has given me more insight into what our public representatives put up with - just the rudest and most disrespectful behavior on a civil matter from people who should know better. Anyway, my message to the City is the majority of people who could and would benefit from DADU’s are too busy working for a living to stick their heads above the transom and take fire from the Axis of NIYBY. Stay the course, within reason, of course.