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“Yes You CAN Fight City Hall: Lessons Learned From Seattle”

By On
• In Bellingham,

[NOTE! As of Jan 9 @ 9am, there are only 11 seats remaining for BNC’s January 11th event with Marty Kaplan. If you’re planning to attend, please reserve your seats now. Click HERE.]

In 2016, Marty Kaplan led the Queen Anne Community Council in their successful appeal of Seattle’s Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) proposal, which has been described as the city’s “largest rezone and redefinition ever.” Seattle’s proposal virtually ignored all potential adverse impacts of removing off-street parking requirements, allowing ADUs on smaller lots, increasing the height, bulk, and scale of ADUs, and other changes that lead to further displacement of vulnerable populations, tear-downs, and speculative development of income properties. A similar effort is underway in Bellingham to rezone city-wide, effectively ending any semblance of single family zoning.

[NWCitizen journalist Anne Mackie and I have reported recently on this runaway process: City’s First Step to Rezone/Upzone Single Family Neighborhoods & Don’t Ballardize Bellingham]

The Bellingham Neighborhood Coaltion, leading the fight against this citywide upzone, has invited Mr. Kaplan to share his experience and advice on January 11th during an engaging dialogue as the citizens prepare for Bellingham Planning Commission’s ADU Public Hearing on January 25th. [Agenda packet not yet posted.]

As we are facing a Seattle-like DADU upzone, what adverse impacts will this upzone cause? Will the city address the problems of over-densification, parking, congestion, tree canopy loss, noise, and removal of open space?

What recourse do citizens have to prevent this citywide upzone? Why have some in city government abandoned the social contract that provides some reasonable certainty that the valuable property rights of homeowners will be protected? What about the constitutional principles of fairness and due process?

Is the DADU upzone simply the Trojan Horse that leads to the legalization of all Infill Toolkit housing forms in single-family neighborhoods? Is this the beginning of Bellingham being Ballardized as city leaders legalize the bulldozing of historic housing stock to be replaced by duplexes, tri-plexes, four-plexes, townhomes and apartments?

You can join the BNC on Thursday, January 11, 2018 @ 6:30 pm at the Bellingham Central Library Lecture Room, 210 Central Avenue. TO RESERVE YOUR SEAT: Please use this Reservation Form and complete a separate reservation for each person attending.

About Dick Conoboy

Editor • Member since Jan 26, 2008

Dick Conoboy is a recovering civilian federal worker and military officer who was offered and accepted an all-expense paid, one year trip to Vietnam in 1968. He is a former Army [...]

Comments by Readers

Dick Conoboy

Jan 04, 2018

Here’s a PDF of the Jan 25 Planning Commission hearing packet, including the staff report and ordinance.  Not having obviously learned from the Seattle experience, our planning department issued a Determination of Non-Significance (DNS)  along with the environmental checklist indicating that since the ADU legislation is non-project specific, there are no effects of ADUs on the environment.  Seriously?



Tim Paxton

Jan 12, 2018

Q: Since ADU’s are supposedly affordable, should there be a cap on their rent? 

I.e. I think $200 or 300 per month is kinda affordable for many seniors, students.

Council should be happy to write up a nice rent control portion and declare it has no significance.


Dick Conoboy

Jan 12, 2018


Unfortunately, rent controls are not legal in Washington State since 1981.  Here is a short article on the topic.

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