Marty Kaplan is bothered that people think the Queen Anne Community Council is opposed to backyard cottages and mother-in-law units. That’s not why the council is challenging a final environmental impact statement that would clear the city to make such housing easier to build, he says; it’s because the city is eliminating single-family zoning.

“It’s plain and simple — it’s against the law,” said Kaplan during last Wednesday’s QACC meeting.

Accessory dwelling units are allowed citywide, but with restrictive development standards. Property owners also must also occupy one of the housing units as their primary residence for at least six months each year.

The Seattle City Council approved a resolution in 2014 directing the planning department to explore policy changes that would increase development of attached and detached accessory dwelling units (AADUs and DADUs), and the Office of Planning and Community Development issued a determination of non-significance in June 2016, which was appealed by the Queen Anne Community Council.

“We proved 17 points, and we prevailed,” Kaplan said.

The Seattle Hearing Examiner decided in December of that year that the city needed to do a full environmental impact statement (EIS) based on concerns surrounding land use, housing and socioeconomics, parking and transportation, aesthetics, and public services and utilities.

The FEIS for accessory dwelling units was published on Oct. 4, and a preferred alternative was identified that would allow one attached accessory dwelling unit (AADU) and one detached accessory dwelling unit (DADU) on a minimum lot of 3,200 square feet in  single-family zones, or two AADUs. No off-street parking would be required, and the property owner would not have to live on site. They would have to retain ownership of the property for one year before building a second ADU.

Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien is pushing for increasing the city’s housing supply with more ADUs. Kaplan said the preferred alternative ignores all of the comments O’Brien received from concerned residents when the issue first came up. He said it treats Seattle as “one homogeneous, flat piece of ground.”

He blamed O’Brien for the first appeal, saying the councilmember refused to compromise. Kaplan did not say during the meeting what would be an acceptable compromise.

Kaplan said the traffic study component of the FEIS also did not gather data from denser neighborhoods like Queen Anne.

“On some specific blocks in the study area where on-street parking utilization does, or will in the future, exceed parking supply,” the FEIS states, “localized impacts on the availability of on-street parking could occur.”

Leading the appeal for QACC, Kaplan said the community council has been mischaracterized as a bunch of NIMBYs.

The community council held a citywide meeting on Nov. 1 to discuss the appeal and hear from other Seattle residents.

Queen Anne resident Andy Fessel, who lost a bid to join the community council board on Wednesday, said he’s trying to build a backyard cottage on his property. He spent $1 million for the property, he said, and expects to spend another million to build the backyard cottage. If the city were able to implement the preferred alternative, he could add another 200 square feet to the cottage, he said, which would make a great difference in terms of comfort for him and his wife, he told the Queen Anne News.

Andrew Koved, a community council member, and one of the few who rents, said after the meeting he is not in favor of the appeal, which he believes is delaying the inevitable at a time when Seattle is dealing with an affordable housing shortage.

The FEIS states 1,970 ADUs would be created between 2018 and 2027 if no regulation changes were made, compared to 4,280 under Alternative 2, 3,400 under the third alternative and 4,430 with a preferred alternative. These alternatives would also reduce the number of teardowns of existing houses, according to the FEIS.

QACC member Trevor Klein told Kaplan during the Nov. 7 meeting he was concerned about the language being used on the council’s appeal website at Klein said he felt the communications coming from there made it sound like the council was saying the FEIS found no impacts from the ADU proposal, when it actually states there would be little impacts.

“Mike O’Brien’s legislation is now rapidly moving forward to eliminate every single-family neighborhood and convert your property to tri-plex zoning!” reads a portion of the homepage.

Construction of accessory dwelling units would be up to property owners.

“I kind of welcome going through it line by line,” Kaplan said, later adding, “I do have to say, the language as it exists right now is very intentional.”

Because the appeal is more complicated than the appeal of the Determination of Non-Significance in 2016, Kaplan said the cost of pursuing this fight will cost a lot more. He estimates about half of the cost to continue the appeal has been raised through donations.

The community council and the City of Seattle’s representatives met for pre-hearing before the Seattle Hearing Examiner on Thursday, Nov. 8, to set a timing for the hearing and submit the list of witnesses that would be called to testify.

QACC is being represented by attorney Jeff Eustis, who said he expects it to take up to six weeks for the first receipt of public records requested for the case from the City of Seattle. Tadas A. Kisielius, an attorney with Van Ness Feldman LLP working with the City Attorney’s Office on the appeal, said the appellants had requested every email regarding ADUs going back to the beginning. The Hearing Examiner was already booked through the end of January. The ADU FEIS hearing was set for March 25-29.

Eustis said QACC is interested in participating in a settlement mediation. Kisielius said he had no direction as to whether that could be pursued, but that it could be taken up at a later date. The Hearing Examiner does not handle mediations.

Find case files for this appeal here.