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Seattle City Council to weigh code changes to micro-housing

Buildings full of so-called micro-dwellings have been going up in parts of Seattle, but not without controversy. Now the Seattle City Council is getting ready to consider changes to the code to provide more oversight. 

People want to live close to downtown Seattle, but there’s not a lot of affordable housing. So developers have been building so-called micro-housing—buildings with as many as 64 single bedrooms, each with a private bathroom, but sharing eight common kitchens.

They’ve managed to build these without design review because Seattle counts the number of kitchens—not bedrooms—for the threshold that needs a design review. Neighborhood groups have complained, and now the city council is taking a closer look.

The Seattle Planning Commission, which advises the city council and the mayor on development issues, is recommending changes on micro-housing, including requiring design review.

The commission's chairman, David Cutler, says that’s only fair, since apartment buildings with bigger units must go through the same process.

"I think it’s important for the city to think carefully about how it prioritizes one housing type over another," Cutler said. "Essentially, buildings that have larger units potentially for families with children would be subject to a longer entitlement process that these smaller units simply don’t have to go through right now."

Design review allows input from the public. The city’s Department of Planning and Development is also making recommendations on micro-housing. They say the buildings need more room for bicycle parking. They also set a minimum size for the common kitchen.

The city council's Planning, Land Use and Sustainability committee will discuss the recommendations at a meeting on Friday. 

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.