Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) are an affordable type of infill housing. They are small, include a bedroom, kitchen and bathroom, and can be either attached or detached from the main house on the property.


Brief History and Legal Issues of ADUs

Late last year, there was an article published in the Seattle-based online news forum Crosscut that provided a good history of how ADUs came into the zoning of may cities across the country, including Seattle. It also examines the role of individual cities in determining land use "regulations, conditions, procedures, and limitations" for ADUs as specified by Washington's Growth Management Act of 1994:

"The City Council will be more subject to court scrutiny if it ventures over the line into politically-driven, arbitrary limits to the cottage permit pipeline (such as the currently proposed 50 DADUs per year). The same would be true if Seattle emulates some other cities by enacting hoop-jumping ordinance provisions that — permitted in theory but impossible to build in practice."

Even though the 50 DADUs a year limit did not pass, this is still a great article, as it raises the point that regulations that can unnecessarily limit the success of ADUs are in the control of local municipalities, and we should be careful to watch out for when they appear.

Success of Seattle Backyard Cottages

Seattle's Backyard Cottages Program was highlighted in a recent USA Today article.

"The point is not just to allow the cottages, but to encourage them. 'I want to preserve rural areas around Seattle, and I don't want the suburbs continuing to march on without any limits. One way to do that is to add more density to these inner-city neighborhoods,' says Stoeck, 47, an architect."

Here's a little video about BYCs:


San Luis Obispo ADUs

San Luis Obispo County's website offers free plans for ADUs (which they call secondary dwellings). The site has a very simple layout that gives users quick and easy access to the plans and to assistance creating a secondary dwelling:

"In order to encourage property owners to build Secondary Dwellings, especially in
the urban areas, the Planning and Building Department sought to eliminate or
reduce some barriers to building Secondary Dwellings, such as architectural design
and engineering fees, permit fees, and the time it normally takes to process a
building permit by offering free building plans for Secondary Dwellings. The
Planning and Building Department worked with the local chapter of the American

Institute of Architects, the Workforce Housing Coalition and the Builders Exchange
to put on a design competition among local licensed architects, resulting in ten
winning home designs."

Olympia could definitely borrow from SLOs example, and we are beginning the process of organizing a design competition to hopefully provide the same access to plans.


City of Olympia to create an ADU program

The City of Olympia is beginning to create a program to assist homeowners who want to build an ADU on their property. It is beginning with an informational brochure that will be available in the Community Planning and Development Office (837 7th Avenue Southeast, Olympia, WA‎; 360- 753-8314‎), and later there will be an ADU manual that will outline all the steps necessary to build an ADU. There are also plans to host a design competition among local designers to come up with prototype designs for ADUs to be compiled into a book.

This blog was created as an online resource for information on ADUs and other uses of small home design by Cameron Hostetter for an independent learning contract at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA.