Reader view: Little houses in Edmonds

These are some houses in downtown Edmonds: all within a few blocks of the ferry. You probably have not seen them, because they were all built in backyards

Since the Bracketts, the people of Edmonds have added small houses to their lots. Do your kids need a place to live while they get on their feet? Build living quarters over your garage. Does your mom need a place to stay? Add a little house out back. Nowadays, the name for these kinds of houses is “accessory dwelling units.”

This week, Edmonds City Council is considering allowing more “accessory dwelling units.” If you feel you should be allowed to add a little house to rent out (or maybe live in while you rent out your big house), let city council know that you support accessory dwelling units.

— By Nick Maxwell

Nick Maxwell is an Edmonds resident


      1. Yes. The pink cottage is remodeled inside and ready to rent. Contact Sandra Bellingham with Champions real estate

  1. With the cost of housing in Edmonds and how much it goes up every year, Yeah I support them as a Edmonds native since 1956

  2. ADU’S are nothing but a tax grab for the city, did any of you move into your neighborhood say of 25 homes at the Edmonds car per house limit of 4 so upto 100 cars and now if you think this is a winner add another 50 potential 50 cars to that, Look Edmonds doesn’t have the infrastructure to handle what we already have, If you want backyard Homes go to Ballard to get a real look of the end result, Don’t allow Edmonds to become a dumpster, if you add density without the means to handle the added services it will fail, I do hope 75 percent of the residents will say NO to back yard housing. This idea isn’t the solution to the GMA that the city is required to impose, creating affordable housing doubling the city size by 2030? (not sure of the exact date )or lose government funding, Just be honest with the people! Tell us the real reason all of a sudden growth of this city matters? 15 years still no multi model, No bridge or tunnel over the tracks 80 years, a failed waterfront and the Center for the Arts building that cost us anywhere from 250k to 500k a year to keep open, yes I enjoy plays and music there but the bleeding has to stop.

    1. I want to get this backyard shed thing from Lowes, it called “The Studio”, and it’s about $8000 after being built on your property. I want some space to work, until the kids go back to school. I ♡ Edmonds.

      1. You don’t need a permit for a shed under 200 SF. The Edmonds city code is pretty liberal on this. But you can’t use one as a living quarter.

    2. I don’t agree with you on this. There are no recurring taxes or fees for an ADU so I don’t see how the city directly collects much more tax. Your house value and property taxes may go up but we found from appraisers that is very hard to put any added value on a home if it has a permitted ADU. There are permit fees (about $1k) and you may have to do some code upgrades. We just did this on our home in 2019. It’s not a trivial process to get it permitted. We had to do a lot of upgrades to be code compliant despite that our home’s original owners designed it to have the basement be an ADU when it was built in the late 1970s’.

      As far as parking goes, you are required to have 3 OFF-STREET parking spaces to get an ADU permit.

      The main reason for it is to have a mechanism to have more affordable rental housing the area and allow people to make some rental income in retirement.

      The Edmonds ADU codes does NOT allow separate “backyard cottages” – they must be within or attached to the main home. This is different than what some parts of Seattle allow.

      Here’s the Edmonds ADU summary:—Accessory-Dwelling-Unit.pdf

  3. I just saw an ad for a company called adobu based in the Bay Area… they just expanded to Seattle. This is their thing. They aren’t cheap but they do everything from pull permits to construction and it’s done in 12 weeks.

    1. I’m interested to learn more about the adobu company you just mentioned. Are you sure you spelled the name the company correctly? I would to reach out to them. Pls let me know how I can connect with them. Thank you

      1. Sorry it was ABODU. Like abode. It’s really cool. They have studios, 1 bedroom and two bedroom products. You put in your zip and they can tell the status of your community.

      2. Welcome to a city of renters….we all know what that means, more parked cars, junk in yards, RIP to yards that children get to play in. Greed has taken over and this may make Edmonds that small town we don’t want to live in anymore. Ballard does it and people’s views are getting blocked.

  4. Looking forward to rent, this is great opportunity for young adults who is just starting they’re journey.

  5. With respect to single family housing areas, the City Code appears to allow ATTACHED dwelling units (ADU’s) “while preserving the character of single-family neighborhoods”. The Code also includes a sentence “there is a density limitation and its purpose is to ensure that the approval of an accessory unit shall not increase the overall density…”
    The Citizen’s Housing Commission (CHC) will propose to the City Council to allow DETACHED units on single-family properties. This is another proposal ( by the CHC to increase housing density in single family areas. Increasing housing density may just incrementally and irreversibly change the character and charm of Edmonds…

  6. My parents had a little house in the backyard of their 1920s style home at 610 Glen Street in Edmonds. We called it a guest cottage, and 58 years ago my children and I found it handy as temporary housing when we had to rebuild our lives. Now the house and the guest cottage are both gone, replaced many years ago by a condo.

    1. Ms. Gaeng, Thank you. It is good to hear about how things were when Edmonds was growing into the wonderfulness it is now.

    2. I think there are any number of family situations where an additional space can be useful. – young families, aging parents, etc. Lynnwood’s code requires that the property – either the DADU or the original home be owner occupied. I think that is great, because it still supports family ownership as opposed to commercial ownership.

  7. They are considering changes to the zoning in edmonds to remove all single family home zoning. We do not have the infrastructure in this city to handle more multiple family dwellings. Think about how crowded schools are already and we failed that last levy for the school district. Not to mention sewers, water treatment, garbage and neighborhood parking.

    This is an attempt to get a larger tax base for the city but I have seen no plans that would support the level of growth over the next 5 to 10 years should traditional neighborhoods start to sell out and more home built.

  8. I do not support allowing either one attached or detached accessory unit on a property in single-family zoning areas. The density increase could and will impact traffic, schools, environmental issues, and property taxes. Opens the door to Bed & Breakfast units throughout a neighborhood. Seattle neighborhoods (e.g. Green Lake, Queen Anne, Ballard) have experienced the impact of that outcome–traffic, parking, neighbor disputes and a change to the character and charm of the neighborhoods.
    Edmonds meets Growth Management goals with our existing zoning. Current city laws have a process in place for application of adding a building to single family lots through a process so why make it a single-family zoning change.
    78% of people taking the first CHC survey said it was important to preserve single-family zoning. The surveys have been ignored by the CHC. There is no data to suggest that CHC received significant feedback and support from the Edmonds community to justify citywide up-zoning of all single-family zoning in Edmonds.
    Hopefully, we all get involved in understanding the impacts of these proposed changes to our town.

  9. ADUs (Accessory Dwelling Units) are already permitted in our code, with specific conditions, including that the property owner sign an affadavit that they live in the main house, or in the ADU six months or more of the year.

    Here is a link to ECDC 20.21 Acessory Dwelling Units:!/html/Edmonds20/Edmonds2021.html

    Detached Accessory Dwelling Units (DADUs) are currently not allowed unless a detached cottage or unit existed before current code and have been grandfathered in.

    1. Thank you, Ms. Bloom, for the correction. “DETACHED accessory dwelling units”. Sorry about the wrong language

  10. Thank you Betty Lou, you and your family are poster children for Edmonds History. Your house went from ONE home to TWO within our standard 9-12,000 lot size and finally FOUR when your lot was converted to condos. Parking was clearly considered with off-street parking and the new building seems well within Edmonds bowl standards. I have an Edmonds single family home on an over 9000ft lot and have one car and four off street parking spaces, “covering Ottos valid concerns.” I’m not allowed to build a guest cottage to rebuild my family’s lives and now as our teenager begins to develop her independence am forced to consider moving away from Edmonds so I suppose I’m a poster child for our current state of affairs. Interesting times indeed.

  11. No it isn’t good for Edmonds at all. Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a big fall. Humpty Dumpty. And all of the Kings horses and all the Kings men could never put Humpty together again. Stop this no changes in lots at all!! LEAVE US ALONE.

  12. Some have commented about Edmonds population growth and the Growth Management Act Requirements. In the early sessions when it was easier to make public input to the Housing Commission I presented some data on population past present and future. I was later told my information was lost and did not become part of the public record. Here are a few data points that may help us all understand population and the GMA. By 2035, we are asked to accommodate our share of growth to achieve a total population of 45,550. 42,767 was our population in 2018. That is an addition of 164 additions per year. Other data I have seen suggest we are well along in meeting the 2035 target.

    Matt R. has pointed out that Edmonds has lots of empty bedrooms. I made the same point to the Housing Commission and the city data supported the fact that the average household is growing in size. With 21,000 households, how may extra bedrooms do we have, and can we accommodate 2700 new people without pounding a nail? My neighborhood has grown in numbers without adding and new dwellings.

    Our density will increase more without any policy changes. In the next 14 years we will already see the new construction at HWY 99. In 14 years it is very probably we will see growth at our other areas like 5 Corners, Firdale, Perrinville and maybe even back at Harbor Square.

    It would have been nice to spend more time at the beginning to more effectively sort out “what is the problem(s) we are trying to solve and gain more public agreement on that step before proceeding with the solutions presented no that have causes such a difference of opinions.

  13. Its a verrry slippery slope. My house backs on to one of the last alleyways in our town and because our building codes are all over the place, we now have 10 “dwellings” along it. There’s 26 total properties sharing the alley. There were bylaws in place but I dont think they were enforced as many of the dwellings are larger than the principal homes. Some are airbnb’s but those bylaws keep changing to.

  14. If anybody has one for rent (detached ADU), please let me know. I know someone who would love to rent one.

  15. (Off the Edmonds ADU online code

    Occupancy. Either the primary dwelling or the accessory dwelling unit shall be owner-occupied. “Owner-occupied” shall mean a property owner who makes his or her legal residence at the site, as evidenced by voter registration, vehicle registration, or similar means, and actually resides at the site more than six months out of any given year, and at no time receives rent for the owner-occupied unit. The owner(s) shall not rent the designated owner-occupied unit at any time during the pendency of the ADU permit; any such rental shall void the permit. The owner(s) shall not rent any portion of the owner-occupied residence either during the owner(s)’ occupancy or while the owner is absent from the owner-occupied unit for any period. In no event shall the total number of occupants exceed one family as defined in this code; provided, however, that if the accessory dwelling unit is occupied by a nurse or other caregiver assisting a disabled person who is an occupant of the principal residence, or the principal residence is occupied by a nurse/caregiver and the accessory dwelling unit is occupied by a disabled person under the nurse’s care, the occupancy limit of one family may be increased by one additional unrelated person to a total of one family related by genetics, adoption or marriage plus one unrelated person, or a total of six unrelated persons. In no event shall the total number of occupants exceed one family as defined in this code.

  16. We live in the single family zone near downtown Edmonds. Directly across the street from us is a “grandfathered” in rental property that consists of an older large home made into several apartments and what you might call a detached “tiny” home that is rented out.

    When a friend of mine owned this property, the city would not allow him to subdivide to build a personal home and retain all the rentals. Recently exactly that scenario was allowed by the city, although I don’t think the home built is occupied by the rental owners. I think they were allowed to sell the formerly sub size lot where a fairly good size home was built and retain the rental property. My point being, that increased density is already being allowed and, indeed, encouraged in our city. My friend, the former owner, lost thousands of dollars and the current owner was allowed to make thousands of dollars based on what? I’d say just arbitrary zoning decisions that changed over time. In the end the city is allowed to pick winners and losers in real estate financial matters and that is just plain wrong.

    In regards to the rental property being in what has become a single family neighborhood; I have absolutely no objection to it and the renters are invariably nice considerate people. The property is well maintained and is an asset to our community as far as I’m concerned. The sad fact is, the renters are usually friendlier and more pleasant than I am. (I’m working on that). The renter bashing in other comments here is pretty low class in my opinion.

  17. Thank you, Clinton, for voicing your objection to the renter bashing comment. I too felt it completely uncalled for. We all need to remember that if we have not walked in the other persons shoes, we don’t know their circumstances, and that is why we should refrain from judging.

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