Letter to the editor: What a DADU did for my mom


My stepdad passed away a few years ago, leaving my mom with very insufficient income. We looked at many housing options for her, and even the best one would’ve taken every dime she had in about seven to eight years. Our whole family was worried sick about what was going to happen to her.

I discovered that being in unincorporated Edmonds, we could put a DADU (detached accessory dwelling unit) on our land, so I offered mom my big, beautiful yard. She did research and picked a builder, and bought herself a great tiny home using almost exactly what she made on the sale of her mobile home in Kenmore. The pandemic stalled construction for over a year, but we finally saw it done, and she moved into the last home she’ll own.

Now, mom lives just a few steps away, has a lovely yard to work in, is safe and happy, and when she’s gone, she’ll leave this cute little house to us, for my brother to move into. Had we not been in unincorporated Edmonds, my mom would’ve soon been broke, living far from us, in a place she would hate. It’s not a far reach to say the ability to do this saved her. At the very least, it’s making her golden years lovely.

As for me, I don’t have to drive to Kenmore to fix her computer anymore. Win-win!

There’s my experience, for what it’s worth. Hope someone finds this helpful.

Fred Good

  1. Many of us are in this exact same situation here in incorporated Edmonds, with aging parents who cannot afford to buy a house nearby for us to help them with their day to day as they age, but without us being able to build a DADU because of the older code here. Edmonds must start moving towards addressing the needs of this next generation of residents by having ways to help make the area affordable for our aging parents or whatnot to be able to be supported by us. Thank you for sharing this!

  2. It is a relief to have your family nearby and wonderful when they can have the independence of their own home. The direction things are going in Olympia, people living in Edmonds will soon have this kind of control over their own property too.

    1. Nick Maxwell,

      The housing bills will not increase “control over their own property.” Home owners will face increased property and utility taxes, which will further stress budgets, especially for seniors on fixed incomes. Financiers and developers will target SF home owners, buy up property and build “market-rate” homes which are not affordable for the “missing middle” or for middle income wage earners.

      Edmonds ADU code does not permit “detached” units. Fred Good’s mother “bought herself a great tiny home using almost exactly what she made on the sale of her mobile home.” The cost of a tiny home is less than what is currently allowed in Edmonds ADU code because the unit must be attached to the main dwelling. The same holds for less expensive detached modular units.

      Edmonds City Council could re-work its ADU code to allow detached units thus more affordable options to home owners so that what Fred Good describes could happen here. Updated ADU code, if done carefully, could increase affordable and multi-generational housing in Edmonds. Unfortunately, if the housing bills pass, Council will be too busy integrating state mandates into our code, and into our comprehensive plan, to be able to do so.

  3. Thank you for this letter, Mr. Good. Accessory Dwelling Units, whether attached or detached (ADUs or DADUs), can be a great housing or income option for many homeowners. ADUs are already permitted in Edmonds and DADUs were considered by the short-lived Housing Commission a couple years ago, but the issue stalled in City Council.

    Had I continued in service on the Edmonds Planning Board, I was intending to raise the DADU issue again. I’m confident they can be authorized and designed in ways that don’t change the character of Edmonds’ neighborhoods. We can allow DADUs and still preserve the “look and feel” of our great little city. I think it’s time for more civic conversation on DADUs. So thanks for raising this issue again, Mr. Good.

    1. I was so disappointed to learn that DADU’s are not allowed in Edmonds. Also, the required breezeway to attach a unit cannot exceed a maximum of ten feet.
      My daughter’s 9000 square foot lot could easily accommodate a detached unit. It would be less intrusive on her home environment, not cut off her light and give me more privacy. I do hope the current Edmonds Planning Board considers the many ways this would benefit so many families. Soon.
      ADU ordinances:

  4. OK. If they are 1 story. I think the concern to many is that what if they aren’t for Mom or Dad or any family member. What if they are not too stringent on who they rent and for how long. What if they are AirBaBs. With partying people? This is I think the most concerning. Rental properties generally require background checks. SO figure all this out and make sure it is a good plan and then let us know. I understand wanting your parents near you. I get it. There just need to be rules. A separate structure should require additional property taxes etc. I think. It also will have separate utilities and that is something to look at too. Give us more info on exactly how DADUs and ADUs work?

  5. Deborah,

    Here is a link to Edmonds’ ADU code:


    Under purpose:
    “The primary purpose of this chapter shall be to permit establishment of additional living quarters within single-family residential neighborhoods in order to (1) make it possible for adult children to provide care and support to a parent or other relatives in need of assistance, or (2) provide increased security and companionship for homeowners, or (3) provide the opportunity for homeowners to gain the extra income necessary to help meet the rising costs of home ownership, or (4) to provide for the care of disabled persons.”

    “1. An affidavit, signed by the property owner before a notary public, affirming that the owner occupies either the main building or the accessory dwelling unit for more than six months of the year.”

    Your comment, “If they are 1 story.” Code allows 40% sq.ft. of main home, maximum 800sqft. A 2-story, 400sqft/story ADU could be built.

    Code requires a “Conditional Use Permit” so neighbors can submit concerns. The Housing Commission recommended Council remove the conditional use permit requirement, but Council is under no obligation to do so.

  6. Thanks for this perspective. We have a child who will likely never live independently and would love to have the option to build a DADU on our property so he can have the most independence we can provide. It’s unfortunate that it’s not currently possible, hopefully someday soon we will have the option.

  7. Thanks for sharing this story, Fred! I’m so happy to hear that your family has been able to maintain connection, choice, and dignity around your housing needs. If the Citizen’s Housing Commission recommendations are any indication, detached ADUs have been a stated preference of Edmonds residents for more than two years now – I’m looking forward to more of them finding happiness like yours in the near future 🙂

    1. Mackey,

      You support the housing bills: https://myedmondsnews.com/2023/02/reader-view-a-letter-asking-state-representatives-to-expand-housing-choice-and-opportunity-in-edmonds/

      How do you resolve the contradiction that, if the bills you support pass, developers will bulldoze currently affordable single family homes and replace them with as many as four market-rate homes? There are widows and widowers living in homes in Edmonds, on fixed incomes and with their home/property their largest asset, who will feel pressured to sell. Have you researched how many previously affordable SF homes in Seattle have been replaced by market-rate housing? Or in Edmonds? Did Mike McMurray’s example of a 2 mil duplex on Howell Street replace a SF home?

      The Plantezin link you provided to me https://www.planetizen.com/blogs/100293-how-filtering-increases-housing-affordability presents a “filtering” theory that suggests the bills you support will increase housing affordability.

      “Filtering” is a theory, as Reagan era “trickle down economics” is a theory. The only filtering that would occur with the housing bills you support, is the filtering out of affordable single family homes.

  8. Loosening up the zoning to allow more DADU houses seems like a no brainer. It’s inexplicable why the City has done nothing about this. The City can impose setbacks, height limits, off street parking requirements etc to make sure the DADUs don’t overwhelm the neighbors. The City can limit or prevent short term rentals (AirBnB). There are plenty of codes regarding tree cutting, storm water, ECA, to avoid environmental impacts.

    The ball is totally in the City’s court when it comes to fixing the overly restrictive codes that prevent DADU houses here. The City is doing nothing about this except complain about the latest bills in the legislature (which were totally predictable, Marko was warning us for years) or try to get exemptions from the State’s proposed zoning bills.

    This issue did not pop up overnight, it’s been brewing for several years. But here we are, waiting to see what the powers that be in the legislature decide to do to our zoning. It’s starting to look like our City planners and leaders can’t walk and chew gum at the same time.

  9. The average “tiny home” is 225 square feet. Smaller than my shed. Not sure that is what Edmonds would want for an accessory dwelling unit – attached or unattached. Does the code for an ADU specify a minimum size? I’m not sure that most seniors would be comfortable with a living space that small either. I see no problem with an attached unit. A bit more privacy with an unattached unit, but that can be compensated for differently – such as a shared laundry room sitting between the home and the supposed attached unit. This should be allowed under the code. If it is not allowed to have a laundry space or storage area as the buffer between the detached unit and the main house, making it “attached”, I’m sure someone will let me know.

    1. Tracy,

      Tiny homes come in many sizes. Here is a link to WA state companies building tiny homes: https://www.tinysociety.co/articles/tiny-house-buiders-washington/
      Many of the above are 2-story, with lofts, which would not work for elders or the disabled with mobility issues.
      This link features 1 story units 19.5 by 19.5= 380.25 sq.ft.: https://www.boxabl.com/faq

      I have no affiliation to these companies. The links are from research I did a couple years ago related to affordable housing. There are more options since then. In fact, I read an article (in Apple News from CNBC, so unable to provide link) just last week about a woman who states: “I live in a $35K tiny home in my backyard in Atlanta, Georgia.” This woman literally purchased a large shed and “Overall, it cost me around $35,000 to build the home, which includes the prefabricated shed structure, labor and material costs.” She did this to allow her to rent out her 1400sq.ft home so that she could afford to live on her property.

      It would be well worth Council’s time to update code to allow truly affordable DADU options to home owners in Edmonds.

      1. Thank you Joan; you nailed this. Your last sentence expresses my thoughts exactly. A thoughtfully-written code amendment could address the issues and concerns that some people have about allowing DADUs in residential neighborhoods, and then allow homeowners to build one if their property is suitable. If I were a City Council member, this project would be on my priority list.

  10. There is a good argument both ways on the pro or con of this DADU issue, but I think it is fundamentally wrong and intrusive to allow the state to take over local control. (I will skip voting before I vote for any of the sponsors of these bills or this governor again). This is the state favoring certain groups of individuals over other groups of individuals. For example, it favors developers over already established residents and home owners with open spaces on their lots over owners who have built rather large houses on relatively small lots. If these state bills pass, a developer will eventually buy our single family home, demolish it, and build at minimum a duplex structure; but most likely a fairly large and tall upscale fourplex structure. That will be bad for the neighborhood and bad for the city as a whole, assuming you want the city ambience to be the same as it has been in the past. Density here is already pretty high if you really look around at what we have going.

  11. Hi Joan,

    I really don’t mind the idea of a “tiny home” in someone’s backyard, especially if it provides a home for someone who can live there happily. 335 or even 225 square feet would be enough for some people. I just hope that there are restrictions of some kind to be insure that the tiny home meets current code like today’s ADU so there is enough insulation, adequate heating/electrical and appropriate plumbing for sanitary facilities. No one wants the structure to become a detriment to the neighborhood or a danger to the person living there.

    1. I have a friend in Shoreline that built a moms home and it’s huge. In fact she and husband are moving into larger one and mom gets the old one. A lot smaller split level. I guess they don’t have size restrictions…

    1. Regarding if parent passes and concerns for who moves in (ie AirBnB), this is a valid concern.

      Still, this seems to be relevant to both attached/detached. Do we have data if attached units revealed this problem in Edmonds over the last 10 years?

      Also, should this concern outweigh the parent(s) not having a place to live in the last years of their life, or disabled children not having a safe place to live with their own family as adults? If so, why?

  12. I’m in the same boat! We would love to put a detached mini home in our big backyard for my mother.

    Does anyone know of the deadline for the new city comprehensive plan?

    1. The coming Edmonds Comprehensive Plan must be completed by the end of 2024. The Edmonds Planning staff and Planning Board are working on the plan now.
      If you would like to put a detached accessory dwelling unit on your property, it may be that you don’t have to wait that long. A detached ADU is a second unit on your property. House Bill 1110 and Senate Bill 5190 aim to allow you to do that. Both of those bills are now in committee in the Washington State House and Senate, and might be passed this year.
      In the meantime, it’s worth considering how different a detached unit would be compared to an attached unit. The substantive difference would be how far the unit is located from your main house, and whether you could walk there without getting wet when it is raining. An attached unit might work better for you, and attached units are legal now (with permits).

      1. Nick Maxwell,

        I suggest you read HB 1110. Your assertion:
        ”A detached ADU is a second unit on your property. House Bill 1110 and Senate Bill 5190 aim to allow you to do that.”

        is not accurate. Here is the actual verbiage related to Detached ADUs:

        In original bill, NEW SECTION. Sec. 3. , pg. 10:
        (5) Nothing in this section prohibits a city from permitting detached single-family residences.
        Substitute bill has the same verbiage on pg. 12:
        (8) Nothing in this section prohibits a city from permitting detached single-family residences.

        This means that Council could re-work our ADU code to allow detached ADUs NOW, unrelated to the passage of the house bills, and in preparation to support those who might feel pressured to sell their homes.

      2. Thanks, Nick. This is helpful.

        Joan raised a good concern.

        What is our next step to further along? Concrete steps are appreciated 🙂

        1. Next steps for 1110 and 5190 are that they have to be approved by their committees and passed out of committee before they can be voted on by the full house and full senate. Alternatively, they may be dropped by their committees and go no further.
          Next step for the Edmonds Comprehensive Plan is to finalize the vision statement that will help guide the plan’s development. The vision statement emerged from the visioning process that was run last year, and there is consideration of collecting more input.
          As far as the concern about the completion due date, I think we’re in agreement on that.

        2. Jessie, Nick and John Zipper,

          Passage of HB 1110/SB 5190 will have no affect on our ADU code, per the only verbiage about ADUs in the Second Substitute HB 1110, p.12:
          (8) Nothing in this section prohibits a city from permitting detached single-family residences.

          I was going to suggest that those who want the option of a detached ADU write to Council to request this now. However, if HB1337 (below) passes, it would be a waste of Council’s time. See Todd Tatum’s update on bills before the legislature:


          “Easing barriers to construction and use of ADUs: House Bill 1337
          – Also requires two ADUs per lot, limits city authority around assessing impact fees (more than 50% of primary unit); cannot require owner occupancy; and cannot require off-street parking. It restricts regulation of lot size, floor area ratio, setbacks, roof heights, how close the ADU can be to lot lines abutting alleys, etc.
          – Placed on House floor calendar”

          What does “requires two ADUs per lot” mean? Why would they require two ADUs when most people could only afford to build one? Is this meant to say allows, rather than requires? Really confusing.

        3. Joan,

          Your questions in this particular thread are insightful. Nick – do you have answers to Joan’s questions below?

          and how exactly do we contribute to Edmonds visioning statement for DADUs?

          What does “requires two ADUs per lot” mean? Why would they require two ADUs when most people could only afford to build one? Is this meant to say allows, rather than requires?

        4. I probably have answers. Could you help me out by restating what the questions are?
          I heard you were asking about next steps and I see you’re asking about how to have input on the vision statement.
          Did I answer your question about next steps? I’m glad to answer other questions as well.
          About input: the vision statement and the comprehensive plan are the responsibility of City planning staff and the City Planning Board. You are welcome to attend the planning board meetings. Every meeting includes a time for audience comments when you can provide up to 3 minutes of input for the board to consider. See https://www.edmondswa.gov/government/boards_and_commissions/planning_board for more information, and see http://edmondswa.iqm2.com/Citizens/default.aspx for more information about when meetings happen and how to join on Zoom.
          You also can email the Planning Board at planning@edmondswa.gov

    2. Jessie Up,

      Nick Maxwell is confusing the Comprehensive Plan with Edmonds City Code. The deadline for adoption of our 2024 Comprehensive Plan is December 31, 2024. For detailed info, see City of Edmonds website: https://www.edmondswa.gov/cms/One.aspx?portalId=16495016&pageId=18024615

      As I said below, in response to Nick Maxwell, Council could initiate the process to re-work ADU code to allow D(detached)ADUs now. The process to update code would involve our Planning Board and Council, and public hearings to afford anyone who chooses the opportunity to comment on the code being updated.

      If HB 1110 and SB 5190 pass, Edmonds will have to adopt mandated increased density into our Comprehensive Plan AND into our city code. We won’t have the opportunity to review any of the Edmonds Citizen Housing Commission’s recommendations, because our state legislators will have imposed their will upon us. They will have taken away local control of zoning.

  13. This is the current standing of HB 1110 and its Companion Bill: SB 5190. It includes links to House Bill Analysis, House Bill Report, as well as Housing and Appropriations videos of the hearing or floor sessions.

  14. Jessie,

    Answered my own question by going to the bill, which says “must allow.” However, it’s still confusing. See HB 1337, p. 5: https://lawfilesext.leg.wa.gov/biennium/2023-24/Pdf/Bills/House%20Bills/1337.pdf?q=20230301160520

    “(d) The city or county must allow at least two accessory dwelling units on all lots that are located in all zoning districts that allow for single-family homes in the following configurations:

    (i) One attached accessory dwelling unit and one detached accessory dwelling unit;
    (ii) Two attached accessory dwelling units; or
    (iii) Two detached accessory dwelling units, which may be comprised of either one or two detached structures.”

    The bills are confusing because they are legal documents.

  15. Joan, if you look at the staff bill reports, they do a pretty good job of wading through the legalese and summarizing what the bills will actually do. The frustrating part is once the bill gets to the floor and the amendments start flying around, there aren’t bill reports, but the reports will cover the substitute bills before the bill goes to the floor. Sometimes the sponsor will have one-pagers that their LA can send you, if you email. Another possible source of one-pagers is contacting lobbyists who testified at the hearing (their names will be listed in the bill reports and the PDC has lobbyist contact info). They often have one-pagers prepared.

  16. Kim,

    Thanks for that information. I’m on an email list which includes those of us who oppose the housing bills because they usurp local authority, and updates are provided by others. Edmonds residents and stakeholders, in conjunction with Council (input from staff/PB) as one can see from comments, are capable of crafting our own legislation.

    Attempts to rally more CON votes on the Housing bills have been successful. Edmonds’ CON votes to HB1110/SB5190, have increased dramatically with education about the negative impact of the bills. However, our legislators seem not to be listening. And, as you said “once the bill gets to the floor and the amendments start flying around, there aren’t bill reports” so we don’t know if the process will continue or…?

    If the bills pass, Edmonds will be expected to integrate the mandates into our Comprehensive Plan update, which must be finalized by Dec. 31, 2024, a year and a half away. Our code will have to be changed as well. None of that will happen overnight, as some suggest.

  17. An important paragraph in this bill and in HB 1110 makes exempt any of the increased population from these DADU/ADUs or any of the middle housing types in HB 1110 that forces cities to eliminate SF zoning to allow “more than” two, four or sixplexes per lot, from being included in our population growth numbers to plan for GMA targets. This additional population burden will be forced on our cities in a very compressed timeframe, without any public engagement.

    This would add exponential growth on top of our population growth numbers already given to us by the county. How can Edmonds plan for these outsized population increases within our already dense town with aged infrastructure and services at capacity, compromising our health and safety along with overcrowded schools?

    People will be forced to live on top of each other without proper city and county services keeping pace. Minimal environmental protections are included in these bills as current SF lots will need to be cleared out fully to take away yards, trees, etc to build all of this additional housing in a vacuum.

    See Section 4 in S2HB 1110 and Section 3 (3) in now Engrossed HB 1337.

  18. Joan, you’re welcome. I’m in the PRO camp and have been lobbying to that end with others in Edmonds. I’m also in the part of Edmonds that’s in the 21st district and so my representatives may be more responsive than those in the 32nd when I contact them.

    Different opinions aside, I think one thing both sides can agree on is that more information from the legislature that’s presented in an easy-to-understand format and language is a good thing.

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