Whether you want to avoid State Environmental Protection Act (SEPA) Review.
In a correction notice from the DPD for one building, it was noted that the loft area could be used as another bedroom, and that this would lead to the dwelling units being considered as having nine bedrooms, which would cause it to be classified as a congregate residence, which classification would make the project subject to SEPA review. Given this warning from the DPD, the remark of Councilmember Sally Bagshaw regarding her tour of a microhousing unit is of considerable significance and irony: “It’s definitely small, maybe 250 or 300 square feet, but the one I went into had a little loft area for sleeping,…” The full report of her tour can be found here. It seems that the crucial behavior during the review of a project by the DPD would be for a developer to assert that the loft will not be used as a bedroom, regardless of the subsequent reality.
On another project, the developer was advised to limit the size of the lofts to the size of a bed. Using a bed as measure of acceptability in this case, when it was used as a measure of unacceptability in the case above suggests a lack of consistency in how the DPD handled project reviews.
Another Loft Issue
In those buildings with units on the fifth story which included a loft, correction notices from the DPD often referred to the size of the lofts, noting that the lofts could not exceed 50% of the area of the room below. Developers were warned that oversize lofts would lead to the lofts being counted as a sixth story. On the plan drawings at least, those requirements appear to have been met.
Useful definitions for understanding this post:
Correction notice: Request to the developer for correction of errors found by the DPD during plan review for code compliance. Many of the microhousing projects had multiple and lengthy corrections notices. Some errors were cited multiple times in multiple notices before the developer corrected them, if the developer ever did.
Congregate residence: From Seattle Municipal Code Section 23.84A.032 “R” residential use: “Congregate residence” means a use in which rooms or lodging, with or without meals are provided for nine or more non-transient persons, not constituting a single household, excluding single-family dwelling units for which special or reasonable accommodation has been granted.