Monday, April 13, 2009

Alice in ADUland

"We're all mad here."
- Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland, Ch. 6

Recent emails sent to me by homeowners on Iowa Drive describe having found themselves falling down the rabbit hole into ADUland [ADU – Accessory Dwelling Unit]. A long time problem home (described as having been occupied by squatters) on this quiet street abutting Whatcom Falls Park was sold in 2007 to an individual who announced plans to renovate the structure and to add an ADU. Relieved neighbors were happy to see someone who not only wanted to renovate the home but also was thrilled to be living near a park. The addition of the ADU was problematic from the start because of concerns over parking. Nonetheless, with the planned inclusion of a circular driveway and a four-car (tandem) garage, the ADU was approved by the city.

The owner moved into the main house and rented the ADU but over time this arrangement became blurred as the owner began to rent the main house, too. Since then, it has become a vacation rental that is advertised, even at this moment, on Vacation Rentals by Owner ( The four-car garage is now being used for storage according to Iowa Dr. residents thus negating a portion of the arrangement by which the ADU was approved. Cars now spill from the “circular driveway” into the street. The rental is currently being touted on VRBO thus: **Now accepting offers for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. The nearest venue, The Richmond Olypmic (sic) Oval, is only 48 miles from the home** Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Now the live-in homeowners on Iowa Dr. are faced with the fait accompli of an approved ADU. The owner of the property agreed to certain terms to gain approval from the city. He has, according to neighbors, moved into the ADU - sort 0f- but now seems to be ignoring both the spirit and the letter of that agreement and the law. (The owner must live in either the main house or the ADU. Click here to read the present code on ADUs.) Predictably, the neighbors are facing a time consuming and uphill climb in fighting for code enforcement.

Although this account is anecdotal in nature, it demonstrates that my warnings regarding these seemingly benign additions are valid. Once the Infill Tool Kit is approved and neighborhoods accept them as a means of infill, there will be Iowa Drives all over town. Given the city’s generalized hesitation regarding enforcement and the insufficient number of enforcement personnel, how will the character of our neighborhoods be protected? Enough to drive one mad, no?

[Do you have an ADU horror story? If so, send it to me at zonemaven AT hotmail DOT com.)


zonemaven said...

Update: I just received this from a resident of Iowa Dr.: "[The] owner of said house on Iowa obviously rented it out again this past weekend. A bus load of people were there and they parked the bus in St. Clair Park."

Buses? This landlord is running a business. No wonder the neighbors are up in arms.

mrostron said...

You might be interested in the recent discussion we have started at the Sunnyland Neighborhood forum here:

zonemaven said...

Thanks. I have been reading it with great interest!

upriver said...

Hi there,
I very randomly landed on this post here. I acutally own the house mentioned in your post on Iowa Drive. Why is what I do there any business of yours whatsoever?

If you have issues with the property I own or the guests we have, feel free to contact me directly. No need to gossip or speculate--I have no secrets and would be happy to address your concerns.

BTW, twice we've had a tour bus of friends come to town--maybe you saw them on the front page of the Bellingham Herald. They're known as March Fourth Marching Band. Not a business at all, but rather a volunteer service and hobby of mine, I book occasional music shows in and around Bellingham. That band has played a few sold out shows here in town and usually stay at our place when in town. Did you really think for a second that I was booking charter buses full of people to rent our house? Who does that?
Reach me directly if you wish to talk more: uprivererik (at ) gmail (dot) com

Also, my wife and I have always lived in either the main house or the ADU. At the moment we have two cars in the garage and none out front. Show me a house on our block that doesn't have cars parked along the street from time to time....

Would you rather we left the house to the squatters, junkies, and mail theives....?