The Seattle City Council on Monday approved temporary zoning changes that intend to make it easier for people to start businesses out of their homes and garages.
The changes, which are slated to be in effect for one year, would ease four restrictions that limit what sort of businesses can operate in residential neighborhoods.
Currently, home businesses can see customers by appointment only; can have only one outside employee; can have only very small signs; and cannot displace parking spots.
All four of those restrictions would be eased.
The Council passed the legislation 8-1 Monday, with Councilmember Alex Pedersen the sole no vote. Pedersen had previously expressed concerns about effects on existing small businesses and increased traffic in neighborhoods.
Mayor Jenny Durkan supports the legislation, her office said.
Councilmember Dan Strauss, the bill’s lead sponsor, said the bill is a narrow effort to boost small business creation and that there are still “many layers of government” regulating businesses, homes and otherwise. Commercial deliveries will remain limited at home-based businesses, and they still can’t produce noise, light or odor that would impact the neighborhood.
While billed as a way to help businesses get off the ground without the costs of commercial rent, the changes come in response to one specific business.
Yonder Cider launched last year just as the pandemic was shuttering bars and restaurants. The company began selling to-go cans of cider out of the owner’s Greenwood garage, a block from a commercial district.
Neither the state health department nor the state Liquor and Cannabis Board objected, but complaints from a neighbor led the city’s Department of Construction & Inspections, which oversees land use and zoning, to look into the business. They were forced to close down the location in February. Since then, they’ve been able to reopen, contingent on the passage of the legislation easing the restrictions. They’ve also signed a commercial lease for a taproom, with plans to open this summer.
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of home-based businesses throughout the city that are in the same situation as Yonder, Strauss said, technically out of compliance with city code.
“What opened my eyes is we have many different home occupancy businesses that are not operating to the letter of the code and could be shut down if they were cited,” he said. “This bill is more than just about Yonder, it’s about the opportunity to start and grow a business that can soon grow to fill a vacant storefront down the block.”