Seattle City Council eases path for small home businesses in residential neighborhoods

Seattle City Council eases path for small home businesses in residential neighborhoods

Seattle City Council on Monday approved temporary changes to the zones that are designed to make it easier for people to start businesses from their homes and garages.

The changes, expected to stay in place for a year, would relax four restrictions that restrict what types of businesses can operate in residential neighborhoods.

Currently, private companies can only see customers by appointment. can only have one external employee; can only have very small characters; and cannot move parking spaces.

All four restrictions would be relaxed.

The council passed the bill 8: 1 on Monday, with council member Alex Pedersen being the only no. Pedersen had previously raised concerns about the impact on existing small businesses and the increased traffic in the neighborhood.

Mayor Jenny Durkan supports the legislation, her office said.

Councilor Dan Strauss, the main sponsor of the bill, said the bill is a tight effort to drive small business creation and there are still “many levels of government” regulating businesses, households and other areas. Commercial deliveries to domestically based companies remain limited, and they still cannot create any noise, light, or odor that would affect the neighborhood.

While the changes are billed to help businesses get started without the cost of commercial rentals, they are made in response to a specific business.

Yonder Cider kicked off last year when the pandemic closed bars and restaurants. The company began selling take-away cans of cider from the owner’s Greenwood garage one block from a business district.

Neither the state health department nor the state alcohol and cannabis department had objections, but complaints from a neighbor prompted the city’s Department of Construction and Inspection, which oversees land use and zoning, to look into the business. They had to close the site in February. They have since reopened, pending the passage of laws easing restrictions. They also signed a commercial lease for a taproom due to open this summer.

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of home businesses across the city in the same situation as Yonder, Strauss said, technically non-compliant with city law.

“What opened my eyes is that we have a lot of different companies that don’t work by the letter of the code and could be closed if quoted,” he said. “This bill isn’t just about Yonder, it’s also about the opportunity to start and grow a business that can soon grow to fill a vacant storefront on the block.”