Neighbors start yard sign campaign against 'monster houses'

by: David Ham Updated:

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Dozens of neighbors in Maple Leaf have yard signs on their front lawns saying "no means no" and "stop monster houses."

"Suddenly we came home one day and there was an excavator tearing down the little garage that had been here," said Deb Sorenson, who has lived on Brooklyn Avenue Northeast for about 20 years.

She and other neighbors were surprised when construction started on a three-story house on a property that used to have a garage on the lot. The new structure towers over most of the other two-story houses on the block.

"It's just completely out of scale. It's like you'd expect a machine guns to come out of it," said Sorenson.

Even though the City Council put an emergency moratorium on side or back yard houses last fall, the developer's permit was approved before the deadline.

"We didn't know what else to do. We just thought anybody that is in a neighborhood like ours that is facing this that this can happen," said Sorenson.

Now the neighborhood is hoping signs will spread the word to other neighborhoods to continue pressing city officials to make it tougher to build these types of houses.

In West Seattle's Benchview neighborhood, homeowners thought they stopped a developer from building a third three-story house on a property where there was only one house.

Homeowners pooled together more than $30,000 to hire an attorney to take the developer and the city to court in July.

The judge ruled the third lot was too small for the third house.

However, the city's planning director Diane Sugimura said the city can adjust the boundary lines and will allow the developer to build the third house.

"Everybody is pretty incensed. We thought we won. It was affirmed we were right," said Dan Dennehy, who lives in the Benchview neighborhood.

He thinks the city is siding with developers.

"The city government should be working for the neighborhoods and the citizens of the community especially the planning department but they don't care. They work for the developers because that's who pays their bills," said Dennehy.

The City Council is considering extending the moratorium on back yard/side lot houses to go beyond Sept. 10.

The council will discuss the issue Tuesday afternoon.