On September 27th, the Astoria Planning Commission (APC) voted to continue their public hearing on the proposed amendments to the city's development code dealing with accessory dwelling units (ADUs) and tiny homes. The continuation of that hearing is scheduled for this Tuesday, October 25th at 6:30.
Those of you who have been following the process will notice when you look through the newest APC agenda packet that the specifics of the proposal have evolved. Many of the recent changes to the proposal seek to resolve public concerns about ADUs being used as short-term rentals and to address parking issues.
The primary historic preservation concern I am hearing from LCPS members is that the construction of ADUs above garages and the building of detached ADUs and/or "tiny homes" in people's yards would negatively impact the historic charm and character of Astoria's residential neighborhoods.
As currently proposed, detached ADUs and "tiny homes" would be considered new construction and if located on the same lot as a historic landmark, adjacent to a historic landmark, or directly across the street from a historic landmark, would require design review by the Historic Landmark Commission.
Unfortunately, there are areas of significant historic resources that have yet to be identified and documented through an official historic inventory. Owners of "historic" properties that have yet to be designated as landmarks (as well as their adjacent neighbors) will be free to build these accessory dwellings without design review or guidelines (unless they are in an overlay zone that requires additional design review).
City staff assert that allowing the creation of ADUs will make preservation more affordable for historic property owners. One finding within the Staff Report and Findings of Fact (located in the APC agenda packet) is that, "The ability to use land efficiently will allow property owners to use the proceeds to fiance improvements to existing historic structures. It would also allow adaptive reuse of existing houses to provide income for the building owners and in turn will facilitate restoration and maintenance of historic homes in various zones."
These are complex development issues and opinions differ on how we can encourage economic growth, create additional housing options, and still preserve the historic homes and neighborhoods of Astoria. I encourage LCPS members to read through the proposal and to attend the public hearing on Tuesday. Please consider how these changes will impact existing neighborhoods. Please publicly share your concerns and verbalize your support of, or your opposition to, these amendments.
To those members who do not live in Astoria, I have no doubt that similar issues have already (or soon will) impact your area. Please share your experiences with us.
In preparation for the APC meeting, LCPS's Advocacy Committee will be meeting on Sunday, October 23rd at 2:00 PM (389 12th Street). All members and friends are invited to attend. We will also be gathering at the LCPS office on Tuesday at 5:30 PM for last minute discussions prior to the Astoria Planning Commission meeting at 6:30.
Rachel Jensen, LCPS president