Two years ago, concerned about a dearth of bed-and-breakfasts in the Emerald City ("a low number for a city of our size and tourist appeal"), the Seattle City Council unanimously approved an ordinance that loosened restrictions on such inns, allowing them in neighborhoods of single-family residences. "I am reluctant to adopt a 'protectionist' attitude that uses the Land Use Code to artificially limit entry," said the bill's sponsor. Taking the city at its word, Julie and Blayne McAferty opened the Greenlake Guest House B&B, which the city is now trying to shut down, citing what it says were illegal exterior renovations: two dormers the McAfertys added to the second floor before opening the B&B.
According to the city's interpretation of Seattle Municipal Code 23.44.051(6), it would have been fine if the McAfertys had simply remodeled their home. Likewise if they had remodeled it and sold it to someone else who then used it as a B&B. Where they ran afoul of the law was in remodeling their home and subsequently offering rooms for rent. This interpretation is contrary to the explanation offered last year by the director of Seattle's Department of Planning and Development:
I understand that regulations pertaining to bed and breakfast use stipulate that exterior alterations must not be a part of establishing a bed and breakfast use. However, there is no restriction on how much time must transpire between making exterior alterations for a house remodel and establishing bed and breakfast use.
Under pressure from neighbors who object to the Mcafertys' entrepreneurship (because of unsolicited waving from the B&B's guests, among other reasons), the city has retroactively declared the inn illegal. Yesterday the Institute for Justice (who else?) announced a lawsuit challenging the B&B rule as arbitrary and irrational, citing Washington Supreme Court rulings overturning "unjust, unreasonable and discriminatory" regulations.