No Room for the Inn

|

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.

NEXT: Anderson Shrugged

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Why can’t you guys figure out how to put new posts at the top of the list?

  2. <offtopic>

    Warren,

    It looks like the times of the posts are consistent with the placement order. My guess is that the software they use to make postings sets the time of the post to when they “start,” not the time they appear.

    I’m more concerned about the lack of consistency in the host name in some of the links (reason.com vs. https://www.reason.com.)

    </offtopic>

  3. Shawn,
    So? Whatever the reason, they should fix it.

  4. This anti-business attitude of Seattle liberals is just another example of why the east side of Washington would be better off as a separate state.

  5. “Under pressure from neighbors who object to the Mcafertys’ entrepreneurship (because of unsolicited waving from the B&B’s guests, among other reasons),”

    Now those neighbors will be getting waves from the McAfertys. Only it will be with one finger.

    “Hey look, they’re telling me I’m number one!”

  6. For the record, some Seattle liberals think this is idiotic, too. Not all of us are anti-business.

  7. Maybe, B.D., but the Seattle City Council, at least from the news stories I’ve seen involving them, are the biggest bunch of beaurocrats around. It seems as though their biggest function is to shuffle paperwork and give themselves more to do.

  8. Sage, perhaps. I’m not particularly fond of them either. On the other paw, I defy you or anyone else to show me a city council that doesn’t generally fit that bill. Spokane is as bad at times.

  9. I think there should be a law against unsolicited waving. That’s just uncalled for harassment. That could lead to all sorts of horrible things – robberies, rape, pedophilia!?!

    Also, there should be a law against looking at people the wrong way.

  10. Spokane is as bad at times.

    That certainly makes Seattle’s behavior okay.

  11. (OT: Numbered comments would be helpful, especially when they reach three digits.)

  12. The Spokane City council has never called for the removal of dams on the west side of the state. The Seattle city council has seen fit to call for dam removal on the east side.

  13. Sarnath, that was not a defense of the Seattle City Council’s behavior, but rather another example of a conservative city’s bureaucracy.

    NoStar: True. But, as I stated before, not everyone in Seattle thought that was a particularly good idea. In fact, many of us thought it was an idiotic waste of time for our city council to weigh in on the subject – the equivalent of a state governing body deciding what the state insect should be.

    They just called for bending over backwards to build a parking structure for a mall that has never brought in the proper business at the behest of one of their aristocracy, um, I mean “old money families”. Oh, and they whine when the west side of the state subsidizes their roads. That’s so much better.

  14. Hey, this is a country where you can get tasered for turning a one-trip salad bar into an all-you-can-eat. Imagine what they’ll do to you for running an illegal B&B. Probably shoot your ass.

  15. Wow, I can’t believe that, and there’s a poll asking who people thought overreacted, here are the results:

    Choice Votes Percentage of 17137 Votes
    The man overreacted and should have cooperated. 1927 11%
    Police overreacted and should not have used a Taser stun gun. 9015 53%
    Both sides overreacted. 4259 25%
    Police were justified in using the amount of force necessary. 1936 11%

    I don’t know if I should be happy or depressed that 53% think the taser gun was too much

  16. “This anti-business attitude of Seattle liberals is just another example of why the east side of Washington would be better off as a separate state.”

    These would be the anti-business Seattle liberals who, um, changed the zoning to allow B&Bs to open up in the neighborhoods?

    Where you ideologues are running aground is that this is taking place in the real world. In the real world, when you change zoning to allow businesses to be developed in people’s residential neighbohoods, they get frightened. In fact, if you’re talking about owner-occupied single family neighborhoods, there is usually enough fear and influence to sink the deregulation altogether. In order to get it through, you have to provide some security to placate the neighbors. Believe me, I’ve run into this problem myself.

    If you don’t like that, then feel free to keep pontificating uselessly on internet boards. OTOH, if you would actually like to see some reforms in the direction you like, you might want to resign yourself to the fact that most people don’t share your “anything goes” attitude towards land use, and try to achieve solutions that move the ball down the field. You know, like the zoning change carried out by the liberal Seattle City Council that loosened the zoning in the first place.

  17. Yeah Joe, I’d best resign myself to the fact that the city council giveth and the city council taketh away.

  18. I didn’t say you had to be happy about it, Nostar, but would you rather that the rezoning never happened at all?

  19. Joe, If the rezoning had never occured, these good inn keepers would have been spared this potential financial ruin. And I thought liberals were naturals at feeling the pain of others.

  20. Joe, I suppose your pragmatic point it well taken in that we ought to be grateful for whatever crumbs of freedom we can wrest away from the central planners, however small or trivial. And I’m glad you don’t think we need to be happy about it any more than the kid who has his lunch money taxed… er stolen by the schoolyard bully is happy when the bully is absent for a day. And yes, in the real world posting to internet boards may not have much effect (though I suspect Dan Rather and CBS have a somewhat different view on that… but I digress).

    However, it is too easy to get caught up in all the wonkish details of zoning law and the multitude of regulations. For many of us, more or less, anything goes “ideologues,” I think the more interesting issue is the philosophical one of what moral authority is there for the neighbors to tell the homeowner whom he or she may allow to sleep in his or her home and under what circumstances? Do those same neighbors, perhaps in parts of the country more hostile to homosexuals, have the moral authority to zone the neighborhood as a “no anal sex neighborhood?” After all, in large parts of the country people don’t share your “anything goes” philosophy (pardon me if I’m putting words into your posts – I will gladly retract that if you do not, in fact, believe people should be free to engage in whatever sexual behavior they choose with another consenting adult, which, for the record, I certainly do). I suspect people in some of those parts of the country might be even more “frightened,” as you say, at the thought of homosexual activity going on next door than those Seattleites are at the thought of a bed and breakfast on their street. Why, pray tell, should we afford more protection to sensibilities of one group meddlesome neighbors than the other?

  21. “Why, pray tell, should we afford more protection to sensibilities of one group meddlesome neighbors than the other?”

    The construction of buildings and operation of businesses have always been seen as more appropriate targets of regulation, because of their public nature. Similarly, the same activity, performed as part of a profit-seeking business, is seen as more appropriate for regulation than if it was done privately, again because of the public nature of the business, its advertising, and the comings and goings of customers.

    If my neighbor has missionary nookie with his wife once a month, or if he is visited weekly by a succession of Philipino “nephews,” does not effect my quiet enjoyment of my property. However, if he starts changing oil in his garage and his lawn is covered with cars all the time, that does effect me. Now, as an anything goes type of person, you clearly have a high tolerance for what you’re willing to put up with from your neighbor. That does not mean there are no distinctions between different types of land uses or buildings, and the impacts they have on the surrounding neighborhood.

  22. “…businesses have always been seen as more appropriate targets of regulation, because of their public nature”

    First, they haven’t “always” but to the extent that it has been a long time, it does not make it right any more than any now discredited practice is right simply because it existed for a long time with public approval. Second, the assertion of appropriateness because of their public nature is just that, an assertion – and one which I would not concede, since turning private businesses into public issues (i.e. smoking ban, etc. etc.) is exactly the tactic used by liberals (and yes, conservatives) to extend control over the actions of others, and a tactic I disagree with in the first place.

    More to the point, you say:

    “If my neighbor has missionary nookie with his wife once a month, or if he is visited weekly by a succession of Philipino ‘nephews,’ does not effect my quiet enjoyment of my property.”

    That’s great, but I was clearly saying that it WOULD certainly affect the quiet enjoyment of many people. Let’s assume it’s because they may find such behavior so ghastly that they can’t sleep at night knowing what is going on. We may both agree that such people are bigots, or even laugh at such an idea, but in the end your defense rests solely on your definition of “quiet enjoyment.” I say that being bothered by someone renting their room to a stranger is no more worthy of protection or being called public, than the other use you describe. But if you must have a “public” connection, let’s assume the guy next door has a website where he publishes pictures of his escapades in which the home is clearly identifiable, this info is known widely in the public and the neighbor’s property values are thus reduced. Now will you allow them the right to regulate his sexual behavior under the guise of zoning laws?

  23. By way of anticipating one response to my last post, let me further stipulate that the neighbor is not running a porn business out of his house but simply taking some private pictures and posting them on his private Yahoo! profile or wherever.

  24. “However, if he starts changing oil in his garage and his lawn is covered with cars all the time, that does effect(sic) me.”

    I have a problem with how you lumped those two activities together. If someone changes their oil in their garage, how exactly does that affect you?

    The cars on the lawn, yeah, I could see why you have a problem with that. But if your justification is that it affects your property’s value, then you are SOL; the government is not charged (yet) with protecting the investments of citizens.

  25. Actually, sage, it’s YOU who is SOL in this case. The government can, and does, adopt regulations based on protecting people’s property values from abutting uses that may lower them, as well as from uses that may harm neighbors quiet enjoyment of their property or “quality of life.”

    “If someone changes their oil in their garage, how exactly does that affect you?” Apparantly, I wasn’t clear enough; I was referring to openning an oil-change business, not changing his own oil.

    Brian, you shouldn’t allow what “liberals” might do with a certain line of reasoning to determine your perception of reality. A statement is true, or false, without regard to its political utility to some political group or other. What are you, a Marxist? 😉

    To take this line of reasoning all the way back, there is a presumption that private behavior deserves a wider berth than public behavior. Commerce is considered public behavior – that’s why businesses have big signs designed to be seen from public places, and homes generally do not.

    Objecting to someone else’s private behavior is not the same as objecting to his public behavior, in that private behavior is, by definition, behavior that has no effect on other people, which public behavior does. Being aware of something is not the same as being effected by it. The principle behind all of this is one that a libertarian should be well acquainted with – live, and let live. You only get to interfere with someone’s behavior if it is not “letting you live.”

    The difference between private sex acts, even if you find them on the internet, and operating a business out of your house, is that the former are presumed to be private, while the latter is presumed to be public.

  26. “Actually, sage, it’s YOU who is SOL in this case. The government can, and does, adopt regulations based on protecting people’s property values”

    I beg your pardon. I was thinking as an originalist. But, since the government sees itself as a protector, indeed enabler, of investment income, then I should inquire as to how to get back the money I lost in the stock market bust. That bust, in fact, was an extreme blow to my quiet enjoyment and “quality of life.”

    “as well as from uses that may harm neighbors quiet enjoyment of their property or ‘quality of life.'”

    Such as noise? I have no problem at all with noise ordinances, if they are reasonable.

  27. Joe: “Brian, you shouldn’t allow what “liberals” might do with a certain line of reasoning to determine your perception of reality.”

    That I’m even going to address such a condescending statement irritates me but I somehow am compelled to say that I don’t allow what “liberals” or “conservatives” do affect my perception of reality. It is simply a convenient short hand label that comes in handy when taking the time to explain the various details of one typical world view or another would be too laborious. But if you want to quibble of such inconsequential details, suit yourself.

    But wait, it gets better, because next Joe lectures me on a principle that a libertarian should be well acquainted with! “Live and let live.” Spare me the insulting condescension and stick to the argument.

    You say “private behavior is, by definition, behavior that has no effect on other people.”

    Oh? By whose definition? I just gave you an example of private behavior that most certainly does affect other people and you say that by definition it can’t? So by simply applying a label “private” or “public” (apparently it’s you who shouldn’t let a label determine your perception of reality) by fiat you have decided what gets to affect people and what does not, regardless of any empirical reality. I would argue that it is beyond dispute that many people in this country are most certainly affected psychologically by the idea of homosexual sex. But you say being aware of it is not the same as being affected by it – again, apparently you are simply asserting this is true by fiat.

    But fine, let’s say you’re aware that your neighbor’s yard is filling up with junk and abandoned cars – are you affected by it? How? How is that “public” while if he has a sting of male lovers over it’s “private?” Aren’t you aware of both, just the same? Are you going to say that only physical effects count? Again, how, because photons bouncing off the junk enter your eyes?! Please. In both cases the ONLY effect it has on you is a psychological one in that you are aggrieved to see junk in your line of sight day after day, or you are aggrieved to know that he’s getting it up the ass every night (or you can argue property values, but see my previous post – that won’t work either). What’s the difference? Saying that one is outside and the other is in his bedroom is distinction without a difference; in either case you are cognitively aware of it through various means. You can fall back on your “public” versus “private” labels all you want if it lets you avoid the reality that simply defining what you don’t like as public in order to stop it, in principle, makes you no different than that people that would like to stop anyone from having sex in a way that they see as “unnatural.”

    And, a business is not “public” because it has signs and because people can enter it. Just defining it as such is a tool to allow… dare I say it… liberals (there I go again!). to tell other consenting adults what they may and may not do on one’s “private” property with each other. 🙂

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.