Urban Tree Canopies: Good, but not a miracle cure

There’s a modern trend towards encouraging urban tree canopies consisting of mature shade trees. Increasing the tree canopy isn’t necessarily a bad idea. There are multiple documented benefits of urban tree canopies: Release of water vapor into the atmosphere which cools surrounding areas, mitigating the urban heat island effect Interception of rainfall and reduction of […]

Easements: Giving away some (but not all) your property rights

An easement is a non-possessory interest in real property that allows one or more person to use a piece of property for a specific purpose, even though they don’t own the property. If this seems confusing, you are not alone. In this article, we will walk you through the most common types of easements, how […]

Adverse Possession: When trespassing becomes ownership

What is Adverse Possession? You may know adverse possession by the colloquial term, “squatter’s rights.” Basically, if someone has had possession of a piece of real property for a long time without the permission of the legal owner, then he or she may be entitled to ownership of the property under adverse possession. Adverse possession […]

Tacoma gleefully imposes RACIST requirement on local developer

Tacoma is requiring that half the units in a new Tacoma multiplex be marketed for sale especially to black people. Racist? Yes. Illegal? Yes. Morally defensible? I suppose the answer depends on whether you believe in generational punishment, affirmative action, and DEI. What exactly is Tacoma requiring? The City of Tacoma owns a large undeveloped […]

Housing is too expensive. Why? Because we aren’t building enough

Redfin reported that only 21% of American houses sold in 2022 were affordable. 79% were unaffordable. The median home price is now $431,000, which is up more than 100% from the Great Recession lows of 2009. Compare that to the rate of inflation, which has (*only*) been around 44% during that same period. There’s no […]

Conditional Use Permits: A discretionary hurdle to development

The Truth about Conditional Use Permits Conditional use permits are often touted as a kind of exception to the zoning code for uses that are beneficial to the community. For instance, Tacoma’s conditional use tip sheet, still explains conditional use permits in this way. However, that is no longer the whole story. Today, conditional use […]

Rezoning: Only viable in “edge cases”

The Purpose of Zoning The purpose of zoning is to prohibit people from using their property in a manner that would adversely impact the surrounding area. For example, the purpose of a residential zone is to keep people from constructing a factory or warehouse in the middle of a neighborhood. Allowing these higher-intensity uses in […]

Variances: For small deviations from land use code

What is a Variance? A variance is essentially a discretionary exception to one or more zoning requirements. Every jurisdiction offers a different array of variances under slightly different conditions. However, all variances operate by allowing property owners to use their property in a way that would otherwise contradict the zoning code. Purpose of Variances The […]

When neighbors war: Property and boundary line disputes in Washington State

What are property line and boundary line disputes? The terms “property line dispute” and “boundary line dispute” mean the same thing. They refer to a broad array of disputes over the ownership of land. Typically, property line disputes arise from one of two sources: encroachment, or a problem with the recorded deeds. Encroachments Encroachment occurs […]

Development Agreements: Relief from zoning code for big projects

What is a Development Agreement? A development agreement is a voluntary contract between a local municipality, such as a city or county, and a property owner whose land is located within the municipality’s jurisdiction. The development agreement contains the obligations of both parties and lays out the various standards and conditions that will control development […]