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“Extended family is a real blessing. These two little grandsons come up here to camp with us. The space we can share makes up for the fact that we don’t have a real ADU with a kitchen.” – Bob Stacey
Bob Stacey was serving as City Planning Director in 1990 when Portland created a regulation allowing an ADU on every single-family lot – within a set of guidelines, of course. Needless to say, he’s been well aware of the possibilities – and the constraints – of ADUs for the past 25 years.
When he and his wife Adrienne decided to renovate their home in the Richmond neighborhood of Portland, Oregon in the early 2000s, a series of factors coalesced to convince them that it was the right time to plan for their future ADU.
“We had a leaky almost-collapsing garage on the SE corner of the property. It was getting to so bad we didn’t want to store our car in it! Meanwhile, Adrienne’s pottery studio was a small and cramped space in the basement. It was not an ideal workspace. Adrienne had been teaching pottery lessons and a new workspace would allow her to do this as a home-based business. So when we refinanced the house, we decided we could replace the garage with a pottery studio. And then we got to wondering, ‘How much more costly could it be to do 2 stories?’ Multi-generational housing seemed fairly likely even then. So we saw it as an opportunity to share housing.” – Bob Stacey
Bob and Adrienne had two adult daughters, and they considered how nice it would be to have a multi-generational housing arrangement that would allow them to have connection and privacy. (For more examples of how multi-generational families have used ADUs, check out Bob & Jenny Harris’ ADU, Scott Powers’ ADU, Dennis & Stephanie Martin’s ADU, Lesa Dixon-Gray’s ADU, Bonnie & Larry Dalton’s ADU, Lissa & Matt’s ADU, Jane Doe’s ADU.) Adrienne and Bob decided to replace the garage with an attached structure that would house Adrienne’s pottery studio on the first floor and living space on the second floor. When it was first constructed in 2002 there were no immediate plans to occupy the space, but this extra space would allow for a variety of housing configurations over time. Their architect Ken Klos went down to the permit center to discuss the options.
“The intake planners said ‘It’s going to be attached, right? And occupied by a single family?’ Then you’re not building an ADU. You’re building an addition.” – Bob Stacey
An addition was the perfect solution for Adrienne and Bob because it provided the space and flexibility they needed, while still meeting regulations. Within certain guidelines, home-based businesses (called home-occupancy) and accessory dwelling units are allowed by right on single-family lots in the city of Portland. However, a family can’t have both a home-based business and an ADU on their property. It’s an either/or but not both situation.
Adrienne and Bob knew they couldn’t have an official fully self-contained accessory dwelling unit as long as Adrienne is operating her pottery studio. However, when Adrienne retires from teaching, the plan is to renovate the addition to make it officially an ADU by adding a kitchen. In the meantime, they knew that as long as they were sharing the house with their family members, it would be no problem to have the addition dependent upon the kitchen in the primary dwelling. As they worked with Ken to design the addition, they made the new space distinct from but compatible with the existing house.
“It has a one foot eave instead of a three foot eave and a single-hip instead of double-hipped roof. It’s a different shade of green than the main house but the same color pattern, so it’s visually separate from but consistent with the house.” – Bob Stacey
As they designed the interior of the space they vaulted the ceiling, which ended up being Bob’s favorite feature.
“The area required by the stairs creates a loft-like effect with lots of head room and a circulating fan. It’s a nice space. Even at the corners it’s well above the standard wall heights. That coupled with the lovely golden-hued wood floor and big sliding class doors and the balconies makes an airy nice space in a cloudy climate like ours. Ken did a great job anticipating the gloom and compensating with a splurge of space and light in an otherwise tiny place.” – Bob Stacey
Bob and Adrienne worked with builder Nick MacDonald (who also built Rex Burkholder & Lydia Rich’s ADU.) During the construction process, the biggest challenge from a structural standpoint was figuring out how to make the addition seismically sound without compromising the existing house.
“There’s no way to put this addition with its own concrete foundation right up against the existing house’s foundation and have it be seismically independent. Both would shake and shimmy at their own rate. So we have two separate foundations, connected by a breezeway that was built with a previous addition to the house.” – Bob Stacey
However, their biggest non-technical challenge was getting their neighbor on-board.
“Our next door neighbor didn’t like the idea. Change occurs and ours was sizable, so that can be disruptive, but we wanted to be good neighbors. So we offered suggestions about the modifications we could make to make him feel better about it. We eliminated a balcony on his side and put two high windows there instead as a peace offering. We also sought a code adjustment to reduce a required eighteen-foot-long driveway to five feet. That moved us 13 feet farther away from his property, but he still challenged the adjustment, which the city granted anyway. Fortunately, our current neighbors have no problem with the addition.” – Bob Stacey
The construction process went relatively smoothly for Bob and Adrienne. They were living bi-coastally at the time and Bob was away for most of the construction, so he had an “academic understanding of what was going on.” Adrienne came back more often. Bob says the highlight of the build for him was the housewarming party they held in late fall.
“It was a sort of open house to show off Adrienne’s pottery and her new studio. I was back for that. The electrician was sitting in a rocking chair, playing his violin in this nice big space with bamboo floors. He was greatly enjoying the building he helped build!” – Bob Stacey
They weren’t entirely sure how the additional living space would be used, but they had no doubt their family would put it to good use over the years. Initially they anticipated their older daughter would live in the space and indeed she did for a couple years. Adrienne and Bob moved into the upper floor of the addition in 2012 when they enticed their other daughter, son-in-law and 2 boys to move back to Portland with the promise of affordable rent and family time.
They started sharing the main house with their family. Bob and Adrienne’s above-studio living quarters have room for their desks, bed, a sitting area, and a full bath. The house now has two generalized living areas but only one kitchen. Though Bob notes they do make coffee in their room. Storage isn’t a problem since the family shares storage space in the unfinished basement and the garage, though Bob notes they’d need to manage it differently if they were renting to people they weren’t related to.
“Sometimes we box up a set of clothes for one season and put them in the basement or the garage. If this was all the space we had we’d probably make very careful use of more built-in storage space.” – Bob Stacey
Bob says the biggest unresolved challenge is heating the addition. They didn’t want to extend the forced air furnace system in the primary house to the addition because of the danger of blowing around silica dust from the pottery studio. Instead they installed a couple gas radiators, but both failed about four years ago. They’re currently using electric space heaters that don’t have fans.
Otherwise, they’ve been pretty pleased with how the space is serving their needs. When considering whether the investment was worthwhile, Bob explains:
“It’s was lot of money, but because Adrienne is a potter she puts the ground floor to good use. And our daughter pays us rent. We refinanced so we were extending out a little farther with a little higher payment each month. Recently we took advantage of refinancing when the interest rates were favorable. We were nervous we wouldn’t have enough equity to also finance some other needed home improvements. When the appraisal came back, the loan officer said ‘It sounds like you have a very special place.’ Our property was appraised at nearly $600,000, which was eye-popping for the couple who bought it 1976 for $25,000! I think even with the significant financial investment, this addition has real market value.” –Bob Stacey
Bob and Adrienne discovered, like so many ADU owners, that it’s difficult to quantify the value of an ADU. So many of the benefits are as intangible as watching the electrician play his violin. Although the housing market doesn’t necessarily recognize an increased value of an addition that allows both privacy and connection, it’s been priceless for Adrienne and Bob who are able to share housing with their daughter and grandchildren.
“I’m 65 and Adrienne will turn 65, too. We have lots of prospects, opportunities, and a potential income stream as a result of living here: we could age-in-place here, my daughters could live here, we could be in the big house again and rent this. Adrienne will always be a potter, but if we discontinue the home occupation use, the first floor could be converted to a dining, living, and kitchen area. Those are all active prospects. We have our planning conversations and discuss how we want to travel while walking around the neighborhood. We’re centrally located and the neighborhood just gets better and better. We’re in it for the long-haul. The ADU provides just one more level of flexibility as we plan our future.” -Bob
So what advice does Bob have for homeowners considering creating an ADU on their own property?
“I hope everyone understands they need a good architect, someone who understands how to build in an urban environment. A good design will give you lots of personal satisfaction. Choose your architect well.” –Bob Stacey