Mercer Island Council adopts new residential code

After a nearly year long public process launched by the Mercer Island Planning Commission and City Council, the council adopted updates to the city’s residential development standards, including tree code changes, at its Sept. 19 meeting. A summary of the changes can be found here.

The council reviewed the commission’s recommendations, along with input from the community, during seven meetings between June and September.

The council voted 5-1 to adopt the code. Councilmember Wendy Weiker voted no after proposing some last-minute amendments that would add more flexibility for homeowners, especially those who want to remodel rather than tear down and rebuild. Councilmember Dave Wisenteiner was absent.

Local builders and developers have said that the new building code is one of the most restrictive in the region. The process was initially spurred by concerns from residents about the rapidly changing character of Mercer Island’s neighborhoods.

It has included a substantial effort to reach out to a broad cross-section of the community, using a variety of outreach tools including traditional meetings and public hearings, as well as social media. The city heard from many people in the community, receiving over 475 written comments, according to a press release.

The code amendments adopted by the City Council will place new limits on house size and bulk, increase tree protection, limit construction impacts in neighborhoods and allow for far fewer deviations and variances. The ordinance adopting these regulations will be effective on Oct. 2 and the new provisions will take effect on Nov. 1.

“The updated Residential Development Standards will address concerns from the community by protecting trees, maintaining neighborhood character and ensuring homes are built at a scale that is compatible with their neighborhood,” Mayor Bruce Bassett said in a statement.

Councilmember Dan Grausz said he would look back on the code rewrite as “one of [his] more defining moments on this council.” Councilmember Salim Nice said that one of the best things to arise from the process was that the city hired a long-range planning manager, which it did not have during the similarly extensive and contentious Town Center code rewrite.

City staff are now working to prepare a package of outreach materials to educate the public on the contents of the new provisions, and plan to hold information sessions in the coming weeks to educate permit applicants, builders, architects and residents of the new code provisions. Staff will continue this ongoing education effort in the coming months to ensure all residents and builders understand the provisions of the code.

Deputy Mayor Debbie Bertlin said she will be looking for the council to exhibit an “adaptive management approach,” and try to correct unintended consequences promptly if they arise. Councilmember Benson Wong reiterated that the council should be “nimble” in administering the new code.

Learn more about the process at

Summary of key dates

Sept. 20 – Oct. 31: Focused outreach to permit applicants, builders, architects

Oct. 2: Effective date of ordinance

Nov. 1: New code provisions go into effect

November dates tbd: Information sessions for building professionals (architects, builders, arborists, etc) on the new code provisions

Ongoing: Education for DSG customers and residents about new residential code provisions

More in News

The Carlton Complex wildfire burned in north-central Washington state in 2014. Photo by Jason Kriess/Wikimedia Commons
King County burn ban now in effect

Other counties across the state have already enacted similar restrictions.

Enjoy movies, music and Shakespeare in the Park this summer on Mercer Island

The city of Mercer Island has a full schedule of arts events to entertain the public this summer.

An example of a fish culvert that prevents fish from migrating through it. Creative commons
Fish culverts ruling will increase price tag for the state

The state will be on the line for $3.7 billion for fish culvert replacements.

State House races heat up in 41st District with two up-for-grabs positions

District covers Mercer Island and portions of Bellevue, Renton and Issaquah.

SAATWA Board President Aseem Chipalkatti gives an opening speech to those who were in attendance Sunday afternoon. Hanson Lee/staff photo.
South Asian organizations look to take political action and advocacy to the next level

SAATWA and SAPAC are planning to push for political involvement and the political values of Washington’s South Asian community.

Mercer Island City Council commits to November levy

City looks to raise revenue for operations, reserves.

A view of the Tolt barrier project. Photo courtesy of King County
Barrier that protects Eastside water to be repaired

The barrier protects a pipeline that delivers water to various Eastside cities and Seattle.

Safe consumption part 3: The opposite of addiction

Final episode of our three-part series on controversial supervised consumption sites

Activists turn in carbon fee signatures for November ballot

The carbon fee I-1631 has gathered enough signatures to be placed on the November ballot.

Most Read