What is Cottage Development?

Cottage development is identified as a collection of small homes. Instead of large backyards with tall fences, cottages often surround an open space. Open spaces may include children’s play areas, gardens, courtyards, and cooking facilities. If designed with care, cottage development provides community for its inhabitants.

Cottages are a way to add housing choice to low density residential neighborhoods. It is a form of missing middle housing. Missing middle housing is a range of housing choice designed to be compatible with existing residential neighborhoods. It is one way Kirkland is providing housing to meet the needs of our current and future population.

1In Kirkland, cottage developments containing less than five units are not required to have a common open space. Cottages within these smaller developments are encouraged to be oriented towards each other in a way to foster a sense of community.

Design Tips & Guidance

Purpose and Disclaimer

Cottages are a way to add housing diversity to our single-family neighborhoods. Cottage development provides smaller, more compact, and more affordable housing choices. These guidelines are to assist applicants in creating a successful cottage project. These guidelines do not substitute the regulations within the Kirkland Zoning Code. Proposed cottage development need a presubmittal meeting with the City. More detailed technical review of a specific permit application may disclose additional substantive or procedural requirements.

Calculating Density

The code allows you to build two times the density of what is allowed in a single-family zone. There are two distinct ways of calculating the number of allowed cottages on a property. One is based upon minimum lot size and the other on maximum dwelling units per acre.

Minimum Lot Size Zones: Calculate density by dividing a site's lot area by the minimum lot size for the zone then multiply by two. Fractions must be round down to the nearest whole number.

Maximum Density Zones: Calculate density by dividing the site's lot area by an acre then multiply the zone's maximum units per acre, round up if the fraction is 0.50 or greater, and multiply by two.

Note, a site not meeting the minimum lot size per the underlying zone may be able to have cottage development (see Interpretation 21-2).

Existing homes may remain on the property and count towards a unit.

Streams, wetlands, and their buffers affect the total number of cottages you are able to build. See KZC 90.170 for density calculation on a site which contains a wetland, stream, minor lake, or their buffers.

Maximum Unit Size

The maximum size of a Cottage is 1,700 square feet of gross floor area. An additional 250 square feet may be added to allow for an attached garage.

Floor Area Ratio

Cottage housing is meant to fit within a single-family neighborhood. One way this is accomplished is by limiting the total amount of building area that can be built on a site. Floor area ratio (FAR) is the ratio of total buildable floor area (gross floor area) to the size of land upon which buildings are built. The maximum FAR for a Cottage development of the site is equal to the base zoning allowance for single-family residences. If critical areas are on the site FAR is only applied to the buildable area of the site. FAR exemptions that apply to single-family residences do not apply to Cottage developments.

Site Layout

Cottage housing is intended to provide a variety of housing types in single-family zones. The site layout of cottage housing has two aims. The first is to develop a sense of community within its own development. Second, cottage development must also be compatible with surrounding single-family residential uses.

The following topics help designers think through how to design cottage development.

Many of the topics discussed below are also illustrated in these sample site designs2.

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Example of a cottage development with single access drive (see image with text(PDF, 952KB) )

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Example of cottage development with double access drive (see image with text(PDF, 2MB) )

Natural Features

Account for existing site features before design of a cottage development. This can include topography, critical areas and their buffers, trees, and existing easements. The Development Services Center webpage has may tools to help you research existing site conditions. This review can help inform the best place to locate buildings, common open space, walkways, and parking. 

Preserved Trees

Access & Parking

Designers should consult the Public Works Department on access requirements from the right-of-way. Driveways and parking areas should be located in one area if possible and complement the pedestrian circulation on the site. The code limits parking to no more than three stalls per group. The Zoning Code sets minimums for parking and the City encourages designers to provide the minimum parking required, especially if the project is near transit services. The intent is to make the cottages the focus of the development rather than the parking.

Pedestrian Circulation and Common Open Space

Walkways connect people to the street, parking areas and other cottages. It is important to make walkways as safe as possible. Locate or buffer walkways from driveways and parking areas. Walkways can help neighbors to meet and interact along common pedestrian routes.

Centrally locate common open space to allow ample opportunity for people to use this space. Include benches, picnic tables, gardens, children’s play area, and outdoor cooking areas to activate the common open space.


Community Buildings

Community buildings provide a gathering space suitable for all seasons. There are specific regulations within the zoning code for community buildings. It is key to design these buildings for flexible use and be in a location easily accessible by all in the cottage project.

Community Building

Building Orientation and Variation

A cottage’s orientation to its common area and neighboring cottages is critical in providing a sense of community. Where possible a cottage should face its front entry towards the common open space, public streets, and each other. When a cottage also faces a street, low fences or low shrubbery can help define its backyard. Fences should not be placed between a cottage and the common open space.

Different building styles create an attractive street appearance and adds to neighborhood character. Cottages should vary the design of roof forms, porches, material choice, and color.



The Zoning Code requires each unit to have an attached covered porch within a cottage development. That is because porches are a necessary component of clustered housing design. Porches provide a space that is both public and private. A porch’s location and characteristics should be considered carefully. A well located and designed porch should be either oriented to the street, pedestrian walkway, and common open space. The design of the porch should be for occupation and not just a place for packages and wet shoes. Make the porch large enough for furniture and open enough for the chance of social interaction with the community. Porches are required to have a minimum area of 64 square feet and a minimum dimension of 7 feet on all sides.


See some illustrated examples of porch design.

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Example of ideal front porch (see image with text(PDF, 395KB))

Porch Size.png

Example front porch plan sizes (see image with text(PDF, 457KB))

Accessory Dwelling Units & Two/Three-Unit Homes

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) and Two/Three-Unit Homes may offer opportunity to add units to smaller or oddly shaped sites. Site layout topics discussed on this webpage should be used when including these building types into a cottage development.  

What to consider:

Two/Three-Unit Homes are included in the density allowance associated with Cottage development. Attached ADUs are allowed with cottage development and are not counted in the density requirements. 


2Illustrations found on this webpage were developed by Planning and Building Intern Bella Batson.

Permitting Cottages

Cottage development may be new to some developers. Anyone interested in permitting cottages should be aware of the following steps. Development Services staff can help you at each step of the permit process. Follow the links on the right of this webpage to contact staff if you have any questions.

Pre-Submittal Conference

All proposed cottage development require a pre-submittal conference before applying for a building permit. This meeting is the first step in planning a cottage development. The Development Services Center webpage has many useful resources to help you prepare for your meeting with City staff. 

Land Surface Modification (LSM) Permits

All cottage development needs an “enhanced” Land Surface Modification permit (LSM). Enhanced LSM permits helps City staff look at the cottage development as a whole and link cottages to a single site and civil plan. Please contact Planning and Building Department at 425-587-3600 for more information.

Building Permits

In addition to an LSM permit, a building permit for each cottage is required. Each building permit should include the LSM permit site plan. See the Building Permit Checklist(PDF, 114KB) (Single Family or Duplex) for more application requirements. Please note, a separate revision to the LSM permit is needed if there are any changes in the site layout.