Seattle’s ‘Neighborhood Parking Reform’ — reduced requirements, ‘unbundling’ of costs, shared parking

Proposed Areas With Parking Flexibility Map (Image: City of Seattle)

Legislation hoped to help reduce housing costs in Seattle by allowing so-called “shared parking,” giving developers fewer reasons to create large parking structures, and opening more buildings to offer parking on the open market will be taken up by the Seattle City Council’s planning and land use committee starting Wednesday morning.

CHS wrote about the legislation from the office of then-Mayor Tim Burgess in November and its potential for helping renters. Parking costs “make up 10-20% of typical construction projects,” according to the city.

The legislation package — hopefully titled Neighborhood Parking Reform — would require the “unbundling of parking space rental from multi-family dwelling unit rental and lease agreements in new and existing structures 10 dwelling units or greater in size, and new commercial lease agreements in new and existing structures 10,000 square feet or greater in size.”

It also includes proposals for clarifying which areas of the city have “frequent transit service” and should have lower requirements for off-street parking. The change would allow “flexibility in route timing and total length of daily service by updating transit measurement criteria to be more consistent with King County Metro’s and the City’s transit planning, and by simplifying provisions.” The proposals also includes changes to city land use code amendments and, ambitiously, State Environmental Policy Act parking policies to make the frequent transit service zones more clearly defined.

Meanwhile, the bulleted list of additional legislation “highlights” is a long one:

  • Create a new use category, “flexible-use parking,” to allow for greater sharing of parking in certain zones, including in: Lowrise 3, Midrise, Highrise, most commercial, and industrial zones; and in mixed-use development garages in light rail station areas.
  • Allow park-and-ride facilities within garages as a permitted use in certain zones, including in Lowrise 3, Midrise, Highrise, most commercial, and industrial zones
  • Clarify and update parking provisions by allowing off-site parking to be within onequarter mile (1,320 feet) of the uses served, up from 800 feet.
  • Clarify and reduce the parking requirements for rent and income-restricted housing,
    including for the disabled.
  • Add a new maximum parking limit for flexible-use parking.
  • Delete a special exception allowing more parking than the maximum parking limit in
    Downtown zones.
  • Provide for reduced parking minimum requirements for public uses/institutions (nonMajor) in frequent transit service areas.
  • Allow required parking amounts to be reduced in any zone, except Downtown zones, to a level needed to serve the parking demand for proposed uses as demonstrated by a parking demand study performed by a licensed professional engineer.
  •  Apply parking stall size requirements to parking for residential and live-work uses whether parking is required or not.

And lest you think this is all about the war on cars, bicyclists will also be facing updated parking rules:

  • Update bicycle parking requirements and performance standards, and consolidate the Downtown bicycle parking requirements with requirements for the rest of the city
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25 thoughts on “Seattle’s ‘Neighborhood Parking Reform’ — reduced requirements, ‘unbundling’ of costs, shared parking

  1. Solid start. But why the hell do we say “you have to do X or spend a bunch of money on an engineering study showing you don’t need parking”? Why don’t we say “heck, provide the parking you think your tenants want – it’s none of our business if you can’t rent your units”?

    There’s a housing shortage in Seattle. We’ve got to continue to cut costs, including the requirement for parking. If there ends up being a shortage, someone can build parking and rent it to people.

  2. If you ask me, we need parking rule changes first…

    1) Zone permits should be in effect in the evening hours when residents are most likely to be home – having people who are employed at local businesses not being able to park seems self defeating to me… and anyway they should mostly arrive and leave during the time most people are gone anyway.

    2) in residential areas that have zone permits for street parking, if you buy or rent in a multifamily development you shouldn’t be eligible to get one…. If you wish to keep your costs low by not paying for parking (that ostensibly you won’t be using right…) then you should get what you are paying for – nothing- and not be allowed to just foist yourself off on the rest of the neighborhood.

    • Regarding recommendation 2: if people who live in buildings with insufficient parking aren’t eligible for street parking permits, who would be? Isn’t reserving street space for residents who didn’t buy or rent enough off-street garage space for their car(s) the whole point of these permits?

    • See below…
      Maybe you live in area that has a lot of off street parking, very few of even the SF houses near me do. The residents who already live here are the people being pushed out…

  3. @cd neighbor – I’m confused – how does #2 depend on whether you’re in a single family or multi-family house? Isn’t it the same issue either way? Why should street parking be reserved for people who can afford a single-family house?

    • OK – I’ll clarify a bit more.. I think no building (single family or multi-family) should get any more parking permits than the property has available parking spaces. So my lot has enough room for a single vehicle in front of it – therefore I would only be eligible for a single zone permit.

      A large apartment building would be the same – if it has no spaces – and this is possible if a building only has frontage on a street that does not offer street parking then it wouldn’t be eligible for any zone permits…. in any case most large buildings would have only a few spaces available, so many of the units would effectively be no vehicle.

      I think this is more than equitable – you want to be able to have cheaper apartments and swear that people won’t be bringing cars in anyway, then there should be no problems with not allowing them to park any in the neighborhood- right? Or do you just want cheaper apartments with without having to actually give something up?

    • The big joke about all these bldgs that get built w/o parking because all the residents supposedly “won’t have cars”– most of them have cars. The rents are so expensive they’re only occupied by people who have the money for cars regardless. Hell, in my neighborhood, even new $900,000 townhouses that got built WITH parking– the residents use up street parking anyway and don’t even use their off-street parking spaces.

    • I agree with Jim. It’s a joke that the City assumes very few people in the new buildings without parking will not own a car. Of course they will, and this will make an already-difficult parking situation that much more so. No one seems to give a damn about the people already living in the area and the fact that they can’t find a parking space after a long day at work.

    • No – on my street most the lots are tiny (2,100 sq ft or so) – they were split into 1/4 parcels in the early 1900’s and the very modestly sized houses on them take up the bulk of the lot space. Because the houses were mostly built and designed before automobiles were common, few have garages or driveways. I have pretty much one space available in front of my house and that’s all I take up…

      Even with general lack of garages or driveways, parking was not an issue here at all until quite recently… area residents have not owned more cars than there are spaces on the street. Now, as I doubt that people in the SF houses have suddenly acquired an overflowing amount of personal cars, I can only assume that the many large apartment buildings that have gone up in the surrounding area have brought in far more vehicles than they provide space for (usually 1 per unit) – and they nearly all pre-date the zero parking allowance, so most, do have at least some parking. What kind of enormous mess will it make if we start putting in zero parking developments while still allowing people to get up to *5* street parking permits per household? It is foolish to think that people will not be bringing in personal vehicles if they can.

      The current zone system has actually helped – the requirement that proof of residency be provided and that vehicles actually be registered to the address has taken away cars that were parked and often just left for long periods of time, but if more units are added with no parking it won’t take long for the streets to fill to capacity again.

  4. No one has any more entitlement to street parking than anyone else. And one is, frankly, foolish to think they can rely on residential street parking in Capitol Hill. Yes, off-street parking is more expensive. So is living in Capitol Hill as opposed to Lake City. So is renting a 1 BR instead of a studio. So is renting a place with a W/D or not. All choices made.

    • Yeah, because it’s such a no-biggie to just uproot yourself from the house you’ve lived in for 15 or 20 years and “just make a different choice”. Just get out of the way, the entitled rich kids are here now, and they want your neighborhood. Forget the “choices” you made 20 years ago—this is now. Move it.

    • Jim, it’s pretty easy to move. Do you need help finding an affordable home with parking? Do you need help to change your username to, say, Jim98125x? What’s stopping you from making a choice that’s better suited to your lifestyle and instead forcing you to whine in the comments? The only “entitled” child I see in this thread is you, Jim.

      By the way, I’d love to see the lease you signed 20 years ago that guaranteed that Capitol Hill wouldn’t be allowed to change as long as you lived in it. Post a scan, please.

  5. I dunno Jason – I totally see you the same way as Jimi does – A spoiled kid who wants what we have, even if it means forcing us out by whatever means you can and without having to put in any of the work or time that we have.

    Yeah there’s a limited amount of housing and parking in this city and neighborhoods get more expensive as they fill up.. people like the two of us moved here (we are both in the CD) because Capitol Hill had already fill up and we couldn’t afford it (the people who were “lucky” enough to be buying in the 70’s got those houses at reasonable prices) – did we whine and complain and insist that North Capitol Hill make space for us because it was nicer and closer to everything, and didn’t have drug dealer and prostitutes doing business openly on the streets – Nope, we move here because we could afford it and we felt that it could and would improve.

    I just can’t feel sad for you. You just need to buck up and do what the rest of us have been doing for years and years – find a house you like in a neighborhood you can afford – it probably won’t be the best dream you could ever imagine – it might be a littler further away from Broadway or Downtown than you want, it might be in need of a little more repair than you think you can handle, you might just have to deal with a bit more crime than makes you feel entirely comfortable, but if you stick with it you’ll find you end up with a nice place to live and it will stick in your craw when the next generation comes in and tells you that you should get out so they can have it now….

    And yes – I do think that owning should give you a say in how the neighborhood changes. We’re not talking about things that are already allowed – we are talking about radical changes in zoning. People who own properties here should have an actual say via vote in any zoning change, not just the lip service the city has provided.

    I feel like the majority of people like you likely just want to use this neighborhood for being young and partying in, then you’ll just throw it away when you grow up and actually want to start doing grown up things like having a family and no longer want to live in a shoebox apartment with no parking…

    • I’m sorry to hear that you don’t want me to live in my neighborhood. I’m also sorry to hear that you don’t believe that I work for a company that pays me money that I in turn spend on the property that I own. Please don’t vote to expel me from my home at the next Neighborhood Improvement Management Board meeting. I want to stay. Let me stay, please. I’ve lived in Seattle for almost 60% as long as Jim has. Give me 60% of a chance.

    • Well mea culpa for making an assumption, but do get down off your high horse.. I’m not the one trying kick people out of the neighborhood – I’m the one who wants to make sure you can actually stay…. Whether that means being against things that might make the quality of life decline so much you feel you must leave or that the city council is successful in forcing homeowners out – like for instance Rob Johnson who supported taxing not the value of your existing home, but the possible value of what might be built where you home is…. or other council members who’ve stated (and I really wish I could find this again… but I’m afraid I cannot provide a citation for this) that their goal is to completely tear down and rebuild certain neighborhoods (mine among them – yeah I am against this and that will certainly never change).

      Look – I consider my house my home, not just an investment or the place where I temporarily live. How about you? Do you really think the city should just be able to change the rules arbitrarily, completely disregarding what the people who are already there want? Where does it end – where I live *has already been up zoned as recently as around 97* – now the city is back for another dip at the same well. What’s next?

    • CD, I’m advocating for more housing throughout the city. I just sent a note to the city earlier today advocating for affordable housing in Magnolia, for example. Upzones are badly needed throughout Seattle. We can’t limit them to once every 20 years or so. The people who are moving here aren’t willing to wait until 2038 when the city might have enough housing for them. We need to build more, denser housing throughout our city now.

    • I will have to simply disagree with you there – we don’t *need* to do anything of the sort. There is no such thing as a right to move into the specific neighborhood just because you fancy living there. There is no reason the current residents should have move aside to provide housing for every single person who wants to stuff themselves into this city- we can and should be able to say enough is enough and growth should be controlled. If you ask me it’s stupidity to allow what is attracting so many people here to be totally destroyed in the rush to cram them all in….

    • Where is is written that we as a city must provide housing availability to everyone who wants to move here? Yes, some growth is necessary to replace older stock, but the kind of growth we are now seeing is ridiculous. To paraphrase an old saying, we are destroying Seattle in order to save it. Our beloved city is not getting better, it’s getting worse. As a native Seattleite who has lived here my entire life, this is the first time I have felt this way.

    • Money conveys the right to move into any neighborhood unto those who can afford it (i.e., the techies that it’s cool to hate). Building more affordable housing throughout our city will allow for those with less money to continue to live throughout our city. As a techie, I don’t want to live in a ghetto of $15 noodle bowls and $14 barrel-aged cocktails. I want to live in a community that welcomes everyone. I understand that that’s not a popular opinion in Seattle, where restrictive housing covenants were on the books until the 1960s, but I’ll hold it anyway.

    • And I believe over developing this neighborhood isn’t going to make it any more affordable at all – all it is going to do is move in more and more people who want and can afford $9 vegan ice cream cones and $15 cocktails…..

      I am all for *keeping* portions of the existing housing stock affordable and tearing down older, less desirable buildings actually undermines that. Up zoning artificially inflates the value of the land that older homes sit on and makes it far easier for developers to snatch them up to tear down, than for a new homeowner to buy it to live in. Let me give you an example…. there is one full size lot left on my block – it’s actually just shy of 10,000 sq feet, which has been in the past the minimum size to build out as multi family, but that may change… in 1997 the assessed value of the land was 0 – yes that’s right ZERO…. in 1998 after the new zoning (RSL) kicked in that went up to $48,000 and the value of the house that sits on it was $86,000. Today the land is valued at $715,000! and the house $10,000…. It’s easy to see where the “value” lies and why it will sell for an inflated price as soon as a developer knows he can put 6 or so units that will likely themselves sell for $800,000 each. People who actually just want to own a home and aren’t afraid to put in a little work can’t compete. Even my lot, which is waaaaaaay too small to develop, at 2,100 sq feet has gone from a land value of 0 – indeed zero, to $250,000. If I wanted to sell it, a developer would be more than happy to snatch it up and then pressure or wait until they can get my neighbors lots too – the dozens of offers I get to buy it sight unseen every month shows me that clearly…

      HALA is a farce – all developers have to do is pay into a fund and the housing can be built elsewhere, which to this point is *exactly* what is happening – this neighborhood will simply get more market rate apartments and condos that are as fully built out as possible, because the only consideration is developer profit and square footage = $$$.

      I want to keep this neighborhood affordable and diverse – I just don’t see how cramming in more and more people who have lots of money and likely aren’t particularly diverse achieves that at all…. I’m all for keeping houses in families – tax relief for low/fixed income homeowners, programs that help fix houses to keep people in them, programs that help those who inherit a home keep it and projects like the ones that give low income buyers artificially low home prices, with the stipulation that the home cannot be sold for above a certain percentage more than it was purchased, by another low income buyer – I’d support any and all of that.

      Only in Seattle can being against rampant and uncontrolled development – it was called gentrification when I was younger… be turned into a “conservative” view…

    • “cramming in more and more people who have lots of money and likely aren’t particularly diverse”

      Which people are “diverse” enough to live in the neighborhood you think you own?

    • @CDneighbor…..your remarks are spot-on! The ONLY ways that there will be truly affordable housing on Capitol Hill, and other desirable neighborhoods, is for the City to buy land and build new apartments under the Seattle Housing Authority/Seattle Senior Housing programs (not likely to happen….too expensive) or for nonprofit developers (like Capitol Hill Housing) to do the same…..which is happening to some degree (such as at the light rail station), although I would point our that even these buildings are not affordable for really low-income people. The vast majority of new buildings have been and will be built by private developers, and these are all expensive, market-rate units. Thus, HALA will be ineffective at increasing income diversity on Capitol Hill.

  6. So, you think generational upzones, that is once every twenty years, in a growing city is too frequent CD? I think it is a reasonable pace of change given our circumstances. I also have to disagree with your suggestion that homeowners get a vote about these changes. If they get a vote, so should renters. And we do, it is called an election.

    • Why is it reasonable to hit *my* neighborhood twice whilst leaving the large majority of the city alone – answer it’s not – but trying to up zone the entire city lead to a HUGE outcry and had the city council done that they likely would have lost their jobs – therefore they backed down on that idea it’s foisted off on the same areas that already agreed to absorb more density once.

      I don’t find it reasonable at all…

      I also don’t think that the city council elections give me much of a say – I certainly didn’t have any say in the election of Rob Johnson, not being in his district, nor would I have ever voted for him – but the future of my neighborhood is very much in his hands and it looks to me that he would like to see it’s destruction.

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