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County parking analysis says developers do, indeed, create more parking than we need

In order to examine the balance of supply of residents and parking spaces, the county has released a tool called Right Size Parking, which allows users to estimate how many parking spaces are enough in multi-family developments.


The Calculator is based on a model using current local data of actual parking use collected in 2012 at over 200 developments in urban and suburban localities in King County, Washington. The parking use data is correlated with factors related to the building, its occupants, and its surroundings- particularly transit, population and job concentrations. The user adjusts the scenario using variables related to the building and its location, including proximity to transit, jobs and population. Understanding the influence of these variables helps determine how much parking is “just enough” for a particular site.

The Daily Journal of Commerce reports (subscription required) that the county’s research shows developers create more parking than is needed:

As part of the project, the county studied how many parking spaces across the county are actually being used. Findings show that on average, residential developments offer 1.4 parking spaces per unit, though typically only one space is actually being used. The oversupply results in higher housing costs and may not be the best use of available land, county officials said.

That phenomenon didn’t exactly come to play in one recent Capitol HIll project we looked at. To check out the calculator, we used stats for The Lyric building, recently opened on Broadway with 234 units and 361 parking spaces for tenants and street-level retail facilities.

According to the calculator, a 234-unit building (studios and 1-2 bedrooms) in the same area with an average rent of $1,863 would use an estimated 0.76 parking space/unit, or 351 spaces   178 spaces (Without calculating space for retail.). The Lyric, according to the calculator, comes in pretty much in line with about 2% more parking than it needs according the calculations.  UPDATE: Thanks for the notes on our big mistake on this calculation. As noted below in comments, a building of this size is recommended to have 178 spaces — about 24% fewer than it ended up with.

With the cost of parking running somewhere between $20,000 and $40,000 per stall, cutting any unnecessary space is a useful way to trim costs and, hopefully, reduce pressure on rising rents.

According to the county, the project, which was funded through a more than $1 million federal grant, aims to: 

  • Provide context-sensitive multi-family residential parking demand information on a website to guide stakeholder’s decisions about building new parking and managing existing parking.
  • Offer incentives to jurisdictions and developers to test pricing and right-sizing of parking supply in residential and commercial developments;
  • Engage the development community through professional forums to utilize new parking demand information and implement pricing and management techniques.
  • The research will also be used to further analyze King County development and produce revised code models for parking.

    Do your own calculations at rightsizeparking.org.

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    17 Comments
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    greenlaker
    9 years ago

    Just checking the math on the Lyric, wouldn’t the recommended .76 ratio on 234 units be 177 recommended parking spaces, rather than 351?

    etvj
    9 years ago

    Anyone who thinks providing less parking will bring rents down is being incredibly naïve. It’s just a give-away to developers. Since the boom (or is it a bubble?) in apartment construction started, rents have continued up and on-street parking has clearly become much harder to find. It’s not fair to residents who’ve lived here for decades and are now getting screwed by developers, nor is it fair to small business owners especially restaurants for which the lack of parking drives away customers.

    Jane
    9 years ago

    Yea, arithmetic!

    calhoun
    9 years ago

    It would be nice if the greedy developers of the apodment buildings would run this useful tool, because of course they are providing zero spaces. But then they would find out that at least some parking is recommended, and they prefer to look the other way as they selfishly burden the surrounding streets with tenants’ vehicles, making parking all the more difficult for others who live in that area.

    It would also be nice if the City Council (Mr. Conlin especially) and Diane Sugimura (head of DPD) would also use this tool, as they are part of the problem by refusing to close the loophole which allows developers to build apodments without any design review or any parking requirement.

    Fred
    9 years ago

    This is incredibly skewed because it includes suburban and urban projects with completely different aspects and effects on their surrounding areas. It is really lame to draw any conclusions from such a study or give it big play here, as if it is some sort of legitimate analysis worthy of armchair land use discussion.

    Hmmm, why would someone use sprawling suburban developments to “show” that developers provide plenty of parking, then apply that finding to dense urban areas where parking is more critical and costly?

    There is lots of open space east of seattle still so perhaps our benevolent developers should just put big honking condo towers on our urban parks while they are at it.

    Thanks for enlightening us in the city, king county developer advocates!

    Jim98122x
    9 years ago

    The same thing immediately occurred to me. They’ll just build fewer spaces and keep the apartment and condo prices just as high. Then the new apartment and condo residents take up more of the dwindling street parking and it all gets even worse. The same thing happens in areas like the Central District, where one large house gets torn down to build 4 town houses with one space each. Then, two or three people move into each townhouse, each with their own car. And of course they all park on the street anyway.

    It makes a lot more sense to build another level of parking which may or may not be necessary, rather than build a six-story building with insufficient parking, and then try to dig the parking garage deeper at some later sate. Of course, no one would ever do that anyway. By then it’s too late.

    Jay
    Jay
    9 years ago

    “The parking use data is correlated with factors related to the building, its occupants, and its surroundings- particularly transit, population and job concentrations. The user adjusts the scenario using variables related to the building and its location, including proximity to transit, jobs and population. Understanding the influence of these variables helps determine how much parking is “just enough” for a particular site.”

    Kid
    Kid
    9 years ago

    If you carefully read the aforementioned article, you will note that: “(Without calculating space for retail.)” Due to the fact that the City now mandates that any apartment complex constructed in a business/residential zoned area now has to have retail space on the street level, this equates to the tenants/residents having to compete not only with one another for parking but with customers of any business located on the ground floor.

    Poor planning and utter stupidity, IMO.

    CH Resident
    9 years ago

    Of course it is a giveaway to developers! But this blog is backed by developers. It’s not good or bad, but they have always been pretty open about their interests and (relative) biases. They are far more open about their editorial slant than – say – the right-leaning Seattle Times. The idea that 2% less parking would somehow become 2% more units and that the developer would somehow decide to charge less overall to limit their profits and make the housing more affordable seems unlikely at best. They will charge the most they can get and build as many as they can. Parking and zoning regulations are the only shield the community has.

    clew
    9 years ago

    Or we could get all techie, keep running track of which buildings had an oversupply, and make it easier for non-residents to use them as floating parking garages. (Security, payments, handwave handwave.)

    And that would reduce the burden on street parking, and we could have better bike and transit lanes and reduce the need for parking a bit more until anyone who *did* need to drive could always find a space cheap and near. Everyone wins!

    Michael
    9 years ago

    Decreased costs due to lower parking supply are passed on to consumers based on the price elasticity of demand for housing. The developers will keep some of the profit but competition will also drive down prices. But these are changes that won’t be felt for another 10 or 20 years down the line because real estate is pretty sticky and the small number of new projects that offer less parking will still be competing in a much larger pool of properties built since the war with too much parking. That is IF the city lowers parking maximums, which this post is not reporting on.

    another capitol hilller

    The introductory lines of the article reference Capitol Hill’s substantial rents, and the body of the article goes on to explain that the ratio of parking stalls to units may be a contributor to the higher costs of development and therefore rent — yet the map accompanying the article shows Capitol Hill to be at the the lowest range, vastly under the county average of 1.4 stalls per unit.

    It seems extremely implausible that “excessive parking” has anything to do with the high rents in Capitol Hill, relative to the impact of high demand. Moreover, any changes for future developments would impact only a proportionally tiny percentage of the housing and will have no impact on rents for years.

    Dylan
    9 years ago

    Street parking is a God given right.

    Joel
    9 years ago

    Easy solution… use public transit and zipcar!

    Neighbor
    9 years ago

    Great idea. I love spending two hours on the bus to go six miles.

    Glen
    9 years ago

    You’re going 6 miles? Bike will get you there faster than driving in most cases and faster than bus in almost all cases.

    mapleleafer
    9 years ago

    “The Lyric building, recently opened on Broadway with 234 units and 361 parking spaces…UPDATE: Thanks for the notes on our big mistake on this calculation…a building of this size is recommended to have 178 spaces — about 24% fewer than it ended up with.”

    Um, 178 is 49% of 361. That would be 51% fewer spaces.