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How Seattle ‘shared parking’ proposal could help renters — even if you don’t drive

Rendering of the future parking garage entrance to 11th Ave’s under-construction Kelly Springfield building

With a push from Capitol Hill and the neighborhood’s seemingly insatiable appetite for parking, Seattle is moving forward with a plan that could create pools of shared parking in buildings across the city, reducing the need for developers to create large parking structures, and allowing more buildings to offer parking on the open market.

“If a building has unused parking stalls, we shouldn’t block them from renting those spaces out to someone who needs a place to keep their vehicle,” Mayor Tim Burgess said in the announcement of the legislation his office has sent to the City Council for consideration. “I hear complaints about the on-street parking crunch in our densest neighborhoods, and I’ve experienced it myself. It’s the reason I’m advancing this comprehensive package of parking options, ranging from making car share parking more available to changing parking requirements for income-restricted housing.”

Here are the details of the new proposal:

The proposed legislation establishes “flexible-use” parking to allow existing and future parking to be shared by short-term parking (shoppers), or long-term (commuters, residential car storage) parking associated with commercial or residential uses. Building owners would have the option to provide flexible-use parking, and they would be responsible for management of the spaces, including establishing any costs to rent them. Flexible-use parking would be allowed in Lowrise 3, Midrise, Highrise, and commercial and mixed use zones, and in garages in mixed-use development located in light rail station areas. No more than 145 flexible-use spaces would be allowed per lot. Currently, provisions for shared parking exist in the land use code, but only so owners can meet mandatory parking requirements.

As he wraps up his final days in office before the new Durkan administration moves in, shared parking has been on Burgess’s radar since 2015 when he supported a pilot program from Capitol Hill Housing to explore how smaller buildings could participate in the creation of shared parking pools on Capitol Hill. The pilot project included a partnership between CHH and the University of Washington Electrical Engineering Department to develop a cost-effective prototype data gathering system for estimating parking usage in small scale parking garages. $20,000 car-share company permit fees helped pay for the pilot.

Another parking innovation Burgess gave a nudge to along with the pilot did not move forward, however. SDOT and the City Council both pushed back against a plan that would have earmarked some on-street parking revenue for the neighborhood.

Though Capitol Hill streets now include stretches of 10 PM paid parking due to unbending demand, benefits of shared parking go beyond offering drivers more places to leave their cars. Parking costs “make up 10-20% of typical construction projects,” the city says. Those costs are, of course, passed along to renters.

Shared parking was championed by the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) Advisory Committee. The legislation is expected to come before the City Council in December.



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7 thoughts on “How Seattle ‘shared parking’ proposal could help renters — even if you don’t drive

  1. So, currently, is the law such that an owner of, say, an apartment building is not allowed to rent out unused parking spaces? If so, that doesn’t make any sense at all, in part because it would dis-incentivize developers to include some parking in their new buildings.

    If owners are allowed to utilize (and make money on) all their parking spaces, that would mean that some car owners would choose to rent a space (if they can afford it), instead of trying to find a place on the street, and this in turn would free up some street places for those whose income is more limited.

    • Your second paragraph isn’t how things work.

      If a hot dog cart on the street gives away hot dogs, how many people are going to walk by that and go inside a restaurant to buy one?

    • Steven,
      Your point is very true. But the problem isn’t that nobody will pay for parking because there’s too much free street parking. Parking in neighborhoods is all dried up now due to meters needing to be paid until 10pm. And people aren’t using public parking in apt buildings, because it’s too expensive; nor are they coming back at 10pm either, because by then they’re home for the night. At least on Broadway, I think the city has dealt a big blow to some smaller businesses, especially less expensive restaurants.

    • @Steven L: If the lineup to get a free hot dog is long (or there is no street parking available), some people (those who can afford it) will go into the restaurant to buy the hot dog (or pay for parking in an apartment building).

    • The fact that many people are already renting parking spaces in apartment parking lots, both residents of such apartment building and those that are not, shows that there are plenty of people willing to pay to avoid the hassle of trying to find a free parking space on the street.

  2. There are plenty of times I haven’t gone out at all (to a bar, restaurant, etc) knowing parking would be a shitshow. I don’t want to pay more for an hour of parking than the drink I order plus tip. Downtown and Capitol Hill need to figure this out and it’s worth trying everything until something works.

    • I would be interested to know where you find drinks so cheap that they cost less than hourly parking rates on Capitol Hill.