Time to Call City Hall About Parking Code Changes

The City Council will soon be voting on major changes to the land use code concerning parking in new and existing buildings. The purpose of these changes is to make parking cars more difficult and more expensive everywhere.  The theory is that people will give up their cars in favor of bus rides, bike rides and walking.  The other theory is that housing without parking is less expensive to build and those savings will “trickle down” to renters.

But there is no guarantee that letting developers produce zero on-site parking will achieve either of these goals.  We know that our streets are already full, and on-site parking is needed even when people take the bus to work. Rents have escalated steadily in the face of massive housing development and reduced parking requirements since 2010. No trickle down.

These code changes persist in connecting parking requirements to frequent transit. There is no justification for this. The code changes are driven by wishful thinking and getting ahead of reality and well ahead of King County Metro’s ability to provide sufficient transit service.  They impose a “one size fits all” approach which ignores the differences in topography, parking availability, and transit service in different neighborhoods.

You can read about the proposed changes at the city web site below: http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/codesrules/changestocode/parkingrecommendations/whatwhy/

Public Hearing February 21st at City Hall in the Morning – 9:30 AM

Here’s the Notice:  http://web6.seattle.gov/dpd/luib/Notice.aspx?BID=1314&NID=26831

TAKE ACTION

We hope to have a large turnout at the February 21st public hearing of Livable Phinney supporters and everyone who want reasonable parking policy in Seattle. The PLUZ Committee is recommending expansion of the “No Parking Required” policy and a change to the definition of Frequent Transit that will allow Phinney Flats and many other projects to proceed without providing parking – even outside of Urban Villages!

Plan to attend that public hearing and/or send in written comments to members of the PLUZ Council Committee ASAP.  The PLUZ will have more discussion about the proposal at their February 7th meeting where they will discuss changes to the definition of Frequent Transit Service. PLUZ member email addresses are below.

MORE INFORMATION

Livable Phinney has been following this proposal and our concerns are summarized below.

Problems with the current proposal:

  • Changes persist in connecting parking requirements to proximity to bus stops with “frequent transit,” People living close to frequent transit still have cars and need a safe place to park them even if they take the bus to work.
  • Redefines transit headway time to 18 minutes without any justification. Who considers an 18-minute wait for a bus to be “frequent transit” when Metro defines frequent transit as 15 minutes or less?  The proposed changes do nothing to increase the reliability or relieve crowding on Metro buses.
  • Using the new 18-minute headway allows expansion of the parking exemption into areas beyond Urban Villages (anywhere within 1/4 mile of ‘so called’ frequent transit).
  • Ignores the difference between bus schedules and actual bus arrivals in defining “frequent transit.” This, in effect, ignores the Hearing Examiner’s Decision in the Livable Phinney case which required SDCI to consider the differences between transit scheduled headways and actual headways.
  • Imposes new maximum limits on parking spaces in multi-family buildings – in effect eliminating otherwise available parking for tenants.
  • Mandates unbundling of parking spaces from rent in multi-family dwellings. This will push more cars onto surrounding streets and increase the cost of rent for current tenants. Lower income renters are most likely to suffer under this rule.
  • Removes the parking requirement for affordable housing units (don’t those tenants need or have cars too?)  Most affordable housing is subsidized by local, state and federal sources so Seattle tax payers are already absorbing much of the cost of these developments.

Amendments Needed For Reasonable Parking Requirements

#1. Restore authority under SEPA (environmental policies and code) to mitigate for parking impacts in new development in “frequent transit” areas. Today even when parking impacts are considered “significant” and street parking is already over capacity, SDCI can do nothing to mitigate the problem because the city intentionally reduced its own authority under SEPA.

#2. Institute a new Car-Free-Lease requirement.  Developers who don’t produce enough parking to meet demand should be required to have terms in their leases disallowing tenants from parking cars in overcrowded areas (more than 85% on street parking utilized). In return, these tenants should get a discount on their rent or a transit pass. This will acknowledge that the money developers save by not building parking is shared with tenants not getting parking.  Trickle down at work.

#3. Better definition of frequent transit is needed.  Maintain the 15-minute headway definition and require that compliance is based on recent bus performance, not merely printed schedules or maps generated by SDCI every two years as proposed. The data on transit performance is readily available. Enhance the definition of frequent transit to include crowding conditions.  People will not give up their cars when buses are too often late and very often overcrowded.  Metro produces an annual report on bus performance. That report could be used to determine if frequent transit criteria is met on any bus route at no additional administrative cost to the city or developers.

#4 Make the Decisions on Parking Requirements Data-Driven.  We live in the city of big data – we should use real data on transit performance, parking utilization, capacity and demand by neighborhood and type of development. The city is making decisions blindly or based on a few older studies, or done by self-interested entities.  The King County Right Size Parking Calculator needs to be updated to reflect conditions in Seattle in zero parking buildings.

ACTION NEEDED

  1. Submit written comments to the City Council.
  2. Attend the public hearing February 21st at the City Council Chambers at 9:30 am in City Hall (600 4th Ave. 2nd floor – entry at 5th and Cherry)
  3. Spread the word!

Thank you for keeping Seattle Livable for Everyone

Councilmember addresses:

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