Parking: Read the letter to City Council from community leaders across the city

March 26, 2018

Hon. Bruce Harrell
President, Seattle City Council and all Council Members
600 Fourth Avenue, Seattle, WA 98104

Re: Council Bill 119173 Neighborhood Parking Code Changes

Dear President Harrell and Council Members:

We are writing a second time to express our growing concern over the actions of the PLUZ committee on March 21st that took radical steps to advance the personal agenda of two council members in complete disregard for any opinions or facts offered by other Councilmembers and the public. Their actions reflect an ideological approach where anything contrary to their closely held belief that parking is unnecessary and must be stamped out citywide is dismissed.

Lisa Herbold has been the exception, listening and asking thoughtful questions about the lopsided legislation and asking for the restoration of SEPA authority to be used when parking impacts become truly significant. Even this reasonable request was rejected by members Johnson and O’Brien. A committee with such a wide difference of opinion should seek to resolve and adjust based on real life concerns expressed by a Council member to ensure that changes work on behalf of all people represented. But there was no quarter given to Herbold’s amendment and her reasoning for supporting it. This reflects badly on the Council and undermines the public trust that committees can find consensus on controversial issues.

We do not object to all aspects of the legislation, however several of the changes being proposed simply defy reality and will bring genuine harm to many parts of the city.

  • We ask that the Council enact Herbold’s amendment and restore SEPA mitigation authority for parking impact in all FTS areas when street parking is 85% utilized. Leave in place all options for mitigation to provide SDCI with the tools to achieve compliance with SEPA.
  • We ask that no changes be made to the current code definition of “frequent transit” until there is a valid study proving a nexus between transit proximity and parking demand.
  • We ask that you postpone action on CB 119173 until the companion RPZ legislation is made public.

Our major concerns are as follows:

There is no relationship between proximity to “frequent transit” and car usage and the need for safe places to park cars. Even SDCI acknowledges that a minimum of 30% to 35% of residents in “smaller sized housing in areas well-served by transit” still have cars! 1 At a minimum all developments should meet this very low threshold for on-site parking. The unfortunate effect of maintaining and expanding the zero parking areas is to create unsafe conditions on more residential streets with illegal parking and rising tensions as more and more cars are competing for limited parking places. People use transit for some trips but still need cars for other trips even if they live close to the bus. This includes people of all income levels, renters and homeowners. The push to eliminate parking negatively effects the freedom of the mobility-impaired and older citizens who can no longer walk easily, but are still able to drive to their necessary destinations. Parking is consistent with the Age-Friendly City initiative.

The neighborhood parking code change should not be divorced from pending RPZ code changes. These changes should be considered at the same time since they are so inter-dependent. There is no reason to push one ahead of the other except to hide this connection and possible negative consequences.

SEPA mitigation authority for parking impacts must be restored without limitation. The city comprehensive plan and code still acknowledge that parking is an element of the environment. However, in 2010 the council singled out parking in “frequent transit areas” for denial of mitigation, regardless of the significance of the impact. Now we have the bizarre situation where developers produce parking utilization studies showing no capacity to absorb more on street parking, but SDCI is powerless to impose any reasonable mitigation and developers of high density projects produce no parking for either their tenants or customers of the commercial uses in NC zones. Mitigation must include the potential to require some onsite parking or rebalancing the demand with the available parking supply. Creative mitigation options such as a car-free lease should be given full consideration and not dismissed out of hand. This has the potential to balance the “no car” theology with reality and reduce the number of parking spaces needed. The cost savings from building less parking could then be shared with the tenants who agree to the car free lease conditions while they live in that building.

Actual rents are not related to the cost of constructing parking on site. Except for MFTE units and income restricted units, the market determines the rent. Allowing developers to externalize the cost of parking does not reduce rents. Mandatory unbundling (charging separately for parking) could end up increasing the cost of housing for renters as they get priced out of their on-site parking spaces even though no additional construction costs have been incurred. The unbundling conditions should be more nuanced.

Over parked streets harm neighborhood business, undermine the livability of urban villages and turn people against urban density. When residential parking usurps commercial spaces, local small business suffers. Few neighborhood businesses survive with walk in customers only. Residents in new mixed-use buildings and apartments should have safe places to park their cars without having to circle for blocks hoping to find a place to park.

We need to refocus on improving transit before withholding parking. Improving transit access, speed, and reliability will do more to reduce congestion and decrease vehicle miles traveled than reducing the parking supply. The current proposal relies on a simplistic definition of “frequent transit” that ignores overcrowding and Metro’s current and projected shortage of capacity.

Many people are negatively impacted by the cost of housing and traffic congestion. However, we need a calibrated and pragmatic approach to addressing these challenges. Merely eliminating parking (both on street and on-site) does not address either of these problems.

Like all land use matters, parking has become divisive and that is why the entire Council should take the time to study the details, only then will the reasonable solutions be found that address the needs of all Seattle citizens today as well as tomorrow.

Thank you from the undersigned concerned citizens of Seattle:

  • Irene Wall, Phinney Ridge
  • Mike Mcadams, Greenwood
  • Cindi Baker, Morgan Junction
  • Sandra Wheeler, Eastlake
  • Martin Kaplan, Queen Anne
  • Steve Sewell, Phinney Ridge
  • Deb Barker, Morgan Junction
  • Donn Cave, Wallingford
  • Tim Motzer, Lake City
  • Maria Batayola Beacon Hill
  • Alex Pedersen, Roosevelt
  • Kathryn Keller, Central Area
  • David Moehring, Magnolia
  • Susanna Lin, Wallingford
  • Jessica Cunningham, Fremont
  • John Shepherd, Phinney (Red Mill Burger)
  • Toby Thaler, Fremont Neighborhood Council
  • Mira Latoszek, North Beacon Hill
  • Susan Grote, Fremont
  • Jeffrey Cook, Rainier Beach
  • Jon Lisbin, Ballard
  • Tamsen Spengler. Morgan Junction

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