Capitol Hill Times: City council dives into neighborhood parking reform

By Brandon Macz

The Seattle Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee took its first crack at neighborhood parking reform on Wednesday, setting up a list of questions that still need answering.

There are a number of changes being considered in the Department of Construction and Inspections’ Neighborhood Parking Reform ordinance, including allowing shared parking, reducing the amount of parking required in new developments, defining frequent transit service in the city’s land use code and separating the cost of parking from rental agreements.

Much of the Jan. 3 committee meeting focused on a 2015 SDOT and Department of Planning and Development review of parking in the city and its correlation with changes being proposed in the new ordinance.

The city began eliminating parking requirements for many developments downtown starting in 1985, and there are currently no supply requirements in light rail station areas, within a quarter-mile of a stop with frequent transit service and in urban villages and centers.

According to the 2015 report, the flexible parking approach did not result in a lack of parking, with 75 percent of new residential development including it since 2012 — about 2,400 of the 19,000 dwelling units didn’t provide parking.

“Development with reduced or no parking is clustering in preferred growth areas including Capitol Hill and other center city neighborhoods,” according to the 2015 report, “as well as the University District and Ballard. This development includes micro-housing and studio apartments (relatively affordable housing).”

Lish Whitson with the city council’s central staff told the committee the accepted average for the cost of creating below-grade parking is $35,000 per space, with about $300 in monthly operational costs.

Councilmember Lisa Herbold said she wants to know how rental costs differ between developments with and without on-site parking.

“This is something that I’m particularly interested in,” she said.

Councilmember Lorena González suggested staff assess similar housing markets, as such data is not currently available for Seattle.

Part of the Neighborhood Parking Reform ordinance would uncouple parking from the price of a rental unit and give renters the ability to opt out of a parking space addendum in their lease.

The ordinance would also define frequent transit service based on average headways in alignment with King County Metro. New developments within a quarter-mile of frequent transit service are not required to provide parking. Angela Compton, outreach coordinator with growth-management focused Futurewise, supported pushing that to a half-mile.

Herbold said just because an area is designated as having frequent transit service that doesn’t mean it’s providing transportation everywhere people want to go. Councilmember Mike O’Brien said it would be impossible to make 15-minute headways everywhere people wanted to go in frequent transit service areas. PLUZ chair Rob Johnson said the next meeting on the ordinance would address this proposed land use code change.

Recommendations from the 2015 report also include requiring multifamily building owners to provide transit passes and “other mobility options for residents in new buildings.”

Capitol Hill Housing worked with SDOT to launch the Affordable Housing Transit Pass Pilot in April 2016.

Johnson said he would like to have CHH representatives come before the committee to share ideas about dealing with dense neighborhoods like Capitol Hill. CHH is also advocating for shared parking, where unused spaces could be rented out to reduce congestion from drivers searching for on-street options.

Whitson said long-term bicycle parking needs are also being addressed, and SDOT is currently working on how to improve the program for Restricted Parking Zones, which are areas where only residents with permits can park during certain hours.


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