PARKING POLICY CHANGES: Proposal allows ‘shared’ parking, expands areas where offstreet parking isn’t required, and more

While many city-government watchers had their attention on the budget battle today, a major proposal was released by Mayor Tim Burgess‘s office – proposed changes in parking policy. The map above, based on 2009-2014 research about carlessness percentages in neighborhoods, was included.

The official news release focused primarily on one component of the proposal, “shared” parking, but there’s much more to it, as summarized in this report that was among the documents made public today:

The proposed parking-policy changes follow low-level “outreach” at city events where other topics took centerstage, such as last December’s the infamous Junction open house for HALA Mandatory Housing Affordability upzoning, primarily held at what was then Shelby’s.

If you don’t have time yet to go through the summary document above, it breaks down what’s proposed into six areas – number 3 is the big one:

1. Defining “flexible-use parking” and facilitating more shared parking. …

2. Convenient access to car share …

3. Update and clarify provisions for Frequent Transit Service (FTS) areas

That’s related to what caught people by surprise five years ago, when projects started turning up with little or no offstreet parking, because of a city “director’s rule” allowing that when the site was in an FTS area. The new proposal would loosen the rules and expand those areas, with one West Seattle area specifically mentioned in the document:

Combined with the service levels provided by Metro and Sound Transit, the proposal will
increase the share of the city covered by FTS from 18.6% to 22.5%. This is equivalent to a
2,062-acre expansion in the FTS area within Seattle’s 53,151 gross-acres. This will newly cover
portions of northeast Seattle, and new portions of corridors in other parts of the city. Part of this
expansion of FTS coverage is also due to the added 270,000 hours of service that Seattle has
purchased from Metro. … With increased FTS there are also areas outside Urban Villages where the proposed FTS frequency measure would newly allow for a 50% reduction in the required minimum parking level. These include multifamily and non-residential zoned areas in the following locations:

Here’s the West Seattle zone specifically described in the document:

 In West Seattle, near the 21 bus route, portions of land along 35th Avenue SW between approximately SW Edmunds Street and SW Kenyon Street …

Overall, this map shows what areas are, and would be, considered to have FTS:

(See it full size, PDF, on the city website here.)

The remaining section headers in the summary of the policy-change proposal:

4. Update parking policies in Seattle’s version of the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA)

5. Update and consolidate bike parking requirements for new development

6. Other Related Code Amendments

7. Consistency with the Comprehensive Plan

If you want to read the really fine print, it’s here, in the 112-page proposed ordinance that’s been sent to City Council. Reviews and hearings are expected to start next month, according to the mayor’s announcement today. If you have feedback in the meantime, is the general address.

45 Replies to "PARKING POLICY CHANGES: Proposal allows 'shared' parking, expands areas where offstreet parking isn't required, and more"

  • 22blades November 16, 2017 (6:34 am)

    Anyone with a disability or is caring for an elderly loved one can attest to the increasingly discriminatory policies and practices. An example would be downtown; There are very few to no options for reasonable access to downtown stores. I am a regular bicyclist but in caring for an elderly family member, very basic shopping needs are a challenge at best,  impossible at worst. I believe the bike lanes were designed in a poor fashion, restricting access to all. Evidence of this are the scores of delivery trucks parked haphazardly even in the bike lanes in the morning.

    I get the social engineering, but let’s not do it at the expense of leaving the challenged behind.

    • Mike November 16, 2017 (7:16 am)

      Agreed!  I ride to work much of the week and see how things have been implemented first hand.  The bike lanes are a joke.  Parking and access is not only limited, it’s blocked by the crazy amount of construction going on and narrowing of lanes and parking areas.  Elderly and disabled are always an afterthought and it seems now not even included in how things are done.  That’s a violation of federal law.  We have bike share programs that litter our sidewalks with unused cycles dumped by people not even using them.  I’ve had to report in a few now to be moved out of walk path areas.  These are not just annoying, anyone wheelchair bound cannot get around them, they can’t move them, they’re stuck.

    • Mark Schletty November 16, 2017 (7:48 am)

      ADA Title 2 Regulations, Part 35, § 35.130 applies to actions by local governments.  A number of it’s subsections would appear to prohibit the city from enacting this proposal. It will clearly make it much more difficult for people with disabilities to access businesses and services than will be the case for people who don’t need a car for transportation. Need car+no parking=Access denied. Shame on you, City Council. An ADA investigation is clearly needed.

      • Anonymous Coward November 16, 2017 (9:12 am)

        When did the city start caring about whether or not their policies comply with state and federal law?

      • J November 16, 2017 (2:51 pm)

        I notice that elderly and disabled are also having a tough time at bus stops. Many of the bus spots are nearly a block long. People with mobility issues struggle to get on their bus when it shows up if it stops behind a long line of other buses. Everyone will run down to the end of the stop to get on and the driver will take off before people with mobility issues can walk/wheel to it.

    • Steven Lorenza November 16, 2017 (8:11 am)

      What are you talking about? There are thousands of garage and lot spaces downtown. And those are on flat, level ground. 

      • Mark schletty November 16, 2017 (9:32 am)

        Steven L.— You obviously don’t quite understand the problem mobility impaired people face. It is the distance between parking and desired location that is critical. It does no good for someone who can only walk a block (or less), without experiencing dibilitating pain, to be able to park 3 blocks away.  Try walking in somebody elses shoes before you spout off. 

        • Steven Lorenza November 16, 2017 (12:07 pm)

          Please name one major city that in the downtown one can always park immediately in front of where they are going.  Thanks.

          • Mark schletty November 16, 2017 (1:40 pm)

            Steven— just to clarify. My issue isn’t with downtown. Downtowns will always be difficult for the mobility impaired. I, for one, never shop downtown anymore unless I have someone to drive and drop me. My issue is the city deliberately expanding this problem to our urban villages and neighborhood commercial areas. This is making it so those of us with mobility problems can’t shop anywhere in the city. And that is why I think the ADA needs to become involved.

        • West Seattle since 1979 November 16, 2017 (12:36 pm)

          I completely understand what you mean, Mark.

          However, I was just thinking that even if there were  no bus lanes or bike lanes,  there are limited numbers of parking spaces in front of downtown buildings, just because of the size of the buildings.  Same thing with the Junction, or any other business area in the city.  There really need to be more parking spaces designated strictly for disabled people (which would mean anyone who has a mobility problem for whatever reason, and also apply to someone who was driving them.)  I suppose it’d be hard to enforce this though.  

  • Immamom November 16, 2017 (7:19 am)

    Our bus system is completely inadequate to handle this.  More notifications of my bus route being canceled this morning – it’s been happening all month and has resulted in driving to work as a result.  

  • JeffK November 16, 2017 (7:40 am)

    So the top graphic shows renter households and ignores the homeowners in the area.  I live 1 block outside one of the Morgan Junction urban village and the overflow of parking is significant with current development.  The projects building out now on California will probably push parking another block or two outward beyond the urban village boundary and this is still just the beginning of the level of development to come.  This next decade is going to have some frustration with parking, but car share, autonomous cars, millennials owning fewer cars, and *eventual* upgrades in mass transit will hopefully balance some of this out.

    • cjboffoli November 16, 2017 (10:51 am)

      JEFFK:  I think over the next decade we’ll see frustration with parking largely DISSIPATE due to autonomous cars.  In our current system of private car ownership, cars spend better than 95% of their lifespan parked and unoccupied, requiring a great deal of space for their storage when not in use.  In urban environments drivers also contribute a surprising amount of extra traffic as they drive around hunting for street spaces. To the contrary, sharable autonomous cars will probably spend much more of their lifespan circulating and will not need to be parked as much.  And a lower percentage of private ownership will not only be more cost effective, but a more efficient use of space and resources. Of course people may still privately own cars for a long time. And the transition will be gradual. But I think there is reason for optimism, especially in tight urban geography where space is at a premium. 

  • Scott A November 16, 2017 (7:52 am)

    Interesting to see that the first map in this story is percentage of renters that do not own cars.  Totally relevant to the policy discussions at hand since some of them are related to leases not including parking spaces but I wonder what the general map of all households would look like.  I haven’t dug through the details to find such a map.

    Overall – this is great movement towards policies that de-emphasize car ownership and make housing more affordable while also making shared cars and other modes more likely over time. 

    • WSB November 16, 2017 (8:06 am)

      That map and the one further down, showing where the “frequent transit service” is affecting/will affect parking requirements, are both part of the longer document we embedded. It’s part of the supporting evidence cited by the city. I didn’t get to refer to everything I noticed. Another one is kind of ironic – a study of Morgan Junction parking done in 2014 by the developers of one of the first projects to get a lot of attention for not having offstreet parking, 6917 California SW, the Viridian Apartments … TR

  • John November 16, 2017 (9:17 am)

    I would like to see a map of homeowners with garages that are not using their garages for parking cars?  Instead they have filled them with  other  storage  items or have converted them to living spaces, man-caves and other uses that make them rely on street parking.

    I was at one of those community meetings where a woman who had converted her garage to kayak storage was outraged about others parking in front of her house in the Morgan area where she stated it was an “infringement on her lifestyle” to use her own garage as intended.

    I would also like to see a graphic of how many vehicles are owned per household and where they are stored?

    It seems reasonable that homeowners who expect to store their vehicles on the streets should receive the same treatment as renters.

    • WSB November 16, 2017 (9:21 am)

      Sorry, no such map in the city docs, nor do I recall (and yes, I actually read through the whole report before writing this, rather than just cut and paste the news release) seeing any such stats – but you could try asking SDCI/SDOT. The only map I saw that I didn’t include above was one that had something to do with Ballard. – TR

    • KBear November 16, 2017 (9:32 am)

      I agree, John. I’d love to have a garage, but at least I have off-street parking. Homeowners should not be allowed to eliminate their own off-street parking unless they choose not to have a car. The city shouldn’t be forced to subsidize free storage for private vehicles.

    • KM November 16, 2017 (10:07 am)

      “It seems reasonable that homeowners who expect to store their vehicles on the streets should receive the same treatment as renters.”


    • DH November 16, 2017 (6:07 pm)

      @John I totally agree. As a homeowner I prefer to park in front of my house but I have both a driveway and garage that are less convenient but accessible. Maybe we should focus on pushing homeowners to use available parking on their property! I’d support that and will do so when the parking in front of my house isn’t available anymore. My alley is the boundary of the Westwood-HP Urban Village. I do think things should be done to ensure people with mobility issues are accommodated. I’m less concerned about parking than ensuring there is enough green space. 

    • AMD November 16, 2017 (7:24 pm)

      Thank you!

      And add to that those who opted to buy homes with no off-street parking already and no place to add it – knowing they needed to drive – so that they could get a fancier house or live in a nicer neighborhood rather than spending money on an off-street parking space like everyone else did.

      If you choose to utilize the free (i.e. publicly subsidized) parking, you are choosing all that comes with it.  It’s not yours.  If driving is an important part of your life, buy a house that accommodates that important part of your life.

  • Enid November 16, 2017 (9:53 am)

    Agree with John & KBear.

    Arbor Heights is not much affected by this map, due to poor transit options and zero amenities.  However, this area hosts a lot of car ranchers and backyard/street side mechanics.  There needs to be a crackdown on these activities, as well as the abuse of street parking by those with private options.

    • Scott A November 16, 2017 (10:09 am)

      Any crackdown I’ve seen on car ranchers and yard mechanics starts with complaints.  SDCI (for private property) and SPD parking enforcement (streets) will take action but usually only with complaints.  If I lived on a street that was generally full of parked cars I’d definitely be reporting those with grass growing up through nearby paving joints (way over 72 hours) or with long expired tabs.  Make sure you have the Find It, Fix It app handy or other means of submitting complaints.

  • Eliza November 16, 2017 (10:24 am)

    Parking is a hot issue and will continue to be as the City makes these types of changes.  I had a first hand encounter last Saturday which reflects the frustration felt by business-owners and citizens who are feeling increasingly crunched.   Saturday morning, my family parked in front of a dog care business in the vicinity of the YMCA.  There is a commercial load zone sign in front of the business however being a holiday it was a legal parking space (the signed stated except Sundays and holidays). A lady came out of the business and started yelling at my family of 4  “I’m calling the police as that parking spot belongs to my business” She yelled at us repeatedly that she was having us towed and uttered choice words.   We pointed out that Saturday was a holiday and thus we could park there and she screamed at us that she was having our car towed if we didn’t move immediately.  Our kids were stressed by her behavior as they felt threatened and unsafe.  We felt unsafe.   We drove by that business last night and they mentioned the mean lady and how she wanted to tow our car.     I bring this story up because I am guessing she feels her business is threatened by increasing parking pressures.  This doesn’t excuse her behavior however my guess is we will see increased conflict until driving behaviors change. 

    • KBear November 16, 2017 (1:20 pm)

      The fact that it is a loading zone does not mean that the adjacent business “owns” the parking space. It just means you can’t park there except while loading or unloading, and only for the designated amount of time. On the non-loading zone days, it’s just a regular parking space unless otherwise marked. The dog care lady was totally out of line on both counts. I now know where I’ll be doing all my loading and unloading when I go to the Y.

    • T November 16, 2017 (1:46 pm)

      Sorry this happened to you. I would like to think people would vote with their dollars and not go to that biz but there are so many dogs in ws it would not make a dent in their bottom line. But I know what point you are trying to make. People like that really upset me. It picks at the standard I hear all the time about what a great sense of community we have. I see it less and less each day.

    • M November 16, 2017 (9:03 pm)

      Not defending rabid dog care lady but what holiday was Saturday? I thought Veteran’s day was Friday, not Saturday?

      • WSB November 16, 2017 (9:42 pm)

        For parking, as noted here at the time (from SDOT’s website and also an exchange on Twitter), Saturday was the holiday. We in fact parked for a bit in a “30-minute load zone except Sunday and holidays” spot ourselves that day on Alki. Friday was the observance mostly for things that would not have been open Saturday anyway, like government offices. – TR

      • Rick November 18, 2017 (7:54 am)

        Veterans Day WAS Saturday. It was observed on Friday so schools and workers got an extra day off.

  • HeronGirl November 16, 2017 (12:12 pm)

     I admit to not having read the parking policy proposal, but have read comments/threads here.  As usual, I can see many angles.  I “get it” that the disabled/elderly should not have to fight or get stuck due to abandoned Limebikes in order to navigate to their destinations.  The City’s permission for the bike rental/abandonment program will hopefully remain what it is — just an experiment — and will not get passed.  (Picture the bikes in snow and rain lying around rusting.)   When it comes to homeowners who happen to have garages — more power to them — I am one myself and I do not like the socialistic tone where renters seem upset by homeowners’ freedoms.    As far as the Mom w/the kids who parked legally and got the shopowner upset because she parked in the loading zone (but was permitted to do so because it was the weekend hours), Mom is right.  There will be more parking fights in West Seattle in the future.  The shopowner was out of line in yelling at her — she had every right to park there.  I feel bad for her and her kids getting an earful from the shopowner.

  • Sue November 16, 2017 (12:38 pm)

    I think areas of the city, and I am particularly referring to the northend, that have no sidewalks should be held to a different standard than other areas regard to parking. I understand parked cars may slow traffic but regulations should always consider the impact on pedestrians

  • ProudPapa November 16, 2017 (1:25 pm)

    The Mayors Office and the Seattle City Council don’t want us to visit businesses downtown, drive there, park there, or do anything downtown other than ride a bike, bus, or soon, a train. Sadly, I’ve stopped going downtown for my department store shopping and instead head over I-90 to the Bellevue Collection (or down to Southcenter). I feel bad for the smaller retail business downtown that are hurt by our elected officials.

    • Jon Wright November 16, 2017 (2:14 pm)

      You’re absolutely right. Nobody goes downtown anymore. It’s too crowded!

    • Jort November 16, 2017 (9:13 pm)

      Yes! Truly! You could not be more correct. As we all can clearly see, downtown Seattle and Capitol Hill are desolate, hollow wastelands. If only Downtown Seattle had not forsaken the almighty automobile, it would not be the economic dead zone of the western United States. 

  • dcn November 16, 2017 (2:17 pm)

    The thing about homeowners who use their garages for storage or other uses is that they probably don’t take up any extra street parking space due to doing that. I have a garage, and I park my car in it. However, during those times when I haven’t been able to park in the garage, due to home improvement projects or whatever, I park it in the driveway. 

    We are a one-car family. But if we had 2 cars, then the second car would park in the street instead of the drive, since you want to be able to get the car out of the garage if you need to use it. When I rented a house with friends, only one person could park in the (garageless) driveway at a time, or we’d be forever having to move cars around to be able to use them.  I see my neighbors who have more than one car park one in their driveway (or garage), and the other on the street. Using the garage for storage doesn’t really add to the street parking problem, since houses with garages also have driveways that are used for parking if the garage isn’t usable. 

    • John November 16, 2017 (2:42 pm)


      Your example only applies to houses with one-car garages and driveways to the street, as well as single car families.   None are any longer the majority.

      It ignores all of the older established alley based garages prevalent in West Seattle as well as all of the newer two car garages with the code allowed single car width driveway to the street.

      It also does not take in to account all of the homeowners with motor homes, boats on trailers, trailers and multiple cars.  

  • KLC November 16, 2017 (8:10 pm)

    Regarding parking cars in the garage: we are a one- car couple living in a 1931 house. The walled driveway  down to the garage is very narrow, the doorway opening into the garage even narrower. Early on we mangled the right side of the car backing the car out of the below-grade garage and up the walled driveway, such mangling costing us $800 to repair. We don’t move our car anywhere near that garage or driveway now. We park it on the street. 

    • Tracey November 17, 2017 (7:00 am)

      Also regarding parking in garages.  I have a garage that is accessible thru an alley.  I park on the street.   The alley is unimproved (dirt) and my car bottoms out trying to drive thru it.  The garbage trucks create huge potholes which turn into lakes in the winter.  The city owns the alley but refuses to maintain it.  I have no choice but to park on the street or spend a fortune grading and leveling the alley.   All of my neighbors without SUVs park on the street and many have closed off their alley access.  Alleys are valuable city resources and should be considered and maintained as infrastructure.  

      • John November 17, 2017 (7:41 am)


        By Seattle City codes, the alley is the responsibility of the adjacent homeowners to maintain.  This is similar to the sidewalk, driveway skirt and planting strips that are also valuable city resources that the property owners are required to maintain.

  • Mark November 16, 2017 (10:51 pm)

    Zero is not defendable. 

    The City has a map indicated car ownership rates, this coupled with parking studies should ascertain a reasoned number of parking stalls for a project.

    A 100 unit project in Alaska Junction probably needs 35 to 50 stalls, where as a similar project near Alki probably needs 75 to 100.  In Admiral 50 to 70.  

  • BC November 17, 2017 (2:17 am)

    If someone owns a house with a garage. They can use it for whatever they want!

    Fortunately it is still a free country. Nobody has the right to force their own beliefs on their neighbors. 

    I for one being a car guy have 5. Fortunately I have the space to park them all without relying on street parking. No, none of them are derelicts and most are restored valuable classics.

    This is a hobby and passion of mine. 

    I feel for the people who are being forced to not own a car because they don’t have a place to put it.

    They are missing the freedom to get away from the city.

    To me this “city policy” of getting people to not drive. By not requiring builders to provide adequate parking. Is all about back room political payoffs so the builders make more money. At the expense of everyone else.

    I LOVED West Seattle until recently. Seattle in general has just become progressively worse as time passes. Doubt it will be long before I have had my fill. 

    • John November 17, 2017 (10:43 am)


      I agree this is still a free country,

      You may have a legal five car garage to store your passionate hobby, but the city we live in, through our elected representatives, has established many rules and codes regarding what we are allowed to do on our private property.  As such they have a number of rules regarding just where cars and vehicles are allowed to be stored on one’s property.  This includes not storing vehicles in the areas such as that defined as the front yard, designated back yard and even along the side yard.  Some of the reasons may be for maintaining a pleasant street front, but others such as the side yard rules are a safety issue allowing space and access for firefighting both yours and your neighbors’ houses.

      The rules for storing cars can be found on the City of Seattle website.

  • tracey November 17, 2017 (9:16 am)


    I’m aware of that.  Unfortunately, it is the city’s garbage, recycling and yard waste trucks that are doing the damage.   I am not aware that Seattle requires you to pave your own sidewalk but maybe I’m wrong.  They do require you to shovel snow, rake leaves and deal with tree root damage once the city installed the infrastructure or paved sidewalk.

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