City’s ‘no parking necessary if built near frequent transit’ rule proposed for a rewrite

ORIGINAL REPORT, 9:30 AM: What’s officially on the city Department of Planning and Development books as “Director’s Rule 11-2012 Parking Reductions Based on Frequent Transit Service” is getting a rewrite. This city policy is the reason some development projects in recent years – here and elsewhere in the city – have been approved to be built with few or no offstreet-parking spaces. If you’ve never read it, see it here or below:

A notice in today’s city Land Use Information Bulletin says that because of a “recent” decision by the city Hearing Examiner, DPD proposes to rescind (cancel) this rule “and write a new one in 2015.” Which decision? The notice doesn’t say; we’re inquiring with DPD. But we wouldn’t be surprised to hear it’s the one we reported on December 1st, involving the Neighbors Encouraging Reasonable Development (NERD) appeal of 3078 SW Avalon Way – since parking figured into the challenge and the decision. We’ll add anything more we find out from DPD.

5:35 PM: DPD spokesperson Bryan Stevens has replied to our questions:

Yes, the notice which proposes to rescind Director’s Rule 11-2012 is related to the recent Hearing Examiner decision on the proposal at 3078 SW Avalon Way. It may have been a little premature though, as the Hearing Examiner’s decision isn’t final until the appeal period on that decision has lapsed, which is December 22. However, our proposal to rescind would not occur until sometime after December 26, after taking public comments.

The Hearing Examiner took issue with the averaging technique allowed in Director’s Rule 11-2012, a method sometimes used by applicants to demonstrate whether their site was located close to frequent transit service, thus not requiring parking if located within an urban village. The Hearing Examiner felt the averaging technique within the rule allowed too much leeway in how to determine if a site was located near frequent transit service compared to what the actual code required. Projects under review still have the ability to apply the Director’s Rule while it’s in effect. However, those few projects that may currently be applying the averaging technique shown in the rule will be advised of the recent Hearing Examiner’s decision and could be at risk of a similar appeal.

However, the frequent transit service parking reduction will continue to remain in effect within the Land Use Code. To qualify under the existing code definition, an area must have transit service headways in at least one direction of 15 minutes or less for at least 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, and transit service headways of 30 minutes or less for at least 18 hours every day. Most projects within an urban village apply this method, which may be the only method for demonstrating frequent transit service if the Director’s Rule is rescinded.

43 Replies to "City's 'no parking necessary if built near frequent transit' rule proposed for a rewrite"

  • KT December 11, 2014 (9:37 am)

    About time another look was taken regarding this idea.

  • That Guy December 11, 2014 (9:37 am)

    Good! This is a ridiculous directors rule. I work in the development industry and the rule as stated could benefit me immensely. We need to stop trying to social engineer the communities we live in, people will have cars for the near future and you have to have a place to park them.

  • Debra December 11, 2014 (10:06 am)

    Great news long overdue
    Finally they are listening to the community versus the small majority who envision no cars and paying for parking within neighborhoods and in front of our homes

  • John December 11, 2014 (10:08 am)

    Another caving in to the NIMBY lobby, gutting any prospects of improving our current transportation problems.

    This rule was “to promote environmental and transportation policies of the Comprehensive Plan and support alternatives to auto driving…”

    Forced building of automobile infrastructure is another car away from any solutions as well as another car encouraged to add to our problems.

    I don’t understand who gave DPD their orders to rescind, is the Director acting purely through the Hearing Examiner or under direction of mayor and council?

    Who is in charge?

  • WSince86 December 11, 2014 (10:22 am)

    Thank god it’s not you in charge, John!

  • That Guy December 11, 2014 (10:22 am)


    You don;t get it, the hearing examiner determined that the “rule” is not equitable. A Directors Rule is the opinion of the director and staff of how to interrupt code, it is not law. I challenge director rules on a weekly basis and win 80% of the time.

  • ChefJoe December 11, 2014 (10:23 am)

    John, just where will you temporarily place your cement trucks if nobody builds off street parking ?

  • iggy December 11, 2014 (10:30 am)

    Sadly a bit like closing the barn door after the horse has already left. Still, given the plans for future growth, every bit of help is welcome.

  • sophista-tiki December 11, 2014 (10:38 am)

    *Umm JOHN if bazillion of dollars and decades of time hadn’t been wasted on exploratory committees over the subject of improved transit we would have it by now. I’ve lived here since the 80’s and its been an issue the WHOLE TIME. Meanwhile ” projected development” keeps cramming more people into less space and naively assuming the millennials moving here in swarms are magically not going to have cars and or lie about having cars. Its obtuse to think its about anything more than developers bottom lines. Transit hubs are a load of crap. I get to be ” NIMBY” about that one since its dropped my property value ,infested my neighborhood with excessive amounts of crime from homeless people taking the bus to the Fn transit hub and parking themselves. This includes camping out in the park, stealing anything that ins’t nailed down,crapping all over the place, gigantic increase in trash everywhere, and lets not forget about these gems- stabbing, assault, aggressive pan handling, and rape, Thank you transit hub. But I’m supposed to buy that thats an improvement to make way for more development for all those people moving here with no cars? you are delusional. or live in a gated community.

  • twobottles December 11, 2014 (10:48 am)

    Probably a good idea. The issue, as I see it, is the city of Seattle defines the zoning which allows for little or no parking in areas of “frequent transit” and yet it’s the county, not the city, that determines where these areas exist (and my not exist in the future).

  • westseattledood December 11, 2014 (10:49 am)

    The Director has discretionary ruling power. NERDS was a litmus for future battles.

    Perhaps it was recognized that citizens with the wherewithall will financially organize and keep DPD in court after this precedent-setting ruling. Somewhere in WSB’s story, I read that NERD estimated costs to have their side of the law represented was around $100K. Not all neighborhoods adversely impacted could ever hope to afford that kind of justice.

    The original goal of the no parking requirement might have been visionary and noble to many who want to save the world in their lifetime with poorly executable muni codes or developers who are indifferent to local impacts, but it is in the reckless execution (as I recall it was “snuck in” and interpretation of a poorly written rickety muni code (decisionmakers opening the flood gates) where the problem persists.

    If it is not sufficiently rewritten, the city/DPD will likely be in court with every disgruntled citizen’s group – whether residential or even other commercial properties – financially capable of entering the court system and litigating it until the bitter end. There are so many effected parties of property owners in the city that the rewrite is pragmatic. And for those property owner’s, etc., whose properties were impacted but do not have money for top tier land use attorneys? Kind of out-of-luck there folks. Embedding social inequity into muni code is not cool. So the answer is to write it to reflect the highest purpose and intent in a way which does not limit growth but does not oppress the legitimate property rights of others.

    Social change may be inevitable, but it is how the programs are implemented which matter as much as the desired outcomes. imho.

  • JAT December 11, 2014 (10:50 am)

    Oh come now, That Guy, “social engineering” is just legislation and policy that YOU don’t like.

    It’s just as much “social engineering” to require so much physical space for parked cars to devote so much of our property taxes to roads, to allow private developers to dig and poorly patch recently repaved streets.

    “Social engineering” as you coyly put it is all over the place and most of it is benefiting you.

  • Carl December 11, 2014 (11:17 am)


    The city is taking another look at this “solution” that is creating more problems, including many environmental ones, than it hoped to solve.

    Recent statistics are showing that as Seattle’s population increases vehicle registrations are going up as well, even while this zero parking policy has been in place. This is unfortunate but it is the reality. This possibly well-meaning policy is not having the desired effect.

    This change of zero parking per unit allows developers to make more money (as do most recommendations that come from the Seattle Planning Commission) on their developments but creates and exacerbates traffic and safety problems for neighborhoods where it is enacted.

    This short-sighted policy has the added detrimental effect of discouraging the purchase of lower emission electric vehicles, since buyers of those cars will have no private garage in which to park and charge them when not in use.

    Even if our city had the required effective mass transit to get people out of their cars, which it does not, people here would still own cars for trips that they make outside of their regular commutes.

    We need to figure out a better way to encourage people (that physically and logistically are able) to get out of their cars (while still owning them) without using this ham-fisted forceful approach which is negatively impacting many of our once livable neighborhoods.

    Commenter “John” asks: “Who’s in charge?” I hope this right returns to “we the people” where it belongs. The developers and architects have been given too much influence in the formulation of public policy via the Seattle Planning Commission. Which, and contrary to its original charter, has become nothing more than a TAX PAYER FINANCED lobbying organization for them and their industry. The unfortunate result; sound urban planning has taken a back seat to developers’ unsatisfiable need for increased profits.

    There must be a better solution, I suggest we start by REFORMING THE SEATTLE PLANNING COMMISSION!

  • John December 11, 2014 (11:21 am)

    That Guy,
    You are the one I have been searching for for years if you successfully challenge DRs on a weekly basis.

    The one that I wish to challenge is the exquisitely confusing DR 25 96 ” The Land Use Code (SMC 23.84. 024) defines “Lot Area” as follows:

    “Lot area” means the total area of the horizontal plane within the lot lines of a lot.


    “When a lot has been surveyed by a State of Washington licensed land surveyor, and the surveyed lot lines are shorter by 0.4% (four-tenths of a percent) or less than the dimensions on the recorded plat, the dimensions shown on the recorded plat may, at the option of the applicant, be used to determine the lot area, for the purposes of Land Use Code development standards.”

    If you can challenge this please respond?

  • John December 11, 2014 (11:33 am)

    Chef Joe,
    Although an expression of ignorance and an apparent dig at me, I always get a chuckle out of your obsession with moving services and concrete trucks.

    The examples you repeatedly cite are dealt with by city codes.

    The truck loading zones and passenger loading zones seen in front of apartments are available for moving in these zones. Single Famuily Neighborhoods have no such options and require a street use permit.

    The temporary placement of concrete trucks is also addressed in DPD permitting process with required staging areas.

  • Diane December 11, 2014 (11:38 am)

    best news of the week, month, perhaps of the year; I would like to suggest a community award for NERD; many of us recognized immediately that this win would reverberate throughout the city, helping all neighborhoods; but never occurred to me that City of Seattle staff would get it this quickly and change the rules; major kudos and thanks to NERD

  • Chris December 11, 2014 (11:56 am)

    I agree, iggy. The effect of all the buildings already started with little or no off street parking is going to be very damaging I believe, but better late than never.

  • Matt December 11, 2014 (12:13 pm)

    Westseattledood–the change in parking requirements was not snuck in, but part of a multifamily code update that was years in the making. Don’t make it sound like a secret back room deal.

    Sophista-tiki–Sorry you think your neighborhood sucks, maybe you should try being more neighborly, instead of characterizing your neighbors as a raping, thieving swarm with no bowel control. I’d say move, but then you’d be one of those new people infesting and devaluing someone else’s neighborhood.

  • John December 11, 2014 (12:14 pm)

    I’ve been here since the fifties and its been a problem the WHOLE TIME.

    Downtown was supposed to be car free by the eighties. I remember my mother calling and actually getting Martin Selig on the line to ask him why so few parking places in his new sky-scraper, the Columbia Center. He told her not to worry, the downtown would be a pedestrian mecca.

    You seem to mix up the temporary and new issues over the nearby transit hub that is currently being addressed, with other larger issues such as increased demand for housing?

    Your claim of lowered property values is likely contradicted by the assessed value. Please look at it to verify? Your value would need to show a significant decline in the last year as that is first year of the Transit Hub coming into play for taxes.
    Do you have any proof whatsoever to back up your claim?

    I agree, your litany of problems were worsened with the Transit Hub addition to this already crime challenged area of the park and mall.
    But that has nothing to do with development and the need for less cars and better mass transit.

    Perhaps you could make a suggestion as to what to do to deal with existing problems?

    Some posters remind me of the Flat Earth Society members who cling on to old beliefs…the statistics are out. People are cutting down on car use. Young people are no longer enamored of the automobile as a cultural touchstone as they used to be. A higher percentage are not even learning to drive. Some take transit and or live where they can walk or bike to work. These are choices that actually help reduce parking and traffic. Change is already coming , why discourage or halt it?

    Once again, what do you propose?

  • JanS December 11, 2014 (12:17 pm)

    for those that think the “no parking provided” rule is a good thing, think about this. They’re going to have cars…to go to grandma’s house on Thanksgiving/Christmas/July 4th/skiing on weekends/partying on weekends with friends/going to the mall/going to the grocery store 2 miles away/ and on and on. If you think otherwise, you’re deluded. Element 42 provided some parking (Adm. District), but it cost 100 bucks a month. Where do those people park? On my street (I live across the street from Element 42). Put that together with a function at Admiral Sanctuary, which has NO parking ( yeah, originally said they had an agreement with the old Safeway, fat lotta good that did), and parking is horrendous. No one, no developer, is going to force Metro to up it’s service. It is what it is, standing room only during rush hour. Thankfully, I work at home, in an older building, that has provided me, a disabled 67 yo, a parking space , so I can have a car, if, for nothing else, to get me to appointments on First Hill without taking up a whole day.

  • JanS December 11, 2014 (12:22 pm)

    Oh, and John? For Element 42, if someone is moving in? The truck double parks. There is no loading zone. And on 42nd SW just north of Lander, that’s an accident looking to happen, since the street is busy with people going to and coming from Safeway, constantly. Quote whatever you want. The reality is different. I am assuming you’ve given up your car….right?

  • Matt December 11, 2014 (12:56 pm)

    Line up here to share your sob story about not being able to park for free on the public street right in front of your destination everyday.

  • debra December 11, 2014 (12:57 pm)

    Also John you comment that change is coming…change and progress are to different things…the change that has occured has not been progress in making this a better community to live with
    And yes there are homes that have decreased in value secondary to looming buildings over hanging into back yards…you may not believe it but it is true…and your comments that it just aient so no matter how many times you say it doesn;’t make it so…
    Nice to see the potential of fresh air of postive progress close at hand…sad that the horse is out of the barn and in time all these condos will become an eye sore

    • WSB December 11, 2014 (1:18 pm)

      Couple of datapoints regarding what is/are being built:
      NOT condos – there are no condos under construction here (and very few anywhere else in the city) currently. Aside from the spot developments of townhouses/rowhouses/single-family homes, they’re apartments, planned to be rented.
      NOT “apodments” west of The Junction – that term (though trademarked) is used as a synonym for microhousing (sleeping units with individual bathrooms but shared kitchens); no microhousing is being built on the west side of The Junction or anywhere else in The Junction, nothing closer than 3268 Avalon (and the Morgan Junction project in the 5900 block of California). 4535 44th SW, under construction now, will be an apartment building; so will 4400 SW Alaska, where the existing brick apartments are fenced off and awaiting demolition; and the future 4528 44th SW (reported here recently: ).
      Meantime, I’m still waiting for a DPD reply to my questions about the planned rewrite and the reason for it … TR

  • natinstl December 11, 2014 (1:17 pm)

    As one of the other posters mentioned it doesn’t even matter that the developers are offering parking if they are asking renters to pay for it. One of my co-workers just moved into the new building across the street from Rite Aid on California. She said rather than pay the $95 a month for parking everyone is parking in the neighborhood instead. It’s a public street so what can you say. I’m just illustrating that even if the building has a garage many of the tenants are using it.
    That being said once this recent round of tenants starts to see how they’re pushed out by every new car parker moving into the buildings not finished yet it should get interesting.

  • John December 11, 2014 (1:26 pm)

    Good to hear from you again.

    Do you still claim that a three story apartment is built right to your back property line with no set-back?

    Do you have any proof that your property values have declined as you repeatedly claim? If you continue to make that claim, (this time even more vague) I will continue to ask for just one example.

    And again, what would you suggest?

  • Anonymous Coward December 11, 2014 (1:31 pm)

    “People are cutting down on car use. Young people are no longer enamored of the automobile as a cultural touchstone as they used to be. A higher percentage are not even learning to drive. Some take transit and or live where they can walk or bike to work.”

    Don’t confuse “cutting down on car use” with “doesn’t own one, will never own one.” We recently moved to West Seattle largely to cut down on our car use. And I do ride my bike to work. But getting rid of either of our cars is completely out of the question due to their use on the weekends/evenings.

  • John December 11, 2014 (1:34 pm)

    Thanks for the clarifications WSB.

    I appreciate factual moderation all the while realizing ‘facts are not panacea’ as so well illustrated in this discussion.

  • ChefJoe December 11, 2014 (1:39 pm)

    JanS, that’s probably something that should be in the new “director’s rules” for these sorts of developments that provide so little parking (or none), set a cap on what the parking spaces that are built on site can rent for. Take away any strong monetary motive for residents not to utilize the parking they already have on site (like John says SFH to do with their driveways and garages when RPZs are instituted).

  • wetone December 11, 2014 (2:36 pm)

    NOT “apodments” ? curious to know what the sqft of these new apartments average. They might not be “apodments” but they are very very small apartments (studios) as the city is letting them be called. Example 4535 44th SW, 36 apartments in 11,700sqft = 325sqft ea. I’m sure some will be smaller some bigger. 2ea live/work units in 1100sqft = 550sqft ea. How many parking spots 0. All new west side of junction builds are following the same with the exception of adding 5 parking spots per build. Couple hundred units 10-15 parking spots. I don’t see a problem ;) I do go elsewhere to eat and shop a lot more these days:)

  • Peter December 11, 2014 (4:49 pm)

    Pay no attention to that global warming behind the curtain! I am the Great and Powerful Car Culture!!

  • Carole December 11, 2014 (5:24 pm)

    Re: building right up to property line, there is new construction going on on the west side of California across from the 3210 project. Whatever is being built, I assume apartments, IS built right up against the existing buildings to the north and south. I mean, practically touching the neighboring buildings. Is that allowed by code? There is a small apartment building to the south, and the stairwell adjacent to the new construction is now a dark hole, with no natural light. Not somewhere I would want to walk alone to get home if I lived there. Can only imagine the negative effect on that building’s value, especially if the owner can’t rent the apartment.

  • ChefJoe December 11, 2014 (6:27 pm)

    Peter, the type of bus transit Seattle has isn’t necessarily “low CO2” compared to cars due to the heavier weight of the bus and periods with low ridership buses. Street charging of EVs is unlikely. If you can bike up and over the high bridge more power to you, but I don’t think my 93 year old grandmother with COPD will do so anytime soon.

  • CeeBee December 11, 2014 (6:28 pm)

    Just to make clear, this Directors Rule only sets the calculation for how to determine “frequent transit service”. It will not roll back the Land Use Code change that allows, based on areas determined by this calculation, no parking to be constructed. Buildings with no parking will be allowed to be built according to the re-write.

    Someone like the City Council Planning, Land Use and Sustainability Committee would have to start a separate work item to change the Land Use code to change the parking allowed, like maybe to 1 parking place for every 3 units (which seems to be the number DPD is saying is average car ownership in congregate housing/microhousing)

    • WSB December 11, 2014 (7:01 pm)

      Thanks, CB … you’ll also recall that a citywide parking-policy review is on at least one city plate, so perhaps that will dovetail with the rewrite. In the meantime, anyone interested in any aspect of this, please note, as was reiterated by the DPD spokesperson, a comment period is under way now. Follow the link to the notice for the name/e-mail address of the city point person. – TR

  • Matt December 11, 2014 (7:36 pm)

    Carole–yes, in the Neighborhood Commercial Zone NC2-40, buildings are not required to be set back from the property line along the front and sides, unless they abut a Single Family Zone.

  • John December 11, 2014 (7:44 pm)

    Several areas of West Seattle including the California Ave stretch you refer to as well as the Admiral and Alaska Junction have buildings with no side set-backs.

    Imagine what the Junction would be like if each of the buildings were required to provide side set-backs, say five feet each side for ten feet between just like SFRs? That would be eleven ten foot setbacks between Alaska and Oregon, just imagine wiping out a third of the businesses to create such side to side set-backs?

    What I was referring to is claims of zero rear set-back against a SFR, the three story apartment built to the rear property line (zero set-back) directly adjoining a SFR in the Junction area.

  • JN December 11, 2014 (10:48 pm)

    ChefJoe, you don’t bike up and over the high bridge, you use the path on the low bridge, a very easy gradient at that. Just FYI.

  • John December 12, 2014 (6:44 am)

    Chef Joe,
    From your link;
    “Transit looks better when the environmental costs of building the vehicles and infrastructure are spread over the passenger miles that each mode will accommodate.”

    I highlight ‘building the vehicles and infrastructure’ which is what we are discussing.

    Should we continue in our old ways (just keep building parking infrastructure with no road capacity increase) that have brought us to near gridlock and capacity on-street parking?

    Or should we encourage classic civic responsibility and all make some sacrifices, perhaps change some of our habits and expectations?

    One element that has not been aired is the smart-phone revolution in alternative car services. Although not yet as common in West Seattle, as our density grows demand will increase.

    These new services could shuttle Chef Joe’s freeway confused 93 year old grandmother ‘over the bridge’ for far less than her owning a car.

    Young people are already embracing these services in lieu of the far higher cost, commitment and hassle of owning and storing a car.

    And yes, absolutely! There will always be many others who choose to own and operate car(s).
    But if everyone starts thinking in terms of “what can I do, how can I help?”, I believe the problems that existed before all of these newcomers can be lessened.

  • ChefJoe December 12, 2014 (6:53 am)

    Thanks JN. Know that, but was avoiding “low bridge opened” situations in my hyperbole.

  • Peter December 12, 2014 (8:16 am)

    ChefJoe: The EVs fake environmentalists love so much use tons of energy just like regular cars, just delivered in a different form. You’re also ignoring the fact that 1/3 to 1/2 of auto pollution is from the manufacturing of the cars. Tell me, how we’ll is traffic going to move if bus riders switch to cars? Also, please tell me precisely when I said your poor little old grandmother should bike over the bridge? The fact that there are old people is not a reason to force everyone to pay for parking whether they use it or not. Please get back to reality and skip the fake claim that people are trying to force your grandmother to bike over the bridge.

  • Thomas M. December 13, 2014 (12:58 pm)

    The whole idea that a few spots can serve a whole building has been fantasy from the start. People have to do things at times and places the buses just do not go. They own cars for these trips and tasks and are not going to give them up just because some hippie thinks it is desirable and therefore they will (I believe and therefore it will happen is a classic error in thinking). While they are at it, let’s fill “the swamp” and put a multi level park and ride there with a drive thru undercover transit center and some REAL cops. That whole Westwood/Barton nightmare needs fixing.

  • Greg December 19, 2014 (8:55 am)

    We remain an affluent society. People own cars. Using transit service to measure parking need is nonsense. It is great if they do not use them, but they still have to park them. Allowing developers higher profits by externalizing their parking on to city streets creates two impacts: first, illegal parking impacts pedestrians (walk Fremont and see cars parked on cross walks and sidewalks), and second, small, locally-owned businesses rely on on-street parking for their clientele. Removing on-street parking encourages going to the malls and chain stores that have parking lots. Result: less walking, more driving and fewer locally-owned businesses. Typical unfortunate outcomes when the ‘solution’ is unrelated to the ‘problem.’

Sorry, comment time is over.