PARKING POLICY CHANGES? City goes public with new proposals

img_7779(Easel photographed at one of the city’s HALA-and-more “open houses” last December)

Back in 2012, some were surprised by the city rule change that enabled some development projects to be built without off-street parking, provided they were close to what the city considered “frequent transit service” (FTS). In recent months, the city’s been reviewing that policy and others related to parking – for example, the topic was included in the famously overcrowded HALA-and-more “open house” in The Junction last December and other versions of that event. Today, the city has just announced the results – proposed parking-policy changes. This notice in today’s Land Use Information Bulletin has the documents with all the fine print linked at the top, and then these toplines in the notice itself:

The City of Seattle is proposing to modify parking requirements by amending the Land Use Code (Title 23 SMC), and parking-related environmental policies in Chapter 25.05 of the Environmental Protection and Historic Preservation Code (Title 25 SMC).

The legislation would:


-Create a new use category, “flexible-use parking,” to allow for greater sharing of parking in certain zones, including in: Lowrise 3, Midrise, Highrise, most commercial, and industrial zones; and in mixed-use development garages in light rail station areas.

-Allow park-and-ride facilities within garages as a permitted use in certain zones, including in Lowrise 3, Midrise, Highrise, most commercial, and industrial zones.

-Clarify and update parking provisions by allowing off-site parking to be within one-quarter mile (1,320 feet) of the uses served, up from 800 feet.


-Clarify and reduce the parking requirements for income-restricted housing, including for the disabled.

-Add a new maximum parking limit for flexible-use parking.

-Delete a special exception allowing more parking than the maximum parking limit in Downtown zones.

-Change the Northgate overlay zone parking provisions to be consistent with the city-wide approach.

-Provide for reduced parking minimum requirements for public uses/institutions (non-Major) in frequent transit service areas.

-Allow required parking amounts to be reduced in any zone, except Downtown zones, to a level needed to serve the parking demand for proposed uses as demonstrated by a parking demand study performed by a licensed professional engineer.

-Apply parking stall size requirements to parking for residential and live-work uses whether parking is required or not.


Allow for more flexibility in route timing and total length of daily service by updating transit measurement criteria to be more consistent with King County Metro’s and the City’s transit planning, and by simplifying provisions. The proposal includes Land Use Code amendments and a Director’s Rule that describes scheduled transit service measurement criteria and other details about physical measurement and mapping.


-Update bicycle parking requirements and performance standards, and consolidate the Downtown bicycle parking requirements with requirements for the rest of the city.


-Update SEPA parking policies to better align with Comprehensive Plan and City transportation policies.


-Require unbundling of parking space rental from multi-family dwelling unit rental and lease agreements in new structures 10 dwelling units or greater in size, new commercial lease agreements in existing structures 10,000 square feet or greater in size, and leases in new structures 10,000 square feet or greater in size.

-Allow surface parking for up to three car share vehicles in building setbacks in commercial, Midrise, and Highrise zones.

-For new structures with a garage in zones where flexible-use parking may occur, require a pedestrian access door and route between the garage and a public right-of-way to accommodate non-resident garage access and use.

The document that elaborates on the rationale for the proposed changes is this one. We found a specific West Seattle reference of how the proposed changes would affect one particular area:

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

HOW TO COMMENT: The publication of all this today opens a comment period until October 5th. Comments go to:

City of Seattle, SDCI
Attn: Gordon Clowers
P.O. Box 94788
Seattle, WA 98124-7088

43 Replies to "PARKING POLICY CHANGES? City goes public with new proposals"

  • Bus September 14, 2017 (11:03 am)

    This is great news!  With all the attention paid to the impact of tax increases on rents (~$25 a month) it’s good to see more conversation around how much a parking space increases the cost of housing ($200+ a month).  Not everyone needs to drive, not everyone wants to drive, and it’s great to have cheaper housing options if you are someone who doesn’t need/want to pay for an empty parking space.

  • JanS September 14, 2017 (11:19 am)

    and then there are those of us who would love more affordable rent, but with parking, because some of us can’t walk the distance to a bus, or change buses 3 times to get to a destination(disabled people and physical challenges), or walk up hills in downtown to make a connection, but we can drive. There’s got to be a balance somewhere so that those with lower incomes aren’t “punished” with higher rents because they need a car.. 

  • Mark Schletty September 14, 2017 (11:29 am)

    Just more of the war on cars, ignoring reality. Reducing parking requirements for buildings for the disabled is just plain cruel. The disabled have a greater need for parking. Cars are often the only way they have to get around. An ADA challenge to this part of the proposal is in order. Mayor Harrel, please use your time  in office to fire Scott Kubly and get some rational thought back into SDOT. 

    • Bus September 14, 2017 (9:08 pm)

      It’s not a war on cars so much as fighting the idea that someone else should foot the bill for your parking space.  As much as I’m a bus advocate, I own a car because I need to drive on occasion for work.  Because I know I need a car, I made sure to find a home with off street parking.  This means I live in a smaller home in a less desirable neighborhood to stay within my budget, but being a responsible car owner means understanding it’s MY job to make sure my housing accommodates my parking needs, not the city’s or any developer’s.

      Housing with parking will always exist because there’s a demand for housing with parking (courtesy of the responsible car owners).  Thinking that EVERY housing unit should require parking just so YOU don’t have to make choices based on your personal transportation needs is just entitlement.  Regulations that help sort the parking-free housing into the areas that need cars the least is common sense.

    • Steven Lorenza September 15, 2017 (6:59 pm)

      Except sdot doesn’t regulate building and private parking requirements.

  • Chemist September 14, 2017 (12:05 pm)

    It sounds like they’re working on a council bill that will also do the counting based on bus schedules rather than actual performance, as Phinney Ridge neighbors sued over. Considering I can’t ride a scheduled bus that doesn’t arrive/is cancelled, I stand with Phinney.

    “The Land Use Code, as proposed in Council Bill XXXXX defines “Transit service headway” as “the scheduled time interval between transit vehicles, associated with single or multiple transit routes, running the same direction at a particular transit stop.””

  • WS Guy September 14, 2017 (12:12 pm)

    The frequent transit measurement change is insidious.  Up in Phinney, a group of neighbors won a legal case against a developer.  They found that the  scheduled transit services weren’t actually arriving often enough to meet the frequency requirement.  

    The City’s response?  Change the rules!  Now the bus schedule determines whether a spot has frequent transit, whether the buses arrive or not.  Or in the case of the Junction, whether or not the bus is too full to board.

  • Kim September 14, 2017 (1:25 pm)

    This is ridiculous.  Street parking is now so packed, with cars parked all the way to each intersection, that it’s almost impossible to see if it’s safe to pull out onto California Ave, for example.  You can only inch forward so much to see before you have to just hold your breath and gun it.  

    • 56bricks September 14, 2017 (2:25 pm)

      That’s a bingo. I both live and work on California. And I walk to work everyday. But when I have to drive….Ooooh Boy!

    • Spokant September 14, 2017 (2:34 pm)

      I agree. People need to slow down too. Like, everywhere.

    • KM September 14, 2017 (2:50 pm)

      I would love better parking enforcement!

  • AJP September 14, 2017 (2:06 pm)

    \West Seattle was originally named New York Alki, meaning New York–Someday. In New York everyone doesn’t need a car. We don’t, and can’t, live in a snow globe. Everyone living a car-based way of life is changing. Let’s be proactive.

    • J September 14, 2017 (6:49 pm)

      It’s easy to say this when you are able-bodied, work a job that is easy to take a bus to (during hours that feel safe), don’t have to carry hundreds of pounds of your own tools to a jobsite, and you’re not a single parent working two jobs with limited time between the end of your shift and the time it takes to get to the daycare before they start charging time and a half in late fees. Forcing people out of cars creates divided communities (poor have to move further out, which makes it even harder to give up their cars). Try to consider that other people don’t have your lifestyle, and it’s not something that forcing them out of their cars will fix. 

      • AJP September 14, 2017 (9:24 pm)

        Yes, I do consider other’s way of life. How about instead of making people dependent on cars, we beef up a system that makes it easier for people all around, so that a car isn’t necessary for mobility? Good grief, do you really think that people who are pro-public transportation are against disabled and poor people? 

        • AJP September 14, 2017 (9:39 pm)

          Forcing people into cars has created more divided communities than just about anything else in human history. 

        • CMT September 14, 2017 (10:48 pm)

          Many people – like myself – are pro public transportation and still believe that the City’s cart before the horse approach is, like many of their other policies, poorly planned and detrimental to the very goals for which they are giving lip service.  

          There seems to be a vocal segment of primarily young, healthy individuals that, in their zeal to minimize cars, fail to give any realistic consideration to  the needs of today’s residents that have lived in Seattle’s neighborhoods for decades.  No idea if Bus (commenter above) falls into that category but there is a failure in his/her comments to recognize that people bought homes here decades ago without off street parking, with no idea that the population would explode as it has.  Now they are elderly or have other circumstances that require cars and the ability to park near their homes.  That doesn’t make those people irresponsible and they are members of our community that deserve consideration even as we seek to reduce cars usage where reasonable.

          • Bus September 15, 2017 (11:54 am)

            Yes, I’m well aware that many bought their homes long ago when off street parking was plentiful and I maintain that it wasn’t the city’s job to provide you a parking space then either.  If you’ve had one all along, I’m happy for you and your good fortune, but no one is entitled to street parking.  

            There are people who are now elderly and unable to contend with the stairs, uneven terrain, or other features of their homes and have to move.  I have nothing but empathy for the increased struggles people face as they age.  But regulating all parking so that a percentage of people in existing housing never have to move doesn’t make much sense.  
            Do you feel developers should also be required to provide ramps and level yards in new construction in case the resident some day has trouble with stairs and uneven terrain? Where do we draw the line in accommodating potential future scenarios for home buyers? How much burden are you comfortable with placing on other homeowners to require these accommodations? We’re not talking about eliminating all parking from all buildings. We’re talking about easing parking requirements in places where parking is the least needed.

          • AJP September 15, 2017 (1:20 pm)

            You know why so many older Seattle homes don’t have off-street parking? Because they were built before cars were seen as a necessity instead of a  luxury. Many elderly people eventually have to give up driving too. Denser neighborhoods with a mix of shops and housing mean people who simply cannot drive, because of age, health, physical or mental ability, can easily and independently meet their needs. I have a friend who is a young man with mental disabilities. He can’t drive or ride a bike, but he can walk and takes the bus everywhere. Recently his family had to move, and they had to ensure they were close to transportation hubs so he can get to his job and his friends houses on his own. Beefing up public transportation benefits everyone. It even benefits the single person in a car, because it gets cars off the road. Again, we don’t live in a snow globe. 

          • KM September 15, 2017 (1:12 pm)

            I’d be interested to know what the percentages are for people that truly, physically, don’t have any off street parking for their home they bought decades ago. In my neighborhood, there is one block without alley access and the city did make a deal to accommodate resident parking on the street (which I don’t think is a long-term solution, fwiw), and we are a neighborhood of older homes.

            There are plenty who choose (or chose) not to use their off-street parking for various reasons–too much crap in their garage and driveway, converted their garage to extra living/stuff space/man caves/craft rooms permanently, too many vehicles, purchased vehicles that don’t fit into the garage/driveway. I get it, I park on the street often out of laziness due to a steep driveway.

            This might open a bigger issue at hand here, too much stuff in our lives, but it’s worth pointing out that there are people choosing not to use the car storage space their property was provided with due to lifestyle and convenience, leaving public roadways to pick up the slack. For decades, nobody has peeped about cars being parked on the public surface viewed as dedicated to exclusive use of vehicles.

  • Rick Sanchez September 14, 2017 (2:45 pm)

    Good to see that ridiculous Phinney case being overturned.  And otherwise a good set of changes responding to the city’s growth.  The partial removal of the ban on park and rides is especially overdue.

  • KM September 14, 2017 (2:49 pm)

    I would really love to see smart metering and RPZ permitting, especially in the growing commercial corridors & urban villages.

    JanS, both of my disabled siblings have had great success with Access and other regional ADA accessible transit options. Have you had any luck there? Parking does increase the cost of housing in a substantial way for them, which neither can afford.

  • Jort September 14, 2017 (3:19 pm)

    I support any attempts to make it harder and more difficult for people to park their cars, which will in turn cause people to stop owning cars. 

    When I lived in the Junction, the cost for parking in our own apartment building was $275 a month.  I assure you the direct cost of personally paying that much for parking strongly influenced our family’s decision to forego unnecessary car ownership.

    Of course, if the city had subsidized my parking spot by providing free public land on which to park my car and barely ever move it, we might have reconsidered! Or, the city could have forced my building owner to build dozens of parking spots that sat empty, which would have added hundreds of thousands of dollars to the project that would then be passed off as rent.

    No city in the recorded history of humanity has permanently solved growth-related traffic congestion issues by making it even EASIER for people to drive. Seattle won’t be the first.

    Likewise, no neighborhood has become even more vibrant and flourishing by taking away space from people eating/dining/being people and instead giving it over so that cars can sit and do nothing for hours and hours at a time. 

  • Tomas September 14, 2017 (3:40 pm)

    Yeah just bury your heads in the sand and pretend there aren’t more cars in Seattle each year. 

    • Jort September 14, 2017 (3:52 pm)

      Actually, the rate of automobile ownership in Seattle is declining for the first time in decades. In fact, households of people under age 35 saw a decline of 2.9 percent. 

      So, actually, the people with their proverbial “heads in the sand” are those who think that Seattle’s only future involves every citizen relying on an automobile for transportation. 

      Because that’s not the reality, anymore.

      • Mark schletty September 14, 2017 (4:28 pm)

        Jort– there was an article in the Times several weeks ago that showed a car/ people study indicated that that population increase in Seattle is being matched by the car increase. And if , even those under 35 years of age have only reduced car ownership by 2.9 percent, 97.1 precent of them have not. Hardly supportive of your argument.

        • Jort September 14, 2017 (5:00 pm)

          Mark, I know full well the article to which you are referring. It also points out that, while the raw number of cars is, indeed, increasing, the rate of carless households is also, in fact, increasing. 

          You can study up on the articles here and here.

          Here is a particularly helpful excerpt from the car increase story you referenced (in fact, it even references the parking issues in this very blog post):

          To be fair, there are some signs of change when it comes to car ownership. Back in May, I spoke with Hallenbeck about data showing carless households are now increasing at a faster rate than those with cars, reversing a trend going back many decades. In that sense, at least, Seattle may have passed “peak car.”

          But even if car-owning households aren’t growing as fast, they’re still growing. And so the raw number of cars in the city continues to climb.

          More cars means more traffic. But the problems don’t end there. Cars spend a lot more time parked than they do traveling, and there’s already a shortage of street parking in many neighborhoods.

          Of course, that will only get worse if we continue to add cars at the same rate as people. Requiring developers to include off-street parking in new apartment buildings isn’t a good solution. It adds tremendously to the cost of construction, which in turn raises rents — and higher rents are the last thing Seattle needs.

  • TJ September 14, 2017 (5:19 pm)

    Mark, you are spot on. Yes, there are more people not owning a car, but it is still a small percentage of the population. And those who advocate for less car ownership love to push percentages to support their claim, and a 25% increase in people who don’t own cars sounds good, but when that means a jump from 3% to 3.75%, hardly a movement. And sorry, social engineering that aims to “cause people to stop owning cars” is a slap in the face to most people. 

    • Steven Lorenza September 15, 2017 (7:04 pm)

      So if you own a car buy a place with parking.  They’re not hard to find. 

  • skeeter September 14, 2017 (5:27 pm)


    If you like driving you should be BEGGING the city to
    restrict parking and not allow any new parking spaces to be built.  Our
    roads are already way above capacity at rush hour.  The only way we’ll be
    able to keep driving is if we stop building parking spaces.  If we build
    more parking spaces we’re basically asking more people with cars to move in.

  • Irene Wall September 14, 2017 (9:02 pm)

     For the foreseeable future, most households will have a car of some type or more than one. Even if they commute frequently by transit, cars are a necessity for most families and individuals.  The fallacy of the city’s thinking is that proximity to a “frequent” transit stop equates to zero car ownership. You may use transit more often than someone who lives further away from the stop, but you probably still own a car and need a safe parking space. When a developer builds an apartment building he or she must pay a capacity charge to connect to the sewer. Why can a developer avoid paying the cost of providing parking, when that public resource (street parking)  is already over capacity?   Instead the “cost” of parking is borne by the surrounding residents and the illegal parking and hostility over fierce competition for street parking creates needless neighborhood tension. 

    There is an additional cost to build parking however that cost should be spread out over the life of the investment. The parking  cost calculations used to justify the high cost of parking assign 25% of the land cost as though it was a separate expense even if that parking is below ground and did not constitute a separate cost!  When MHA happens all over town and density increases, the parking problems will get worse.   If the city were to implement a “car-free lease”  that might justify the zero parking building.  Otherwise some amount of parking will be needed in new buildings in all urban villages.  Assuming that buildings have a 45 year plus lifespan, the added cost of providing this social benefit should be viewed over that long haul and priced accordingly.  Developers can take a little hit to their immediate ROI/profit to contribute to peace in the streets.   And if you don’t park a car in that space, the underground parking garage is a good place to store all those emergency supplies that city expects us all to keep on hand.  How many zero parking microhousing apartments have enough room for an extra gallon of water, let alone a 2 week survival kit!

  • ProudCarOwner September 15, 2017 (12:53 pm)

    I don’t like to comment but feel I have to comment on this one. we own a few cars and a motorcycle. Why? Because our jobs require a car, every day. Because we like to ski, hike and travel..via our car. We are not a minority here. This is Seattle people get out and about. Jort your comment “I support any attempts to make it harder and more difficult for people to park their cars, which will in turn cause people to stop owning cars.” is not realistic, there will always be a ton of people owning cars. By the way, we have one driveway and park 2 cars and a motorcycle in it and have to jockey 3 times a day as we don’t want to inconvenience our neighbors…

  • Mickymse September 15, 2017 (2:21 pm)

    So what I hear you all ACTUALLY saying is that you park your car on the street, and so you’re angry that other people want to come and park their cars in the street, too, right? Because if your car is happily parked in your garage like it’s supposed to be, then there wouldn’t be any affect on you at all. Maybe y’all should try looking in the mirror and thinking for a little while about how Trumpian that sounds. They’re coming to take our parking spaces!

    • Steven Lorenza September 15, 2017 (7:06 pm)

      Exactly.  ‘”Those people” parking on the street makes it hard for me to park there’.  Do you folks think about how selfish that sounds?

    • CMT September 15, 2017 (10:16 pm)

      That’s not what you are hearing from me.  We don’t park any of our vehicles on the street but I am aware enough to realize that others need to and I am empathetic enough to not want them pushed out of their neighborhoods through poor City planning.

      • Steven Lorenza September 16, 2017 (10:44 am)

        Except that more sounds like poor personal planning.

  • CMT September 16, 2017 (4:50 pm)

    And that sounds self-righteous.

  • QualityOfLife September 16, 2017 (6:10 pm)

    We aren’t going to solve the housing affordability problem by reducing parking–unless the goal is to increase affordability by making the city an unpleasant place to live.

    A diverse city will have many types of neighborhoods and housing zones. This enhances the city, but as density increases in Seattle, we must be realistic about what is needed to ensure a good quality of life. Realistically, we are decades away from fast, frequent, 7-days-a- week transit service that does significantly more than service downtown from a few arterials during rush hour.  In the interim four, fix, or six decades, we will have increasing demand for parking.

    When developers don’t include sufficient parking, residents are forced to park on the street. When parking spaces are rented at high cost separately from the apartments they are meant to service, it encourages people to forgo these spaces. In either case tenants will take up the limited street parking that all of us have a reasonable expectation to share–whether we live there, visit there, or shop or work nearby.

    I have lived in a city that had a much, much better public transit system than Seattle’s. Despite this, parking was so scarce that everyone added 20 minutes to a trip to search for parking and several hundred dollars a year in parking fines was just part of the cost of owning a car. This kind of parking problem diminishes everyone’s quality of life, and we are headed this way in Seattle.

    I am in favor of rolling back existing laws that allow developers to omit parking in areas that are served by somewhat frequent, somewhat nearby buses to downtown Seattle during commute hours.  I think the idea suggested by HALA to “require unbundling of parking space rental” is terrible and would suggest the exact opposite: Rent must include parking so that tenants aren’t encouraged to take up shared street parking.

    To address concerns of the small minority that do not keep cars, the city should require that landlords allow non-car owning tenants to sublet their parking spots to other tenants at whatever rate the market will bear (and the regulation should be written so that landlords cannot charge absurd management fees or key deposits, etc. to tenants who choose to do this). 

    Older homes without off-street parking were built at low-enough density that it wasn’t a problem for everyone to park on the street. But when new buildings significantly increase density without providing sufficient parking, the equation changes significantly. Perhaps new buildings near houses that don’t have parking should also be required to construct a couple spaces to rent to neighbors. I’m betting that some of the people in the houses would be happy to have an option to rent a space. 

  • CMT September 17, 2017 (12:00 am)

    Thank you for articulating that so well.

  • ProudCarOwner September 17, 2017 (3:36 pm)

    Thank you qualityoflife. If everyone commented in a way such as you have, I’d read more comments! Calling other’s comments ‘selfish’ and ‘self-righteous’ is not productive and I’m guessing wouldn’t be done if they were standing in front of that person as opposed to being hidden behind a computer.

    • CMT September 17, 2017 (4:45 pm)

      Proudcarowner – I absolutely would say that to someone’s face who took the dismissive and simplistic position that elderly individuals that purchased homes without off-street parking decades ago when parking in front of their homes was ample and are now suffering as a result of the parking issues did so as a result of “poor personal planning.”  It IS self-righteous, judgmental and lacking in empathy, which in my opinion is a huge reason that we have such a failure to meet in the middle on so many issues in our City and in our nation.  Also – I’m not “hidden” behind a computer – I participate in many public events relating to these issues. 

  • WS car owner September 17, 2017 (6:40 pm)

    We all love to pull up to a free parking spot right in front of our destination. But that isn’t realistic, nor it is something we should be designing our city around. There are simple solutions I support:

    1) If you own a house in a Single Family zone, an off street parking spot is supposedly mandatory. If you don’t have it, build it yourself–no more circling your own block. No one likes paying for parking space construction alas but you never will be inconvenienced again.  

    2) Metered street parking. nothing keeps street parking spaces in rotation like time limits.  

    3) Pay to park in a lot.  The Junction has several paid lots–empty, cheap, right next to the totally full lots subsidized by Junction businesses. 

    • WSB September 17, 2017 (6:50 pm)

      And with that we should probably note that the city is studying Junction parking again, starting this month, for the first time in almost a decade. If you’re interested in the topic, SDOT reps will be at the Junction Neighborhood Organization meeting at 6:30 pm Tuesday (September 19th) at the Sisson Building/Senior Center. From the announcement, “Jonathan Williams & Ruth Harper will discuss WS Junction parking study underway for commercial & residential areas in the Urban Village and potential outcomes. Q&A to follow presentation.”

  • JRH September 19, 2017 (6:37 am)

    If I am reading this correctly, the public will have access to some parking garages of privately owned buildings for park and rides?

    Won’t that make those garages less safe and more prone to break-ins? 

    I see on WSB frequently that there are crimes being committed inside these garages as it is.

Sorry, comment time is over.