VIDEO: Parking-policy changes’ backstory @ City Council committee

City Councilmembers’ first discussion of proposed changes in city parking policy – offstreet parking, especially what will or won’t be required for buildings – began with a primer on who owns cars in Seattle.

You can watch the entire briefing for yourself starting 12 minutes into the Seattle Channels video of the Planning, Land Use, and Zoning Committee‘s meeting. The briefing was presented by council staffer Lish Whitson, who said car ownership is growing as the city’s population grows – though not at the same rate; as the city’s population grew 25 percent in recent years, car ownership grew 20 percent.

Other numbers included: 83 percent of Seattleites own cars; 75 percent of renters, and 95 percent of homeowners. “When people have access to ‘free’ parking, they are more likely to own a car,” Whitson noted.

Another number – $35,000 is the average cost per space to include underground parking in a project.

Whitson also provided a history lesson – saying that parking requirements didn’t make their debut in city zoning until 1957. He also touched on how a Hearing Examiner ruling (in a West Seattle-based case) had required the city to re-evaluate how it determines an area has “frequent transit service”; a new definition of that plays a large part in these new recommendations. West Seattle-residing Councilmembers Lisa Herbold and Lorena González had questions about that part of the plan in today’s discussion. Herbold also said she hoped to hear more about the contention that housing might be cheaper if parking wasn’t required, and was looking for data comparing rents on apartments with and without it.

What today’s 26-minute briefing didn’t do was get into details of the proposed changes, originally released in November by then-Mayor Tim Burgess (WSB coverage here). Committee chair Councilmember Rob Johnson noted that more reviews are coming up, starting at PLUZ’s next meeting (January 17), and a public hearing is planned in February. Johnson also said that on-street parking recommendations are in the pipeline too, pointing out that those would be under the jurisdiction of the Sustainability and Transportation Committee, chaired by Councilmember Mike O’Brien.

SOMETHING TO SAY? Here’s how to contact the council.

17 Replies to "VIDEO: Parking-policy changes' backstory @ City Council committee"

  • M January 3, 2018 (5:53 pm)

    I’ve always found it odd that the city owned Cal Circle building on California has such a massive off street parking lot for residents on California even though it is directly in front of the main C line bus stop for the Morgan Junction Urban Village. 

  • Cindi January 3, 2018 (8:44 pm)

    Because the CalMor and its lot was built 20 years before the Rapid Ride came to West Seattle.

    • m January 4, 2018 (9:22 am)

      Seems like a reasonable solution then in 2018 to sell that lot for a lot of money and use the proceeds for additional affordable housing. 

  • CAM January 4, 2018 (12:44 am)

    So just for my own sake I worked it out that to recoup the cost of an individual parking spot based on the monthly lease rate for that spot (using $120/month) it would take 24 years. It is my assumption that no developer is waiting 24 years to start turning a profit which would strongly suggest the cost of building that parking is being absorbed into the monthly rent for all apartments, not just by those who choose to rent a space. Hopefully developers can reduce the cost of building the new apartment buildings by removing or decreasing parking and that will also mean that the average rental price of an apartment either goes down or stabilizes. 

    • Notquite January 5, 2018 (1:36 am)

      No – cost of build does not determine rent. I don’t understand why people always try to factor this in some formula for rent/lease/sales price?! 

      New condos or apartments will rent for whatever the market dictates. You get whatever someone will pay for it- that’s it. You don’t rent for less if you got the lot for free, and you don’t get to rent for more if you had unexpected cost overruns- it’s worth what it’s worth based on local comps. 

  • JayDee January 4, 2018 (6:50 am)

    So much for the ill-thought out contention that “Today’s kids don’t own cars…” and if developers save $35K a spot the city ought  to expect a portion of the savings to be contributed to housing or transit rather than just saying the rents are cheaper if no parking is provided.

  • pj January 4, 2018 (7:13 am)

     Why is it I’ve never seen a City Council member on public transportation?  The ONLY time I remember seeing a city/county government official on public transportation was Dow Constantine on the WS water taxi after a Husky game that was downtown and his mother (my former teacher) picked him up – no water taxi shuttle for him!!

    • WSB January 4, 2018 (8:33 am)

      Can’t speak for non-WS electeds. WS electeds have mentioned it, including CM Lorena González (who lives in The Junction) and Lisa Herbold (Highland Park). Former Councilmember Tom Rasmussen (South Alki) also used to bicycle. We’ve seen County Council Chair Joe McDermott at the Water Taxi dock.

  • Huck January 4, 2018 (7:15 am)

    While this may reduce construction costs, and perhaps lower rent, it still won’t be affordable rent! It doesn’t matter what they do. People must give up on the idea of affordable rent. It will never happen in this city. Get over it. 

  • Kay K January 4, 2018 (8:58 am)

    FYI our own District 1 councilperson rides transit all the time – before and after she was elected. You must be on a different route.

    • WSB January 4, 2018 (9:07 am)

      I haven’t found the reference but I recall writing into a story once that she was a bit late for an appearance at a West Seattle meeting because of her bus from downtown.

  • SC January 4, 2018 (9:04 am)

    I’ve ridden the bus with Councilmember Johnson a number of times.  It’s certainly a stretch to assume that just because you don’t see elected officials on public transit that they aren’t using it.

  • WS Transplant January 4, 2018 (9:14 am)

    There’s no free lunch and no free parking.  If you haven’t recently tried to buy land in Seattle, maybe you don’t realize this.  Besides, there are too many cars in the City today and we don’t need to encourage anymore.

    Some people need to use a car.  I often do.  But I don’t expect anyone else to pick up the tab for my parking anymore than I expect a free dessert at a restaurant.  

    • Chemist January 4, 2018 (1:30 pm)

      I’m not sure it’ll be free, but the city council is working on significantly increasing the minimum BIKE parking requirements for new apartments and rail stations in the city.

  • MJ January 4, 2018 (6:25 pm)

    WS Transport restaurants do provide free desert on your birthday.  I agree with you car owners need to pay the cost for parking.  

    The challenge is that when developers do not provide appropriate parking this impacts the parking on adjacent streets.  Zero parking is not defendable.

    City staff should not be provided free parking.  

  • rico January 5, 2018 (7:12 am)

    Speaking of city staff and free (really, tax payer paid) parking, here are two to think about.  The cost of fire stations goes up significantly because the city feels the need to provide free parking for those folks.  It essentially doubles the size of land needed for fire stations.  Also the employees of the emergency operations center in downtown have a nice taxpayer provided parking lot for their use.


    Also the city could be making money if they turned the old city hall full size block that has been sitting empty for years into parking.   But no, it just sits there in the heart of downtown making no money. 

Sorry, comment time is over.