By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The city’s proposed changes in parking rules continue to make their way through the City Council, with another briefing in the Planning, Land Use, and Zoning Committee this week.
Hours later, the Southwest District Council heard from, and talked with, the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections staffers who wrote the proposal.
We’ve covered the proposal previously, dating back to its introduction in November by then-Mayor Tim Burgess. It had been in the works for a while, dating back to the Ed Murray administration – we mentioned before a city HALA-and-other-initiatives open house in January that parking was on the table too. SDCI’s Gordon Clowers and Mike Podowski told the SWDC at its regular March meeting on Wednesday night that it’s the first time in many years the city has addressed parking in the zoning code.
Clowers mentioned the West Seattle case that led to proposed changes in defining Frequent Transit Service – which in turn affects how much parking is, or isn’t, required in Urban Villages/Centers and multifamily/commercial zones. But the broader scope of the parking changes includes housing affordability, he said, part of a “coordinated growth and mobility strategy that supports equity … which is one of the core principles of the Comprehensive Plan … to support people’s ability to get around town.”
He also noted the much-more-quietly executed reduction in parking requirements back in 2012. And he highlighted the “flexible parking” concept, affecting multifamily/commercial zones, where they want to lift restrictions on who can use offstreet parking – “we won’t be in a rat race with everyone searching for the last one or two places on the street” if they can do that.
Here’s the sheet the SDCI reps brought with highlights of the plan:
They opened the floor to questions fairly quickly. First question: Explain the changes in the definition of “frequent transit service.” Clowers said the definition had been so rigid that they needed to be able to count something close to what was aspired to – even if it’s say every 16 minutes instead of 15. “Our definition wasn’t in synch with what Metro does,” Podowski added.
What about measuring a quarter-mile walking distance – do you consider our hills? SDCI reps’ answer was basically, no.
Also noted, the issue of “park-and-hiders” – people who drive into The Junction to catch buses downtown. What about circulator buses instead? Clowers said that the flexible garage use, or maybe even saving some spaces as park-and-ride, could address the problem better, since circulator-type buses weren’t economically viable in most cases.
What garages in West Seattle might qualify? Clowers wasn’t sure about the specific names but he said one had something to do with Whole Foods (that could be The Whittaker [WSB sponsor], which we noticed on a recent visit has lots of open retail parking, without the store open yet). The “flexible parking” concept already was allowed in certain zones, he said.
Asked about trip generation – they assume .3 to .5 spaces per dwelling unit. “So they’re out on the street, then?” Actually, said Padowski, they’re finding that most private developers are providing some parking, even where they don’t have to. But they believe the flexibility affects the cost of the building and will ultimately affect rent.
Are they studying parking in the areas near parking-free buildings to see if it’s maxed out? That’s usually done by the developer.
Attendee Diane Vincent pointed out that she has no choice but to “hide and ride” because Metro has dramatically cut service in the north end of the peninsula, where she lives. “We are forced to – if we want to take the bus” do that. “Add back our buses – that would solve a lot of the problems.”
Junction Neighborhood Organization director and SWDC co-chair Amanda Sawyer said her neighborhood will get a Restricted Parking Zone status update from SDOT, when the subject came up of considering an RPZ because of people who park in Junction neighborhoods all day. She also wondered what’s to keep landlords from seeking to reduce what’s available to tenants if they’re making more money from daily/commuter parking.
Clowers said they thought about that. The landlord has to offer the parking to the tenant first.
March 21st is the next City Council consideration. What’s the process? Clowers said eight or nine amendment ideas came out in the committee meeting earlier Wednesday and they will likely get votes on the 21st, on whether to be included in an amended bill. Clowers added that now is definitely the time to speak up – “if you have input, you’d better get it to the council folks as soon as possible.”
Sawyer said that she thinks the SDOT briefing will answer a lot of questions.
Are you two talking to each other? someone asked, referring to SDCI and SDOT. That generated laughter. “Government agencies – talking to each other!”
Could ride-share programs take some of the flexible spaces? Don’t know if they’d want to but they could, Clowers said.
Any safeguards if you think you have a secured lot but then it turns out your landlords are offering same-day parking to anyone? No security mandates in the bill, Podowski said. They did talk to renter organizations while drafting it, though.
Clowers said he imagined a lot of the flexible-parking areas would be managed by third parties such as Diamond Parking.
Last question (cut off for time, not for lack of questions): Are you talking with other cities? Podowski said it’s going to be a market-driven thing but they’ve been talking about developing some best practices, etc.
Also at SWDC:
NEEDLE CLEANUP: Tracy Cramer from SPU gave a shorter version of the presentation she gave earlier this year at Highland Park Action Committee – details are in our coverage here. Her accountabilities include sharps, graffiti on private property, and “a ton of illegal dumping.” Important thing to know: They do NOT collect needles on private property. Needle collection in parks – “we have needles in every park in Seattle” – is handled by Seattle Parks and Recreation. They realize that finding needles causes “mental trauma” for some folks.
How do you know that your request has been seen/dealt with? You should get notifications, she said. If it’s still open after a while – call the hotline and ask why. When it’s been cleaned up, you should get an e-mail notifying your request has been closed.
A side discussion on graffiti vandalism erupted, including how do you know when it’s gang or not? (We covered that during a briefing at the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council last week – see it here.)
The Southwest District Council – with reps from community groups, nonprofits, and other major organizations around western West Seattle – meets first Wednesdays, 6:30 pm, at the Senior Center/Sisson Building. Everybody’s welcome.