Offstreet-parking changes get City Council approval, with Herbold alone in voting ‘no’

(Seattle Channel video of this afternoon’s City Council meeting)

Six years after a quiet rule change to allow some projects to be built without parking, a not-so-quiet rule change heading further down that road passed the City Council this afternoon. West Seattle/South Park Councilmember Lisa Herbold was the only one voting “no.” Her proposed amendment to allow the city to consider parking impacts for some projects in neighborhoods where parking is mostly maxed out (explained here) was rejected before the final vote.

We first reported on the proposed changes last November, when then-Mayor Tim Burgess officially sent them to the council. Almost a year before that, it was one of the topics at a series of city “open house” events, which otherwise were focused on the proposed HALA Mandatory Housing Affordability upzoning.

You can read the full legislation (140 pages) here. Highlights were described by city staffers who briefed the Southwest District Council four weeks ago. They include a change in the definition of “frequent transit” – which governs whether a project can omit parking if its developers don’t want to include it – as well as allowing building owners to open up unused parking to more potential users. Supporters say requiring less parking to be built will be environmentally friendlier and will make new housing more affordable.

49 Replies to "Offstreet-parking changes get City Council approval, with Herbold alone in voting 'no'"

  • Chuck Jacobs April 2, 2018 (7:55 pm)

    War.  On.  Cars

    • BikelessCarOwner April 2, 2018 (8:46 pm)

      Considering they unbundled parking for motor vehicles but not bikes, I agree.  If you don’t have a bike, you shouldn’t have to subsidize parking for one either.

      • John April 3, 2018 (7:53 am)

        If you don’t have a kid you shouldn’t have to pay for someone else’s kids education… 

        • bikelesscarowner April 4, 2018 (12:10 pm)

          If you don’t have a car, you shouldn’t have to help pay for building off-street parking….

    • Jort April 2, 2018 (9:29 pm)

      With the maintenance of city streets getting the vast majority of SDOT’s funding, how is that war going?

      If we measure the “war on cars” by actual, human casualties, perhaps you’d be surprised to learn that cyclists and pedestrians are disproportionately dying — ACTUALLY DYING — in this “war.”

      No developed city in the entirety of human history has succeeded in meeting its transportation challenges by prioritizing personal automobile drivers above all others. 

      Seattle won’t be the first city, either. 

  • KM April 2, 2018 (8:16 pm)


  • 1994 April 2, 2018 (8:32 pm)

    What a sham city council makes of listening to public comments.  A one minute comment allowance is ridiculous – they don’t really want to listen to the public’s concerns about the parking problem they are creating.

    • Wseattleite April 2, 2018 (9:04 pm)

      1994, good observation.  My observations have led me to believe that by the time an initiative has reached public comment period, our elected officials have already set plans in motion that meet their own goals complete with the emotional drama that involves and the egos attached as well.   Public comment period is simply the phase at which data is manipulated to support a foregone conclusion. 

      • savoirfaire April 3, 2018 (7:20 pm)

        It’s certainly true that  by the time something is up for a final vote by the entire Council, things are pretty much set. That said, there are plenty of opportunities for people to share their views (both in person at meetings and by other means) before it gets to that point. This particular bill was discussed at five meetings of the Planning, Land Use, and Zoning Committee, starting in January, and committees are where the substantive work gets done, so that’s the stage that it’s most useful to pay attention to. That doesn’t get covered in the news enough – the West Seattle Blog being a significant and welcome exception. WSB has been covering this issue all year, and in general do a great job of reporting on things that are in committee (thanks, TR and crew!).

        Anyone who wants to know what’s going into committees for discussion can subscribe to the Introduction and Referral Calendar,  which is published weekly and tells you who’s going to be discussing what:

        If there’s a particular topic that interests you, you can also sign up for agendas from the committee that works on it:

        another great way to stay aware of what’s going to happen.

        The Council’s regular Monday morning briefing meeting is a useful thing to keep an eye on, too – oftentimes things that are being worked on in various departments will be presented there before legislation is drafted (again, you can sign up to get those agendas).

        The Council adopts a work program every year, which also gives you an idea of what to look out for on the referral calendar or agendas.

        You have a district councilmember and two at-large councilmembers, and you can contact their offices at any time to share your thoughts on an issue; you can also contact members of the committee considering an item you’re interested in:

        Most Councilmembers publish newsletters, and most district councilmembers (including ours) hold office hours in their districts, so keep an eye out for that as well.

        All Council and committee meetings are broadcast on the Seattle Channel and you can watch them live or stream them later if you want to know what happened.

        Our elected officials are responsible for representing us, and we are responsible for making sure they know what we want, which means knowing what they’re doing. We’re also responsible for making sure that the media we rely on cover what we need to know when we need to know it, so if your news sources aren’t doing that (and again, WSB excels at this compared to many other local media outlets), it’s important to let them know what you need, too!

  • 1994 April 2, 2018 (8:52 pm)

    The city of Seattle’s theory is that developers will build cheaper housing without requiring parking to be built with new housing. Citizens will save  money on their housing by not paying for parking because it will be more affordable. Who believes that?  But where will people park their cars? ….THEORY is not fact based.  Look at the facts of car ownership, the data that is available.  Sounds like the only people that will benefit from this are the developers who can build cheaper housing without parking. 

    • ice April 2, 2018 (9:06 pm)

      Speaking of theories, you seem to have the theory that it is the government’s responsibility to provide you with free parking.

      • John April 3, 2018 (7:57 am)

        Is it the government’s responsibility to provide cheap housing????

        • Mickymse April 3, 2018 (1:33 pm)

          IF we’re going to otherwise spend even MORE money to provide services to people who become homeless, I suspect the wise answer is YES.

        • Ice April 3, 2018 (10:16 pm)

          Whether or not it’s the government responsibility to provide affordable housing is a deep philosophical question and goes into topics such as human rights, the right to a home, the right to safety, etc. Whether or not the government should force developers to build parking spaces so that people who own cars can continue to park their car on public property hassle free is not a philosophical question. It is just self centered entitlement.

          Regardless of what I think about the government’s role in housing is, these are two totally separate topics.

  • Fire Ball April 2, 2018 (9:04 pm)

    The City of Seattle has Vision Zero, Thats zero cars.

    • geowreck April 3, 2018 (1:55 am)

      zero vision

      • Mickymse April 3, 2018 (1:35 pm)

        And how many people DYING would you like the City’s vision to aim for instead? One? Two? Five? Your spouse? Your child? Both of your parents?

  • Jort April 2, 2018 (9:34 pm)

    Seattle’s greatest contribution to carbon emissions are automobiles. If we are to take our role in global warming seriously, we need to start thinking about rule changes like these. 

    Seattle citizens claim to care deeply about global warming. But sometimes I wonder if they care about their parking spaces more. Kind of like the person who lets their dog run off-leash at the beach, because “they’re special.” 

    • BikelessCarOwner April 2, 2018 (9:44 pm)

      I think the emissions from parked vehicles are few and it’s awful hard to own an electric car if you don’t have off-street parking where you can charge it.

    • Wseattlite April 3, 2018 (4:03 am)

      I find it a bit incredulous when people cite busses as the great hope in Seattle to save the world from climate change.  Between dedicated lanes, bus bulbs that halt ALL traffic from movement beyond the bus stopped there, and the incredibly emission per bus rider that actually exists, all the smug satisfaction of those who are very happy to keep cars idling in our streets because they have are forced to wait for all the “diets” imposed on cars should instead be a source of alarm if in fact climate change were the real concern.  Nice job increasing idle and running time on cars throughout our county.  One could almost bet you worked for the oil companies.  You certainly are helping their cause. 

      • Nolan April 3, 2018 (3:25 pm)

        The “incredibly emission” you try to speak of is roughly 2.5 mpg for a Metro bus. Excluding the driver, that means any bus averaging at least 10 people is doing better than the average single-occupancy vehicle on efficiency alone, to say nothing of the decreased footprint (3 cars) and the effect that competent (i.e., not brake-happy) drivers have on traffic flow.

        You should go read up on Braess’s paradox. When Jakarta removed the restrictions on its carpool lanes — out of the same misguided belief that more capacity is better — the average transit time nearly doubled. Cars slowed to a crawl and *EVERYBODY* suffered.

        There’s a reason traffic engineering is a discipline and not a part-time job posting on craigslist.

  • 1994 April 2, 2018 (9:36 pm)

    Yes, myself and the other low wage earners enjoy our free parking.  I have to work almost 2 months to pay my property taxes – why can’t I get free parking in some areas?

    Of the roughly 419,000 tax returns filed in 2014 by city residents, 214,000 — 51 percent — showed an adjusted gross income of less than $50,000.

    • Ice April 3, 2018 (9:36 pm)

      I am willing for to bet that those residents who reported under $50’000 on their taxes own disporortionally fewer cars than those who pay over $50’000. You are basically asking the working class to pay for the parking spaces you and the other people who can afford cars in an extremely high cost city are so entitled too.

  • Jon Wright April 2, 2018 (9:58 pm)

    The people who are up in arms about this are the ones who somehow feel that they alone are entitled to park their car(s) for free in the public right of way and shouldn’t have to share that public right of way with anybody else.

  • Stephen April 2, 2018 (10:39 pm)

    I am a former West Seattle renter who doesn’t have a car yet my landlord still had to pay property tax on the spot but couldn’t rent out the off-street spot allotted to me to a nearby resident. In fact I don’t think she could find a renter anyway, since there are so many free spots on the street already. Luckily the city gives away parking for free.

  • rico April 3, 2018 (6:22 am)

    Developers are probably hung-over today after the celebration over this vote.  It will be less expensive to build, and they can charge the same rent, essentially.  Rent prices are not driven much by construction costs, but by the rental market itself.

    • Wes C. Addle April 3, 2018 (10:21 am)

      Exactly!  Kind of like when gas/oil prices forced higher prices on products in the late 2000’s.  Did you see the price of goods go back down once oil prices went back down? I don’t remember it happening.

  • John April 3, 2018 (8:03 am)

    Rico…. I completely agree.  A person is a fool if they believe a developer will offer a lower price based on their lower construction cost.  All the City has done is increase the profit for the developer.  The City has been made a fool of by the developers.  

  • Rick April 3, 2018 (8:56 am)

    The city handed the keys to the city to developers a long time ago.

  • Todd April 3, 2018 (9:09 am)

    Thank you, Lisa for voting no.

    I personally can’t understand the logic behind the continuing strategy to get cars out of Seattle. If mass transit was really a viable option for most people, they would use it. Combined with the fact that a majority of the funding for not only mass transit projects, but also Metro (remember when they threatened to cut services before we added another tax to our car tab fees?) – if there’s fewer cars, then how will these services be funded? They are un-sustainable on their own as it is, or  we wouldn’t be relying on car owners to foot the bill.

    Today’s vehicles are so efficient and produce such low levels of emissions that the Puget Sound  has not fallen out of the state’s attainment levels in so long, that the state vehicle emissions testing program is going to end soon. And, as another commenter mentioned,  parked cars produce zero emissions.

    Our geography makes mass transit very hard to be useful to the majority of working adults. If you live in the Junction and work downtown…great. If you live in Seaview and work in Edmunds, how’s it going to work? How about if you live in Highland Park and work in Auburn?

    We just can’t be car-free and I’m tired of the council pretending that it can be to justify the concessions they make to private developers, when they also want to slap a “per head” tax on businesses, add a city-only income tax on high earners and put our existing roads on “diets”

    OK, rant over.

  • Craig April 3, 2018 (10:08 am)

    car ownership is declining in Seattle and development should reflect that trend.  There is no reason to own a car in Seattle. 

    What I have learned this year is,  Herbold is pro car.   We need progressive leadership in W Seattle.

    • J April 3, 2018 (10:57 am)

      There are lots of reasons some people need cars. My partner, for example, can’t carry his 100 lb. Tool box on the bus. I guess all the trade workers should just move far away and commute 2 hours every day to job sites (with tolls). Seattle residence for desk jockeys only.

      • Craig April 3, 2018 (12:34 pm)

        “most” people in Seattle don’t need a car. 

        Curious what he does with that tool box though ?   leaving it in the car is not a good idea either. If he does, then its a good chance we will be reading about it being stolen soon enough.

    • m April 3, 2018 (11:22 am)

      There are plenty of reasons to own a car in Seattle. Try getting todders that are potty training to their daycare before work. 

      I, however, would gladly give up my car is the metro bus experience wasn’t so awful. I wish a private company would come in and offer a 1st class version of busing. Charge 2x the metro price. I realize this is very eliteist but I don’t want to wait around on a dirty corner of 3rd ave to catch a bus with a ton of other strangers. 

  • Johnie April 3, 2018 (10:16 am)

    Lisa’s vote is against allowing excess parking in buildings to be available for rental.

     These are parking spaces currently not being utilized and will  now be available to increase on-street parking availability.

     I wonder how she defends that?

  • MJ April 3, 2018 (11:17 am)

    I was taught years ago zero is not defendable, once again the Council has failed to provide a balanced answer.  

  • scubafrog April 3, 2018 (11:39 am)

    This is just another huge win for Wealthy Developers, and another HUGE loss for the struggling middle class who’ll be forced out of their cars now (only to find there’s no Metro routes available).  

    No housing in Seattle will become more affordable I promise each of you that.  “More affordable housing”, I wonder if people actually believed that part…  That makes me concerned about the collective intellectual quotient of this city.

    Todd’s absolutely right:  More and more cars are fully-electric, if not hybrids — particularly in Seattle, that’s where the trend’s going here.  So the environmental effect of cars is negligible.

    This is a massive loss, and the yes-supporters won’t realize until it effects them.  How sad.

    • Jon Wright April 3, 2018 (1:44 pm)

      “…and another HUGE loss for the struggling middle class who’ll be forced out of their cars”

      Would you please connect the dots for me? How are “the struggling middle class” getting forced out of their cars? Everywhere I look (including my driveway) I see lots of cars.

  • VN April 3, 2018 (12:13 pm)

    Lisa Herbold was NOT against renting out excessive parking spaces in buildings.  You need to read her comments on this issue on her web site.  

    Her proposed amendment: 

    The spokesperson for
    SDCI has been quoted by the press saying “[W]e have said that when on-street
    parking capacity exceeds 85 percent, finding parking becomes more difficult,
    and parking mitigation (in areas where we have authority to mitigate parking
    impacts) may be
    But again, our existing laws do not allow SDCI to
    mitigate on-street parking impacts in Frequent Transit Areas. My amendment
    grants them that authority, ONLY in instances where parking capacity is found
    to have reached 85%.

    She goes on to write:

    Seattle Area Household
    Median Income is about $90K a year, more than half of our population earns less
    than that, and nearly 70% of renters earn less than the Seattle Median Income. 
    Countless people drive for a living whether as a part of their traditional
    employment or the new gig economy – Uber, flex, Amazon fresh, Instacart,
    etc.  The home delivery model is the new labor model that scores of
    Seattle workers count on for supplemental income to make ends meet in their
    household budgets.  Countless others need their cars to fulfill other
    obligations that are in the city’s interests like apprenticeship programs and
    educational attainment to earn living wage jobs, childcare for school
    readiness, and elder care needs.

    If the City Council had waived the parking requirement with developers with a guarantee that the rents in these buildings would reflect these savings; I could get on board.  But they did not do this and the continuing escalation in rent prices will continue.  In West Seattle, rents in these new buildings are two and three times the historical averages.  This has forced moderate income individuals to leave Seattle only to have to drive back into Seattle for their jobs.  The Council did not provide any data on where a move such as this has caused rents to decrease in major metropolitan areas.

    I think this change needs to be reconsidered and reworked.

    • Johnie April 3, 2018 (1:36 pm)


      The facts speaks against the confusing and misleading  statements.

      Lisa’s  vote was against it.

      Recent studies show that Seattle rents have peaked and are starting to decline. a forceful argument for supply vs demand.  

      Of course you may argue as she does that rents have escalated while conveniently avoiding the fact that so have property values.  The difference being property values continue to see month to month nation-leading increases as the rental stockpile has reached saturation point with thousands of new units still coming.   As the new excess units come into the rental market, rental prices will continue their decline cycle.   This while, Seattle’s restrictive Single Family zoning continues to make it impossible to significantly increase our non rental housing stock and reduce skyrocketing home prices.  

      The talk of “countless” people that drive for a living and “Countless others need their cars to fulfill other obligations that are in the city’s interests” has nothing to do with excess parking.  The repeated use of “countless” is inaccurate at best.

      The argument about forcing landlords to lower rents in exchange for allowing rental of excess required parking is bureaucratically problematic and fails  to address the $50,000+ cost of each parking space built.

      • bikelesscarowner April 3, 2018 (7:01 pm)

        Can we also address how a recently built building with 38 units, most around 300 sq ft, sells for over $260k per apartment?  When you consider the cost is $263k for a habitable space, then maybe a $50k medium parking spot that’s 8×16 by Seattle code (128 sq ft) isn’t so excessive, comparatively.

        I believe the standard size being suggested to the council per bike for required bike parking is 2×6 ft, so about $5k per bike storage space.

      • Oversimplified April 5, 2018 (10:06 pm)

        $50,000 per parking space?? Where are you getting this number, it doesn’t make sense. They are not building a stand alone parking spot. They are using that space for another unit without having to provide fixtures, carpet, hot water tank, etc.  Parking is cheaper to build and maintain,  housing provides more income.


    • Jon Wright April 3, 2018 (1:39 pm)

      VN, you said your biggest qualm about the measure was that there was no guarantee that apartments without parking would reflect the savings associated with lower construction costs. But won’t supply and demand address that? Given two equivalent developments, if one includes parking in the rent and one does not, won’t units in the parking-including development cost more?

      The aspect of this debate that baffles me is that the arguments often seem to invoke elderly, parents with children, and tradespeople. But nobody is forcing anybody to move to a building without parking! This isn’t about them! This is about given developers flexibility to develop what they think there is demand for, making better use of existing parking garages, and not mandating a car-centric city.

      • bikelesscarowner April 3, 2018 (4:49 pm)

        This is about given developers flexibility to develop what they think there is demand for, making better use of existing parking garages

        Not exactly.  The city made an ideological choice when they increased the bike parking requirements to 1 per unit at new multi-family homes.  Developers now have to build a lot more bike parking city-wide.

  • Mickymse April 3, 2018 (1:42 pm)

    No one is being asked to make do “without parking” — not parents with toddlers, not people with a disability, not workers who need tools. Developers are welcome to build parking wherever they believe the market requires it. And folks who need it are welcome to look for places to rent or own that provide parking. 

    My husband and I only own one car. We’re lucky enough to live in Seattle, and I can get by on transit the vast majority of the time, and supplement with Car2Go or Lyft otherwise. It saves us money. When we bought in West Seattle, we knew we were looking for a place with a garage space to park the car. I wanted to know where I was parking, without having to look for it, and have it secured. When we lived on Capitol Hill — which is (now less) full of historical buildings that never had parking for cars — we knew we had to find a place to rent that included a parking space. We paid more in order to have that.

    For conservatives, that’s called “free choice.” And that’s how the “free market” provides what people are looking for, and charges them accordingly. No one has “taken” anything away from you, or denied you any rights.

    • KM April 3, 2018 (3:41 pm)

      This is way too reasonable of a response for the topic of parking. I want hyperbole and name calling!

  • Buzz April 3, 2018 (3:19 pm)

    Fact is many people now avoid parts of the city with little or no parking, or parking which is expensive or now you have to pay. Shop via Amazon, avoid the zoo downtown. Thanks City Council. 

    • Jort April 3, 2018 (4:34 pm)

      Yes, downtown is an economic wasteland of despair. Because parking. 

  • JayDee April 3, 2018 (6:30 pm)

    Frequent bus service my _____. When I moved here Alki had the 56 all 7 days of the week, and a circulator route 53 through the hood. Now we have the perpetually late 50 due to trains in SODO and a odd route and no 56 except on weekdays for 3 or so hours each AM/PM.  The only thing I’ve seen is less bus service.

Sorry, comment time is over.