For years, we’ve been reporting on the West Seattle Junction Association‘s struggle to keep the “free parking” lots free, despite the ever-rising property-tax bills – the lots are assessed as potentially developable land. They’ve tried fundraisers and other tactics to hold off the inevitable – but now, the “free-parking lot” era is about to end. Here’s the WSJA announcement we received this afternoon:
For more than 30 years, the West Seattle Junction merchants have paid for the ‘free’ parking lots in the heart of West Seattle. A benefit that has been shared with the community will be turning a new chapter in the parking-lot book in 2021.
“We live in a world where the definition of transportation has changed since the 1970s. People have the power to get around West Seattle in different ways,” says Lora Radford, West Seattle Junction Association Executive Director.
In partnership with Diamond Parking, who has been working with the Junction since 1997, the merchant-funded parking spaces will be upgraded to pay parking on January 15th, 2021.
The change comes at a time where the Junction has been shouldering the full cost of rapidly increasing taxes that have become unsustainable. 100% of the Junction’s portion of the revenue from the paid parking will be applied to the tax burden, lessening the amount due, but by no means paying for the entire obligation.
The idea of maintaining free parking in an urban village like the Junction (the last in the City of Seattle), is no surprise for the residents. In early 2019 the Junction conducted a community survey (through a grant), that underscored the sentiment free parking was an anomaly in a rapidly growing city.
Especially in this time, the Junction has asked the community to include the support of small business in their daily lives. The request for West Seattleites to pay a modest $2 to $3 per hour (the cost of a greeting card, cup of coffee, or craft beer) to preserve the economic vibrancy of their downtown should be a simple request.
“For many, experiencing the downtown of West Seattle will become easier,” continues Radford. “The ability to find parking each time you visit the Junction will increase dramatically with the movement into paid parking. Gone will be the days of cars parked in the lots for hours at a time.”
The experiences of West Seattleites are a true reflection of who they are and what they care about, and visiting the Junction is one of the most vivid examples of normalcy in a far-from-normal world. For some, a trip to the West Seattle Junction is, in itself, the only and best destination. People can feel the heartbeat of some of the best small businesses through a perfectly scooped ice cream, to the bite of a tangy piece of pizza, or through quirky items found at local independent shops. They can reflect on collections of cultural significance through the murals or take a stroll under the flower baskets heavy with summer blooms.
Luckily for them, the Junction can continue to offer an avenue to attract those uniquely Northwest experiences in West Seattle.
The Junction strongly believes in the continued community benefit provided to West Seattle residents. We believe the West Seattle Junction is the core of West Seattle where neighbors come together to meet which promotes community openness and sense of place. The wellbeing of West Seattle will continue through the ease of parking close to the very heart of our community through a new and modern version of history.
As explained in this WSB story almost three years ago, the Junction Association doesn’t own the lots, but its lease with the owners, West Seattle Trusteed Properties, leaves WSJA on the hook for the taxes, in addition to the rent. The lots include 228 spaces that have allowed customers up to 3 free hours.
ADDED 6:47 PM: To clarify a couple points raised in comment discussion – this involves only the four lots managed by WSJA – off 42nd south of Oregon, off the east side of 44th just south of Oregon, on the southeast corner of 44th/Alaska, and off the east side of 44th just north of Edmunds. Street parking is managed by the city, which has reviewed the Junction area twice in the past 12 years and concluded both times (2009 coverage here, 2018 coverage here) that metered/pay-station street parking was unnecessary, though an RPZ was added in 2019.