The C is for Crank

Yesler Terrace: Too Much Parking

By Erica C. Barnett December 14, 2010

The Seattle Housing Authority plans thousands of new parking spaces---in one of the most transit-accessible neighborhoods in the city.

While we're on the subject of parking...

Last Monday was the last day to comment on the Seattle Housing Authority's Yesler Terrace redevelopment, which will bring up to 5,000 units of new mixed-income housing, plus office and commercial space, to the First Hill District area. The C Is for Crank would be remiss in my green duties if I didn't mention one big red flag: Despite the fact that Yesler Terrace is in one of the most transit-accessible parts of the city (major bus routes within a couple of blocks, most of which go through the city's transit hub downtown, include the 1, the 3 and 4, the 7, the 9, the 13 the 14, the 17/27, the 36, the 43, the 60, and the 64), every scenario shows thousands of units of new parking---more than one for every unit of housing. Most of the scenarios show 1.3 parking spaces for every housing unit.

Yes, the proposals all include office and commercial space as well as housing units. However. SHA's own environmental impact statement anticipates that transit trips would increase dramatically under every development scenario. According to SHA, the total number of daily transit trips to and from the area (that is, people boarding or getting off near Yesler Terrace, not people traveling through to other destinations) would increase from today's total of 1,100 to 5,910 under the lowest-density scenario to 13,000 under the highest---an increase of between 538 and 1,200 percent. Bike and pedestrian trips show an even greater increase.

Moreover, SHA's trip distribution estimates---where the agency expects people will be coming from or going to---show that most people coming to and from Yesler Terrace will be traveling to and from nearby---places that are easily accessible by transit. For example, SHA estimates that a large plurality of both commercial and residential trips to and from the new development will originate or end up on First Hill, Capitol Hill, or downtown---an indication that those who live there will work nearby, and vice versa.

Finally, a large number of the residents in SHA's four main scenarios will be low-income---the group most likely to be transit-, not car-dependent.

The city has been reducing or eliminating parking requirements in dense and central-city neighborhoods for a decade---most recently eliminating parking minimums in areas zoned low-rise multifamily. SHA's environmental review says the agency wants the development to promote "a very sustainable transportation system," and the agency's own "guiding principles" for Yesler Terrace include smart-growth principles like "moderation in street and parking standards." Dense infill like what SHA is proposing is one of the cornerstones of smart growth. Getting people out of their cars---and onto reliable, accessible, frequent transit, the kind of transit that already surrounds Yesler Terrace---is another.
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