City Hall

"Eliminating Parking Requirements Is Not the Same As Prohibiting Parking"

By Erica C. Barnett March 30, 2012

In a letter sent to the city council earlier today about Mayor Mike McGinn's (inexplicably, but predictably) controversial proposal to lift the mandate that developers build a minimum number of parking spaces even near frequent transit service, the Seattle Planning Commission notes that the "war on cars" rhetoric around eliminating parking minimums has led to several misguided assumptions. And they suggest several changes to the proposal that, they argue, could help mitigate the impact of reduced parking on neighborhoods.

"Eliminating parking requirements is not the same thing as prohibiting parking," the commissioners write. Rather, it "allows both home builders and businesses to consider their parking needs based on market demand, rather than the City code requirements." Noting that each parking space adds as much as $30,000 to the cost of a development, they add that "by eliminating the requirement for a minimum number of expensive parking spaces, housing is more affordable and enables a broader diversity of households to live in Seattle."

However, they also suggest taking a more "incremental" approach to eliminating parking requirements, by changing the measurement for designating the areas where the new policy would apply (to "transit communities"---areas that include not just frequent transit service but also intersecting transit lines and a good pedestrian network). In areas with frequent transit service outside transit communities, the commission recommends reducing the parking requirement by 50 percent (as opposed to eliminating it entirely) and excluding industrial areas where many people work hours that don't correspond to frequent transit service from the regulations.

"A careful examination and monitoring of on-street parking policies in transit communities and frequent transit areas is needed in conjunction with the elimination or reduction of minimum parking requirements," the letter concludes.

The planning commission---which did not address other controversial elements of the proposal, including allowing more small businesses in neighborhoods---will present its suggestions to the council next week.
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