City Hall

Seattle's Proposal to Lift Parking Minimum Gets National Attention

By Erica C. Barnett April 10, 2012

Just in time for tomorrow's 9:30 am public hearing on legislation that would institute a number of regulatory reforms at the city level---including, most controversially, a proposal that would lift minimum parking requirements on new residential developments within 1,300 feet of frequent transit service---two national writers linked PubliCola's coverage of the parking issue today.

First, The Rent Is Too Damn High author Matthew Yglesias writes at Slate:

To the best of my knowledge, no large cities in the United States demand that new apartment buildings be constructed with cable television/Internet jacks pre-installed in the units. And yet every recently built apartment I've ever seen has this feature. That's because developers assume that there's widespread demand for cable TV and modem hookups, so they provide them. Similarly, in an affluent society many people are going to want parking spaces for their automobiles, so we should expect new construction projects to generally feature parking. But right now, new construction projects are generally required to provide parking, in effect taxing households with a below-average quantity of vehicles in order to subsidize households with an above-average quantity.

And second, Atlantic writer Sommer Mathis sums up one of the most bizarre aspects of the debate, which has free-marketeers like the Seattle Times editorial board arguing in favor of government intervention in the housing market:
What's funny about these assumptions is their total lack of faith in the free market. Abolishing parking minimums someplace like downtown Seattle doesn't mean that young parents with their hearts set on buying a single-family home with a yard will somehow be forced to live instead in a too-small condo with no parking. It means that a different set of young parents who do want to rely less on an automobile, whether by taking mass transit (kids ride the bus too!) or walking or car-sharing or some combination of all three, might be better able to afford to buy their first home because the developers who built it weren't forced to charge them extra for a parking space they don't want or need.

The council's planning, land use, and sustainability committee meets tomorrow at 9:30; video of the meeting will stream live on the council's web site.

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