1. At the city council’s land use committee meeting this week, chair Mike O’Brien applauded the “shared parking” program idea that the nonprofit group Capitol Hill Housing recommended as part of its ambitious “EcoDistrict” project, which intends to transform the area around the Pike-Pine corridor into a green and sustainable model neighborhood for the rest of the city.
CHH’s 50-page report on the benefits of shared parking succinctly summarizes the concept: “Shared parking is the idea that many parking garages in a growing, walkable district should work together and share users almost as if they were one garage.”
Noting a King County study that found 30 percent of off-street parking in residential buildings “was not being utilized” in the evenings (and about 70 percent during the day), O’Brien said the shared parking concept was pilot project idea among the many in the EcoDistrict plan “that a lot of neighborhoods could benefit from.”
CHH found similar parking vacancy rates in its study—about 30 percent vacancy in the evenings and over 50 percent during the day in the mixed-use residential and commercial buildings it surveyed. (The King County study only looked at residential buildings.)
With a flash of sarcasm, O’Brien flagged the high vacancy rates as a reality check on people who complain about parking, saying the 30 percent figure “is a lot in a neighborhood that struggles to have parking.”
The point being that CHH had uncovered an untapped resource that was simultaneously driving up costs for renters, but could be redistributed to everyone’s benefit. Renters often pay for parking as an embedded cost, even though, it turns out, many of them aren’t using the parking spot—while others, who need the parking, don’t know it’s available.
“It’s a hidden cost that’s passed along,”CHH’s sustainability director Joel Sisolak told council, “and, if it’s being underutilized, basically people paying rent in that building are carrying the burden.”
Instead, the shared parking idea posits that all the unused space could be shared among a larger neighborhood pool of actual users who want to park, be it during the day if they’re working and shopping in the neighborhood, or during the evening if their own housing doesn’t provide parking.
Given that the city has progressive parking rules that don’t even require parking, O’Brien wanted to know what the city could do to jump-start the idea.
The CHH report makes a few recommendations including getting rid of rules in the city’s commercial parking tax guidelines that could disincentivize shared parking. People who have assigned spots (during the day at work or in their residential buildings) don’t have to pay the commercial tax. By definition, shared parking wouldn’t count as an assigned spot. CHH recommends allowing the broader notion that sharing actually does guarantee drivers a parking spot to meet the exemption if a data spot-check finds that spots are always available. Currently, that type of backup doesn’t greenlight the exemption.
The change could be revenue neutral because a lot more people would be paying for commercial parking during the day, going shopping while parking at a residential building.
2. The Washington State Supreme Court ruled this morning that the Port has to follow the $15 minimum wage law approved by SeaTac voters in 2013. The ruling will add 4,700 airport employees to the higher wage standard. The Port had argued that they were a separate entity from the city and so were not subject to the rule and so, since the law was passed, it only applied to the 1,300 low-wage workers in the surrounding area.
Excluding airport workers has shortchanged workers by $15.2 million, proponents of the new wage argue.
Yes for SeaTac spokeswoman Heather Weiner says: "Thanks to the Alaska Airlines/Port of Seattle lawsuit challenging a voter-approved wage increase, some 4,700 people working for airline contractors/cargo handlers, rental car companies, and airport terminal concessionaires have lost more than $15.2 million in needed wages, plus paid sick leave and job protection."