Chicago Row Houses (wikimedia)

PubliCola reports that “lowrise multifamily” zoning area, covering 8% of Seattle, will become somewhat more permissive:

And, perhaps most significantly, the new law would eliminate the minimum amount of parking developers must build in low-rise multifamily areas (currently one space per unit), allowing developers to build housing without dedicated parking (saving tens of thousands of dollars per unit).

The comment thread has a pretty wide diversity of opinion, but I’m having trouble perceiving complaints about the parking change as anything but defense of an existing subsidy. After all, the road right of way is public property. Anyone with a garage and/or driveway sufficient to park the cars of their family and friends isn’t concerned about on-street parking. So in essence, you’re seeing people whose property doesn’t have enough space to store their cars requiring that new construction be able to store its cars. In other words, “I got here first.”

Meanwhile, people moving into a place that provides no parking are likely to be fairly relaxed about giving up the car if it becomes too much of a hassle.

This is huge.

29 Replies to “Seattle Zoning Code Improves”

  1. I agree that this is a step in the right direction, but if, as one Publicola commenter states, it is true that this only applies to 6% of Seattle, then I’m not sure it is ‘huge.’

    Will any of the planned upzones around Link add to Low Rise areas?

    1. I think it is 8%. While that might not sounds like huge percent, this 8% will probably experience 90% of Seattle’s residential growth since downtown and single family housing won’t grow anywhere as substantially.

      1. Good point, but I wonder if that 8% wasn’t already pretty built out during the last boom.

        Are there currently any plans to increase the area of Low Rise Multifamily?

  2. While a good step we still need developers to build units without parking and that will only happen when more buyers are willing to buy units without parking and that will require a much better transit system than we have now. Preferably a lot more rail based since I know I would not buy a place knowing that Metro could move, scale back, or eliminate the routes I need to get around. Rent sure, I could always move, but not buy.

    1. I think newcomers to Seattle are much more likely to forsake parking than commonly thought, even with the current transit situation.

      I know the building approved for the old Ballard Library site has less than 1:1 parking. The developer was very keen on encouraging sustainability and use of public transportation. I believe the On the Park building across the street also has less than 1:1 parking, though when I called the leasing office I could only seem to get information about whether there were currently still parking stalls available for rent. My apartment building up the street has less than 1:1 parking.

      Developers are currently heavily courting the market-rate apartment crowd, and seem to be itching to forego parking.

    2. Don’t underestimate the bike-only crowd. Not having a car doesn’t necessarily mean relying on Metro.

  3. “Anyone with a garage and/or driveway sufficient to park the cars of their family and friends isn’t concerned about on-street parking.”

    Who has enough room to park their cars AND their friends cars? This is Seattle, not Bellevue.

  4. I hate to say it but, while certainly this is a great and necessary first step, I really don’t think we will be seeing any townhouse units completely without parking any time in the near future.

    I think more realistically is perhaps having a six or eight pack of townhomes that include 2 or 3 shared cars.

    1. I think the most likely use of this initially will be in situations where parking is hard or impossible to included for one or two units. I highly doubt you will see 6 packs completely without parking but you might see developers build 1 or 2 townhouses out of the 6 with an extra bedroom rather than a garage.

      1. And THAT is exactly what I want to see around here… 1 or 2 of the units in a 6-pack with a real third bedroom or even fourth room without parking and/or 1 or 2 of the units built for a single person or senior housing with only one bedroom and no need for parking because of transit.

        I think that’s very realistic, promotes affordable housing, and maintains diversity in our neighborhoods.

  5. Now if we can just get the necessary density increases in the light rail station walksheds, we’ll be doing better. I’d love to see increased density in my Beacon Hill neighborhood, if for no other reason than increased density would spur more local businesses to open up. Unfortunately, this will take time, and I’m impatient!

  6. This is all good and well in theory, especially, like Giffy said, when there is ample transit to support not having a car.

    I have a car, but rarely use it, save a few times a month. And the times I use it, it’s something that can’t be supplemented by anything related to not having a car, such as visiting a job site for work or going to visit the parents. I know I’m not alone in this fact. I do really wish I could get away without having a car, because even as low as the maintenance is on it, due to not driving it, it’s still something I have to throw money at.

    While encouraging people to do away with cars by having less than 1:1 parking ratios on buildings can be a good thing, getting rid of all parking is not. All this does is, like the article said, push people to parking on the streets, which then turns that into a nightmare for everyone else. If they were to turn surrounding streets into zone parking only, while denying those living in the “less parking” buildings the chance to obtain these permits, I could see this working.

    But for now, “less parking” buildings are somewhat of a failure and only seen as developers being greedy by saving themselves money, but not passing the savings onto buyers/renters.

    1. IF the streets become crowded with parking, residential parking zones can be implemented at any time. On the other hand, one side benefit which I’ve seen in my neighborhood is that increased parking on residential streets makes them safer by narrowing the space and slowing down cars racing by. (We’re on a slight hill.)

    2. Have you looked at Zipcar? If your car usage is as seldom as you say it may come out cheaper than owning a car.

      1. Problem is, sometimes I need a car at moments notice for work. Zip cars are a good idea for planned trips, but they don’t always work for spur of the moment trips.

      2. Here’s what someone in your situation would do, Anon, if this goes through: don’t buy one of these places. Give the market that signal. The developers will hear you and build a place for you. In exchange they will demand money. Don’t give your money to the ones that try to trick you into buying a place without a parking spot.

        But don’t force the people who aren’t in your situation to buy a parking spot.

        Problem solved?

      3. Anon,

        Do you drive enough that owning a car is cheaper than paying cab fare once or twice a month? Smart cab companies will learn to station some drivers around light rail stations.

        And are you willing to pay a premium for a parking stall so that the non-car-owners in your building do not have to subsidize your stall? (As a renter, I am sick and tired of subsidizing everyone else’s parking stall.)

  7. Can we please just change the zoning so 6 packs are no longer allowed?

    All rowhomes and townhomes should be street facing with either a larger size or have some sort of back yard….

    1. Agreed. I lived in a tandem lot for 3 years in the CD. It thought it would be fine, but it felt cramped and oppressive. I would have much preferred street facing and no parking with a tiny little backyard garden. I’m not back in a condo and it feels more private and relaxing than that “house.”

    2. It’s been awhile since I checked in on the process of putting together all these changes, but there were parts in the design section to encourage designs that would move parking around on the lots so that you might have a shared garage with green space above it shared by residents or uncovered parking spaces pushed off to one corner of the lot.

  8. I hate to bring this up, but consider that the on-street parking ban within a mile of rail stations may be driving the market for parking stalls in new development around the stations…

    I’d rather allow on-street parking as a way to reduce the incentive for parking stalls in the new housing, and to reduce the political momentum behind things like more park-and-rides. Is on-street parking really a threat to TOD?

    1. i think you have that backward… there’s a park and ride ban around the stations, not an on-street parking ban.

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