Current Upzone Legislation
Current Upzone Legislation (click to enlarge)

As far as I can tell, there’s no video, as the Seattle Channel’s appetite for zoning meetings is lower than mine. Nevertheless, I got this report from Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability (PLUS) Committee Chair Mike O’Brien on yesterday’s meeting:

It passed out of committee today intact.  The parcels just south of the station were left unchanged as there is a lot going on there right now and it wasn’t clear if taking an action now would help or hurt that work.  I left it open to come back in the future (possibly near future) to consider a change to those parcels…

The bill will come to full council on June 23.

The good news in this report is that the Harrell amendment dropping a 125′ parcel down to 85′ failed. Crosscut reports that Mr. Harrell also offered an amendment deferring the upzone indefinitely, which also failed. Now it’s up to the Council to finally give the Rainier Valley what it has needed for so long. Thanks to Councilmembers O’Brien, Clark, Licata, and Burgess for approving the legislation.

In other news from the same meeting, PubliCola reports the committee punted a set of regulations that would effectively deter construction of affordable microhousing to a stakeholder committee.  The rules are basically bad, so whatever delays them is probably good.

35 Replies to “North Rainier Rezone Update”

  1. Has anyone studied “rational” requirements for on-site parking for micro-housing? (“rational” = in our city, Seattle, now, on/or near major bus line…whatever criteria make sense).

    I ran into the parking study for a proposed micro project in Eastlake and was interested to see the low numbers.

    I have no personal opinion. But I wonder if anyone is following the parking requirements for micro-housing issue? what’s the best empirical work on the subject? and knows whatever the state of the art for such use? Bearing on Seattle or similar.


    (I’ve asked a number of people who seem to be aware but no one can cite the leading studies. Maybe they don’t exist? That would be odd.)

    1. Best empirical work: let the developer of each project decide what (if any) parking the need.

      1. Why? Developer doesn’t know BS. They’ll project on-site parking to suit their own needs. You have to have some large-scale overall picture of likely human behavior in order to assess a particular site-specific proposal.

      2. It needs more than either developer or user final decision.
        Human behavior is not a guessing game and there are patterns in the way people act.

        I have a very simple question — though it may have a lot of “it depends” answers — and you folks give me ideology. I appreciate your responses but I haven’t heard one which is useful.

    2. Of course, studies can’t empirically/rationally/objectively tell us what regulation on something like this should be. A study may help us predict consequences of various possible policies, but ultimately the policy decision has to be based on weighing those predictions against our values and desires.

      1. So you folks are saying that all those parking books from groups like and so forth shouldn’t be used?
        That there is no sensible generalized system way to determine the amount of parking should be required for any particular use? considering the existing context? or whatever other factors are used?

        Of course telling the developer only means that s/he’ll hire a traffic engineer and then use the books so I don’t know where that gets us.

        I am interested in the responses so far but they are puzzling and I want to make sure I understand them.

      2. There shouldn’t be any requirement period. If anything, there should be an absolute parking maximum whether by individual lot or areawide.

      3. Failing nirvana, suppose you are on a City Council and some developer comes along and says that his project doesn’t need any on-site parking because his customers will all come by bus.
        How do you go about finding out if that makes sense?

      4. You let the developer build, and realize that if the impact of her project on parking availability is severe, there will be more of an incentive for the next developer to add more parking. This is a problem the free market is pretty good at solving.

      5. First sentence should read:

        “So you folks are saying that all those parking books from groups like ITE, ULI, etc and so forth shouldn’t be used?

      6. The onus is on you that there is a need for parking in the first place. You’re coming at this the wrong way. The city agrees, which is why much of the city already requires zero parking.

      7. Not persuasive? The answer is consistent with everything we know about human behavior. The only reason it wouldn’t work is if we feel cheap parking is so important that making it available has to trump economically more productive land use. That’s exactly the value set that, applied comprehensively, leads to suburban-style land use patterns. I thought we were in the city.

      8. Sorry, but I don’t think I’m the one that’s ideological. I’m saying that market demand should determine the amount of parking. You’re saying that an ideologically driven, centrally planned formula should determine the amount of parking.

      9. I don’t know about everyone else, but I’m just saying something general. You can estimate using manuals how many parking spaces residents of some building in some neighborhood will use if they’re free. You can survey the rate at which street parking in a neighborhood is used and estimate how some new project will affect that. You can find out how much it costs a developer to install parking, and estimate how that will affect the number of units offered on a site and their price, over time. You can estimate how developers will respond to parking requirements (in some cases they’ll build as much parking as you’d ever think of requiring, especially in places where there’s no curb parking).

        And if you do all this stuff you can find something out about the impacts of any parking requirements you decide to impose. It’s how you weigh those impacts against eachother that determines the decision you make, if you’re being honest about it. If you fail to consciously weigh estimated impacts against your values and desires you are being falsely objective.

        False objectivity regarding parking requirements and road capacity in the last hundred years has reshaped our cities far more radically than most people realize. Many people think it’s important that traffic not be congested, that driving and parking be cheap, and that parking demands of new developments never overflow into existing curb spaces, and these values will surely be weighed in any policy discussion. But when they’re baked wholly into reference materials and standards (as they have been) they take on a weight beyond what anyone consciously would assign them.

      10. Again, that is far too complex for me.

        My question is fairly simple: a developer builds a project with “X” bedrooms. (It’s micro-housing.)
        He wants to provide “less than X” parking spaces. It’s on a bus-line and with bike distance of a university.

        Many Eastlake residents complain bitterly that the project won’t have enough parking; the developer says otherwise.

        So what is the empirical — based on real projects which have been studied — way of determining a “reasonable” number of on-site parking spaces?

        And you are the building department head and you MUST make a decision. The developer will of course say X. But you must read developer’s plan with your own background/analysis/critique. So what is your analytical framework? Plus of course you have neighbors who are watching every move so you have to document it.

        Of course you have to make assumptions but one has to start somewhere.

        I am a bit surprised that no one is aware of such empirical studies. It would seem to be fairly obvious: as a start (at least) you survey, say, 20 micro-housing projects and COUNT THE CARS in the parking lot at 2 AM. How many spaces? How many cars parked? etc etc Obviously you have to look at before/after on-street parking and whether there is extra fee for parking etc etc. You talk to building managers and talk to tenants. But that at least gives you some start and someone must have done it.

        Anyway, I thank your for responses very much. But, so far, it sounds as if I am asking the wrong group; no one here actually knows, or cares, anything about empirical patterns of parking in micro-housing.

      11. To the particular point… in this comment section there are lots of people that put little value on parking being cheap, or existing users of curb spaces being protected perpetually. I’m one of these people. Since I don’t value these things much, I’m willing to leave details of parking provision to developers. Or if it turns out our city is full of people that value them a lot, then maybe the city can regulate them. If so, it should do so with the understanding it’s necessarily doing something political when it does.

      12. I’m actually not a fan of leaving the number of parking spaces up to developers. I think new housing within a certain distance of an all-day passenger train station should come without parking, and with an understanding that the residents may not even qualify for neighborhood parking permits. If they want to get around by car, they are moving into the wrong place, as part of the cost of rent in that vicinity will be because of the fact of the train station. Parking spaces will just raise the rent more, including for those who don’t use it, will reduce the number of housing units that get built, and will allow people who won’t take advantage of our enormous investment in public transit to crowd out people who would.

        As a matter of social engineering, encouraging developers to build parking for new residents around trains stations is just a bad idea all around.

        I’d suggest a moratorium on allowing parking to be built within a quarter mile of Link stations, rather than the current mean-spirited efforts to put moratoria on building housing.

      13. Brent, that’s too extreme. The area around a transit station is a reasonable place for a parking maximum and a zero minimum. I think it makes sense to let a developer, along with his financiers to figure out what the appropriate amount of parking for the site is within those limits.

        An exception to the above is for TOD sites that are controlled by Sound Transit. For the TOD sites at CHS and UDS, it would make sense to ST to require that there be zero parking. It would make less sense at Northgate and Angle Lake stations where there is an expectation of P&R space that can be shared with residents and customers.

    3. The High Cost of Free Parking, by Donald Shroup. Cities have formulas for how much off-street parking a building needs, but Shoup — an urban planning professor — argues that these formulas are based on little evidence, are copied from city to city with no consideration for the cities’ differences, and vastly overstate the amount of parking necessary. Essentially, for retail stores they count the number of spaces filled at an exurban Wal-Mart on the busiest day of the year and then apply it to every day and urban stores and office buildings. And especially if the parking is free or underpriced, everybody is paying for it except the driver who is currently using it. Many apartment buildings have several perpetually empty spaces, and if they can’t lease them out they apply the cost to everyone’s rent, so non-drivers are subsidizing those empty spaces.

      I got a SIFF Cinema flyer in the mail — a movie theater in Seattle Center — and it highlighted “Now free parking!” I wonder how much of the ticket price covers that — for parking I will never use. I’m one of those non-drivers who would happily live in a parkingless apodment or apartment — in fact I did for seventeen years, in two 1920s pre-parking buildings.

      As for microhousing-specific formulas, there may not be many because microhouses are so rare at this point. But the city could poll the existing apodments around town. My understanding is that when they first went in the neighbors were all concerned about street parking being gobbled up and noise and vandalism but then it didn’t happen.

      As for fly-by-night developers unloading buildings before their lack of parking becomes apparent, the ones called apodments are owned by their developer, so he’s living with the consequences of them having too little or just the right amount of parking. It’s not like you can develop and flip an apodment building: there’s not a large market for them.for them.

      1. Does “flip” + “sell”?
        Whenever I hear someone use the term “flip” I know that they have an attitude.

        But thank. I’ll sign off now.

      2. Many apartment buildings have several perpetually empty spaces

        Never have I seen that to be true unless the apartment complex has a ton of empty units. I can remember my time in apartments in Totem Lake and Tukwilla back in the late 70’s and parking was always full. My son’s been through the apartment phase recently while at college in B’ham and same thing. There is no parking to be had unless you have a reserved space. And these were apartments walking distance to campus and on a bus route. Thing is, the students mostly have a car for recreation, shopping and going home even if it sits 90% of the time. Even if Everett apartment parking is a war zone. And of course nowhere in Seattle is an empty parking space going to remain that way for long unless reserved and towing unauthorized cars is enforced. Just plain lying about the parking situation doesn’t advance the argument for reducing parking minimums. Because you don’t use it and resent paying the premium doesn’t change the facts on the ground.

      3. That is what we have a free market for. If parking is really that important, and people won’t move in if the place doesn’t have it, then developers will provide it anyway, and we don’t need government to mandate it.

      4. As an employee at North Seattle College, I see about a third of the spots empty at peak. I don’t know what criteria they based their parking allotment on, but it was definitely far off, A shame too; they could have left more of the wetland. Some of the parking is empty because there is ample free parking on the streets nearby. The implication of that for those apposed to developments lacking in parking is to not only require sufficient spaces, but to also require it to be free for users of the development. Honestly though, I think more of those spots are open because of non-drivers. Informally it seems bus is the most common non-car means of conveyance. Then either cycling or walking. Bike parking at the main entrance has been full at peak for months now. Thats about 40 bikes. The extra spaces aren’t all bad though; The workers on the light rail now use the whole south east lot for their parking and trailers and we still have plenty left over.

      5. “There is no parking to be had unless you have a reserved space. ”

        I’m talking about buildings with only reserved spaces, where you either lease a space for $150/month ($100 a few years ago) or you can’t park. Some people gradually give up parking spaces to compensate for rising rent, and the spaces remain empty and nobody can use them. But they cost $30,000 each to build.

        “Does “flip” + “sell”? Whenever I hear someone use the term “flip” I know that they have an attitude.”

        It means the owner has an attitude. They built the building or bought the property with the intention of selling it within a few years for a handsome profit.

      6. North Seattle College was built in the 1960s when there were probably fewer buses, more enthusiasm to drive, and fewer apartments nearby. I wasn’t here in the 60s but in the 80s the 16, 48, and 5-Northgate were half-hourly, and I don’t know if an east-west route had started yet. The Northgate transit center’s predecessor was on the east side of the mall, so farther from the college.

  2. This post includes a similar map to what is shown above but the Link station is shown in the correct location. I’m happy with rezone but disappointed that official maps are showing the station where the new Artspace housing has just been built.

  3. If we’re leaving parking up to individual developers, one part of their calculus has to be the availability of on-street parking. In relatively low-density areas where street parking is not full-up, developers will rationally assume that some of their tenants with cars will be able to park on the street — and why pay to build parking where the City provides it for free?

    1. I could ask the same question of current residents. Why should new residents bear all the costs of providing parking?

      1. I love it.

        You folks are all talking philosophy…what “should be?” in some Rawlsian sense.

        But does anyone know (care about) “what is?” i.e. Fact based on Historical, empirical, counting the cars?

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