Photo from the DJC
Photo from the DJC

Recently the Daily Journal of Commerce wrote about a new project proposed near Link’s Othello Station at 7301 and 7343 Martin Luther King Jr. Way S.:

The largest of the three buildings would be at the corner of Othello and MLK Way. The six-story structure would contain 210 apartments, a 17,000-square-foot public market, 10,000 square feet of retail and underground parking for 165 vehicles.

To its east on Othello would be a 225-unit building with 7,800 square feet of retail, and parking for 330 vehicles above and below grade. Nine of the units would be live-work.

The third building, on MLK Way, would have 65 apartments, five live-work units and 28 surface parking stalls.

All units in the complex would be market-rate, with a mix of studios, and one- and two-bedrooms.

Yes, that is 523 parking spaces for 505 units. New market units next to Link are great, but it is ridiculous to have a greater than 1:1 parking ratio, and obscene to build new surface parking literally across the street from a Link station. Also across the street is the Station at Othello, which was built with 320 spaces for 351 units and 17,591 square feet of retail. Parking utilization is so low that the developer is only providing 60% of the parking in their new Station at Othello North project. The Myrtle Apartments project being built north of Othello link station will have 50 parking spots for 108 units and 8,000 square feet of retail and community space.

The Seattle City Council wisely limited park and rides near Rainier Valley Link stations in order to encourage dense walkable development near the stations that would bring, steady, long term, all day demand. These efforts are paying dividends. It would be a shame if  private entities built a large number of spots, driving up costs when history shows they are not wanted or needed by the tenants.

If you are interested in learning more, there will be a Southeast Design Review Board meeting at the Rainier Valley Cultural Center tomorrow (Tuesday, August 26) evening from 6:30 p.m. to 8.

80 Replies to “Transit Adjacent Development isn’t Transit Oriented Development”

  1. The ratio isn’t greater than 1:1. The retail and public market square footage need to be taken into account. Still, parking garages suck.

    1. I’m always amazed at how we ignore the retail and public market impacts on parking. Sure residents will leave their cars in the garage and take transit, but what about the shoppers at the public market? What about the patrons at some new hipster restaurant that drive in from other areas? Keep in mind that large segments of this neighborhood not near Rainier Avenue, Beacon Avenue or Link have terribly infrequent transit service (like Route 50) so any patrons from nearby areas like Seward Park are pretty much going to drive. To illustrate the point: Take a look at the Trader Joe’s parking at 19th and Madison – and see that I’d say about half of those customers are driving in and out of the store even in an area as dense as Capitol Hill!

  2. STB should interview a developer and get his side of things. Explain to him his tenants won’t want or need parking. Ask him why he’s building unneeded parking for his building.

    1. BTW, this doesn’t just go for the MLK/Link corridor, but plenty of parking is being included in other TAD and TOD developments, like the South Kirkland P&R, the first phase of the Spring District, Esterra Park (formerly Group Health in Redmond), etc. I’m not sarcastically saying you should interview a developer and ask them why they are building so much parking. I’d really like to read a Q & A between STB and them. I think it would be interesting!

    2. Aren’t they required to build that parking as per city code? I doubt any developer is just going to spend extra money engineering a parking garage if they don’t have to.

      1. Parking requirements are significantly reduced depending on proximity to transit. In the case of light rail overlay zones, I believe they’re eliminated entirely.

      2. Kyle – correct. There is currently no requirement for parking if the units are located within the walkshed (1/4 mile) of frequent (<15 min) transit, The amount of parking being built by this developer is entirely determined by the developer and their financer.

  3. I can understand that if all you do is get up in the morning, get on LINK and go to work for 13 hours and then come home, grab an off the shelf sushi meal at QFC, watch a Netflix and go to bed then yes, you don’t need parking.

    But if say, you ever wanted to drive to IKEA and pick out a sofa bed, or else want to tent camp on a weekend, or some such non-sensical thing, maybe you would want a parking space.

    1. IKEA delivers. They also haul away old furniture to make room for the new furniture they bring inside. Why on earth would anyone risk their back and take the liability on themselves to haul large objects home?

      1. To John’s credit, people get furniture from other places besides Ikea. I got most of my current furniture from three thrift stores, for instance. Only one of them delivered, and its delivery schedule was booked for several weeks in advance.

      2. Why not use ZipVan, etc.? Infrequent large purchases is a bad example to support the idea of car ownership.

      3. Don’t forget TaskRabbit, which also provides you someone who can lift the fabulous find into your apartment. Even if I owned a car, I would still need to bribe a friend.

        Camping is an issue though: you can pick it up on Friday, but where do you park it the night before to load it up? It seems that you can’t apply for an RPZ guest tag unless you have a vehicle registered to your name (which doesn’t make much sense to me), and street parking is in short supply on Capitol Hill on Friday nights.

      4. If camping is a huge part of your lifestyle then car ownership probably pencils out financially even if you don’t use it for much else, and the maintenance and storage of a car should be a significant consideration when choosing housing. This is true for many travel-intensive hobbies (like bike racing), even in Europe.

        Even so, people that camp that much are a minority, even in Seattle (no matter what the PEMCO commercials say). And basically all occasional campers camp in groups, and if none of them own a car and they have to spend $20 somewhere on overnight parking for a rental car somewhere it’s not going to compare to how much they spend on gas and other expenses.

    2. Because those activities require owning a car? Haven’t you ever heard of ZipCar? Because I’ve done all those things – and more – and I don’t own a car.

      Mind bending, I know…

      1. If there are ZipCars readily available within reasonable walking distances, then yes, it is a viable option. But in my neck of the woods in West Seattle, one Zipcar appears within a block or so of my home on very rare occasions, which doesn’t make it a viable option for going places where transit does not go.

      2. East Coast Cynic, you’re thinking of car2go. ZipCars have permanent parking spaces and can be reserved online days in advance.

      3. Kyle, I checked the Zipcar site for the nearest cars to me and they’re still too far from a reasonable walk from my home to get to.

      4. Enterprise will pick you up…and sometimes drop you off too!

        $9.99 a day when you rent the whole weekend.

        In reality, I guess that really could be enough car for many.

    3. How many people actually own a car that will fit a sofa? Or even a decent sized flatpack?
      This is why U-Haul rents pickups and vans.

      Transit friendly development doesn’t necessarily have to completely lack parking either.
      Notice that this Fred Meyer has an entrance right by the bus stop:,-122.623176,3a,75y,323.04h,90t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sxE2WtQ1xW0FGIWh6yLxKRg!2e0?hl=en

      but if you want to deal with the nonsense that goes along with the typical surface parking lot you can do that too:,-122.623806,3a,75y,89.69h,69.81t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sQJ4HeAms8vWliaWd6kLt6A!2e0?hl=en

      or, you can park upstairs too:,-122.624482,3a,75y,128.71h,86.42t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sWw7QeqS975mMVJevBZiUNQ!2e0?hl=en

  4. Someone correct me if I’m wrong but I’m pretty sure parking provisions are beyond the purview of the design review board…

    1. That’s technically true, but you can talk about the design of those facilities and their relation to the project. Is surface parking appropriate? What about its access? Does it fit into the character of the project
      design and neighbourhood? You can also make it a point to advocate that the applicant and architecture firm redesign and reconsider their proposal. So while it’s a code-driven provision at issue, you can argue that it is a design issue.

    2. Perhaps, but parking is one of the primary issues voiced during these meetings and has often been added after them (such as the Viking site that started with zero parking and is being built with 90 spaces.)

      1. Which is why informing the developer that you believe they’re proposal is flawed and that you support a parking reduction can be helpful in the other direction. Often, these reviews come down to the applicant trying to get into the minds of the community–“who is likely to oppose our project, and how can we satisfy them?” They rarely get YIMBYs. Especially ones who tell them that they’re wrong in trying to placate “neighbours” with inferior and harmful designs–designs that contain absurd off-street parking ratios.

  5. This story is such an overreaction to nothing. The project is providing 495 underground parking stalls, which will probably be in a secured garage and reserved for residents of the 505 apartment units. That is a ratio 0.98 stalls to 1 unit. The remaining 28 surface stalls are likely reserved for retail uses. It is not “ridiculous” or “obscene” for a apartment building to provide this much parking in this area. It is perfectly reasonable. After all, this address has a walkscore of 58, not exactly a place someone could comfortably live without a car. suggests a market demand of 0.94 stalls per unit for this parcel. However, it also says that based on average density in the area, a 150 unit apartment building would be a good fit for this parcel. We should be cheering the fact that this developer is building a project that is more than 3 times denser than the market average in the area.

      1. A “must” for walkability? Micromanaging should be done by those actually investing their money and sweat in the project. Bloggers and those they arouse have less than a molecule of skin in the game and no real incentive to run the hard numbers.

      2. Point d on page 15 of the design doc present pedestrian experience as one of the project’s top priorities.

      3. Look at it from a pedestrian’s perspective and it becomes clear. What do pedestrians want? The widest choice of destinations within a given number of steps. If the lot has one wide shallow shop, it’s useless to those who don’t like that shop. If instead it has three narrow deep shops, then it’s more likely the person will like at least one of them, or maybe even two. His friend may like the second and third one. Also, banks and large chains tend to prefer wide shallow shops because it gives them maximum advertising space and minimum competition. Local independent businesses tend to prefer narrow deep shops because their rent is less per unit, and they have a chance to get the space because chain stores aren’t competing for it. Compare the northwest corner of 45th & University Way (a bank filling more space than it needs) with 1st & Virginia, and 11th between Pike & Pine (which both have narrow storefronts on at least one side).

  6. Not ideal, but all of the parking is either enclosed in interior locations or underground. (There are plans over at

    If a developer voluntarily puts more parking underground than is required, it’s not forcing the residents to be car-free. But neither is it impacting anybody else very much. Path America thinks that buyers of market rate apartments in this area will want to have a car even if they use Link for commuting. Maybe they know their audience?

    1. “Path America thinks that buyers of market rate apartments in this area will want to have a car even if they use Link for commuting.”

      I think they are right in that thinking. I work downtown and take transit in every day, but my wife is a teacher in Bellevue and there is no transit service that would conveniently take her to work, so she drives. We share one car between us. I can imagine most households that live at this apartment would have the same lifestyle: one car shared between two adults.

    2. Considering this is PATH’s first project in Seattle and Othello Partners are literally across the street and are moving close to .5 stalls per unit in their new project in the are, what makes you think PATH gets it right and Othello Partners wrong?

      Why can’t Othello Partners fill their garage if so much parking is needed?

      1. Well, somebody should ask Path America. They are the guys on the ground who have decided they need to spend a lot of money on parking. I’m sure they’re familiar enough with Othello and others that they are confident they need to spend the money.

        But since we’re just speculating here, I’d point to the linked article which suggests that the lower parking at the new Othello project is retail-driven. The first Othello project had excess parking because the retail underperformed.

      2. @Seattleite, it is interesting though that the two buildings on MLK are close to 0.5, particularly once you factor out parking for retail. It’s the one building further up Othello that boosts the average way higher.

      3. Path doesn’t know their market, and they’re no concerned by it either. Remember, they’re strictly an investment company to get visas, not actual development that is driven by real profit motivations or their end users.

      4. I think Path America’s main concern is getting Green Cards for rich Chinese, building a decent project is probably a secondary concern at best.

    1. Especially when you consider that this garage will house the cars whose owners will be paying the annual $60 vehicle licensing fee that will “save transit” in Seattle.

      Again, instead of being ungrateful and demonizing cars and the spots in which they park, let’s thank car owners for funding transit.

      More cars = A better funded Metro.

      1. BA: More capacity to build units without parking. And with fewer parking spaces, the apartment dwellers will be subsidising parking considerably less for the project. This increases affordability. The actual assessed value of the property is considerably higher where space is allocated to a productive use as opposed to parking spaces like by an order of magnitude per square foot. Hence, the property tax take is actually higher.

  7. Matt, you should make sure to note that this is the *ONLY* time that the public can get involved in the project. You have one bite at the apple as a party-of-record (POR). Future reviews will only allow entitlement as a POR. You should also link to the project file.

      1. So do I! And quite frankly I’m sick of all the excessive parking that’s being built in my neighborhood.

      2. I also come from Ballard and agree with Kyle. Enough with forcing renters to pay for parking they don’t use in a vain effort to preserve current residents “free” parking.

  8. How do we know residents of the Station at Othello Park don’t take advantage of the city’s program for really cheap residential parking permits?

  9. The biggest logical fallacy and oversight of everyone who is defending parking in the building is the assumption that there won’t be parking for residents if the developer doesn’t build it in the building. This is clearly wrong. Parking vacancy rates are ridiculously high in similar developments:

    and this isn’t even considering vacancy rates of adjacent, paid parking. Let’s stop pretending like there’s anywhere in this city that people *can’t* own a car or that there is any future in which this is would be true.

    If people were actually willing to pay for parking, developers could throw up market-rate garages. The point of an article like this is to focus on the real problem, forcing people who don’t want to own cars to pay for other people’s parking, subsidizing traffic, sprawl and climate change.

    1. No body is being forced to buy anything. Don’t want a parking space, don’t buy/rent from that building. The market will either allow the owners to recoop the money spent on the parking or it will not. If there is no demand for parking the units will sit on the market (if parking is bundled with the unit).

      1. Let’s try asking a smarter question.

        Several of you are convinced that this developer doesn’t know his business and is building a bunch of extra parking spaces out of some sort of foolishness.

        It’s more likely he knows his market very well, and is calibrating his parking needs to the needs of his customers.

        Two of the buildings are at about 0.5 units of parking (70 units with 28 stalls, and 210 units + retail with 165 stalls). The last building has 225 units + public market + retail with 330 stalls.

        So that last building is very differently parked. Does it occur to anybody else that the last building might be different in other ways than the parking? Maybe the 17,000 sqf public market? Or maybe something about the size of the apartments?

        If you want low parking, you need development that has low parking needs. Maybe somebody wants to make the case that only certain types of apartments should be allowed here. Or that we shouldn’t have a public market. But I don’t see anybody making that argument. We’re assuming that the developer is just an idiot who is pouring money down a hole, and that he needs bloggers to explain how he should run his business.

        Does anybody want to make the case that TOD shouldn’t cater to people who want a car for weekend use? Or that we should only have public markets where nobody can drive in? Because you’re really going to limit TOD with such a purist approach.

      2. Why people should care is that we’ve spent a large amount of money on these stations, and the rail that connects them. Every square foot is important. If we were to ever consider parking maximums, this may be a good location to try it out.

      3. “No body is being forced to buy anything. Don’t want a parking space, don’t buy/rent from that building.”

        I think we are trying to be less passive-aggressive than that. If we show the market for renting/buying more units without parking stalls (and I think this post does an adequate job showing that market), everyone benefits.

    2. Let’s stop pretending like there’s anywhere in this city that people *can’t* own a car…

      Just to refine your point a bit:

      It would honestly be quite hard to own a car where I live. I have a few neighbors who do, consensus is it’s a massive p.i.t.a., and most of them move elsewhere after their leases are up.

      But… This is only true because real urbanity of the sort in which my building is situated — pre-automobile, full skinny-lot coverage, little-to-no unrestricted parking nearby — is so vanishingly rare in Seattle that no one has thought to orchestrate the obvious solution: monthly rentals in all of the massively underutilized New Ballard garages.

      In cities where no-limit street parking is rare everywhere, and not only in two or three places, a robust market exists for available off-street spaces. There’s no such thing as garages sitting 50% empty, bleeding the tenants above for no reason, while neighbors needing to stash their cars circle in vain.

  10. I fail to see how this is a big deal, its not like the developer is building 1200 spaces for 500 units… I also hate to tell you, that no matter how hard you think of Seattle being a urban city, with urban living and without a reliance on automobiles – it just is not true. Aside from a few neighborhood cores, Seattle mostly consists of single family dwellings (at least from what I have seen in my travels around the city) with an already weak Metro transit service (thanks to 40/40/20 of years past) and one that is constantly loosing ground due to lack of funding and infrastructure (Seattle’s bus lanes are pathetic, poorly marked with varying hours of operation, no queue jumps or transit signals (and from what I understand of TSP, it’s only used when a bus is late – not to speed a bus along a corridor like other systems), Seattle will never be the transit mecca so many you envision it to be.

    1. I think you may be confusing the land use of the majority of acreage in the city with the housing of the majority of the population.

      Moreover, while a noticeable chunk of the acreage may not be within the walkshed of frequent transit service, most of the commerce is.

  11. I think a reasonable amount of structured parking in the new buildings makes sense. Lots of Seattleites have many reasons to want a car especially those with children, older family members or anyone disabled. Shopping, activities, school, across town trips, out of town trips, and on and on. I don’t drive much, but I’d hate to be without my car in Seattle. Storing cars on the street as the only option for people that live in dense neighborhoods with buildings without parking doesn’t agree with me. As we look to the future, storing cars on the street will make it especially problematic to bring people on board to use the rights of way for higher and better uses.

    1. We know you like cars, Kate. That’s why you want to retain the viaduct… Your obssession with concrete and exclusion is bizarre for someone who boasts themselves as an urban progressive… If you want parking, you pay for it. Stop passing it onto other consumers and those who want affordable, walkable, environmentally-friendly, and healthy lifestyles. The moment you mention “the kids”, it’s clear that you’re actually concerned about your selfish motives.

    2. There is a man whom I see at social dances on occasion who absolutely cannot fathom that I don’t own a car, or want one.

      It is a truth universally acknowledged, that an American person in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a car — isn’t that how the Jane Jacobs quote goes? Don’t I love freedom? Do I vote? Do I enjoy cheeseburgers? How can I then not own a car?

      It’s turned into a running joke between us. I am one who sometimes drives but is happy to not own a car in Seattle. As we look to the future, it would be remiss to not acknowledge the existence and number of people with similar outlooks.

      1. I’m in the same boat as you. If a trip isn’t feasible via transit or cycling, and nobody else who can drive is also involved, I usually call a cab as it’s usually several months between such a trip.

        I do have a ZipCard, but the thought of driving just makes me uncomfortable.

    3. Storing cars on the street is a particularly bad option in Seattle with the 72 hour street parking limit.

      Parking is also helpful when you have guests from out of town, etc.

      However, just because one person wants a car doesn’t mean that everyone in the building wants one.

  12. Some factors that have to be considered:
    – most potential residents will already have a car. They are not going to sell it speculatively before moving in, even if they end up not needing it very much, because they don’t know they won’t need it very much until they actually start living there.
    – Othello Station is a full mile south of the Car2Go area and is served by just two Zipcars. There are many parts of Seattle where you can reliably and spontaneously pick up a car without owning one. Unfortunately, proximity to Link or not, Othello Station just isn’t it.
    – The present transit network is only really designed to get people from Othello to either downtown or the airport. Anywhere else – including all of north Seattle – driving becomes a lot faster.
    – Bike facilities are lacking. Every flat thru-street around Othello (Ranier/MLK) is full of speeding cars, and has no bike lanes.
    – The Othello area still has, real or perceived, a safety problem after dark. A significant number of residents will not consider leaving their home after dark without climbing into their car in the security of a locked garage.

    Given all this, I can think of many neigborhoods (Queen Anne, Capitol Hill, Fremont) that are better suited for a zero-car household than Othello. For Othello, we’ll just have to count a husband a wife sharing a single car between them (which is easy to do if at least one of the two people works downtown) as a success. In summary, yes, I do believe the developer knows the market and is reacting to actual market demands.

    1. “- Bike facilities are lacking. Every flat thru-street around Othello (Ranier/MLK) is full of speeding cars, and has no bike lanes”

      The Chief Sealth Trail is 100 vertical feet or less uphill. I’ve never been on it and I have no idea how useful it is for transportation purposes.

      1. The Chief Sealth Trail, due to local grade characteristics, is not really a useful transportation cycling route for common long trips. I don’t want to give the impression it was a horrible project — it did a bunch of cool things:

        – Created park space in an area that needed some, and put some “eyes on the street” in places that weren’t quite on the grid.
        – Shored up the pedestrian network in a few places it was broken.
        – Improved a few arterial crossings.
        – Provided a couple nice traffic-free hill-climb routes between Beacon Hill and the Rainier Valley.

        But it took deliberate effort to choose or create flat corridors for ground transportation in this city, and the power line corridor the Chief Sealth trail runs in isn’t one of them.

    2. – The present transit network is only really designed to get people from Othello to either downtown or the airport. Anywhere else – including all of north Seattle – driving becomes a lot faster.

      I’d like to point out that Link has more than two stops, with more coming by the time these apartments will be sold/completed.

  13. Starting decades ago, cities started having carpool finder services. We have car sharing services, and independent ride sharing services.

    So how about parking space sharing services, for these situations where parking space is sometimes excessive? Say someone in this building has an extra parking place available. It could be rented out to someone at a cheaper price than what airport or downtown parking goes for.

  14. What’s the threshold between TOD and TAD? To me it’s the distance and quality of the walkway from the transit stop to the destinations. (There’s also the nature of the units — diversity of shops, how much housing — but I’m not talking about those aspects.) If the entrance is on another side of the building or you’re going through a large parking lot/driveway, it’s not TOD. The VA hospital and Lake City Fred Meyer come to mind. But The Station at Othello Park and the buildings where St Dame’s and Bananas seem like TOD to me, even if it’s the low-quality modern kind (wide shallow storefronts, not enough attention to human scale, less activity than there could have been).

    If we call almost everything in Seattle TAD it seems to stretch the definition to uselessness, and to miss the critical distinction between shops right at the sidewalk vs shops behind parking lots with car-oriented entrances.

    1. To be clear, this is in contrast to those who say it can’t be TOD if it doesn’t have 0% or 33% parking. If it’s all about garage parking, what is the threshold? 50%?

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