20150414-2015-04-14 21.35.06
10PM on a Tuesday Night. Typical Residential Garage in Downtown Kirkland.

In 2012, Metro sponsored a study of parking ratios for multi-family developments in urban King County. By counting vehicles parked overnight, the Right-Size Parking study created a model of current parking needs and demonstrated that parking is 40% oversupplied.

Several pilot demonstration projects were developed in partnership with various cities. However, only one, in Kirkland, made recommendations for changes in policy. It hasn’t gone well. The challenges encountered point to the difficulties in reducing suburban parking requirements.

Fundamentally, right-size parking is a conservative approach. It does not defer to developers to build what the market requires. (Suburban cities are too concerned with spillover parking to be comfortable with that). Neither does it look forward to a less car-dependent future. It only brings parking minimums into line with current use.

Kirkland’s base parking requirements are high, far above even comparable suburban communities. They’re so dated that nobody remembers how they were derived. In downtown, 1 stall per bedroom is required, with a 1.3 minimum per unit. Most other neighborhoods have a 1.7 requirement per unit. Up to another 0.5 stalls per unit are required for guest parking. But overnight parking counts found just 1.27 parked vehicles per apartment. Indeed, the average multi-family unit only has 1.57 residents, so the code requires more parking than there are residents.

Excess parking distorts residential construction in predictable ways. Single family homes gain an arbitrary cost advantage, skewing the market against multi-family development. Downtown apartments have few bedrooms to avoid building more parking. The resulting demographic skews toward condos for retirees, with few units for larger families. Multi-family housing in downtown Kirkland has very few families with children.

Nevertheless, the proposal ran into early opposition from neighborhood groups and anti-growth activists. Much public comment reflected disbelief that others could live with as few cars as the data showed. Surely, most units would have two residents who each needed a car to commute to work? Many were skeptical that regional data could be used to estimate Kirkland parking requirements. But local data gathering confirmed what the regional model had suggested. Much more methodological nitpicking ensued, none of which undermined the data analysis. There were even complaints that the parking counters must have trespassed into private garages (They didn’t, of course).

The Planning Commission deliberated for several months and recommended requirements higher than the RSP model. Although model estimates closely fit local usage, some buildings varied from the model by up to 15% in either direction. So the base requirement was raised 15% for every building. Then it was raised another 10% for guest parking because developers were presumed unwilling to manage this themselves. The Commission recommended 1.2 stalls/ studio, 1.3 stalls/1-bedroom, 1.6 stalls/2-bedroom, and 1.8 stalls/3-bedroom. An additional 10% guest parking was also recommended. Realizing that these standards were adding parking in downtown, there was one concession: a 15% off-setting reduction within a half-mile of the transit center, but only if the developer funded transit passes for residents in perpetuity.

Nevertheless, by the time the proposal reached the City Council, it was politically toxic. Residential parking became conflated with Kirkland’s “shortage” of parking for retail. Street parking in downtown is free, and public lot parking is inexpensive. With many older buildings that lack their own parking, free street parking is over-used. Businesses won’t countenance any spillover of residential parking into scarce street spaces. Single-family homeowners on neighboring streets are hostile to spillover parking on ‘their’ streets. In a city that has mixed feelings about growth, the risks of making development more expensive are preferred to the risks of spillover.

Parking modifications came into focus. This process permits a developer to submit a parking study with data from comparable buildings, and thereby gain relief from high code requirements. With such unrealistic base requirements, parking modifications were regularly granted. It was almost a do-it-yourself right size parking initiative. Council members were very uncomfortable with this process which may have been more widespread than they’d realized.

Parking in mixed-use buildings is complex. While residential needs are predictable, business needs vary greatly with the particular use of the space. One building, in Juanita, had issues with employee parking. Another, in Totem Lake, attempted shared use of parking by business customers and residents, but didn’t manage this well. Many other buildings successfully managed parking with multiple uses, but it was a few failures that drew attention.

The 15% reduction with transit passes was greeted skeptically. Though supported by regional data, it was not supported by local data on frequent transit routes. With so much required parking, Kirkland has attracted mostly residents who do not rely on transit. But rejection of this approach would cut off one more option for developers who wish to cater to a different audience.

In the wake of the voter rejection of Prop. 1, some questioned the reliability of transit. Could the city rely on transit to reduce future parking needs if Metro service wasn’t guaranteed?

The Council is expected to consider this again in June, but any major reform appears unlikely. Neighborhood organizations are opposed to any reduction in parking minimums. Parking modifications may be sharply curtailed. This would diminish regulatory flexibility, and increase de facto requirements even as code standards are nominally eased. Kirkland may be better off walking away from the Right Size Parking project.

66 Replies to “Right-Sizing Parking”

  1. The debate over parking is frustrating, because it only occurs in forums like this. If the minimum wage debate was argued in the same way, Seattle would have the same minimum wage as Yakima.

    I think it is time that someone proposes an initiative to get rid of parking requirements in Seattle’s zoning code. Such an initiative would be simple — much simpler than the $15 an hour minimum wage. If an owner decides to provide parking, then so be it, but the building code would no longer force renters into paying for parking

    There are numerous ways in which parking could then be provided. Either everyone in the city pays for it (as we’ve done before downtown) or we provide on-street parking permits to current residents. I really don’t have a strong feeling one way or another on that issue (I really don’t care). I drive and park a lot in this city and of all the amenities that we ask the city to provide, parking is very low on my list.

    Getting rid of parking requirements would have a huge impact on the developments that are most likely to lead to cheaper rents (ADU/DADU and low rise apartments).

    1. Up until this year Seattle did have the same minimum wage as Yakima, which along with the rest of Washington was the highest in the country.

    2. Even if most Seattlelites don’t know much about econ, it’s still clear why minimum wage is important. Particulars of building code is a little esoteric. Imagine what would happen if a news crew walked around asking people “what do you think about the current parking minimums”. I’m picturing a lot of confused ums, some blank stares, and few of those astounding replies where only by knowing the subject is it possible to tell the respondent is just quick, confident, and creative but entirely ignorant of the subject.

    3. Ross: after looking at a bunch of individual situations, I concluded that a necessary first step is to *charge* for on-street parking. A lot of the weird political dynamics of parking minimums are related to “free” on-street overnight parking. Which should not exist. Get rid of it and you eliminate the dynamic of “All those new people need to stay off ‘my’ street”, which drives most of the insane parking minimums.

    4. If the minimum wage debate was argued in the same way, Seattle would have the same minimum wage as Yakima.

      This seems insanely optimistic to me. The issue plays differently; both turn on entitlement in different ways. On the minimum wage, there’s a broad sense of entitlement to a somewhat decent wage for working people (quite reasonably). On parking, there’s a broad sense of entitlement to lots of convenient, “free” available parking. In both cases, there’s an assumption that the rich and powerful will pay the price.

      1. I think you are missing the point. Raising the minimum wage was debated for years on various blogs and in magazine articles, etc. But nothing happened (locally). Then a bunch of people in SeaTac passed a bill to raise the minimum wage. A couple years later, folks in Seattle said they were going to do the same. Suddenly the city council and mayor got moving on the issue. Debate ensued and folks came to a pretty good compromise (in my opinion).

        As long as this issue is debated on the blogs, nothing will happen. Part of the problem is the vast majority of voters in this town aren’t even debating it. My guess is the vast majority of voters in Seattle aren’t even aware it exists. Those that do often ignore the fact that it increases the cost of rent. I have met several (including some who rent) that are completely unaware of the issue. It might be a bit more controversial, but let’s not pretend that the minimum wage idea wasn’t. But unless someone actually proposes something via an initiative — a significant change in policy — nothing will happen.

        There are arguments to be made on both sides, just as there was with the minimum wage issue. The first opponents out of the gate were small businesses. They had a point (which is why the compromise was a good one). The same thing would happen with the parking restrictions. On the one side you would get those who support parking, but on the other you would also get a lot of environmental and left wing organizations. Right now those organizations can’t endorse anything, because there is nothing to endorse. You would also get some home owners, who basically argue that they should be able to add an apartment or cottage to their property without building additional parking. Eventually you might get some compromise, but at least you get the issue being debated publicly. Given the fact that this city does listen to left wing and environmental organizations, I don’t think we can assume that the parking issue would go as everyone assumes.

      2. But a necessary but not sufficient condition was broad public support for raising the minimum wage, which didn’t need to be created because it was always already there. There are very few progressive policies with as much broad public support as raising the minimum wage. No matter how much debate we get, we’re going to achieve that for parking. Breaking the issue out of insular and powerless blogs and into the public sphere won’t change that, because it’s really hard to change people’s minds and it almost never happens on a broad scale.

    5. This is not some fantasy issue though, and developers do take advantage of being able to build zero lot line boxes in the middle of purely residential neighborhoods. As much as many of us want a better transit system, the majority of us still own cars. I own an old van simply to use when I have to take my kids and their friends around to multiple places, or to drive my elderly parents somewhere. When I am by myself, I use the transit system. If you are building apartments, condos, and homes for people who have cars, you need to provide them parking. Have any of you tried to support businesses in Ballard lately, good luck finding any parking. The streets by Market are now all used as the parking lots for the people who moved into the new big residential boxes.

      There is a single 4 bedroom rental home on my street. They have, and this is not an exaggeration, NINE cars parked on the street, and another 2 in their driveway. What was a quiet open residential street where the kids played street hockey and road their bikes, is now lined with cars and unsafe.

      1. And as people will ask me, “If you take transit, why were you trying to parking in Ballard?”

        I took 7 kids to Golden Gardens in my van, on the way home 4 wanted to go get ice-cream and 3 wanted to go to Bop Street Records and Sonic Boom Records. Neither wound up receiving any of our business that day because I couldn’t find parking anywhere within 15 blocks.

      2. >> If you are building apartments, condos, and homes for people who have cars, you need to provide them parking.

        No you don’t. That is my point. There are lots of buildings in this city they don’t have parking. Just about any old building lacks parking. This is the way it is in most cities. When you move into a neighborhood, you have to figure out how to store your car. You can take your chances with on street parking (as many people do) or park in a private garage. Many choose the latter.

        >> Have any of you tried to support businesses in Ballard lately, good luck finding any parking.

        I park in Ballard all the time. I’m cheap, too, so I typically don’t pay. But if the street parking is crowded, I’ll pay. That is just life in the city. If you drive, you pay to park. There are plenty of pay parking lots in Ballard, but folks just don’t like using them. The same goes for downtown Seattle. I rarely drive downtown, but it is really, really easy to find a spot to park (although it is expensive).

        Again, if parking is considered a public good, then we should all pay for it. Build parking garages (as we’ve done before). But I think it is unfair to ask those who rent to have to pay for the construction of parking garages. Don’t fool yourself, either — it it everyone who rents who pays this cost. This doesn’t hurt me (I own my house) but I think it is unfair to ask those who just want a decent place to live to pay for parking (that guys like me enjoy).

      3. Most of us have a hard time thinking about the cost of parking because of the way it has always been so heavily subsidized such that we think of it as free.

        I once read a great article about how to get people to realize what the cost of parking was like to taxpayers. Can’t remember who wrote it nor can I find it now, but it may have been Donald Shoup.

        Imagine you rent an apartment and you find out that everyone in the building gets free sandwiches every day for lunch. You think “GREAT! Free sandwiches!” But after a week or two of eating the free sandwiches in the lobby of the building every day, you start to get sick of sandwiches, so you start going out to buy non-sandwich lunches.

        This is all well and good until you start thinking about the fact that you are losing money by not partaking of the free sandwiches. This gets you to start thinking about how much it costs for your building owner/manager to give away all those free sandwiches. Where does that money come from? Well from the rents paid by all the tenants in the building of course. So you talk to your building manager and ask how much money is spent on sandwiches each month and she says it is about $150/month for each bedroom in the building.

        Wait… what?! Per bedroom?! Well yes, because a 2 bedroom apartment has more people than a 1 bedroom apartment so they make extra sandwiches for those extra bedrooms. “But what happens to the sandwiches that aren’t eaten?” you ask. The manager tells you that she throws them out. “But if people aren’t eating sandwiches then you buy less sandwich making supplies the next week and make fewer sandwiches, right?” But the manager tells you that there is a law that says the building must make enough sandwiches every day to feed the theoretical maximum number of people who might live in and visit the building at any given time.

        OK, so you are effectively paying an extra $300 per month for sandwiches (since you have a 2 bedroom apartment) and you have no plans to eat any sandwiches except maybe once a week if some friends come over and you want a quick lunch before you go out for the afternoon. You think about the environmental impact of this sandwich policy! All that food being wasted just because your building is requiring so many sandwiches to be made every day. That is crazy!

        So you decide you are going to move to an apartment that doesn’t have this crazy free sandwich policy. But you find that all apartment buildings in the city have this “free” sandwich deal because there is a city law that requires them to. You even look at renting an apartment in a neighboring city but you find that they have a “free” sandwich law too. “Why do these cities have silly sandwich laws?”, you ask. Well nobody seems to know for sure except that at some point many decades ago some city council decided that making sure everyone who lived in the city had at least one meal a day was a good idea. “Why do we keep doing it though?”, you ask. Well, again, nobody is sure. Maybe the mayor likes sandwiches.

        This really ticks you off. So you decide that you need to save money since you are being forced to waste $300 a month on sandwiches that you have no intention of eating. So you walk to the grocery store to buy food so you can cook for yourself which will be cheaper than dining out. When you get to the grocery store you see that they are offering free sandwiches to all customers. You ask what the special occasion is. But the person making the sandwiches tells you that they do this all day, every day. “Wow!”, you think. How cool is that? A grocery store giving away free sandwiches. You are sick of sandwiches so you don’t take one but you think it is cool as you watch other families come up and grab free sandwiches.

        As you are shopping you are surprised that the prices seem rather high. “Why would an apple cost $3?”, you wonder. So you ask the produce manager why the store has such high prices. She tells you that it is because they have to pay for all the free sandwiches that they give to every customer. You tell her that you didn’t take a sandwich and ask if you can get a “non-sandwich discount” on your purchases. But she says that no, the store is required to make enough sandwiches to continually serve the maximum number of people who might possibly come to the store at one time. You ask if that many people have ever come to the store at once and she admits that no, it has never happened as long as she has worked at the store.

        “What happens to the uneaten sandwiches?”, you inquire? “Well, they get thrown out.”

        Thinking that this store is insane, you tell her that you are going to shop at the grocery store down the block where you won’t have to pay for sandwiches that you don’t eat every time you shop. But the produce manager tells you that all grocery stores in the city, actually in the state, are required by various state/county/local laws to continually have enough sandwiches on hand to feed the theoretical maximum number of people who could possibly come to the store at one time.

        Dejected, you go home and eat a free sandwich. 5 years and 50 pounds of gained weight later you no longer consider free sandwiches to be such an unusual thing. In fact you find yourself eating ever more and more sandwiches because they are free and turning them down would feel like it is costing you money.

        Sounds like a crazy world, right? Except that required parking is the same as required sandwiches. And paying extra for groceries when you go shopping and don’t take a free sandwich is just like walking to a store for groceries and not using the free parking that the store is required to provide for you.

      4. I have no problem paying for street parking. My point was, there was no parking. You might just want a cheap place to live, but the fact is most “who want a cheap place to live” still have cars. Just because you ride a bike to your bus-stop and take Metro to your East-Side job, doesn’t change the fact that you still have a car that is now parked on the street for free or for a significantly-reduced cost subsidized by taxpayers. Let’s be real here, I know plenty of high-tech bike riders who like to say “look-at-me, I ride the bus to work”, but their Audi is still parked on the street in Cap Hill, Ballard, Ravenna, etc….or their spouse’s kid-limo is.
        The developers also don’t reduce the cost of the apartments when there is no parking, they just build more apartments that cost the same amount as if there were parking.

      5. The necessary first step is to charge for on-street parking. Once on-street parking costs money, there’s a *market* in parking. It becomes reliably profitable to build parking garages and parking lots…

  2. Here at my place on Kent East Hill I think they guarantee access to two parking spots.

    That does seem excessive. Many of the people don’t even have cars (new immigrants, people on assistance).

    There is also paid covered parking which would seem to be the right way to handle those who need more than one car per unit.

    I see the kids playing in the dangerous high traffic areas and it makes me cringe (some are small, very young, on bikes etc).

    I would rather they played on greenspace (although there is greenspace that seems little used…maybe kids like streets…I knew I grew up playing there myself…)

    At any rate, I’m not really sure what this parking space obsession is except that you want to make it more difficult to use cars. Oh yeah. That’s your point isn’t it.

    1. The issue is unnecessary interference in the free market. People who build apartment buildings to their market research and know how much parking their residents actually need. Building more parking, beyond this, is not free, and must ultimately be paid for in the form of higher rents. In a place like Kent, even if there were no parking requirements, developers would still build enough parking anyway for everyone who wants to keep a car to do so – they would pretty much have to, or else nobody would move in. In which case, from the city’s perspective, why bother making unnecessary regulations that drive up the cost of housing?

      The argument for parking requirements gets even more ridiculous in areas where there are no public streets nearby for spillover parking to even happen. Which includes a lot of apartment buildings in middle-of-nowhere areas like Kent.

      1. Wow…to me this is like looking at the wrong end of the telescope.

        You berate a few apartment dwellers who want a space because they live in the suburbs.

        Yet, you do not berate the large number of giant Land Hogs that own and monopolize huge tracts in Seattle and environs?

        Fairly valued property taxes ultimately would force the Land Hogs to sell at least some portion of those vast holdings, needed for decent human living.

        But no.

        About that you say nothing.

    2. The issue is unnecessarily adding to the price of a place to live, because it assumes every bedroom needs a parking place.

      If this were applied to single family houses, each house in Kirkland would be required to have one place in the garage for each house bedroom. Don’t you think the house buyer and builder should determine how big the garage should be?

      1. > If this were applied to single family houses…
        Or driveway space, nothing in the parking regs for MFHs requires that the parking be covered, let alone enclosed. If, like many suburbs, Kirkland requires two car garages and substantial setbacks from the street in newly constructed SFHs, I’d be far from surprised to discover that the parking requirements on newly constructed SFHs are every bit as onerous as those on MFHs.

      2. This.

        Certainly you can’t make the argument that some of those bedrooms only have kids in them for a single-family house any more than for an apartment/condo. The house I grew up in, in “suburban” NE Seattle, at one time had two people of driving age and four bedrooms (and a single-car garage!); but as tends to happen with these things, in time there became five people of driving age living in that exact same house.

        Now, we kids didn’t all end up with cars when we were living there, but we could have…and there was only off-street parking for two cars. Clearly since the bedrooms could very easily been all occupied with car owners, the builder of the house should have been mandated to provide at least four spaces. Right? That line of thinking is no sillier than mandating that every bedroom in an apartment have a space allocated to it–very seldom if ever will every single tenant want or need their own space.

      3. I live about two blocks out of downtown. My street used to be mostly multi-family buildings from the 1950s with a sprinking of large-lot single family. All the new development are large single-family homes, albeit on smaller lots.

        At the end of my street, one block from the transit center, is a development of 3,000 square foot single family homes, completed in 2013. A previous developer intended to build apartments there, but the single family homes were more profitable.

        Of course, this isn’t just parking. There are height and density limits at work too.

        But a 3,000 square foot single family home is far more profitable than, say, three 1,000 square foot apartments. The cost of constructing the living space must be in the same ballpark. But the apartments would come with about triple the parking requirement (3 units x 1.7 stalls per unit plus up to 0.5 additional guest spots per unit).

        As I said, this is one block from the transit center. Outside of the zones where developers have to build multi-family, single-family wins out every time.

    3. Massively excessive residential parking doesn’t make driving easier.

      It doesn’t clear up road congestion, it doesn’t make finding a parking space easier, it just drives up construction costs, impervious surface, and rents.

      It has about as much impact on driving as regulating the size and number of bathrooms in an apartment.

    4. “Here at my place on Kent East Hill I think they guarantee access to two parking spots.

      That does seem excessive. Many of the people don’t even have cars…”

      This is the problem. Requiring that excessive amounts of land be used for parking — even with no cars to park there — causes nothing but trouble. It makes the apartments more expensive (because you have to pay extra for the parking), it causes environmental damage (paved asphalt is bad for drainage and creates heat islands), and it is *utterly useless* because it’s supplying more parking spaces than there are cars.

      Laws requiring wasteful stupidity are stupid and bad and should be removed. It’s like requiring that every house come with its own gun cabinet, or its own doghouse, or requiring that everyone own two ducks. Why?!?

      1. Thus all wineries, estates and horse farms within King County or nearby are excessive.

        Time to rezone, up the property tax, push out the GMA boundery.

      2. Is there a law requiring wineries and horse farms in King County? (Rather than, say, vegetable farms?)

        It’s one thing for individuals to do wasteful, stupid things. It’s another to require them to do so by law.

  3. http://inmagnat.com/mmcparis

    Have heard of this service. Worth checking out. Your car is garaged like a horse in a good stable, and delivered to you when you need it. And picked up when you’re done with it.

    Both at places of your choice. The service also takes care of your whole maintenance schedule, and any necessary repairs. Worth researching. And learning French.

    But based on our own freeway reports just about a hundred percent of Seattle rush hours, our main parking problem is how to reserve one’s own parking space on I-5 so you only have to walk half the normal mall parking lot to get at your car.

    Variety of creative solutions:

    Uber of Lyft service with helicopter. Chopper brings in their own driver when the ‘copter picks you up, who drives the car until he can bring it to you at work.

    Sikorsky Sky Crane helicopter can simply lift both your car and you out of traffic. Service can then either leave you and your car at chosen destination, or leave you at the office and fly the car to its own facility for storage, washing, and maintenance.

    Honest accounting will definitely show that this approach is cheaper, and easier on neighborhood protest meeting schedules, than total cost of pavement both standing and rolling (slowly) under a trillion dollars worth of immobile rubber and metal.

    Oh, and [ON-T] for STB: every regional rail station will have a helipad on the roof. Is Boeing Vertol still around? Might be better “fit” for them than streetcars.

    Mark Dublin

      1. Thanks, Bruce. First thing I notice, of course, is that by 1957, architecture itself had gotten so no-class- remember, this was when somebody “dropped” the ceiling at King Street Station- that nobody cried when printing went digital.

        In, like, 1917, when engineers were still required to know how to draw by hand, both structures themselves, and plans, really were great art. Wouldn’t doubt that many computer drafters are already quietly preparing an anti-digital counter-revolution.

        However, before helicopters, there were:


        The poster industry created some magnificent pics that really would have been great if the Graf Zeppelin or the Shenandoah could have moored by the nose on top of the Empire State Building.

        But every tall building throws updrafts that in minutes would shred a line of balloons in a metal frame covered by cloth. However, the ships were good study for anybody interested in heavy-duty ocean sailing.

        The guys who flew the Graf Zeppelin and the Hindenburg were often sailors- Germany didn’t abandon clipper ships as freighters ’til the end of the 1940’s.

        Some fantastic wind-powered history. Working with the world’s great winds, airships routinely caught the outer winds of a hurricane for max speed to South America.

        Unfortunately, for regional transit here, NZOMBY’s (No Zeppelins Over My Back Yard) will all tie cherry bombs to drones. Even with helium, we can’t get insurance.


  4. The whole business of requiring enough parking to guarantee, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there will absolutely never ever be any spillover because the street parking “belongs” to existing homes and businesses is stupid. It’s essentially a statement that street parking “belongs” to existing homes and businesses, but the city isn’t quite willing to make that official policy (through time restrictions, residential permits, etc.) so they require everyone else to build so much parking that nobody headed to anywhere the street parking doesn’t “belong to” would ever have any reason to park there.

    Ultimately, the problem here is that the people who have time to attend meetings like this are the retired old-timers who want nothing to ever change from 30 years ago. Potential new residents who could move into new developments don’t get a stake.

    1. I agree, but I think the bigger problem is that this issue gets discussed and debated on forums like this. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. As I said above, we need an initiative, so that the issue can be discussed by the folks that matter (the city council). As it stands now, people don’t understand the argument (as Bailo’s post above shows). This is understandable. Making “developers pay” sounds logical. But ultimately, that cost is paid by everyone who doesn’t rent. As long as people don’t understand that, nothing is done. But until the issue is debated with real consequences (as the $15 an hour minimum wage was) it won’t be. There are obvious parallels. Both arguments propose something very simple, but the results are not that simple, and require a fundamental understanding of economic principles. Understanding those principles is not that difficult (it is basic game theory which any high school kid can study) but the ramifications get very complicated very quickly. It is a bit like chess — the rules are fairly simple, but the game is not.

      But that doesn’t mean it can’t be understood by the voters. Compared to removing the parking rules, the $15 an hour proposal is a lot more complicated. As it is, a very good compromise was reached. The wages will go up, but they will go up a lot slower for those working for a small independent business. This will result in a strong small business environment, as well as very few layoffs. Overall, I consider it a win.

      The trade-off between a parking requirement and no parking requirement is very simple in comparison. You will have cheaper construction costs (which will result in cheaper rent — all other things being equal) in exchange for less parking. Like the $15 an hour debate, we can do things to placate the current residents or those who want cheaper parking (just as we did the small businesses). But by shifting the parking burden from the builder, we enable much cheaper development, which, like a “living wage” is something many people in this city support.

      1. “We can make the living wage go further in terms of paying for a place to live by not mandating buildings build facilities their residents don’t use.”

        That helps connect the ideas, at least partially?

      2. Absolutely. I would argue that the biggest issue in the city is affordable housing. While ending the parking requirement won’t solve that problem, it is a step in the right direction. The same can be said for the $15 an hour minimum wage. After all, that wage does not apply to everyone (small business owners might earn less) but it certainly means that more people who work in the city can earn enough money to survive. But being able to afford a place to live in the city may require a lot of simple steps, and this would be the first one.

        The second step is to get rid of the ownership clause on ADU/DADU buildings. Just those two changes would result in a lot more cheap, small developments. The break even point for a new apartment building has to be pretty high (you have to be able to charge high rent to justify the construction and property cost) but the opposite is true for an ADU or DADU or apartment conversion. That cost is peanuts, but very little of that type of work is done in Seattle because of these two requirements.

    2. The problem with spill over parking and why people often assert that it “belongs” to the existing house is that often it happens on streets that are not designed to accommodate street parking either in terms of width or sight lines. Case in point the kid I would have run over had I not known that the parked econoline van on curve of a street leads to a blind spot as you came around it so I go 10mph instead of the posted 25. I’m sure the city will put a sign up eventually but that takes time and complaining. (already done)

      Fact is Kirkland needs a far more complex parking program and policy than just what suits downtown. Portions of the city are not walkable and will not be for decades even if the concept of an pseudo urban village at places like Totem Lake is successful.

      For example up by Kingsgate there are several apartment complexes with cronic parking shortages. At the complex where NE 132nd Street and 132nd Ave NE come together people are parking on the streets and even on the lawn of the complexes’ rather nice athletic field. This is compounded that the buildings in question cater heavily to lower income laborers, this means that we have a situation where people are parking of work/repair trucks they use for work + personal vehicles. Kirkland definitely needs a policy that doesn’t blanket the city with a “one size fits all” policy. So I guess the question is how granular does the “right sizing” get?

      1. When this first went to Kirkland City Council, there was one member (who lives in Kingsgate) who was incredulous that apartments had too much parking. He visits many people in multifamily in that area and observed difficulties in parking.

        So maybe Kingsgate has a particular issue. Is it legacy King County rules (it wasn’t annexed to Kirkland until 2011), or something about particularly high vehicle ownership there?

        There does seem to be a role for more active parking management. If a resident parks a bunch of personal vehicles and a work truck, surely there’s a way for building owners to manage to that without just raising requirements across the board. Unbundling and charging for the extra stalls maybe?

        Cities don’t like to get into parking management, or require it of developers. For some reason, they think management is intrusive (and high minimums aren’t?). The default is to build so much parking that management is redundant, and then to walk away.

      2. I live in M/F housing in Everest/Houghton. Even not counting my paid-for parking spot which is always empty, I have never seen the lot full. Even with 1 resident who has 2 business trucks plus a business trailer, there are always at least 5 other empty spaces. So even if my lease would allow me to rent out my mandatory parking space to one of my neighbors, I can’t because there is an oversupply of unassigned (visitor) parking so my parking spot which is probably costing me $50-$100 per month in rent is effectively worthless.

      3. Yeah the parking situation varies greatly through the city I think. Where Glen observed issues with to many spots where he is, there are several condo/apartment buildings where friends live in the Rose Hill area south of 85th where there isn’t enough. And on the flipside I too have encountered a few “you’ve got to be kidding me” situations in terms of # of spots visiting others. Dan you maybe on to something about when they were annexed into the city.

      4. I’ve lived in South Rose Hill (south of 85th). Not in M/F housing but very close to some and I ride my bike past three other SRH/Bridle Trails M/F developments on a daily basis. I have never seen full parking lots, no matter the time of day or night.

        I think the problem is more likely similar to the problem the city has with the restricted parking at the Peter Kirk lot downtown. If you have both assigned parking and open visitor parking, it may be possible for there to be no visitor parking but I bet almost all of the time this happens, there is simultaneously some open assigned parking.

  5. I think the City of Redmond handled a similar situation (wanting to right-size parking requirements but realizing the requirements might cause a shortage of public parking for businesses given current mode choices and travel patterns) in a particularly effective way:

    Redmond was able to reduce parking requirements for new residential developments in the downtown area near the eventual East Link terminus by establishing a city-owned and managed surface lot, taking care of some of the access/parking concerns raised by local businesses. If/when the demand for this parking diminishes, the city will easily be able to develop this land, given its prime location and lack of structures.

    I know Kirkland has a central public parking lot shared by the ball field, the Library, the Y and maybe the performing arts center (?). I wonder if that lot made a reduction of parking minimums more palatable in the city and what a similar arrangement could do.

  6. As someone who would like to rent a 3 bedroom apartment in Kirkland with no parking spots, it is frustrating for the me to have the Planning Commission and City Council (all of whom live in single-family detached houses except for Councilmember Marchione) tell me that I am not the kind of person they want in Kirkland. I either have to pay for 2 parking spots that I don’t need (adding two more empty spaces to the already underused parking lot) or I have to look to some other city.

    The Planning Commission needs to be restructured so that a minimum number of commissioners live in multi-family housing and a minimum number of commissioners are renters. Appointing nobody but single family house owners does not even represent the current residents of Kirkland, never mind the future residents we could attract who could live and work here. Currently those people have to live further out and drive into Kirkland to work, exacerbating our traffic problems which are already bad because of the minimum parking requirements that cause only heavily car-dependent people to consider living here.

    1. Even when it’s done right, there’s something circular about Right Size Parking. Everybody has parking today, so we must build parking for everybody, and so everybody will have a parking spot tomorrow whether they need it or not. And junior needs his own parking stall as soon as he’s old enough to have his own room. Because today, that third bedroom is probably not a kids room.

      Three parking stalls plus guest parking (today’s requirement in downtown for a 3-bed unit) is a lot of expense to load onto the cost of an apartment. So there’s a huge cost advantage to going elsewhere if you can live without all those cars.

      So you get an effective filtering mechanism for residents. And then the anti-development folks can turn around and say that people like Glen don’t live in downtown Kirkland, so we should build more parking.

      1. “a huge cost advantage to going elsewhere if you can live without all those cars”

        Actually, what happens is that people can’t afford the rent in Kirkland due to the required 3 parking spots bundled into the rent, so they move far out where they actually do need a car, but the rent is cheaper and then they drive into Kirkland to work which contributes to both traffic congestion and a perceived lack of public parking near the business districts.

        High minimum parking is a lose/lose scenario no matter how you slice it.

    2. You should rent and in your two spots put up a shrine to the abolition of the minimum. Then share photos on page two. This would make me smile

      1. Usually landlords prohibit you from renting to non-residents since it is private property and they don’t want random people coming/going/taking cars.

        In my case, I can’t even rent to my neighbors in the complex since there is an oversupply of parking so nobody would be willing to pay for an additional reserved spot. So the actual value of the parking spots is $0 even though every resident is paying some hard-to-say-how-much for one reserved spot and shared use of the many visitor spots.

        In fact, one resident uses their reserved spot for storing their boat. This is fine and perfectly allowed, but it shows that they have no worries about being able to find an open (aka visitor) spot for their vehicle.

  7. When this came before council, there were people speaking out against lowering parking minimums. But all of the people who spoke against right sized parking where talking about 1) lack of public parking in the downtown CBD or 2) people from outside Kirkland, or at least outside the neighborhood, who “park & hide” by driving into the neighborhood, park on residential streets and then take transit.

    So even the people who spoke against Right Sized Parking were not actually speaking against it. All of them were speaking to different parking problems which M/F parking minimums have no impact on.

    The only person who actually spoke against RSP was Councilmember Toby Nixon who simply said he didn’t believe the hard data that had been collected by the parking study.

    1. Right now at 12:13 AM on a Monday night, in the M/F complex I live in, there are 24 out of 59 parking spots empty. This is in a development with 30 2 BR apartments. Based on current Kirkland zoning this would require 30*1.7 + 0.1*30 == 54 parking spaces (correct me if I am wrong here but I think this is the correct calculation). So 24 out of 54 parking spaces would be empty. That’s almost HALF!!!!

      That is an insane oversupply of parking. But because Toby Nixon says he has had trouble parking sometimes in Kingsgate (which means he had trouble not needing to park in the free street parking which we are all paying for), council decided not to make a sensible decision for the future of Kirkland.

      Want to know why you are stuck in traffic tomorrow. This is why. Thank Toby Nixon (and the rest of council who let people who were complaining about downtown free parking and park & hide parking problems push them to not move on something that makes sense for all of us). Free parking results in traffic and parking problems.

  8. This is where overnight parking restrictions can be helpful. Eliminate parking requirements but to prevent people using public space to unnecessary store vehicles, implement an overnight parking ban. Permit exemptions can be purchased for a nominal fee for guests, but after 15-20 nights a year per unit or vehicle license number the person is presumed to be parking there for vehicle storage and a market rate should be charged.

  9. Per Seattle Municipal Code section 23.49.010, I would like to point out that in the Downtown Zones, there are no minimum parking requirements.


    Per Table B in section 23.54.015, all residential uses within Urban Centers, and all residential uses within commercial & multifamily zoning in Urban Villages near (<1,320 feet) frequent transit service, do not have a minimum parking requirement.


    Looks like the developers are pushing for parking stalls, not the city, at least within the above mentioned zones.

    1. Yes, which means the vast majority of the city has parking minimums. This is why parking is a big deal. Big buildings downtown or in urban villages with “frequent transit” are a small subset of the land in the city. Since it is rare, it is expensive. Just about all those areas are already making money for the owners (or providing something of value). Building an apartment is thus costly. First you have to buy the land, throw away the existing use, then start building. This is why you tend to see construction right up to the allowed zoning. There is no point tearing down a house and then putting up a three story apartment building — might as well go to six.

      But the areas where cheap housing can be developed — the areas that fall outside that window — require parking. Try and build a little backyard cottage or add an apartment and you need parking. This is different than Portland or Vancouver BC (http://daily.sightline.org/files/downloads/2013/03/The-ADU-Gauntlet-Scores-for-Cascadian-Cities-March-2013.pdf). The same is true for low rise zones. If it is within the urban village and near “frequent public transit”, then you can build without parking. But as recent news has shown (http://westseattleblog.com/2014/12/citys-no-parking-necessary-if-built-near-frequent-transit-rule-proposed-for-a-rewrite/) the limit is such that builders want to build without parking, but that isn’t allowed. Keep in mind, that is for an urban village. The vast majority of land in the city, even huge areas that are zoned for low rise, are not within an urban village (let alone an urban village with frequent transit).

      Want an example? How about the area close to Gas Works. Transit is pretty decent there, and getting better. Pretty soon you will be able to hop on a bus and then quickly get to the U-District (and then quickly get to downtown or the south end). It is even better if you have a bike. It is an easy ride to Fremont, a bit further to Ballard, and really close to the UW. Again, from there you can get to Capitol Hill, downtown and the south end. It stands to reason that someone living right next to one of the best places to live without a car would want to do just that. But of course, that isn’t allowed.

      I really don’t care if developers are building beyond the prescribed limit. That is really a non-issue. They’ve done the math and figure they can sell the apartment better after providing parking. I’m sure there are apartments where they provide each tenant with a free hot tub, too. Big deal. But I don’t want the city to force all new construction that increases density (even the conversion of a room in a house to an apartment) to have a hot tub. Nor do I want to be told that there are plenty of places in Seattle where the city doesn’t require hot tubs (in tiny circles that also meet a ridiculously obscure definition of “frequent transit”). The city shouldn’t be in the business of requiring hot tubs — or parking.

  10. The parking requirements in Kirkland are so ludicrously high and asinine that I suspect someone could make a lot of money by “temporarily” parking mobile homes in many of these unused parking spaces.

  11. Theoretically, yes rents *could* be cheaper with less parking being built. However, I wonder if developers in a tight market like this will just pocket the savings and charge high rent anyway since their motive is profit. Do they really care about affordability?

    1. Right, they will pocket the difference. Other developers will then build more units (so they can pocket the savings as well). Pretty soon, more and more places are built, with more and more people trying to pocket the savings. Pretty soon — all other things being equal — rent gets a lot cheaper.

      As I said in various places, this will make the most difference where it matters most when it comes to affordability — at the low end. ADU and low rise is what I’m talking about. Seattle has basically none of this being constructed, even though we are supposed to be in a huge housing boom. Parking is a big reason why (by the way, Portland, OR and Vancouver BC don’t have these parking requirements for ADU — http://daily.sightline.org/files/downloads/2013/03/The-ADU-Gauntlet-Scores-for-Cascadian-Cities-March-2013.pdf). Low rise and ADU development (which includes simply converting a house to an apartment) is by far the cheapest type of development, and has by far the biggest potential for growth (since most of the city is zoned for that).

      1. So, what Ross said. Competition brings down the cost of apartments when they can be built with lower parking requirements.

        There’s another way it works. Parking requirements are one-size-fits-all. (And maybe a few sizes too big if you’re in a place like Kirkland). Lower minimums get you a greater diversity of housing. Developers don’t have to build to what it’s assumed the average person needs. They can build for those who don’t want parking at much lower cost. And they can build units next door with lots of parking for those who want that.

        New residents can sort themselves into the buildings that make sense for them.

        There was a comment in Kirkland recently from somebody who complained that parking had gotten so bad he didn’t have room to park his boat on the street anymore (he wasn’t trying to be humorous). But people ought to be able to park boats. Or four cars, as long as they’re willing to pay the true cost. They just shouldn’t get to do it at everybody else’s expense via elevated parking minimums.

      2. Parking his boat on the street for free. Wow. That person needs to pony up for a boathouse.

  12. Parking should be decoupled from housing altogether so landlords can fill the available parking spaces with non-residents or so that multiple buildings could use the same central parking garage for all their tenants.

  13. Another big irony of parking requirements is that lots of single-family home owners use their mandatory garage to store junk, while parking their cars on the street.

    Apartment dwellers, unfortunately, usually do not have that luxury.

    1. Last time I checked, most cars seemed to be waterproof. Does Kirkland really have requirements that new houses have a garage? If so, please wait until Earth Day is over to tell me.

      1. I don’t think it needs to be a garage, just off-street parking spots. There are regulations about placement, setbacks, etc. It does need to be a dedicated parking pad that isn’t used for anything but your two vehicles.

        With typical smaller lot sizes, it makes sense to put the parking under the dwelling. But if you had a larger lot, I think uncovered parking is still ok.

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