Concise explainer of what parking minimums do, via City of Ottawa.

25 Replies to “Sunday open thread: parking minimums”

  1. Am I right that the wealthier the neighborhood the better the transit- and the less the parking?

    Mark Dublin

    1. I can think of counter examples. Rainier valley got light rail first yet lagged in property value. Mercer island has almost no public transit yet had very high property values

      1. From what I can see, Ben, Rainier Valley is in very fast flux. But I get the sense that right now it’s possible to have either too little or too much income for a home there. Exclusionary future is with the too-little-to-live-anywhere side. Not seeing anyplace in Columbia City where my Route 7 passengers, and their grand kids, can afford to live on their likely wages.

        Difference for Mercer Islanders (makes them sound like cannibals, doesn’t it?) is the amount of their wealth and political power they presently have to spend for purpose of keeping transit ou., Though it’ll be the last maniacal laugh on them when even richer people, attracted by the possibility of future transit, make them real sorry the that only camping space underneath the closest highway will discriminate against those without gills.


      2. Rainier Valley’s development was postponed because of the recession. Its property values are lower because of the long-lingering effects of redlining: half the market won’t live there because they’re afraid they’ll get shot. But my friend who has lived in the valley for three generations says that it has definitely reached the turning point because many newcomers don’t even perceive that history of neglect and gangs, but only see an incredible opportunity for a middle-class apartment at a lower price than most of of the city.

    2. Yeah, what Ben said. It is a factor, but a very minor one. It is similar to convenience in general. If it is easy to drive from your place to lots of other places, that is a selling point, but a pretty minor one. Places with views tend to be very inconvenient (for both transit and driving) but sell for ridiculously high prices. The perceived quality of the neighborhood (nice sidewalks, pleasant streets, but interesting, lively areas with nice amenities) count for a lot more. Queen Anne, Magnolia, the west side of Ballard are all challenging places from a transportation standpoint, but property in all those places is worth a fortune compared to convenient Rainier Valley, Northgate or Lake City.

  2. Maybe as part of the definition of “Affordable Housing”- do we even have one?- easy walk to transit should be an absolute requirement. Which would also spare everybody involved any need for a parking lot.

    Though it would demand that transit, including cab, Uber, or Lyfft, be so available that no one needs a car.
    And however else rich city dwellers manage without lots or garages.

    Considering some facts now coming out about number of working people living in their cars after being rent-increased out of longtime homes, I think that a decent home and cars ceasing to be mandatory should be added to our State’s Bill of Rights.

    Though even better if the law said: Right to a union-enforced living.



    1. A working definition of “affordable housing” is “housing that teachers, nurses, bus drivers and other skilled workers can afford to own and raise a family within”.

      1. Guy, isn’t that the income level that used to be called “a living wage?” Which ceased to exist when same happened to organized labor. Which worked before, and will work again soon as we can get it back.

        Ross, I’m trying to factor in the screechingly accelerating change these last four years have brought to Seattle. Isn’t it right that many of those spacially gracious homes on Magnolia have been owned by people of an age when time itself will change the ownership of their houses.

        If I’m also right about generation who will buy those homes, I think tastes have changed to equally expensive dwellings with smaller footprint and less-standoffish density Possibly even multiple-rich-family. And both demand and tax-base for transit.

        But I’m also trying to keep attention on the increasingly-frightening gap between incomes. My brother had it right: “The middle class can’t live in Seattle anymore.” Seattle gets huge credit for the discrimination it’s eliminated. But our class divisions are historically last step before shooting civil war.

        Even “class” is your grandfather’s injustice. Caste says it better, Meaning it’s for many more than one life-time. I don’t care how we do it, but we’ve got to start putting people into well-paid work, starting, as in our great-grandfathers’ day, around age 16. Without a life in school followed by one in debt.

        Otherwise, like any caste system, producing ever swelling numbers of Untouchables, soon rendering our flag a smoking ill-flavored deep-fried chapati.


    2. There is a definition and that’s the problem. In Finland the poverty rate is defined as lacking the means for what society considers a decent minimum (such as housing at a third of your income, and no strain on utility costs or food or healthcare or education), but in the US it’s defined as severely destitute ($16,000 a year — nobody can live on that). “Affordable housing” is defined somewhat higher, but it still cuts off long before people no longer have cost burdens. The gap between affordable housing and not being cost-burdened is often called “workforce housing”, and that’s the gap that teachers, nurses, firemen, , janitors, low-level office workers, people with three jobs, and many more fall into. This “25% affordable housing in new developments” will cut down the 6-year waiting list for affordable housing but it does nothing for the cost-burdened middle. Wal-Mart workers on food stamps need not apply.

      1. Mike, my own favorite definition of poverty: ” “Lack of basic capacity to participate effectively in society for reason of lack of money.”


  3. And just for clarity, certainly don’t intend any racist slur about what foreigners will do to our flag. Meant the opposite, a “play” on the term “caste system.” Whose connection with India is prime example of purebred-hunting-dog- whistle race prejudice.

    Notice that when speaking of the Scots Highlands, term of choice is “Clans.” While extended families among populations with darker skin-color, are always “Tribes.” Yeah, I know, history.

    Which is unkind to current claims of racial “identity.” Inter-extended-family warfare is identically awful across time, place, and extraction. Exactly like what happens when average working family’s home goes from being a house to a car. Which, in Seattle will of course be used by the anti-transit forces to demand bigger parking lots.

    So please excuse misbegotten sense of humor. Should have said “corn dog with a half gallon bucket of diet Coke.”


    1. Another point is that gangs, for all their perceived ‘negatives’, are barely distinguishable from clans with multiple bloodlines.

      1. Very good point, Ness. But I think the reason goes a very long way back among us primates, Nothing negative Absolute life and death survival. Starting in early adolescence an automatic reflex to face danger as a very dangerous group of young, strong creatures.

        Women, same ferocity and fighting spirit. But also very strong instinct and skill to take care of children and the wounded. Held back from The Front mainly because- would you let a fifteen year old boy keep your kids dug in, while he’s sewing your hand back on? Most of human history, chief diety is a woman. Among the big cats, the girls do all the killing.

        Clans have always really been extending families. Also only form of government for the entire human race until very archaeolgically recently. In Afghanistan- yet to happen.When population gets large enough, survival requires that neighboring families find a leader they can all trust to keep them family honor from getting them all killed. Middle East in Biblical times. About 600 AD on Iceland.

        But Nature has seen civilizations run the cycles long enough to keep automatic clan defense in closed carry. If we don’t like it- everybody’s bible has same list of things you don’t do if you want to live. Like the richest city in the state letting people starve in the street because the housing market is so good. Or generations of fighting-age kids left jobless for forty years in world’s richest country..

        Clans and blood-lines interesting too. Read “Little Big Man” by Thomas Berger. Movie stunk. Book you can’t put down. Lead character is a little blonde Scots-Irish kid with freckles. Like with many captives with tribe’s favored qualities, the Cheyenne who wiped out his wagon train are glad to have him in the family. Make a legendary hero out of him a few months.

        Famous Comanche chief Quanah Parker, and his mom who’d been captured, were treasured because the Comanche are small people, and the boy was only slightly shorter and less physically powerful than his mother. Who escaped from the cavalry after they “rescued” her and helped Quanah get away.

        European geneticists aren’t first to notice that Nature says: “REAL clans Cross Breed!” Lot of hereditary aristocrats for warning. Also kennel clubs.


  4. The problem of single-crop parking to the horizon is less a cause than a result of a pattern that started around the end of the Second World War. Because cars, vacant land, and the expanse of the country made it a no-brainer (more ways than one) for life to spread out as much as possible,

    But now, since whole expanse is full of cars, parked and barely moving….how do we re-organize our living patterns so we can once again have the kind of free, decent life we dispersed to attain.What’s the program to Desprawl?

    Any ideas?


  5. Throwing this out to the horde: Does Durkan keep Kubly as head of SDOT? If no, who do you think she will appoint? Who do you want her to appoint.

    1. I would like to see him replaced. Hard to say who should replace him, but Jessyn Farrell would be a nice choice. Shefali Ranganathan will be deputy mayor, while Mike Fong will be senior deputy mayor. Having Farrell as head of SDOT could be really good — both Farrell and Ranganathan have been head of Transportation Choices Coalition so you would assume they would work well together — but it might also be overkill. You might just need someone who is more about implementation, not ideas. I have no idea who that wold be, but I haven’t been to impressed with Kubly and his ability to do either.

      1. I want to see Kubly gone too. He has been a complete zero on Vision Zero and an unarguable fail on prioritizing transit, walking bicycling. Some of this may be due to Murray, I don’t know. But regardless, an SDOT Director needs to be able to go up against the mayor to do the right thing for the city.

        Ultimately what the city needs is an SDOT Director who will make the right high-level decisions about transportation to prioritize safety and moving of people and goods and a mayor who will back her up. I have severe doubts that Durkan is that mayor (at least in her campaign she did not indicate she was – she even prioritized people walking last at the Transportation/Homelessness Debate) so I think the best we will get is for Durkan to appoint this type of SDOT Director but they will not have the support to do everything they want to do.

  6. The worst part of Parking Minimums is that it does not take into account where do people store the car? You may not drive it as often but you still own it in your walkable neighborhood. Not building parking does not make the cars magically disappear.

    1. Pocketdoom,
      Plenty of families like mine would drop from two cars to just one car if we could both get around easily to most of our day-to-day activities within a walkable neighborhood with good transit coverage. No, the cars wouldn’t magically disappear overnight, but over the long haul, we would see lower car ownership, fewer cars on the road, and, as a consequence, streets that are safer for pedestrians, less congested, and in need of fewer repairs. Gosh, what did we do back in my pre-1950s era hometown (it was largely unchanged from its 1910s facade when I was growing up), where most small businesses did not have parking? We would walk sometimes. Sometimes, we’d ride a bike. Lots of people would drive. Sometimes, you get lucky and land street parking right in front. Usually, you would not, so you would park within a few blocks and walk. Regardless, a whole lot more people walked or rode their bicycles to errands than we find in the suburbs that have been built exclusively with parking minimums. Mom & pop businesses weren’t on the hook to triple the amount of land they needed to accommodate parking, so we had a thriving small business community, more than I can say for Mill Creek, Kent, Shoreline, or Covington. The businesses were closer together because of the lack of off-street parking, so you could conceivably park your car once and do all of your errands on foot downtown, because all of the stores were close together. Because of the denser business districts, slower traffic speeds, narrower roads, and lack of traffic, it was considered safe for a 10 year old to ride a bicycle down Main Street. We need to stop thinking in terms of cars and start thinking in terms of people. It works in cities throughout Europe and Asia, as well as in many older and denser cities on the East Coast. It would work here if we even gave it a try.

    2. >> The worst part of Parking Minimums is that it does not take into account where do people store the car?

      The worst part of parking minimums is that increases the cost of housing for those who can least afford it.

    3. “You may not drive it as often but you still own it in your walkable neighborhood. Not building parking does not make the cars magically disappear.”

      “over the long haul, we would see lower car ownership”

      You’d also see carless and car-lite households preferring those buildings over others, while other households will not prefer them and may even avoid them. Over time this will lead to the perccentage of drivers-every-day on the block decreasing. Right now non-drivers have no choice because all buildings built after 1945 have parking (except apodments which were outlawed again). Recent buildings have unbundled the parking, but guess who pays if the spaces remain empty? I also think landlords have taken advantage of the rising-rent environment to charge what they would have charged with a bundled space, and charged for the space on top of that. Some buildings have unbundled water/sewer bills in the same way, to keep the money that they previously spent on those. Studies have shown that around a third of the spaces in new buildings near Link or frequent bus lines are empty.

      I would love to live in a pre-automobile style neighborhood like Pocketdoom describes. Actually I do, I live in Summit and earlier lived in the northern U-District. Two of my buildings had no parking (built 1904 and 1924), and while my current one does (built 2000), there are still pre-parking buildings in the neighborhood which makes it more walkable and active. I have never had a car so the lack of parking doesn’t bother me. And I prefer parkingless neighborhoods because then there’s no driveways and parking lots pushing things further apart. Of course there will always be some driveways and parking lots, but some is better than 1:1. I’ve actually grown not to mind 1-2 aisle parking lots in front of businesses, because they’re better than the big-box lots at e.g., the Lake City Fred Meyer.


    East side of Greenwood, just across from Shoreline Community College. Free-standing single-family homes. “Cottage” name of firm, and concept.

    Arranged around a small park for a yard. And mainly, with a single garage for all the cars. Strange, or maybe not, that Seattle has so few of these developments. Think there’s one in Langley too.


  8. This video needs to be shared with every single suburban government in the Puget Sound region, not just Seattle. Seattle, long ago, ceased to be affordable for the working class and entry-level professionals with families. If we want to see the out-of-control spiral into mandatory extreme commuting finally stop, we need to get healthy, walkable neighborhoods built in suburbia as well. As the video points out, parking minimums make starting up a small business unaffordable because of real estate costs. Perhaps, if we eliminated those parking minimums, more people frustrated with extreme commuting could more easily start their own businesses, in their own cities and neighborhoods, and foster more local economies that get jobs where the people are, and help get people out of their cars. Just my two cents.

  9. Even considering inflation, Engineer, worth at least $20. But no secret my now my course of action is different. Though toward the same goal. Since the effort that became Sound Transit got started, the word “Regional” has underlain my every thought about our transit system. For the exact purpose of giving people an ever-expanding place to live and work.

    Ballard used to be its own little city. Until about four years ago, its incorporation into Seattle has been nothing but an opportunity and a benefit to everyone living there. As it will be again when Seattle’s voters, political leaders, and business community turn Seattle back into a place fit for anybody who loved it in the past to inhabit.

    But a major part of the liberation will be the creation of a public transit system that will let people live everywhere in the Central Puget Sound Region, work anywhere else, changing jobs as needed, and go to dinner and a movie somewhere else yet. With a heavy snow only making Christmas shopping perfectly in season. Metro Transit Director Ron Tober opened the first Joint Union-Management Advisory Committee on The Downtown Seattle Transit Project meeting in 1983.

    What ST- will it be in 2051?

    Mark Dublin

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