Last week’s Seattle Times profiles some Phinney activists ($) who are fighting some relatively affordable apartments because the project doesn’t include parking. A McGinn-era policy relaxed parking requirements in frequent transit corridors. The current standard is 15-minute intervals, which nearby Route 5 doesn’t meet due to unreliable trips, and a few schedule adjustments to time transfers that bring headways a bit above 15.
The city is planning to update the rule to include corridors like Route 5. There’s no good reason to have parking requirements anywhere, regardless of transit service levels, so any relaxation is a step in the right direction.
It goes without saying that parking requirements raise the cost of housing, especially for the increasing number of people that find it necessary or advantageous to own fewer cars than the exurban norm would suggest. Furthermore, building more parking than the market demands increases the likelihood of owning a car, which only increases congestion in the neighborhood. But activists obviously don’t care about all that: they use the city’s right-of-way for free car storage now, and they don’t want to have to share with newcomers:
But the neighbors say the parking regulations are unrealistic and misguided. They also argue that a lack of on-site parking disproportionately affects people who must rely on cars to get around, such as parents with young children.
Thanks to bad land use and transit underinvestment, there are absolutely lifestyle choices that can make it hard to follow your daily routine without a car — especially for parents. Nevertheless, the hypocrisy here is astounding. These neighbors have structured their lives to “need” a car. That is absolutely their right. But they’ve neglected to a secure a home where they can store that car without using public property on their street. Or perhaps they have a garage, which is filled with stuff, in which case this is simply a matter of inconvenience.
Again, that’s all fine and good, and I don’t begrudge them that. But then, these same people expect newcomers to, in effect, buy or rent a space regardless of whether they have any interest in owning a car. This is a tax on newcomers to further subsidize the existing freebie from SDOT.
These newcomers are often people with far fewer financial resources than residents who, in many cases, have benefited from enormous windfalls in property values over the past few years. It is a thoroughly regressive policy, especially during a housing shortage, and bravo to Rob Johnson and the rest of the Seattle government for scaling it back wherever they can.