Takamaxa / Wikimedia

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.

67 Replies to “The Peerless Hypocrisy of Parking Requirements”

  1. Question for everybody demanding parking: Chief threat to freedom of any kind in this region is so many cars nothing can move. Where on Earth are you going to drive? And followup question maybe off topic but right now too sick to my stomach to care.

    Sitting here in the Allegro Cafe in the U-District. LINK-related, there’ll be something missing within at least half a mile of the 45th and University Station. The University District. What the Hell happened here?

    Mark Dublin

    Mark Dublin

  2. If the 5 does not qualify as frequent enough to forego parking, then the 3/4. 10, 45, 62, etc are in the same position. That’s what really worries me, that this will be an excuse to maintain parking minimums everywhere.

    There’s another reason the neighbors insist on parking minimums: they don’t believe that many of the apartment dwellers won’t have cars. They think that because they drive everywhere, everybody else does too. That’s part of the car-centric myth as much as the land use itself is.

    1. What you said plus they seem to treat the street parking as theirs so any threat to public parking in front of their house is treated that way.

      Having lived in Queen Anne and seen the tackets people used to try to reserve street parking illegally on the 4th, I can assure that the mentally that street parking is their right as a home owner is still very strong.

  3. Meanwhile in Wallyhood:

    The City is collecting feedback on a proposal to add additional Restricted Parking Zones (RPZ’s), or areas that would require a special zone sticker to park at certain times of the day.

    It’s public ROW. I’ve never understood why the City of Seattle would pay for what is nominally a two lane road and then allow parking, free parking, on both sides such that you can barely squeeze a vehicle through one way. And good luck with a fire truck! If it’s a private road (i.e. easement) that’s a different story and the home owners are on the hook to maintain it. If it’s City property then charge for it. I’m OK with granting “special status” to local residents but Wallingford is making a major stink of paying $70 a year, 19 cents a day! Maybe it’s the idea of the camel getting it’s nose under the edge of the tent. Someday the City might start charging market rate for use of the public “parking”. Alternately, it could be a no parking zone and then residents would have actual traffic on “their” street.

    1. Residential parking zones make some sense when there’s a large institution like UW nearby, where people would park on the street to avoid paying UW’s parking fees. But Wallingford has mo major institutions like that, and I don’t see why residents should have priority over customers of neighborhood businesses. Theoretically some of those residents own those businesses, so they’re hurting themselves.

      1. Actually residents are making the argument, and I then to believe it’s true. that the UW is largely responsible for the street parking “crisis”. Keep in mind that students/staff have a U-Pass and any parking near a bus line is fair game. Plus students are accustomed to walking farther than Joe Public.

      2. Business customers aren’t really affected by it because all of these places have 2 hours of free parking anyway. Most people don’t spend two hours at dinner or whatever. So residents only have priority if they want to park for more than 2 hours, which they absolutely should be paying for.

      3. Perhaps the residents’ concern is people going to the movies. The Guild movie theater doesn’t provide free parking for customers, and the typically movie lasts over two hours, especially after adding the time to walk in, buy tickets, and watch the previews. There is already an RPZ zone near the theater, but anyone willing to walk three blocks or so can get past it. Perhaps the expansion is an attempt to work around this.

    2. I disagree with RPZs in principle. The streets are a public resource. They should be made available on an equal basis to anyone who wants to use them.

      If the parking fills up when it’s free to all, of course some mechanism is needed to balance supply and demand. RPZs aren’t it though. They allow local residents exclusive access to this public resource, even though the local business employees or college students or whoever else wants to park there are just as much citizens and taxpayers as the residents.

      Imagine if we applied the RPZ logic to parks or libraries. Would we stand for a system where only residents of the nearby neighborhood were allowed to use tennis courts or playgrounds or check out a book?

      1. Could it be progress to declare streets public property for everything that can actually move, and go from there? But another suspicion.

        Since “Mother-In-Law” apartments- which in real life means where you have to live after she seizes your house… are hard to get building permits for, cars are now places where relatives or you can live when the other one is visiting.



      2. I disagree with RPZs in principle… Would we stand for a system where only residents of the nearby neighborhood were allowed to use tennis courts or playgrounds or check out a book?

        In principle, I agree ;-) However, that’s not been the way the game has been played and too disruptive a change would; A) never have a chance of getting passed into law and B) likely have negative unforeseen consequences. In essence many “Neighborhood Parks” are restricted to those that live within walking distance since they lack parking or transit access. And as long as they are equitably distributed then it’s OK. When residents are asked to keep sidewalks clean and clear leaves from the storm drains then they do have a vested interest and perhaps “first dibs” on those spaces. If I relied on street parking in a crowed neighborhood I’d be begging for the $70 parking permit. Think of it as an incentive to use transit. Maybe it should be implemented city wide and the proceeds earmarked for sidewalk construction.

      3. RPZ’s make it possible for locals to park overnight on the street in busy neighborhoods with bars and nightlife activity such as capitol hill and fremont.

        I understand the hostility to parking minimums, but saying that locals should have no advantage at all parking in their own neighborhood is going too far. Apartment dwellers also have access to RPZ permits. It’s not a special handout for single family home owners.

        The reality is that many people still need a car in the city, and most houses in core Seattle neighborhoods do not have garages or the space to construct them, so SOME kind of compromise has to exist.

        One thing I find frustrating about this blog is the kind of absolutist no compromises attitude when it comes towards people who drive. The reality is that though transit mode share is increasing, Seattle is only a medium sized medium density city, with a medium good transit system. We are never going to have the mode share of New York… and even in New York City, lots of people have cars.


      4. Yep, lots of people have cars. I’d sell the permits at market rate to anyone who wants to pay. If you work in the neighborhood or visit regularly you should have an equal shot as someone who lives there.

        For Wallingford specifically, if the issue is people using the neighborhood as a park-and-ride for UW, the necessary charge to keep congestion down probably wouldn’t be very high. Even something like $20/month would probably be enough to push the park-and-ride folks to a different block.

        Giving neighborhood residents a chance to park doesn’t require banning everyone else. It just requires charging a bit more than $0.

      5. @Eric — They cost $65.

        In general, I’m with Brendan. Call it a big political compromise, but I have no problem with it. I have a lot more sympathy for folks who live in the neighborhood, versus those looking for a special place to park. Consider the Montlake area. A lot of these folks have to walk a very long distance to catch a bus, since there isn’t any service on Boyer anymore. In general, parking isn’t too difficult, but it is near impossible on game days (when the Husky football team plays). So they can apply for a special permit, to allow them to park on the street during those times. If you opened up to anyone, then it is likely that someone would outbid them, and take advantage of a relatively convenient parking spot. Not only does that seem unfair, but it is also likely to lead to more traffic. Those who live in the neighborhood, and apply for a permit aren’t likely to take the bus either way. But I’m sure there are those who find the cost of parking during game day too expensive (or inconvenient) and therefore take the train (or bus).

        From a political standpoint, it minimizes these sorts of conflicts — the ones that hurt renters. Give the neighbors the permits, and just tell them to shut up, and stop their whining (as my mom used to say, if this is the worst thing in your world, then you live a blessed life). If the RPZ permits were available for everyone, I’m sure there would be more whining.

      6. Yes, many people do have a reasonable personal need (job, etc.) to have a car. The point is that those people need to either obtain their own parking off street or live somewhere where they have reasonable access to public parking.

        They are plenty of neighborhoods in Seattle with ample parking. The frustration of people on this blog are when people live in hip, dense neighborhoods and complain about the parking. If you truly need parking, don’t depend on scarce public parking.
        Otherwise, it’s like being late to work everyday and blaming all the newcomers for making your commute worse but still leaving at the same time as before

      7. @Eric — They cost $65.

        I’m aware. I’ve read that this price was designed to simply cover the administration costs of the permit system. It is in no way designed to balance supply and demand. In fact there exist RPZs in denser neighborhoods where they issue more permits than there are parking spots. I’d use market pricing and open up the passes to anyone who wants to bid. This seems a whole lot fairer than giving a discount to residents while forcing workers and visitors to pay full price off street.

        In general, parking isn’t too difficult, but it is near impossible on game days (when the Husky football team plays). So they can apply for a special permit, to allow them to park on the street during those times. If you opened up to anyone, then it is likely that someone would outbid them, and take advantage of a relatively convenient parking spot.

        I have experience living next to college football stadiums. When I was in undergrad, most freshmen who owned cars (I did not) had to purchase a parking pass in the stadium parking lot. Besides being a long walk from the dorms, these folks had to vacate the parking lot on game days.

        Then when I was in grad school at a different university I spent a year in an apartment six blocks from the football stadium. Landlords in that area tended to write a clause into the lease saying tenants had to vacate the off-street parking on game days so the landlords could rent it out to football fans for $20 a space or more. The whole neighborhood was basically a tailgate party.

        Put simply, that space is a whole lot more valuable on the half dozen game days than it is for the rest of the year. I don’t think it’s all that unfair to tell people that they need to pay that full value if they want to use that space, whether they happen to live in the area or not. A full year game day pass would probably cost a couple hundred dollars. If a resident wants to pay, great. The city could use the money. If not, they can move their car to a different neighborhood a few times a year and let people who value the space more use it. I don’t see that as being such a bad thing.

      8. City of Seattle residents pay for the roads so it would be fair for those living in the City to get preferential treatment. I’m guessing most people would vote for preferential treatment that gave them first crack at parking closest to home. It’s only fair that if I live in Bellevue I’d be at the back of the line for a parking permit in Seattle (and be charged a king’s ransom). In business zones issue parking script to the property owners to dole out to customers. I don’t think UW puts much of “their” money toward building and maintaining street parking off campus and I see no reason the City should create an incentive for rabid Dawg fans to circle adjoining neighborhood streets looking for a freebie. How much are they handing over to the athletic department for tickets?

      9. I don’t think compromise with existing residents is a bad idea, but Seattle style RPZs don’t represent a good compromise. I think it’s generally agreed on this blog that in an ideal world we would charge at least market rate price for market as feasible. But proposing to put meters on a street motivates nobody because the losers are obvious and the benefits (additional public revenue, easier to find parking) are either diffuse or not readily apparent. The trick, at least according to parking guru Donald Shoup, is to propose parking pricing schemes with clear beneficiaries. Typically that means those who don’t use on street parking receiving a clear benefit, which in turn means keeping the revenue generated in the neighborhood/block. Because then people who want the sidewalks repaired (or built), or additional bus service will advocate firmly for the revenue source.

        RPZs don’t create those incentives at all. The revenues get spent elsewhere and those who don’t use on street parking get no benefit as there is no option for selling permits to those who work in neighborhood etc.

      10. As someone who lives in an RPZ area, but does not own a car, I still appreciate the RPZ’s being there, as they allow me to occasionally park a Car2Go/ReachNow vehicle in front of my own building, on a street that, without an RPZ, would be much more difficult. While I don’t do this super often, when I do, it’s often because I have a lot of stuff to unload, and the proximity is appreciated.

        Besides managing parking, RPZ’s also reduce car traffic on neighborhood streets, as once people learn they can’t park in an area, they won’t go circling the block there, looking for parking.

        Overall, I think RPZ’s are a good thing, but at the same time, charging residents $65/year for preferential access to a public space is perfectly reasonable, and chump change compared to the rest of the costs associated with owning the car. If anything, the $65/year figure should probably be raised.

      11. If residents were charged anything near market rate RPZs would be less of a problem. But, given that they pay next to nothing, I agree with you.

    3. I’m also with Brendan but would go a step further and require that tenants of new buildings built with no parking do not get RPZ passes. It’s not right that new Single family homes are required to have off-street parking for 2 cars while these huge multifamily buildings (that may end up housing 50 or more people on a former single family lot) are allowed to decide to include zero off street parking spots – its completely voluntary on the developers part because the developers insist its too expensive to build it. Yet they are allowed to build more units than ever before and they are able to sell buildings for more profit than ever before.

      1. I think that could be a reasonable compromise to satisfy both sides. This basically allows new zero-parking buildings to be built, while placating the supposed objection of existing homeowners about zero-parking buildings.

      2. +1

        I work for a real estate developer, and I agree with you 100%.

        I would actually take it a step further. I think that there should be some mechanism or database that ties tenancy to car ownership. New buildings with no parking would have to take in ONLY car-free tenants. Apply for a car-free apartment, and the landlord would have to certify you as a car-free person.

        This would do two things: rent rates would DROP because there are far fewer car-free renters, and less demand means lower rents and ACTUAL affordability. Similarly, this could inspire people to ditch their cars. The other thing is that, developers would then start including parking because they know they wouldn’t fill up their buildings.

        Basically, you put the problem on the developer’s/landlords shoulders.

  4. [i] For example, King County’s 2012 Right Size Parking study found that existing off-street parking is significantly underused. In its sample of 95 Seattle buildings, it found that approximately 35% of residential parking spaces were not in use.[/i] (quote taken from Seattle DC&I’s just released report on neighborhood parking: http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/codesrules/changestocode/parkingrecommendations/projectdocuments/default.htm)

    That’s pretty strong evidence that there actually is an over-supply of available off-street parking in Seattle. If parking is 15% of the cost of new construction and over 1/3 of all parking is going unused, that means that about 5% of the total cost of construction on many new projects is being wasted on an unwanted parking amenity.

    1. And yet the City needs to amend it’s laws to allow owners to lease out said surplus parking. WTF? However, I’m not convinced of the validity of this report. Private parking I’ve seen is always full and zealously guarded. OTOH, large lots lay to waste in the RV post Link construction where owners would love to rent out parking; privately funded P&R lots. I guess it’s OK to spend $130k of taxpayer money for one free parking space but would lead t the end of society as we know it if land owners were allowed to make a few dollars on their own land.

      1. some more from the report:

        “The 2012 Right Size Parking Study’s survey of off-street parking usage found that approximately 35% of off-street parking resources were not occupied even during the overnight period of peak residential demand in a sample of 95 Seattle multifamily housing complexes.12 A few sample parking characteristics are summarized as follows:  Eastlake: The two sampled complexes jointly have 317 dwellings and 443 residential parking spaces (1.4 spaces per unit). Of these, 276 (62%) spaces were occupied, leaving 167 residential parking spaces unoccupied.  Ballard: Three sampled complexes jointly have 524 dwellings and 627 residential parking spaces (1.2 spaces per unit). Of these, 415 (66%) spaces were occupied, leaving 212 residential parking spaces unoccupied.  Capitol Hill: Five sampled complexes jointly have 520 dwellings and 588 residential parking spaces (1.13 spaces per unit). Of these 400 (68%) spaces were occupied, leaving 188 residential parking spaces unoccupied.

        A similar study by the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict found 66% night-time occupancy of 613 parking spaces in 14 buildings in the Pike Pine neighborhood.13 These findings point out that many existing buildings have off-street parking that is being significantly underused.”

        Allowing property owners to lease out those spaces might actually lead to more road traffic and greater congestion; but if those buildings had been permitted to not build those spaces at all, the cost of construction would have been lower and rents would be lower.

    2. People aren’t just looking for any parking; they’re looking for free or inexpensive parking. So they take street parking first and avoid the garages and paid parking lots. Also, Guy is talking about residential parking spaces, which are invisible from the street, so they could be empty but only residents know it.

      I don’t understand the part about a law prohibiting building owners from leasing spaces to non-residents.

    3. I think if these buildings can rent out their excess parking that could be a big help to a lot of people…

      Many single family homes in Seattle do not have the space for a garage or even a driveway. If those home owners had the opportunity to rent a space at a monthly rate nearby, some of them would probably take it.

      I think Mike’s characterization is a little unfair… of course most people cannot afford to pay daily parking rates at paid parking lots, and in most cases those parking lots are far away from houses. People want living in the city to be affordable…

      1. People want living in the city to be affordable

        They also want Unicorns in the park, too. Ones with cute wavy bangs and long eyelashes.

        Alas, Seattle is expensive. Is that “fair” for those who have lived in the City a long time on a shoestring budget? No, I suppose not; but they DID get to live in a wonderful place for all those years. If they want to stay in the Northwest but don’t have a skill sufficiently marketable to stay in Puget Sound, Longview is quite a civilized place for a city of 50,000 (including Kelso).

        Heartless and cruel? Guilty as charged; but also practical and economically sophisticated.

      2. >> People want living in the city to be affordable

        Of course they do, but how is taxing renters to pay for parking making things more affordable? That’s what the parking requirement does. I agree, it would make sense for the building owners to rent out the spots (or the occupants to do the same) but that doesn’t change the dynamic. You are requiring someone (renters) to pay for something (parking spots) that others say is necessary, but they don’t want to pay for themselves. How is that fair?

      3. When teachers, nurses, office managers and similar workers are choosing to leave a region because of the high cost of living, that isn’t due to a lack of marketable skills. No one becomes a nurse expecting to live in the penthouse of downtown condo tower, but banishing them to Kelso isn’t heartless economic sophistication–it’s flimsy political sophistry.

        An astute economist should be worried about a market that is continually becoming affordable to a smaller and smaller number of people. That’s an indication that a economic bubble is still inflating, but there will be an inevitable market correction when Longview becomes a better option than Bellevue.

      4. “An astute economist should be worried about a market that is continually becoming affordable to a smaller and smaller number of people.”

        They are worried about it but that’s exactly what happened in the 2000s, and not enough people care about it because they already have houses that are appreciating.

    4. The reason that parking is underused is because buildings charge rent for a parking spot so renters choose to park on-street instead of paying for that parking spot. The law should require that parking is included in the rent and you would immediately see all spots get used.

      I know – I’m a landlord and have been for 20 years in Seattle. All my units have off-street parking and its included in rent. I’ve never had a tenant that didn’t own a car in all those years and all the parking spots are used every night and many also during the day.

      1. Perhaps part of what you are seeing is selection bias. People without cars are choosing apartments that don’t have parking spaces, since they are offering less rent for the same dwelling space, while people that do have cars are choosing apartments that have a parking space because they want the parking space.

        You can’t assume that just because the people you know have cars that everybody does, and that those that don’t should be required to pay for a parking space they’re not going to use.

    5. I don’t see the report you cite but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was paid for by the developers of apartments that charge rent for parking spots. If they can show these spots are “underutilized” and use this to sell the City Council on changing laws so they don’t have to build parking, they get to have more profit.

    6. Ballardite, you may not see tenants without cars but I am one of them as are a few others I know of on this blog. Have you ever compared the size of a parking space to the size of a unit? And each space requires an empty space behind it for the car to get in and out. So a parking space is a significant portion of the square footage, and thus has a significant effect on the price. You’re right that owners could simply build no parking and charge the same rent they would have charged anyway, but it’s uncertain how many of them could get away with that, and probably not all of them. Because tenants compare two units based on their size and features, and they won’t pay the same price for something smaller and with fewer features. And parkingless buildings would give room for more units, which would put upward pressure on the vacancy rate and downward pressure on rents, while owners’ profits would be at least the same if not higher.

  5. Greenwood Ave resident along with friends and relatives – some of them long time. The #5 bus is not all that reliable, and One-Bus-Away is often inaccurate. I mentioned several days ago I have dropped my rating of that bus route from A to C+. We need better. I wonder if running those buses all the way from Shoreline College to West Seattle may not be much of the problem – any traffic problem along that route plays havoc with the whole schedule. I suspect splitting the #5/21 would cure much of that. Frequently the #5 starts downtown 3-10 minutes late. Fix the #5 and many of us would support more apartments and pods. Not as things stand!

    1. I live on route 40. Frequently my bus drops to the level of usage you talk of due to being stuck in traffic downtown.

      I would never have the gall to demand restrictions on housing built in my area until my bus runs more reliably.


      1. Unnecessarily offensive and false assumptions. And to make my point I do not use street parking.

    2. >> I suspect splitting the #5/21 would cure much of that.

      Sounds reasonable. I believe the C and E were split for the same reason. Of course that is expensive and might not fix the problem completely (each bus would have to travel from one end of downtown to the other).

      It is possible that changes downtown (new bus lanes) will make things a lot better. Building a bus tunnel would fix the problem but that won’t happen. The 21 will eventually be truncated, but the 5 will have to find a way through downtown via the surface streets (as always).

      1. FWIW…C & D were the lines split. I can’t completely attest to the C’s timeliness, but I can state its peak hour capacity is pretty well full under the weight of the SLU reroute and new W Seattle apartment construction.

      2. The C and D were split mainly to get more service to SLU, to add more downtown circulation, and to restore the connection between Ballard and Pioneer Square that had been a complaint ever since the D was created.

      3. Oops, thanks. That is actually what I meant (the west side lines used to be tied) but spaced out and wrote ‘E’. Still, I wasn’t that sure (obviously).

        @Mike — But wasn’t one of the benefits to make the bus routes more reliable? I would think that the C being tied to the Ballard Bridge could get annoying. In the middle of the day, when traffic downtown isn’t bad, you might have to wait an extra 15 minutes for your bus.

      4. That may have been one motivation but with the many other benefits it can’t be the majority factor.

  6. Yep, we got a hideous 8 unit housing block (more like rabbit hutches) squeezed into our neighborhood, no parking requirement. All the urbanists and O’Brien told us, not to worry, they don’t need parking, there’s a bus stop a block away.

    We now have at least 11 cars added from the 8 units.


    1. @Simon — What do you propose we do? Specifically:

      1) Do you think the city should pay for the construction of new parking lots in the area?

      2) Who do you think should pay for those new lots?

      If you believe new development should require parking, then you are basically answering “yes” and “renters”, whether you know it or not. I think that is a terrible policy, but some might disagree.

      1. Yes and Renters should pay. Just like buyers of new single family homes have to pay for their 2-car off street parking garage that is required by City Codes.

      2. New single-family homes are required to have one off-street parking space, not two, and only on lots that are larger than 30′ wide and 3,000 sq. ft. in area. (Source)

        The whole point of off-street parking requirements is to ensure that residents of new buildings do not add to congestion of the street parking, allowing that parking to remain free and easily available. In other words, the point is to ensure that people who have gotten used to parking on city property for free can continue to do so.

        I would argue that if we, as a city, believe that free parking on public land is an important right to ensure, then the best way to make that happen is for the city to proactively use all of our tax money to buy land and install parking lots/garages to ensure there’s space for everyone.

        Of course, that would be super expensive. It’s more politically expedient to force renters to pay for off-street parking whether they need it or not, whether they own a car or not.

        This really messes with the incentives around car ownership. Parking is expensive to build. It really shouldn’t be given away for free in an urban area. People should need to factor the true cost of parking into their decision to own a car or not. The most surefire way to reduce car ownership and traffic is to make car owners pay for the full cost of that choice, rather than bundling part of that cost into the cost of housing and businesses.

      3. Good summary Eric. That is the problem. We are asking those with the least amount of wealth — the people who rent — to go ahead and fund something that is enjoyed by the wealthy as well. That hardly seems fair.

  7. I wonder if the way the Cottage communities, like the one across the Greenwood from Shoreline Community College, handles parking could have any use here? With new housing, at least, give every neighborhood its own parking structure, with every resident getting a given space?

    Also wonder if street parking in and for specific neighborhoods needs to be first priority for a fight. Just so long as, since we’re all paying the taxes for whole street system, signs reserving spaces for neighborhood residents get taken down.

    Above suggestion might become popular fast. But I still wonder when the laws of physics will finally take care of the problem: More than one thing can’t be in same place at same time. Suburbs, cities, neighborhoods. Counties. States.

    The time will will eventually come when nobody can get out of their own street parking space at all.

    [OT – This is not the war stories blog.]

    Well, put it into the Condo Agreement, and nobody can claim they’re not getting a place to park.


  8. I agree, Martin. It is pretty simple really. Basically the folks who want new development to require parking are basically making this argument:

    1) Parking is a worthwhile public amenity.

    2) Those who rent should pay for it.

    It is no different than if they passed a tax on rent, with the money going into building public parking lots. Would anyone think that is fair? Of course not, but that is exactly what is going on here.

    The first point is simply a value judgement. Some would say we should build parking lots, others say we shouldn’t.

    Unfortunately, the second point is disputable just because it requires critical analysis. It does not require having attended college, so the old “it is just economics 101” is absurd. It is simpler than that. Having owned a lemonade stand (or any other small business) does help though. I can walk through some examples (I’ve done this on the web dozens of times) but all it takes is a little empathy. Pretend you have a small building but are thinking about replacing it with an apartment. Now imagine the cost of building that apartment goes up. Now imagine you are a landlord that lives down the street, thinking about raising the rent. It is pretty easy to connect the dots, and realize that not only does the added cost of parking result in higher rents for those that move into the new apartment, but all rents in the area.

    1. Remember – new single family homes are required to put in two off-street parking spots. The buyer has to pay for them. Why shouldn’t renters have to pay for off-street parking?

      Also, homeowners pay property taxes which fund a whole bunch of stuff including maintaining our streets and other infrastructure.

      Your comment RossB makes it sound like renters should be able to live without paying into any of this.

      1. There is a big difference between someone without a car owning a parking space and renting a parking space.

        1) Having a parking space on your property increases its value on the resale market because, even if you personally don’t park a car there, a future buyer likely will, and will pay more for the property accordingly. As the population booms and street parking gets harder to come by, the market value of that off-street parking space will only increase.

        2) If you own the home, it is usually possible to find a way to use your parking spot for something other than parking. For instance, you can use your garage for storage, or grow a garden in a planter on top of a driveway (as long as it’s a “temporary” structure that could be removed when/if you sell the place)

        3) Owners usually live in their home for much longer periods of time than renters. Even if you can’t justify the financial costs of car ownership today, you might still decide to get a car in the future, if you have kids, your income increases, or you experience a change in jobs or lifestyle habits that requires one.

        For these reasons, even though I don’t own a car today, and don’t have plans to get one in the near future, I would still be reluctant to buy a home without parking. At the same time, if the question were about renting a zero-parking home for a year, none of these arguments would apply. You don’t get the appreciation benefit. You can’t reuse the space for something else, due to fine print in the rental agreement. And, if you do decide to get a car in a future, the lease is only for a year, so you’ll probably be out of there by then, anyway.

        That said, the arguments I gave are arguments why a home shopper who doesn’t have a car may still *choose* to buy a home with parking, anyway. This is a choice, which is radically different from the city making the choice for us, and forcing every home to have parking attached whether needed or not. Your comment about property tax is irrelevant. Streets are a public good, private parking spaces are just that, private. There is no reason for the city to require them. Let the free market decide how many parking spaces a neighorhood needs, and let the developers bear the consequences if they build too few parking spaces and have trouble selling their units as a result. If you really want to make sure the developers are being honest about their parking needs and not freeloading off the street, just deny RPZ permits to residents of the new building.

      2. @ballardite — Good point about the parking requirement for new houses. My apologies for not being more clear. Let me be more precise and modify what I wrote. The argument for requiring parking is that:

        1) Parking is a worthwhile public amenity.

        2) Those who don’t own a home should pay for it.

        This applies to buying new houses, buying new condos, renting apartments or houses. Everyone who doesn’t own the property has to pay the cost. Those that already own their property don’t. That doesn’t seem fair in the least.

        Also, homeowners pay property taxes which fund a whole bunch of stuff including maintaining our streets and other infrastructure.

        Renters also pay property taxes, but do so indirectly. At least, that is what most economists believe. It gets tricky, but since our property tax system if based on the value of both the structures and the land (rather than just the land) it is pretty clear how renters pay the tax. Land that contains a used car lot isn’t worth as much as land that has as an apartment building on it. The property tax provides another disincentive to build, which in turn leads to higher rents.

        Of course in this state, the bulk of funding comes from sales taxes (https://taxfoundation.org/sources-state-and-local-tax-revenues/). Of course that chart lists total revenue, and it varies by individual. If you are extremely wealthy and have your money in property, you might pay more in property taxes than in sales tax. If you rent or own a small (or even medium) place, you probably pay more in sales tax than property tax. If you run a small business, it is possible you pay more in B and O tax (which taxes gross receipts) than in either tax. In short, we have a very messed up tax system in this state, and folks at the bottom end definitely pay their fair share.

        Your comment RossB makes it sound like renters should be able to live without paying into any of this.

        Nope, not my point at all. My point is to make clear as to who is paying for this public benefit. It is people without property wealth. The current system means that owners don’t pay any of this, while renters, and those looking to own, pay it all.

        If we all agree that this is a public benefit worth purchasing then *everyone* should pay for it, the way that *everyone* pays for everything else in this city. Just pass a levy. The problem is, such a levy probably wouldn’t pass. That is because a lot of people (myself included) think spending money on parking is simply unnecessary. I understand why people consider it a public benefit (I certainly take advantage of it) but I don’t think it is enough of one to warrant public funding (directly or indirectly).

        The big problem, though, is that we have a hidden tax that only applies to those who rent or are trying to buy a home. To me, that is messed up.

      3. Oh, and I should have said that if you are going to have a tax like this, the best method for it is simply to add it to the vehicle excise tax (the car tab tax). That seems very fair to me. Pay a few extra dollars for a “local parking district” based on where you register the car. The money would go into building parking lots. That seems much more fair than what we have now.

    2. We should be doing the opposite: eliminate the parking requirement for houses, not force them on apartment buildings too. A one-car garage does not help anything because the driveway displaces one street parking space, so the net result is going from a shared space to an exclusive space, and when the space is empty a useless space.

  9. Here’s the fundamental problem with parking: it doesn’t scale. If you insist on one car per person, then each car takes up more space than a person, and when you scale up to a city of hundreds of thousands of people, that’s entire neighborhoods’ worth of parking spaces and roads. Half of American cities’ land is taken over by parking and roads. Each driver needs 2.5 parking spaces: one at home, one at work, and a shared one at the supermarket and other places they go. All these garages and parking lots and SOV roads push everything further apart, which means fewer things are within walking distance and the chance social encounters that make society more cohesive and generate creative ideas don’t happen, and people feel more alienated. Ideally we should have enough road space and parking for emergency vehicles, working vehicles (e.g., gardeners taking their tools), people carrying bulky loads, the disabled who can’t walk to a bus stop, and an additional amount for convenience/recreational driving. But not one space for every person to drive everywhere. Especially those who don’t want to drive, and want to have a parkingless place to live that’s more walkable and less expensive than in car-dependent areas where they’re forced to go to because parking pushes housing costs in the inner city beyond their reach.

  10. I’m surprised no one either here (or at the Seattle Times article) mentioned self driving cars. I am not one to promote them, or say they will fix everything. It isn’t clear when they will finally get here (ten years, twenty, one hundred?). Like fusion power, they may always be ten years away.

    But that is not what most experts in the field say. Estimates range from “next week” to thirty years. There are very few that say “not for another fifty years”, or “we have no idea’ (which is what people really say about fusion power). So that means that is highly likely that we will have self driving cars for most of the life of these new buildings.

    It isn’t clear how that will change the nature of car ownership, or driving, but it will likely change the nature of parking. It is nice to have your car available right where you are, but having it available in five or even fifteen minutes is not the end of the world. You just need to do a little advanced planning (and I mean very little). Summon your car ahead of time, and it will be ready when you are. I could easily see parking spots slowly converting over to one hour load and unload, even in low density residential areas (like Phinney Ridge). The car could be stored in a parking garage or a lot where land is much cheaper. I’m not talking about an urban utopia, where cars are rare, and few people own them. I’m talking about someone with their own car, equipped the way they like it (with baby seats and fuzzy dice) ready to take them to the mountains, the beach or even just the grocery store. It is just that they don’t park their car anywhere near their house. They use their garage to store junk (as so many do) even if they could fit the car in there. Nor do they want to store it on the street, even if it was legal. Parking on the street leads to more wear and tear on the car, is annoying when you have frost, and increases the chance of theft. Better to have the car safely tucked away, in a secure, covered lot, fully charged and ready to go. I understand what Mike is talking about when he says “parking doesn’t scale”, but many aspects of parking actually do scale. Paying a person to keep your car in good running condition is difficult and expensive if you park it on your property (mechanics don’t like to make house calls). But a large lot with a handful of mechanics and a security guard or two can handle dozens of cars and the cost is low *per car*.

    It seems crazy to me to mandate a policy that will likely be soon considered outdated.

  11. Parking…

    So, I live in a suburban neighborhood where every home has a two or three car garage, generally two-to-three off-street uncovered parking spaces, for a grand total of four to six parking spaces per single family home. Additionally, there is driveway parking, averaging room for two to three cars in front of each home. Now, you would think that there would be a preference for parking your car inside if you have that ability. I like not needing to defrost my windshield and being able to unload groceries in a place that is dry. But, oh, no. My block looks like a parking lot. If I have guests, I’m limited to three, which is what can fit in my driveway, because my neighbors have used up the on-street parking with their own personal vehicles. The problem is that garages become a place to store excess junk, create a second family room…. uh, I mean “man cave”… build a home fitness center, and store a boat or camper. There is also the excess of families with two drivers owning four cars, for whatever reason.

    What’s my point? My point is this: any sort of city code requirements for off-street parking in suburban single-family neighborhoods where cars abound, will inevitably get used for some other purpose. Eliminate all parking minimums. If builders choose to build parking, fine. If not, better yet. It isn’t like people will use the parking for parking. Most people will use it for pretty much any and every other accessory purpose. Speaking of which, perhaps it is time to convert my garage into a mother-in-law apartment unit so I can start earning rent on it. I’ll still have my garage spaces, and I could always park a car in front of my neighbor’s house.

    1. Generally agree that this is the way it goes. Oddly though, apartments and condos have fairly strict and enforced rules as to what can be in underground/unit parking. We are allowed one enclosed set of shelves about 14 inches deep.

  12. Is there a way to reward or provide some sort of incentive to folks so that everybody is satisfied via reasonably verifiable data with the net number of additional vehicles added by a given number of added units of parking-free housing?

    Obviously it’s desirable to minimize the number of new vehicles added to the crush but (supposing that we manage to build housing without parking) there’s going to be an inefficiency factor involved; good intentions can and will lead nonetheless to some number of additional private vehicle crammed onto streets.

    A nudge with a reward suitable for what we know of behavioral economics might help here. How about a rebate of some kind for people who come up “clean” on vehicle registration records? It needn’t be large.

    Of course if owning a vehicle presents enough friction then numbers will come down via another path but perhaps there’s a way to accomplish what’s necessary that clicks with what we know of our psychology.

Comments are closed.