It’s no secret that Puget Sound region is experiencing a housing affordability crisis. It’s also not a shock anymore that our climate is changing—fast—and our continued reliance on cars is only accelerating that crisis. However, even in the densest spaces in our region we continue to advance policies that make housing more expensive and residents more car-dependent, worsening both of these crises simultaneously.
Parking minimums have long been a cornerstone of unnecessary zoning restrictions across the United States and our region, however Bellevue’s current parking regulations are still regressive even by our standards. In most of Downtown Bellevue, all new residential developments are still required to build parking spaces for every unit of housing they build. Even in areas near frequent transit, exemptions are minor in scope, only reducing this minimum to 0.75 parking spaces for every 1 unit of housing.
This is most visible in the ridiculous amount of parking being built in new housing developments right now. Plaza 200, an 8-story mixed-use residential development in the heart of downtown at NE 2nd & 115th Ave, is a prime example of this problem. Despite being within 15-minute walking distance of 2 future light rail stations and within 10-minute walking distance of multiple all-day frequent bus routes, the 180 unit building will be built with 150 spaces of parking. If you count the 3 underground stories of parking, this 11-story building will be more than a quarter parking spaces.
The immense amount of parking will continue to incentivize residents and visitors to retail in the building to drive, creating more emissions and congestion on downtown streets. Meanwhile, the cost of 3 below-grade stories of parking will make the building much more expensive to build, increasing rents for future residents and business tenants, continuing to price more out from an already expensive area.
It’s absurd for Bellevue to claim that they acknowledge crises in climate and housing when their policies continue to force these sorts of buildings to be built. If Bellevue wants to get serious about creating a sustainable downtown open to everyone, parking minimums must go.