Herbold: Parking legislation update
District 1 City Councilmember Lisa Herbold provided an update on parking legislation that has been in process with the city council
The final vote on the parking update legislation will be this Monday, April 2 at Full Council. My two previous reports about this legislation can be found hereand here. The version of the bill that passed out of committee on March 21 can be found here. I proposed a few amendments, and most of them were adopted. However, my amendment to reintroduce, in very narrowly defined circumstances, the use of State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) mitigation in urban villages with “Frequent Transit Service” was rejected at committee. I intend to bring a modified version of this amendment back to Full Council for a vote.
This amendment gives SDCI the flexibility to utilize SEPA mitigation under some very narrowly defined conditions. I asked Council policy staff to analyze last years’ data and they found that of 136 projects, only six of them would have triggered this SEPA mitigation option. Of those six, three of the projects provided parking for other reasons. So, if last year is a good comparison, this tool would have only been a consideration of SDCI in three of 136 projects, or 2%.
State SEPA policies require consideration of parking impacts. However, the City has entirely removed the authority to use SEPA to mitigate the parking impacts of projects that have impacts when those projects are in areas where the City has removed parking requirements, areas referred to as “Frequent Transit Areas.” In other words, SEPA requires developers to do parking studies as part of the permitting process, but even when those studies show that a development without parking is going to create a problem, SDCI can’t require mitigation. In those instances, this is what SDCI tells the public:
“while impacts to parking could be substantial, we are unable to mitigate the impacts by requiring additional parking on-site.”
The spokesperson for SDCI has been quoted by the press saying “[W]e have said that when on-street parking capacity exceeds 85 percent, finding parking becomes more difficult, and parking mitigation (in areas where we have authority to mitigate parking impacts) may be appropriate.” But again, our existing laws do not allow SDCI to mitigate on-street parking impacts in Frequent Transit Areas. My amendment grants them that authority, ONLY in instances where parking capacity is found to have reached 85%.
Some have argued that SEPA should only be used to mitigate environmental impacts. Yet, under state law, SEPA requires us to look not only at the impact of decisions on plants, animals, air quality, and water; but also on housing, public services, and historic preservation. This means that the state requires that we look at parking as part of that comprehensive analysis of impacts of development. In addition, when Seattle is in the top 5 of cities for number of hours (58 hours/year) spent looking for parking, failure to mitigate parking impacts becomes a very big environmental issue.
Seattle Area Household Median Income is about $90K a year, more than half of our population earns less than that, and nearly 70% of renters earn less than the Seattle Median Income. Countless people drive for a living whether as a part of their traditional employment or the new gig economy - Uber, flex, Amazon fresh, Instacart, etc. The home delivery model is the new labor model that scores of Seattle workers count on for supplemental income to make ends meet in their household budgets. Countless others need their cars to fulfill other obligations that are in the city’s interests like apprenticeship programs and educational attainment to earn living wage jobs, childcare for school readiness, and elder care needs.
Without some very limited tools to allow mitigation, I believe this policy as passed out of Committee is telling these people - those that need their cars to survive (a growing proportion of many specific demographic segments of workers as well) - that we believe that their ownership of cars is based in their desire for convenience; not a necessity, and if it was only less convenient for them to own a car they’d get rid of their car. I believe this flies in the face of the economic realities of many of our car-owning struggling renter population and is punitive.
This map overlays two other maps to give a clearer picture of where new frequent transit service will be in comparison to renters, as well as car owners. The significance of this map, as I’ve said before, is to show that the oft reported statistic, that is being used as the policy basis for this legislation doesn’t tell the full picture. The SDCI Director’s report says that “For the one-quarter of Seattle census tracts with the highest proportion of renter households, 40% of all renter households have no vehicle.” However, this doesn’t track to all areas designated as “frequent transit areas.” For instance:
|District||Urban Village||Car Ownership Rate||Parking Requirements|
|1||Morgan Junction||83%||No parking minimums|
|2||Columbia City||84%||No parking minimums|
|2||North Beacon Hill||84%||No parking minimums|
|3||Eastside of 23rd & Union-Jackson||82%||No parking minimums|
|4||Fremont||83% and 92%||No parking minimums|
|4||Wallingford||79%||No parking minimums|
|5||South end of the Aurora-Licton Springs||90%||No parking minimums|
|6||North end of the Greenwood-Phinney Ridge||86%||No parking minimums|
|6||South end of the Crown Hill||95%||No parking minimums|
|6||Ballard||85%||No parking minimums|
|7||Upper Queen Anne||Ranging from 92% to 69%, with an average of 83%||No parking minimums|
Again, I intend on bringing this amendment to Full Council on Monday, and I would encourage you to contact your councilmembers to urge them to support limited SEPA mitigation in the few examples where a development is planned in an area where parking capacity is found to have reached 85%.