West Seattle Junction is one step closer to acquiring its own Residential Parking Zone
By Gwen Davis
It ain’t news: parking in Seattle is difficult. Finding street parking in West Seattle can be kinder than in other areas — such as the north end, Capitol Hill and downtown — but as new people continue to move into West Seattle, parking in the area has become increasingly problematic, as well.
Recently, residents in the West Seattle Junction have grown concerned that they won’t be able to park in front of their own homes. The fear has heightened in the wake of the city’s proposed HALA and MHA programs — which will potentially bring hundreds of new housing units to the area. The West Seattle Junction Neighborhood Association (JuNO) created a petition to ask the city to issue the Junction a residential parking zone (RPZ), which would restrict on-street parking except for residents and short-term visitors.
On Monday March 22, Ruth Harper with the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) announced at the JuNO meeting, that the Junction has met the initial threshold needed for an RPZ, and the city will proceed with next steps.
This is potentially a big win for the neighborhood. RPZs are residential areas around commuter traffic generators — like hospitals or light rail stations — where on-street parking is restricted for those except residents and short-term visitors. RPZs increase the likelihood and security that residents can park in front of or near their own houses.
There are currently 33 RPZs in the city. In RPZs, residents register their vehicle with the city and are granted a permit to park on their block. Households can register up to four vehicles. There is a $65 fee for a permit, but discounted permits are available for qualified low-income households. Areas that have RPZs display parking signs on the streets. Typically, RPZs allow visitor parking for up to two hours, 7 a.m. — 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday (although some RPZs might have slightly different standards).
A neighborhood can request a new RPZ by sending a letter to the city, as JuNO did. City officials will determine if the neighborhood potentially qualifies if at least 75 percent of the parking spaces in the requested area are full, as was the case with the Junction.
“What you’ve done is request a new RPZ,” Harper stated. “What we did is drove the area to get a sense of what parking congestion is like. It is varied. There are certainly blocks that are very congested and blocks that are fairly empty.”
In all, the Junction passed the 75 percent congestion test.
“You have made it to the next step,” she said. “You make the threshold.”
SDOT will now take next steps, which includes a full study of the area. This study is currently planned for the fall of 2017. After the study, depending upon the results, SDOT would conduct further neighborhood outreach. Finally, a public hearing would be required before an RPZ is granted.
However, Harper pointed out that RPZs aren’t always desirable, in some situations. There have been instances where a neighborhood requested an RPZ, but after the study and public hearing, residents decided that an RPZ wasn’t in the neighborhood’s best interest after all. But many Seattleites report that RPZs are usually helpful and wanted.
The potential West Seattle Junction RPZ currently covers 20 blocks, though is subject to change.
The next JuNO meeting is on April 4th.
(For more information on the city's RPZ program, visit: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/parking/parkingrpz.htm)