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Seattle gas stations losing out to high-rise apartment developments

Depending on where you are in Seattle, seeing the little gas light come in your car can be a bit distressing. If it sometimes feels like gas stations are few and far between at these moments, that’s because they’re just another element being impacted by apartment developers.

“Because of upzoning, Seattle is losing all of its gas stations,” said KIRO Radio’s Mike Lewis. “When you start adding eight floors of airspace as value to a property, suddenly these things start penciling out very rapidly.”

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According to The Stranger, there’s been a net increase in gas stations in the county, but a net decrease in Seattle proper. Much of this may be due to the stations sitting on land that’s more economically viable for a towering apartment building than a low-sitting gas station.

“When I’m driving around and I get the light on, I do begin to curse the Seattle city council assuming that they’re not granting permits,” said KIRO Radio’s John Curley. “But as you point out, the ground itself has become so valuable that putting a gas station in is not the best use, and you’d never be able to turn enough of a profit to pay for the land.”

Additional neighborhood upzoning could push more out

As the article notes, the potential citywide upzoning could impact gas stations in 27 neighborhoods and commercial districts, thus pushing additional stations out of the city, a familiar experience for residents.

“This is what happens in a town with breakneck growth,” Mike said. “We’ve talked about when the Sunset Bowl closed. It wasn’t that Sunset Bowl wasn’t doing well, it was just sitting on such valuable land that it made more sense to the landowners to boot the business out and sell it for apartments–this is what’s happening to gas stations.”

Since we aren’t likely to see apartment developers build on top of gas stations like historical buildings, it may be best to take that little gas light a little more seriously.

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