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Seattle residents calling Department of Planning out on parking rules
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Seattle residents calling Department of Planning out on parking rules

The group Neighbors Encouraging Responsible Development (NERD) alleges a proposed rule by the department is only "cosmetically" different than a rule that was rejected about three months ago by Chief Seattle Hearing Examiner Sue Tanner and violates the department's own land use code. (AP Photo/File)

A Seattle watchdog is challenging attempts by the City of Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development to change the parking requirements for commercial developers.

The group Neighbors Encouraging Responsible Development (NERD) alleges a proposed rule by the department is only “cosmetically” different than a rule that was rejected about three months ago by chief Seattle hearing examiner Sue Tanner and violates the department’s own land use code.

The proposed rule would relax definitions in regards to determining if a developer needs to build parking, according to a letter from NERD, written and sent by a law firm.

The proposal is “afflicted with substantially the same flaws” as the last proposal.

“It represents defiance of – rather than compliance with – the [Hearing] Examiner’s ruling,” the letter reads. “The fact that it has even been proposed undermines whatever confidence citizens place in [the Department of Planning and Development.]”

The city has been incrementally changing legislation so less parking is required in areas with frequent transit service since 1985.

The rule is an ordered rewrite by the hearing examiner.
Currently, developers don’t have to provide parking in areas such as urban centers – downtown Seattle – and urban villages, such as Alaska Junction in West Seattle, according to Wendy Shark, spokeswoman for the Department of Planning & Development.

If a development site is within 1,320 feet of “frequent transit service,” and enough stops are made within specified time frames, a developer could be eligible for a 50 percent reduction in the amount of required parking or not required to provide parking at all, according to information from the Department of Planning & Development.

The definition of “frequent transit service” is any transit stop where stops are made, in at least one direction, every 15 minutes or less for at least 12 hours per day, six days per week and 30 minutes or less for at least 18 hours every day.

NERD alleges that the proposed rule alters the definition of how often scheduled transit service needs to stop at any given location in order to be considered “frequent transit.” The rule broadens it by allowing multiple routes at the same stop to be included, which would make it easier for developers’ projects to fall into areas with “frequent transit.”

Changing the definition of “frequent transit” can only be done through legislation, according to NERD, citing the hearing examiner’s decision.

The city’s land use code is the reason developments in some areas have not added parking.

Though some developers may not be providing parking, the Department of Planning and Development said it’s working to make sure people can get to where they need to be, without a vehicle.

“We’re working closely with [the Seattle Department of Transportation to ensure people have access to a variety of convenient transportation options,” said Shark. “That includes buses, taxis and Uber and bicycle routes. [The Department of Transportation] works with a lot of local communities to manage on-street parking.”

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