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Will cutting Bellevue parking requirement hurt the economy?

(Sounder Bruce, Flickr)

In the last few years, Seattle has moved to eliminate parking requirements for new developments, citing the potential impact on affordable housing. Now there are efforts to cut Bellevue parking, too.

But Bellevue City Councilmember Jennifer Robertson believes that moving towards this system is not the solution to affordable housing. Rather, it will hurt the economy and traffic.

“Parking is what makes a city livable,” Robertson told The Jason Rantz Show. “The city has superblocks, so that means we have much larger pieces of property with fewer blocks between, and not as much on-street parking. If a development is going to generate parking, that developer should provide parking on site.”

For the development to be successful, it has to take into account the impact it will have on the surrounding area. Robertson believes critics of the parking requirements are overlooking the greater impact on the local economy.

RELATED: Bellevue’s new parking rule will keep drivers moving

“Bellevue has the highest retail sales per capita in the State of Washington. A lot of that is our shopping district in the downtown,” Robertson said. “People don’t generally go shopping on transit. Some do, but if you’re going to be laden with a lot of packages, you’re going to want a vehicle to take you to-and-from the shopping area.”

Bellevue parking and the poor

Eliminating the requirement could burden additional properties, increase congestion, and cause an uptick in greenhouse emissions from drivers circling. And while Robertson acknowledges that Bellevue can be expensive, she doesn’t agree with critics of the parking requirement that it hurts affordable housing and those that need it.

“It’s a false argument to believe that people who are of limited means do not have vehicles. Even in homeless transition housing, there are tenants who have vehicles.”

Robertson added that, “if you look at the affordable housing numbers, what’s struck me as odd is that it bases it on a person’s income, assuming one person living in a two bedroom apartment. When I was young and didn’t have a lot of money, I either had a smaller apartment or I had roommates.”

Even the eventual arrival of light rail will not solve this, Robertson argues.

“We will have 665,000 per person trips by 2030, compared to 385,00 in 2010. In the downtown, about 57,000 of those will come and go by transit, so that leaves 608,000 by some other mode.”

“Of the 57,000, 11,000 will come and go by light rail. So while transit is part of the solution, it’s not the full solution, and we still need a place to put those vehicles.”

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