Seattle City Hall continues to advance changes without fundamental logical basis or data-driven metrics, and with no respect for public engagement.
Do you remember some years ago when the Seattle School District discovered that our graduation rate was woefully low and the School Board decided to make changes to inspire greater success? They considered changing a passing grade from a “C” to a “D” to allow more students to graduate.
Well, that is what our City Council has done on Monday by removing parking requirements and changing the definition of “Frequent Transit Service” within our building codes.
City Hall continues to advance changes without fundamental logical basis or data-driven metrics, and with no respect for public engagement. It feels as if Scott Pruitt is leading our city’s policy shop.
“Frequent Transit Service” has been one measure by which developers can reduce or eliminate parking from their projects if their property lies within a “Frequent Transit Zone.”
This hinges on reliable transit service defined by wait times of no longer than 15 minutes. However, in the last few years as developers have taken every opportunity to find loopholes to build more market-rate housing and push parking into adjacent neighborhoods, the city has had to defend its Frequent Transit definition against neighborhood appeals that have proved the wait times to be well outside the 15-minute maximum.
Instead of working with Metro to increase reliable transit service, the City Council has decided instead to simply move the goal posts and redefine the measurement to allow for greater wait times, allowing more developments to eliminate on-site parking and instead push it onto your streets.
In addition this week, council members Rob Johnson and Mike O’Brien pushed through eliminating parking requirements altogether for many other buildings, forcing thousands of cars onto our streets and, as O’Brien has intimated, make it so hard for people to find parking that they dispose of their cars.
As developers build thousands of new units without parking, neighborhoods will absorb the impacts and suffer the consequences so developers can build buildings cheaper. Johnson and O’Brien want us to believe that doing so will reduce the cost of housing without one shred of proof or study that honestly confirms so.
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The council’s groupthink — sans Lisa Herbold, the only council member who looked at this policy independently and voted no — suggests that building cheaper buildings will lower rents and housing costs.
In more than 40 years of practicing architecture, I have never seen market rents being influenced by anything other than market forces. Have you? How can O’Brien and Johnson suggest that developers will rent their apartments for less than market value?
They muse that they have “unbundled” the financial burden of providing parking spaces for rental units. Honestly, I don’t think there has been a single apartment building in Seattle that has not charged extra for parking in 20 years. This is not a thoughtful change but only adding flavor to the Kool-Aid being consumed by city evangelists and followers who proclaim that Seattleites have no cars even as study after study proves otherwise.
This crazymaking must be checked as it has infected many new policy initiatives. The Mandatory Housing Affordability legislation currently being appealed by more than 27 citywide neighborhoods claims that allowing development of properties with more units, taller buildings and with no parking will yield 6,000 new affordable units. Instead, it will accelerate the destruction of our communities and integrate too few affordable units. And we taxpayers will continue to lose the character of our neighborhoods.
The terribly flawed policy was advanced through the city’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA). The logic is to solve our crisis by incentivizing and integrating more affordable housing throughout our city. However, instead developers can build market-rate units only and pay a meager fee (a fraction of what other cities charge) to have the city build affordable housing on cheaper land far away from every neighborhood where developers can increase their profits and not integrate projects with affordable apartments. And now O’Brien and Johnson want to make it impossible for those who need cars the most to park close to their homes.
We need adult supervision at City Hall as our well-financed leaders fail to ask important questions of seasoned professionals, review real-time data, gather our neighborhoods in thoughtful conversation or follow proven best practices. It is honorable to be a world leader in recycling, or to acknowledge climate change or be able to attract the best and brightest. But it is frankly disgusting to accept that the measure of success is now defined as a “D.”