The Fight Over Parking Minimums in Seattle

Most people love free parking, so it’s no surprise why there is a controversy when urban planners want to build less. In Seattle, former mayor Mike McGinn lost his campaign for reelection, with his parking policies as a major factor. Some went as far as to call it a “war on cars,” and some alluded to the powerful “bike lobby” pushing their weight around. Of course no such thing exists, although the reflective vests probably stand out at town hall meetings.  Modest changes to parking minimums are definitely overdue, but changes should depend on the needs of each particular area.

Seattle is a changing and diverse place, so it wouldn’t make sense to have universal rules for parking spots. For example, only 29.5% of households on Capitol Hill own cars, or 41.5% in South Lake Union. And these are not just bedroom communities for suburban jobs; many choose to live there to be within walking distance to work. As Seattle’s growth plan involves dense urban centers, increased housing supply, and growing transit communities, parking minimums would be a major hindrance to these goals.