Tuesday, January 10, 2017

More Housing and Less Parking



2016 was a busy year for us, with a slew of new projects breaking ground and an even larger number starting the design process. I did a quick look back at our work from this year to see what we have been up to.
All together we worked on 31 projects, creating new homes for 599 people. Five of the projects were townhouses, five were single family homes, and 21 were apartment buildings.
Increasingly we find that our clients are trending away from single family and townhouse projects towards apartment buildings. Inside of this shift toward apartments is another trend regarding parking, the extent of which I hadn’t fully appreciated until I did this look-back exercise: Our townhouse projects have a lot of parking, but our apartment projects have hardly any parking at all.

# of Projects
Type
Unit Count
Parking Count
Parking Ratio
21
Apartment
562
18
0.03
5
Townhouse
31
44
1.42

Our townhouse and apartment projects are getting built in fairly similar locations, namely close-in neighborhoods on small infill lots of 5000-10000sf. When this land is developed at townhouse density (1 unit per 1000sf of land) these projects can hold a parking ratio that is fairly typical for a car-based city. But at apartment densities (1 unit per 100-200sf of land) providing parking in any meaningful quantity becomes untenable. Put another way, if the code still required parking, very few of those apartment projects would have ever gotten built. Instead, they would likely have been townhouse developments, and in place of 560 apartments we would have built about 75 townhomes (and 100 parking spaces).

This trend in our work reflects a simple truth about the direction we are headed as a city: Over the coming years we are going to welcome a lot of new people, but we are not going to add a lot of parking spaces. Rather, we are going to build infrastructure for public transit. We are going to walk more and bike more. We will learn to make use of car sharing and delivery companies. We are going to price our street parking to use the resource more effectively, and we will eventually learn to stop thinking of the curb in front of our homes as our personal possession. 

This will not be an easy transition for many people. Seattle is going to become a very different city than the one I grew up in. Yes, we will lose some bits and places that we love. But we are also minting new treasures by the armload with many more yet to come. By allowing the city to grow and change and make room for new people, we preserve the city’s essence as the place where people come to seek opportunity. I for one am excited to help build our future, to make homes for the people moving here, and to extend to others some of the same opportunities that I have so richly enjoyed.

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