Opportunity For More Downtown Parking - $1 Million Kissed Away?

As with my other Letters to Editor, this is also about zoning, Comprehensive Plan and Process.  There is time for citizens to speak out and save the public parking fund but need to write to the city immediately:

citycouncil@kirklandwa.gov

 

Approximately two years ago the Comprehensive Plan was modified to incentivize development downtown by allowing a reduction in parking stalls.  This was done following several years of discussion and study by the Parking Advisory Board, then looked at and approved by Kirkland's Planning Commission and finally it was voted into Ordinance by the Kirkland City Council.

 

For those who have been paying attention to the recent events, you'll recognize that once something is voted in by ordinance, it becomes local law... See any city council packet and you'll see that comment on the left hand side of the page... It becomes local law.

 

So where is this opportunity for more downtown parking?  Where does local law come in?  How is $1Million being kissed away?  Why?

 

So quickly before we lose you.

  1. Background - Providing parking spaces is one of the most costly parts of a development as they cost as much as $35,000 per space.  In order to incentivize development downtown (and because some downtown dwellers might not require as much parking), the Parking Advisory Board reduced the requirement of 1.7 stalls per unit to 1 stall per unit.  Now builders could save about $25,000 on each unit they build.  A nice savings!!!
  2. Opportunity for more public parking downtown -  The Ordinance that passed made the developer responsible for the 1.0 stalls per unit built even if all the stalls weren't needed by their occupants. 1.0 was required in Multifamily, Multi-use, Assisted Living and Hotels.  The law allowed developers who didn't want to provide as much onsite parking two options to fulfill their obligation.  They could either provide public parking elsewhere in the downtown core or they could contribute to a fund at the rate of $20,000 per parking stall that they choose not to supply downtown (aka fee-in-lieu).
  3. Kissed Away - Recently a unique kind of development called SRO slid into annual zoning changes at the last minute.  The idea of SRO (Single Resident Occupancy units) arrived so abruptly that planning commissioners commented that they were being asked to vote on the same night they were learning about them.  Here's where parking comes in.... The SRO would be a farther reduction in parking requirement. Where previously a developer needed to provide 1.7 stalls or fee-in-lieu, the reduction to 1.0 stalls or fee-in-lieu was now being cut in half farther to .5 stalls per unit.  So what does this mean mathematically?  ... Consider if the developer is proposing 100 units and only wants to use space on his property for half a stall per unit. This would mean his obligation towards the parking fund is $1 Million dollars.
  4. QUESTIONS: Should the city be allowing a developer to change the law that has just been made following thorough study?  If the developers are not required to fulfill the obligation of contributing to the city parking fund does the eventual need to provide parking come out of general tax dollars or will we need to pass a property tax to fund parking just as we are doing now with parks and roads?  Why would we deny the city this opportunity to prepare financially for parking?  Why would we decide to shift the burden of parking from the developers to the citizen's of Kirkland who are not building these units?

 

Please note:  The $1 Million dollar example is based on a "guess" on number of proposed units as no specific proposal is on the table to my knowledge.  If the proposed SRO is larger that number would be higher... If smaller... you get the point.

 

I, personally do not want to assume the tax burden of providing parking downtown if we have let developers out of their obligation.  I will be writing the city council today.  Will you?

 

Karen Levenson