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Seattle City Council Tries To Tackle Housing And Climate Change Through Parking

Seattle leaders are hoping changes to some parking policies might help address big issues like affordable housing and climate change. 

To that end, the City Council voted Monday to adjust several off-street parking regulations.

Among the changes: Building owners will have to separate the cost of parking from rent for tenants. They will also be able to rent out any unused parking to non-tenants. 

Perhaps the most contentious changes were to the definition of "frequent transit service." New developments in areas that are considered served by frequent transit do not have to include parking. Monday's vote means more areas will now have that designation.

Just the idea of less parking can seem frustrating to Seattlites who drive. Many testified as much before the council voted 7-1 to approve the changes. Councilmember Kshama Sawant was absent.

Councilmember Mike O'Brien acknowledged the shift may be unpopular. But he emphasized the city's need to address car emissions.

"We also as a community have to take actions to change our impacts on the climate right here locally," he said. "These are hard actions because they require each of us to slightly change the way that we live in our communities."

Councilmember Rob Johnson sponsored the legislation. He noted that parking can be expensive to build, so by giving developers the option not to build it, the hope is they will build more affordable housing.

Councilmember Lisa Herbold was the lone vote against the proposal. She wanted further study in neighborhoods were developers are already given the option not to build parking. 

Max Wasserman contributed to this report.

A Seattle native and former KNKX intern, Simone Alicea spent four years as a producer and reporter at KNKX. She earned her Bachelor's of Journalism from Northwestern University and covered breaking news for the Chicago Sun-Times. During her undergraduate career, she spent time in Cape Town, South Africa, covering metro news for the Cape Times.