Olympia City Council adopts ordinance for electric vehicle parking requirements


The Olympia City Council approved an ordinance relating to electric vehicle parking requirements to ensure infrastructure and accessible electric vehicle (EV) charging for residents on Tuesday.

The ordinance, which introduced a new chapter to Title 16 of the Olympia Municipal Code, provides EV parking standards, including the number of EV charging infrastructure required in residential and non-residential buildings.

Non-residential buildings are required to allocate 10% of their parking space for EV space equipment (EVSE) parking spaces, 10% for EV-ready parking spaces, and 10% for EV-capable parking spaces.

In residential buildings with up to two dwelling units, one EV-ready parking space is mandated for each dwelling unit. For dwelling units equipped with private garages, one EV-ready parking space is required for each dwelling unit.

For other types of residential developments, the requirements are as follows:

  • 10% of the total parking spaces must be designated as EVSE parking spaces.
  • 25% of the total parking spaces must be allocated for EV-ready parking spaces.
  • 65% of the parking spaces must be designated as EV-capable parking spaces.

Olympia identifies three charging spaces for electric vehicles.
Olympia identifies three charging spaces for electric vehicles.

The ordinance also outlines guidelines for installing EV charging infrastructure in new buildings, parking lots, garages and significant improvements to existing structures.

Equipped ESVE parking space

According to the ordinance, an ESVE parking space is equipped with electric vehicle supply equipment that can provide electric current at 208/240 volts. This can be achieved through a direct connection to the parking space or adjacent electric vehicle supply equipment capable of simultaneously serving multiple parking spaces.

EV-ready parking space has wiring through conduit with an outlet or terminal box.

EV-capable parking space has electrical panel capacity and conduit infrastructure.

City goals

Table showing electric vehicle charging infrastructure requirements.
Table showing electric vehicle charging infrastructure requirements.

Olympia Climate Programs Director Dr. Pamela Braff highlighted the city's climate commitments in recent years. Olympia joined the Thurston Climate Mitigation Plan, aiming to reduce regional greenhouse gas emissions by 85% by 2050.

Braff added that the city set a goal of net zero emissions by 2040. The city also joined the Race to Zero and Race Resilience campaigns, actively participating in climate mitigation and adaptation action at the international level.

"A big piece of this is supporting the transition to electric vehicles. It is important to reduce how much we are driving. It is not possible to do that overnight. It is a slower, longer transition, and one of the key steps towards getting there is adopting electric vehicles," Braff said.

Braff said one key factor in encouraging the transition to electric vehicles is identifying where vehicles are parked most frequently, indicating where charging is likely to occur.

Braff said residential charging is predominant, with over 80% of charging taking place at home when available.

Workplace charging also plays a significant role in supporting drivers who lack access to dedicated home charging and extending the range for those with longer commutes.

Destination charging, which includes public charging stations at grocery stores, movie theaters, and retail stores, further enhances accessibility and convenience for EV owners.

"When people start to see chargers going everywhere…that helps people transition to an electric vehicle," Braff commented.


CP&D principal planner Joyce Phillips
CP&D principal planner Joyce Phillips

Community Plan and Development (CP&D) Principal Planner Joyce Phillips discussed a provision in the ordinance that allows for reductions of required EV parking spaces. It aims to provide flexible standards to address project expenses and affordable housing issues.

For instance, Phillips said new requirements may not be imposed if a smaller redevelopment project is undertaken.

Reductions may be allowed when changes are needed on the utility provider side for apartments with 50% or more units designated as affordable housing.

In assembly and educational building occupancy developments, reductions may be considered if the requirements increase costs by more than 10%. Retrofits that don't involve substantial improvements or modifications to parking areas may also be eligible for reductions.