Olympia's Council of Neighborhood Associations members oppose city’s zero parking proposal


Members of the Council of Neighborhood Associations (CNA) spoke against the proposed reduction of parking requirements for new residential construction, particularly zero parking minimum in some residential types in Olympia.

Reduction of parking spaces is one of the strategies identified in the city’s Housing Action Plan to meet housing needs in the city.

At the CNA meeting held Monday, CNA president Larry Dzieza pointed out that the Planning Commission's recommendation of zero minimum parking space would mean zero parking for a 100-unit apartment.

"It could be zero or up to 125 or 138 if they use the wiggle room," Olympia Senior Planner Joyce Phillips confirmed. She said that if the proposal is approved by the planning commission and city council, developers could apply for modification to increase the maximum allowed parking on a project.

Melissa Allen and Dana McAvoy expressed concerns that zero parking spaces may eventually turn neighborhood streets into parking lots.

Seattle streets became parking lots

McAvoy recounted his experience in Seattle, where he lived for 10 years. He said dwellers in the multifamily apartment complexes parked their cars on the street.

"If you go to zero, people who have cars in these units are going to find a place to park, and it is going to be on the street. If there is no room on the street next to them, they will go into the neighborhoods, affecting the neighbors near the area," said McAvoy.

Bob Jacobs questioned the zero minimum parking in the draft, saying the Planning Commission did not vote on the specific recommendation. 

Phillips admitted there was no formal action on the zero minimum parking recommendation. She said there was discussion, and there were "head nods." "That is only a draft, and there is no action taken until after the public hearing."

“Were there studies?”

Dzieza inquired if there are some studies and data showing what will happen if the city implements zero parking. He cited that Portland, which has more transit than Olympia, reversed its zero parking in December. "They reversed it because it was not working out, and it impacted the neighborhoods. I don't know if the commissioners have that information. Were there studies, reports?"

Bob Jones asked Phillips to provide examples of current zero parking impacts around the city.

Leslie Wolff said the lack of parking spots with multifamily housing would create problems for other people trying to enter an area for businesses.

Her other concern is that the city council should take a big picture view of transit. "If we don't have evening buses for people living in Olympia, then people need a vehicle."

Charlotte Persons was concerned about the electric vehicle charging. "If there are zero parking spaces, where will you put the EV charging station?"

"Zero minimum seems odd to me. I can understand cutting down because you want to force people to use your public transportation. If you go to zero, you will cause many problems," Persons commented.

Citing the proposed changes, Phillips reiterated that for apartments with three or more units that there would no longer be a minimum parking requirement and the maximum would be reduced from from 1.5 to 1.25 spaces per unit. Developers could still request modifications for increases.

Phillips said her initial recommendation was 0.75 to 1.5 spaces per unit for the apartment type. She added that a planning commissioner requested to remove the minimum and slightly reduce the maximum parking requirements.

"Instead of proposing 0.75 to 1.5 spaces per unit, it is now zero to 1.25 spaces per unit," Phillips said, explaining that she added the commissioner's suggestion in the draft proposal.

Phillips discussed the proposed parking requirements for various residential types.

She said the current city code for a studio apartment is one space per unit. The proposed changes would be 0 - 1.25 spaces per unit.

Single-family, duplex, townhouse projects

The city currently requires two parking spaces per unit for single-family, duplex, and townhouses. The proposal would be one to two spaces per unit, depending on the location of the project. If the residential unit were within a quarter mile of transit on a city-designated arterial or collector street, property developers would be allowed to reduce onsite parking to one space per unit.

Triplexes in low-density zoning districts currently require providing five parking spaces per building. No change is proposed for this type of residence.

For market-rate apartments near frequent transit, the current parking code is 0.75. The proposed change would be zero to 1.25 spaces per unit.

The city's current parking requirements for apartments for seniors/persons with disabilities when near frequent transit is zero. The proposal for this residential type is zero to 1.25 parking spaces.

For very-low and extremely low-income residential units near frequent transit, Phillips is proposing zero to 1.25 spaces per unit. The current city requirement is 0.75 spaces per unit.

Phillips encouraged the CNA members and the public to send their comments via the following:

  • Email with with the subject "Olympia Planning Commission, Attn: Joyce Phillips" at jphillip@ci.olympia.wa.us by 5 pm on Monday, March 20, 2023
  • Send to PO Box 1967, Olympia, WA 98507-1967
  • Drop off at 601 4th Ave East, Olympia, WA 98501 (Note: Lobby open 9 am – 4 pm)

She invited community members to the public hearing on March 20, 2023, at 6:30 pm.

Those who wish to attend in person may go to the City Hall in Room 207.

Online participants may register at: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_3WQAUdPNRm6HZvu-_9EeoA

Code changes

Here are the details of proposed changes Phillips enumerated :

  • Eliminate reference to modifications over 40% since those would be reviewed as a variance under a separate chapter.
  • Add language around criteria for modifications.
  • Make submittal requirements the same for all modification requests
  • Remove notification and appeal information – refer to administrative and notice chapters
  • Update the language - change "exceptions" to "provisions."
  • Reorganize residential sections of Table 38.01 – a code that refers to how much space they need to provide.
  • For apartments (3+ units) – eliminate minimum requirements, reduce maximum from 1.5 to 1.25 spaces/unit (still allow modifications for increase.
  • Modify age-restrictive use/covenant language in 18.38.100.C for broader use.
  • Add parking standards for Single Room Occupancy uses, a residential use allowed in several commercial zoning districts.
  • Remove reference to a zoning district no longer used.


10 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • RobertV

    Zero minimums would honestly be one of the best choices the city could make. Parking lots are simply incompatible with an sustainable urban fabric. Moreover, it's arbitrary to require parking in development when the future of Olympia needs to be more urban and less car centric. It's hypocritical to demand walkable neighborhoods, wanting to meet climate goals, and affordability when the private vehicle reins for more important. You can't have your cake and eat it too.

    Thursday, March 16, 2023 Report this

  • Yeti1981

    I'd like to see the citation on Portland reversing their efforts on zero parking minimums that Dzieza mentions and the citations showing it isn't working. I might be looking in the wrong place, but everything I can find boasts about the removal of parking minimums.

    Thursday, March 16, 2023 Report this

  • OlyAG1

    Housing is magnitudes more important than a parking lot. We cannot continue to make our cities look like strip malls. These people probably already own their own houses and stand no benefit for letting others into Olympia. You cannot close the door on your way in for future generations because you wont be able to park directly in front of your destination 100 percent of the item. Its time to eliminate parking minimums and create walkable and livable cities in America.

    Thursday, March 16, 2023 Report this

  • JulesJames

    Zero parking zoning creates turnover and dependency, not the desired vibrant urban community desired. Personal transportation is a freedom, not a burden. And a bicycle isn't going to take my feverish kid to the Emergency Room. Housing without parking may be cheaper to build, but those cost savings are not passed on to future residents. Provide parking per unit. If that parking is unneeded, the tenant has a potential source of extra income.

    Thursday, March 16, 2023 Report this

  • Larry Dzieza

    Dear Yeti1981, as you requested here are the citation:




    "In response to the outcry, Portland’s city council reinstituted a parking requirement for multifamily developments with more than 30 units."

    You may also want to know that Portland has a much more robust transit network and housing density than Olympia. A lesson learned from Portland's experience is that avoiding what the article calls "spillover parking concerns" requires active parking management efforts by the city which comes with costs. Making zero parking requirements in most places, such as downtown Olympia, is targeted to higher density areas served by frequent transit (although our definition of "frequency" is inadequate to meet the needs of people working in the service industry). Again, that doesn't describe Olympia's situation. Regardless, the Planning Commission is calling for zero requirements without regard to the density or transit situation.

    Finally, according to the Census 2021 ACS (Census' American Community Survey, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Community_Survey) 90% of apartment residents have one or more vehicle. It is a reality of living in the less dense areas of the West that vehicle ownership is significantly higher than other areas of the country.

    Hope that helps.

    Thursday, March 16, 2023 Report this

  • LeahStio

    Wouldn't it be great if people could live and work all within walking distance? Because currently with the prices of downtown units, that would be nearly impossible. If someone is living downtown they most likely have to work somewhere they need to drive to. We need to make downtown affordable for the people that work there, make transportation more accessible for jobs that might end after the bus stops running. At that time, it might make sense to reduce parking spots.

    Friday, March 17, 2023 Report this

  • Yeti1981

    LarryJz, Thank you for the information. It appears that these were steps taken before 2013. Minimum parking requirements in Oregon have been more recently reduced r removed. Minimum parking requirements have been a major hurdle to building affordable housing. Earlier this month, the WA legislature heard testimony that a single parking space can add $60k to the final cost of a home. More specifically in multifamily units. The way forward for meeting our needs will by transit oriented development and removal of minimum parking requirements. It is, of course, not a one size fits all approach. And zero minimums does not mean that developers won't provide parking in all cases. If the current legislation succeeds, Washington cities will be able to remove or reduce parking requirements. Now, City of Olympia tends to push the envelope when it comes to what state legislation provides for, so I don't doubt that this planning commission would do that here. The fact of the matter is, however, that we must get creative about building all types of housing. The more restrictions in place, the more expensive homes in Washington will be.

    Friday, March 17, 2023 Report this

  • Honestyandrealityguy

    As I understand this, the homeless can park without penalty; however, taxpayers with friends and families can't. What kind of a world are we coming to? Common sense.

    Saturday, March 18, 2023 Report this

  • JackJohnston

    Assume if you own an electric vehicle, you are out of luck charging at home. May want to consider Shell stock as they are building a large electric vehicle charging network. Not sure what they are charging per KHW.

    Saturday, March 18, 2023 Report this

  • Yeti1981

    The following is an interesting bit of information: https://planning.org/planning/2018/oct/peopleoverparking/

    Tuesday, March 28, 2023 Report this