Olympia's Housing Action Plan looks at reducing residence parking requirements, clarifying permitting process


Olympia is contemplating reducing minimum parking requirements to accommodate more housing projects.

This was according to contract planner Gary Cooper when he gave a brief presentation at the Olympia Planning Commission on Monday, September 19, on the city's Housing Action Plan to increase the affordable housing supply for residents.

According to Cooper, the city was awarded a $100,000 grant from the Washington State Department of Commerce to help implement the Housing Action Plan.

Changing parking standards

In the report to the commission, Citing Olympia strategic projects manager and economic development planner Amy Buckler said the city should build about 714 new housing units to keep up with the housing demand.

Cooper also quoted the Thurston Regional Planning Council (TRPC) that Olympia needs to construct nearly 15,000 new units to meet the city's housing demands for 2045. Of these, approximately 7,400 or 50% will need to be affordable for those making 80% or less of the median household income.

Cooper told the commissioners that reducing parking requirements for residential uses is one of the strategies to address housing needs.

"One of the reasons this issue is important to housing is that supplying parking is quite expensive to any new development," said Cooper.

Cooper cited a survey conducted by Lacey in 2020, which showed the costs of parking:

  • Surface parking - $6,000 per stall
  • Structured parking (elevated) - $30,000 - $50,000 per stall
  • Parking for a 30-unit market-rate apartment with structured parking could cost as much as $1.3 million

Cooper added that a study from the Victoria Police Institute in May 2022 showed that parking practices add 10-15% to the development cost.

"The theory here is if we can reduce the required parking for development, that money can be applied toward building more housing units," he said.

Cooper noted that parking could take up a lot of space which can be used for more housing.

He said the standard requirements for a 30-unit apartment project would be to provide 45 parking spaces – approximately 13,000 square feet. "Parking can consume more space than the development it serves."

According to Cooper, other communities across the United States are also considering reducing their parking requirements, including Minneapolis, Buffalo in New York, Fayetteville in Arkansas, and other cities.

However, Cooper said they foresee this as a voluntary reduction, and developers would opt for half of what would typically be required.

Clarifying the permitting process

According to Cooper, the Housing Action Plan also looks at organizing the city's application and permitting processing requirements and procedures.

He said the goal is to provide clarification and predictability, so applicants and the public know:

  • What information is required for an application to be considered "complete" and ready for review
  • When an application can be approved administratively versus when it will require a public hearing
  • What the expected permit processing timelines and notice requirements are for each type of review
  • Where to easily find the application requirements and the processing procedures in the city's code

"Olympia is trying to take existing regulations, putting them in, and organizing them and clarifying them so that when applicants do come and seek these approvals of some kind, they'll have a much clearer idea of what the process is going to be," Cooper said.

"Simply put, the goal is to reduce the time and cost related to the application and review process for development projects," he added.


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