Advice for McGinn, from the Man Who Built Bellevue

Comments

1
I said as much myself. If anything, McGinn should make parking free all weekend. He needs to encourage shopping downtown, not discourage it with higher parking fees. He and the city would benefit if shopping increases. On parking, the mayor and I disagree.
2
I don't see why it can't be both ways. TOD and density,coupled with the knowledge that people are still going to use their cars. Just deal with it, you know?

Four dollars an hour is a hilariously bad idea.
3
Freeman's an unelected strip mall heiress. McGinn at least ran for public office that one time - he's ahead in my book.
4
If parking rates go up, so should bus service.
5
Freeman's family stole the Bellevue's downtown land, which were strawberry and other farmland, had more than a hand in getting the Japanese-Americans interned during WWII, and then bought up the land from underneath them.

I've seen his junk yard dogs in Bellevue City Council meetings demanding, nay, threatening the officials about a new development because it may take away
his business at Bellevue Square.

He doesn't have a clue on how to behave like a human being, much less running a city.
6
If McGinn had any doubts about this proposal, this should dispel them. McGinn fears a denunciation by Freeman about as much as Bush/Rove hated getting Bin Laden videotapes. These guys enable each other.
7
Freeman is a dick bag. At $4 an hour, and with http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/ep… finding a spot in downtown Seattle will be a breeze.
8
@1, free parking downtown wouldn't help retail, it would kill it, because all of the spaces would be filled all day long. If your strategy worked, you'd see private parking operators doing it unprompted from the city.

Freeman's a mall operator, of course he only thinks about retail. Downtown Seattle's biggest problem right now is office space, and parking isn't even the biggest problem with retail, let alone the city as a whole.
9
One of my favorite things to do is go downtown after work, park at a meter, pay until 6pm and then do happy hour or shopping or see a 7pm movie. All that is gonna end if paid parking is extended to 8pm and I really doubt I'll be alone in this.
If I were downtown retail or restaurant owner, I'd be painting protest signs right now and getting geared up for a BIG fuss
10
Even the Downtown Seattle Association points out that a solid 30% of parking spaces are not used in their yearly reports from back before the recession, and coupled with the fact that transit usage is increasing rapidly within the city and less than a third of downtown workers drive in alone (and less than half arrive in a car at all), we should see that this shrill samey-same circa 1980s freak out over transit is meaningless.

What's all the more telling is that a large part of the $4 increase will go to methods designed for safe routes to school: sidewalks, school zone and commercial district enhancements, safe bike lanes and community outreach.

Remember when kids could safely walk to school? Remember when old timers would tote their groceries home twice a week on foot?

Freeman doesn't.
11
@9 Chefgirl...how, then, should Seattle pay for infrastructure needs?

Additionally, and this question is for anyone, are you predicting that at $4/hr, there will be a significant shift in availablity of on-street parking? Are you suggesting that people won't pay it?

Because my guess is that at $4/hr, which is significantly lower than private parking lots, on-street parking will still fill up. Which means that shoppers will still be here.

So, unless you're predicting that $4/hour will clear the streets, the argument doesn't seem to make sense.
12
@5, the story of Freeman's heritage of family racism and the details of their land acquisition in the 40s during the internment Grampy Freeman so strongly urged is a FANTASTIC story, one I'm ever grateful to crabbypants Goldy for bringing to my attention, and one I'd love to see developed.
http://horsesass.org/?p=3064
13
I have lived in Seattle for 20 years. I have never been able to find street parking downtown (or First Hill or Belltown, for that matter). Not once. I'm sure there are people who have, since cars are parked along all the streets, but I've always just had to use a pay lot, or parked under Pacific Place, etc., and gotten validated parking when possible. In this I am surely not alone.

It's kind of a Chicken Little thing to complain about the price of street parking in downtown Seattle when, from a practical perspective, few people can avail themselves of it anyway.

Retailers and restaurants who want to encourage their customers to drive in need to offer validated parking (this is what the mall in Bellevue essentially does: it pays for the parking by offering it for free). I don't see that as the city's responsibility, although, to encourage retail downtown, the city could allow downtown merchants to validate street parking somehow I guess.

In any case, I don't think this Bellevue-based mall operator has any credible grasp of the density and traffic and parking situation in Seattle.
14
Kemper, we have these things in Seattle we like to call "neighborhoods." They're pretty cool. You guys should get some over on your side of the lake.
15
Apologies for tipping my hat to Goldy only and not his stalwart Will the Hyphen, who wrote the linked post.
16
The city of Seattle is dealing with a massive budget shortfall on account of the bad economy. In response, the mayor has proposed some draconian budget cuts, but you can't close that gap with budget cuts alone; you've got to find some revenue source that doesn't get canceled out by the damage it does to the economy. Compared to the taxation alternatives out there, these parking rate increases and the paid-parking period expansion are fairly reasonable, and if they don't work, if they do end up killing the golden goose, then the city can always go back to the old rates and hours at a later time.

But you can't complain, "Oh, woe is this city, McGinn is declaring war on drivers" without offering a reasonable tax alternative that could actually gain some traction. What other revenue sources would you tap? And don't just say, "Tax the rich." I'm sick of seeing the first answer for tax increases be to always point at the other guy.
17
And you can't just act like there's no cost to not raising taxes. There's this disconnect in this whole country where people just don't seem to get that taxes actually pay for public services and public services are actually paid for by taxes. Maybe a world without paid on-street parking is better than a world with it--maybe parking meters are bad for business--but then you're also getting a world without the public services that parking pays for.

In fact, though, a world with parking meters is actually better for the very drivers who have to feed those meters. There's a terrific, albeit wonky, book about this called "The High Cost of Free Parking." As "Westlake, son!" writes: At $4 an hour,… finding a spot in downtown Seattle will be a breeze. I wouldn't be surprised if it's still hard to find a spot at $4 an hour.
18
I don't see how this sorta thing is any different from what MrBaker/kinison/giffy says. Well, it's more articulate, sure, but there's not much difference beyond that.
19
Parking in Bellevue is not free. You'd think a businessman, especially a real estate man, would understand that.
20
Simac @13: You've NEVER been able to find a parking spot downtown? In 20 years of trying? Impossible. What are you trying to park, a tank? A stretch limo? An 18-wheeler?

If this story is true, your parking karma is so bad, I'm afraid to even be on the same comment thread as you.
21
WTF? Parking isn't free in downtown Bellevue. Also, I don't want to Downtown Seattle to be like Bellevue. Bellevue is like a big Northgate. Ick!
22
What is Freeman talking about? There are like 14 street parking spots in all of downtown Bellevue. Maybe parking at Hellevue Square is free, but the rest of the town is a parking garage nightmare.
23
If you want to get a sense of sheer vapidness of Kemper Freeman, you can't do better than this quote, and the fact that Kemper really, truly sincerely means it: "Don’t make the car your enemy. It’s actually your friend.”

It's thanks to friends like these that Americans end up sitting for hours on end in massive traffic jams on 10-lane freeways.
24
First time I've agreed with Kemper Freeman on anything.
25
If the parking rates go up to $4/hr and especially if parking rates are extended to 8pm, then I will no longer be able to afford to go downtown on a weeknight.
On weekENDS I would still go downtown because I already take the bus for that. However, my evenings of leaving right from work and hitting a happy hour or perhaps catching a 7 pm film at Pacific place (I usually do with with my sister who comes in by bus and then I drive her home)on a weeknight would be over because I could no longer afford both those AND the extra $10+ of parking fees for a simple evening out.
(the reasons I don't bus to work are (1) it would take over an hour each way as per Metro's travel planner versus 20-25 min each way in my car to drive and (2) I have a part time second job and only 30 min to get from job one to job two on the nights I work)
26
@25: Then it appears that going downtown for happy hour is a luxury for you and that you're asking, in no uncertain terms, to have that subsidized.

Let's put this to a thought exercise:
1) To maintain the status quo and parking availability to you, the city will have to make hard choices and cut more services and staff, or

2) To provide temporary budget relief in a crippling economic downturn, you will have to find places more local to you, like your neighborhood pub, theater, restaurant, museum or park while unnecessary (i.e. "happy hour") trips are reduced and revenue buffered by an uptick in take from those who absolutely have to park
27
I love you Baconcat.
28
Even the Downtown Seattle Association points out that a solid 30% of parking spaces are not used in their yearly reports from back before the recession


Well then it sure makes sense to raise prices, doesn't it?
29
Freeman is right on a point or two (not sure that carries the day for him considering his love affair with the car). He recognizes that downtowns are actually fairly fragile, and they depend on being a regional draw as well as serving the needs of locals. Sadly, we do not yet have a mass transit system that can accommodate the crowds who could come to Seattle via subway or train for shopping, bars, culture, music, art, etc. so sadly are still car-dependent. How do we make the transition? By first building the world-class transit system, then by jacking up parking rates to discourage downtown driving. So McGinn's solution is about 20 years early (and a few billion dollars short). In the meantime, pay parking on Sunday and pay parking until 8:00 will have a chilling effect on all things downtown and people will find excuses to stay away. Plenty of American downtown cores are ghost towns at night. McGinn's premature proposal threatens to add Seattle to that list.
30
Kemper Freeman believes that a 6% increase in freeway capacity in the region would solve our region's transportation woes.

Obviously, being a privileged scion who owns some malls is not the same thing as knowing how to operate a city.
31
If nothing else, Kemper should be commended for his honesty in not trying to pretend that he doesn't run Bellevue.
32
I agree that we need to shift the focus away from cars and toward transit. Noone wants downtown Seattle to be a Bellevue Square clone, let them have their shopping mall. Does it come as any surprise that the shopping mall owner suggests shoppers parking fees should be subsidized? While a thriving downtown is an important commercial center for our city, encouraging people to get there in ways other than driving their cars there and expecting to be able to park cheaply is important. And in terms of changing to paying for parking on Sundays, isn't that only in a few select neighborhoods like downtown and belltown anyway, not the city over. Aren't there other Seattle neighborhoods that are more convenient to many of us if downtown isn't? Support your neighborhood economy and take transit when you want to go downtown.
33
@28: When people are only buying from the front of the store and refuse to go to the back of the store (there's a bias against parking in garages), it would be stupid to keep the prices in the front of the store low. You'd lose money.

Market-rate solutions are the last ditch, but they are exactly that: solutions.

@29: Downtown cores are driven by destinations. The retail core and market stay surprisingly busy while the financial district are ghost towns. One reason it's difficult -- nay, near-impossible -- to get an accurate read on the pace of downtown after dark is the lack of open air business and covered sidewalk amenities, a holdover from the pearl-clutching reactionaries of the 70s and 80s.
34
i don't want downtown seattle to become like downtown bellevue.
35
Woo Hoo!

Downtown Bellevue still is filled with empty retail places. No wonder they have free parking - most restaurants there can't stay open for long, and they have such a high retail vacancy and residential condo vacancy rate it's just pitiful.

But distelleries for the win!
36
I agree with anything that gets poor and lower middle class people out of my way when I need to get somewhere and park.
37
OK, Mr. Freeman, go out and start up your "friend," then get out of your "friend," walk behind it, get down on your hands and knees and wrap your lips around your friend's exhaust pipe - thinking as you are turning blue how good your "friend" has been to you.
38
Increasing parking rates will hurt retail. Already I know of most eastside people that "hate coming to seattle because of the parking".

It shouldn't be free, but damn, $4 an hour will hurt retail. The problem with office space is that it is priced waaaaay to high. And with large vacancy rates, it's hard to attract new business. So many businesses flock to the eastside for considerable price breaks in office space. Why not provide a city tax credit for new businesses that want to operate downtown?
39
Who pays $4 an hour?

If it's that high you use OFF-STREET PARKING in a parking garage or you get there by transit.
40
Funny, you'd think Mr. Freeman would be cheering the Mayor's proposal, seeing as he seems to believe paying $4 an hour for parking and extending hours and days for meters will somehow magically translate into tens of thousands of drivers abandoning the central core in favor of shopping in the 'burbs where most of his holdings are located, simply because, in his mind apparently, free parking is the only factor people take into consideration when deciding where to shop.
41
Thanks Sandman. That was kind of the point I meant to make...my luxury dollars (such as they are - I’ve worked for a disaster relief/health services non-profit for years. We had a 4% wage cut in ‘08, unpaid furloughs in ‘09 and insurance co-pays that doubled this year) are going to stay in my neighborhood now. I don’t imagine I’ll be alone in staying away from the downtown core and I feel bad for its restaurateurs and merchants.

I’ve been around long enough to remember the early 90s fiasco when parking meter rates exceeded what people were willing to pay and everyone (downtown businesses, the city) lost revenue. People stayed away or used lots. The city (on the occasion below) eventually dropped rates back to their previous level.

http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.c…

As for the question of what I would do to raise much-needed city/state revenue instead? Income tax (with lower sales tax rates) even though, perversely, such a thing would not be in MY favor. I’m not a big shopper/consumer at all (I mend/remake clothes, drive the same car for 15 years, cook at home from scratch most of the time, etc) so I probably pay a lot less in sales tax than others in my demographic group. But I still feel it would be fairer to everyone to switch.
42
Kemper Freeman: Suck it. On-street parking iin downtown Everett is free, and today I saw that another small restaurant failed. Everett is a blight of bars, sandwich shops catering to office workers, and little else. Entire blocks are vacant, and have been for a decade or more.
The problems facing urban downtowns are far more complex than parking rates, you pissant.
43
To be fair parking sucks balls everywhere in Seattle, I think it's a bit high but you only have yourselves to blame, if you wouldn't park so much in Seattle you wouldn't have to pay more. I think the bigger question you should be asking is WHY you're parking in Seattle, and if taking the bus would be a better alternative than spending an hour trying to find a 2 hour max spot. If you don't like it, stay the fuck home, some other asshole is going to park there and not give a fuck for every person that whines about how expensive it is. The car you're driving probably isn't cheap ya?
44
@38, your argument that people avoid downtown because parking is so expensive already is easily disproven by the simple fact that THE PARKING IS FULL. You may know some people who avoid downtown, but they are obviously being replaced by some other people; otherwise, the spaces would be empty.

Plenty of empty spaces in the Bellevue Square parking garage, or Northgate or Southcenter. You'd think if free parking was the only thing people wanted, they'd be filling those spaces. Instead, they're downtown filling every space they can find.

Office space in downtown Bellevue's not doing any better than downtown Seattle. It's not the price that's keeping people out; it's the lack of businesses. They'd have trouble filling downtown offices right now if the rents were free.
45
Whether you're a car-loving suburbanite or a transit zealot, a couple parts of this proposal make it obvious as nothing more than a revenue grab for the city:

1) Street parking is easy to find on Sundays. The very few exceptions are major events - Bumbershoot, Pike Place Market festival - and their impact is still localized to 5-7 blocks around the event.

2) In 90% of the area McGinn mentions, street parking is easy to find after 6 PM. Only a few square blocks are consistently busy until 8 PM: 1st Ave between about Stewart & Union, and 2nd Ave on Fri/Sat nights.

This proposal uses their traffic patterns - which aren't at all representative of downtown - to justify a much bigger change.

3) Less than 2 years ago, the parking rate was raised from $1.50 to $2.50 city-wide: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/lo…

Objectively, neither parking usage nor transit-vs-car tradeoffs have changed since 2008.

4) The proposal doesn't even try to differentiate between busy areas (say, 1st and University to 6th and Stewart) and the rest of "downtown" (which, as proposed, includes 4x that footprint).

I don't know enough about McGinn to have an opinion about him. However, this proposal seems like his halfhearted way to avoid proposing broader layoffs or program cuts. It's not based on facts, and I doubt McGinn actually expects it to pass.
46
@41: That's the thing, though: a downtown core does not exist to subtract from your own neighborhood businesses.

More than that, tens of thousands of people live in and around downtown Seattle. If it follows with them (us, really; I live downtown) as it does with you, then the average downtown patron will have a smaller distance traveled as more downtown residents hit up the awesome snacks at Noc Noc, a nice curry at the tasty Mae Phim or snag that last slice of pizza at Unconventional.

When it becomes more feasible for you to come down, then nothing is stopping you.

A city shouldn't have to lend more weight to the wants of its citizens when certain needs are currently unmet.
47
Look at the unemployment rates.

Seattle is lower.

We win!

P.S.: Two hour free parking in Fremont in the RPZ zones until 8 pm!
48
I work in Bellevue. Please McGinn, make sure you don't make Seattle like Bellevue. It's a soulless wasteland.
49
@45: Transit as a share of total transportation mode choice has steadily increased within the city of Seattle, troy, with a huge jump between 2008 and 2009 according to the ACS (17.6% in 2008 versus 19.5% in 2009). That's a major shift. It's the largest recorded shift in mode share in this current decade.

And of course this is a revenue grab, troy. It's called scraping the bottom of the barrel since we are really, truly and legitimately at the end of a rapidly-shortening rope.
50
If anyone's interested, here's the specific wording from the budget proposal:

"Parking Meter Revenue: The 2011-2012 Proposed Budget makes several changes in the City‟s management and regulation of on-street parking, including increasing the hourly rate on parking meters by $1.50 downtown and $0.50 in other parts of the city, extending paid parking hours by two hours until 8 p.m. in the evenings (Monday – Saturday), and instituting paid parking on Sundays (11 a.m. – 6 p.m.). These adjustments in the management and regulation of on-street parking are recommended for several reasons. First, the increases better align the charges with the costs to the City to regulate and manage the parking program. Second, the increase brings parking meter rates in line with the current market rates for parking in private garages. Third, the existence of market rate prices for parking will better encourage turnover of parking spaces so that people can find a parking spot when they need one, thereby encouraging residents to frequent commercial districts and reducing congestion and carbon emissions."

Source: http://www.seattle.gov/financedepartment… (Overview PDF)

Note that after skimming the full budget (http://www.seattle.gov/financedepartment…), it seems to say that the enforcement until 8 PM and on Sundays may not be specific to downtown.

Given that the same justifications were made in 2008, I'd prefer they either admit that it's an outright revenue grab - "This policy serves no other purpose beyond raising additional funds for the city" - or explain how the costs or usage have changed since Nov 2008.
51
@49: if transit usage has gone up.. why would that affect parking rates?

Assuming parking hours are flat or nearly so, costs of using the public right-of-way and enforcement are spread across the same # of meter hours. If usage plummeted or skyrocketed, I could see adjusting rates to either maintain revenue or increase availability, but nobody's arguing that a sea of people stopped parking and started riding.

Worth noting that while 17.6% to 19.5% may be "the largest recorded shift in mode share in this current decade," it's what you'd expect from a trailing indicator during a recession, and all of that change probably isn't permanent.

Thanks for affirming my main point: it's disingenuous not to just say "This is a revenue grab with no practical purpose besides raising money."
52
@50: Policy proposals that only address one issue at a time are usually massive failures, so it stands to reason that there's more than one reason for this proposal. In this case, you're wondering loudly why he can't admit the fiscal rationale behind the proposal. He has.

From MyNorthwest.com:

Wags have dubbed him Mayor "McSchwinn," suggesting he's anti-car and caters to bicycles. McGinn calls that "silly" saying the parking changes are a way to help close a $67 million dollar budget gap without raising taxes, including business taxes.


Environmental reasons (reducing car load in the city, for example) are suitable policy positions to tack onto a major fiscal policy.
53
@51: Let's unpack what you've said.

"if transit usage has gone up.. why would that affect parking rates?"

You claimed there was no big shift in the past two years in transit and car usage. There has been. I was pointing that out for you since you were trying to slip in an "importance of the auto" argument in there by way of "we haven't done much to get people onto buses with parking rate increases, so it obviously hasn't helped".

"Assuming parking hours are flat or nearly so, costs of using the public right-of-way and enforcement are spread across the same # of meter hours. If usage plummeted or skyrocketed, I could see adjusting rates to either maintain revenue or increase availability, but nobody's arguing that a sea of people stopped parking and started riding."

If usage rates are unchanged but more people are being attracted to other forms of transportation, then we haven't reached the actual legitimate break point of parking costs. Especially when other lots average more than $4.

"Worth noting that while 17.6% to 19.5% may be "the largest recorded shift in mode share in this current decade," it's what you'd expect from a trailing indicator during a recession, and all of that change probably isn't permanent."

I figured you'd try to pry that chestnut out without research, so here are the other year over year mode shares:
2009: 19.5%
2008: 17.6%
2007: 18.5%
2006: 17.6%
2005: 16.9%


That's citywide. In the downtown core, 24% of workers arrive via transit, a figure that's bounced around in the mid-20s, up from an earlier mid-teens.

"Thanks for affirming my main point: it's disingenuous not to just say "This is a revenue grab with no practical purpose besides raising money.""

I guess you weren't kidding when you said you didn't know enough about McGinn.
54
Yes, because high-priced and difficult-to-find parking spaces have been the death of retail in New York City and Boston, after all. *rolling eyes*

People adapt. The solution is not to make the world one giant strip-mall after another with freeways connecting them, which is Kemper fucking Freeman's idea of paradise.
55
@45, you're wrong. Streetside parking is not easy to find on Sunday. That's the day I'm down there the most, and street parking is pretty much impossible to find without driving around and around the blocks.

Streetside parking after 8 PM is not easy to find. It's almost impossible to find a spot west of 6th in Belltown, or anywhere downtown.
56
"Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."
57
@55 why are you driving after you've had some drinks?

are you running for Judge?
58
Freeman is significantly invested in the land use pattern and transportation system of the last century so it is no surprise he opposes any political leader or belief that provides an alternative vision of the future. It threatens all of his investments. The shift in our region and in the world toward a more transit-oriented development pattern is going to make a lot of people rich but it will also bankrupt a lot of others who are banking on increased auto sales and steady gas prices. It seems pretty clear which way we are heading.

My hope is that developers who have found a way to make TOD pencil and even provide some community benefits like affordable housing and open space will become the norm and help some of their curmudgeon peers see how profitable it can be to do the right thing.
59
I wish that Econ 101 was a prerequisite for expressing an opinion about the price of parking.

The supply of on-street parking is effectively fixed. There is a perfectly substitutable good, namely off-street parking. Thus, as prices for on-street parking go up, demand goes down.

The correct price for on-street parking at a given time is the one that results in about 95% utilization. In other words, on average, every driver will find an open space within the first 20 they pass. This takes cars out of traffic and gets drivers to their destination sooner. This is fantastic for businesses, since a single parking spot can now serve a greater number of customers, which means more revenue.

Anyway, suffice it to say that I hope this happens, and that Freeman stays on his own side of Lake Washington, as much as he wants to screw up mine. :)
60
Aside from going downtown to see a movie or go to work, I don't really see the motivation for heading down there. Freeman's implication that you might as well go to Bellsquare or Northgate or Southcenter for shopping is completely reasonable. And the dining there is mostly nothing to write home about.
61
@54: NYC and Boston have vastly superior transit and much denser urban cores. It's like comparing apples and oranges. It's not easy for the average New Yorker to just say "Fuck it, I'm going to drive to Paramus," but here it's a somewhat logical choice.

Also, it's only $2.50 an hour in NYC, and $1/hr in Boston (I just googled this, I don't feel secure about this fact) so, I'm not quite sure what your argument is here.
62
And yet, is there parking turnover in NYC and Boston?

Somehow this reminds me of an old Seinfeld or other NY comedy episode ...
63
Has anyone bitching about parking here gone to any of the buget proposal meetings? I have and it broke my heart.

The libraries, public health, SHARE, the food banks, parks and rec, you name the agency and they we're there begging for funding that had been cut.

Is this a revenue grab? You bet your ass it is. We need the revenue, so please stop whinning about spending an extra, what? $5.00 on parking when you're going downtown for $9 martinis?

P.S. to BaconCat: I heart you.