Parking requirements have been a hot topic during the 2023 legislative session.

Among the many proposals for solving the state’s housing crisis is preventing local governments from imposing minimum residential parking requirements. HB 1351 would preempt the local governments from requiring minimum off-street parking for residential and commercial development near high-capacity public transit.

Under the bill, counties could require parking for specific developments if they make written findings that not doing so would have a substantially negative impact. However, that option is unavailable if the project is for moderate and low-income households, or is less than 20 units.

The state also wants to maximize its investments in public transit and encourage denser housing development. Housing developers claim parking requirements drive up costs and may create an overabundance of parking that isn’t needed, leading to higher housing prices. Developers also point out that land used for unneeded parking would be better for more housing.

HB 1787, on the other hand, mandates that counties plan for truck parking near state highways, multifamily housing, and in commercial zones – many of the same areas they would be prohibited from imposing parking requirements for cars. Counties would also be required to allow truck parking near ports, warehouses, and other industrial areas.

The bill also amends the Growth Management Act (GMA) to include truck parking as a required consideration in the land use element and the transportation element. Under the bill, the transportation element must include planning for streets to accommodate trucks in appropriate locations and permitting locations where large commercial vehicles can receive maintenance, repair, and services.

WSAC opposed both bills and provided testimony in hearings during the last week.

We don’t support the prescriptive requirements preempting local authority or adding new mandates. We remain convinced that local elected officials can and should be making these decisions along with the robust public outreach and input required by the GMA.

Local conditions vary, and so do possible solutions, and we don’t support the one-size-fits-all solutions included in these bills.

A recent Seattle Times Article reported that even in Seattle, most people still own cars (96% for homeowners, 69% for renters). We are concerned that if parking isn’t provided by developers to meet the demand being created by the project, it may drive demand for public investments in parking infrastructure to accommodate the needs, shifting costs to taxpayers.

Parking is generally considered good for business. Commercial land use increases the demand for parking from customers traveling from outside the area. We are not convinced that commercial development will voluntarily spend resources to construct adequate parking if it isn’t required.

Counties know if they have a problem with inadequate truck parking. It is felt acutely by the residents, especially during particularly busy times of the day or year or during sudden highway closures. We don’t oppose truck parking; in fact we believe it is sorely needed in some areas.

But state mandates for more local government planning requirements won’t solve the problem.

Minimum parking regulations are best left to the discretion of local officials. They know their communities best. The legislature should address state planning and infrastructure investments to accommodate truck parking needs as part of the state highway system rather than heaping more requirements on local governments.

Policy Contact:
Paul Jewell
WSAC, Policy Director