SEATTLE - Within 24 hours, more than 100 people in the Morgan Junction neighborhood of West Seattle have signed a petition after learning about a new development of 30 efficiency units with no on-site parking.
The lot at 6917 California Ave. SW is currently a single-family house. It may soon become a 30-unit apartment complex. Current code does not require a building of this size to go through design review, nor does it require parking on-site.
This is because the area falls in one of the city's "urban villages," designed to produce higher density, affordable housing near public transit.
But residents believe the looming public transit cuts, and streets already overcrowded with parked cars, prove the no-parking allowance in the code is not working for them.
"We just want to be part of the conversation. A three-story building in a neighborhood like this is a big impact," said Sarah Morrison, who signed the petition.
Morrison said she sometimes has to park blocks away from her house because there isn't any space closer.
In theory, she isn't opposed to the idea of higher density, affordable housing.
"Many of the apartments and condos across the street, they have below-ground parking, or they have parking in the back," she said.
Mark Knoll is a principal of Blueprint Capital Holdings. Knoll said that his project would target low-income renters who might make $15 an hour and are unlikely to have a car.
In an email, Knoll said, "I sympathize with their [neighbors'] concerns and experience the same frustration every day as I work in West Seattle. We are a growing city and experiencing growing pains as a result of more people moving to a city that is producing record jobs. Through the government process that started in the late 1990's and wasn't finalized until 2010, we have decided that increasing density and promoting affordable housing in urban villages is a higher priority than preserving street parking. In the long run, the discussion about parking needs to focus on public transportation. Good public transportation will have a greater effect on reducing parking pressure as we will be able to add more people without adding more cars."
Knoll, who has developed other buildings in the area with parking, said that he believes in providing more affordable housing throughout the city.
When asked what ideas he has to resolve some of the residents' concerns, Knoll wrote:
"1. If the residents could somehow see how hard it is for working wage people to find new, affordable housing, they could hopefully see the benefits outweigh the concerns.
2. If the city would commit to building more public transportation serving all urban villages, then hopefully the residents near those areas would accept the premise that parking is not needed for people who do not own cars.
3. Hopefully my track record of development in the area will alleviate concerns that another developer will take over the project and build something that is inappropriate for the location."
Cindi Barker, the community outreach representative for the Morgan Community Association, said that in the late 1990s, they created their own neighborhood plan to meet the city's urban-village goal. They planned for an additional 200 units within 20 years.
Since then, "The city has come in and put in overlays. And that is one of the things that the Morgan village plan said specifically do not do. Do not give us an overlay like exactly here. We lose parking without the ability of the neighborhood to say that's right for our neighborhood," she said.
In addition, she said the promise of frequent public transit has not come true.
Both she and residents who have signed the petition feel it's unrealistic to believe the renters in the unit would not have cars.
The community has planned a meeting on Dec. 5 with the developers to discuss the issue.