Today I wrote that the Tacoma City Council is scheduled to take a final vote on new rules for building new parking spaces downtown.
I said developers of new commercial buildings wouldn’t have to install parking spaces if they didn’t want to, but there would be a limit on the number of private spaces if they decided to build.
I didn’t have the latest information. I thought I had been tracking the issue closely, but I overlooked a pretty obvious change made at last week’s council meeting. At that time councilmember David Boe proposed an amendment to the rules that would eliminate the maximum as well.
So tonight, the council is scheduled to vote on changes to commercial parking rules that would eliminate minimums and maximums in a specific area downtown.
The goal is to make it easier to build while not encouraging more cars. Residential projects have their own set of rules and aren’t affected by these proposals.
The new requirements would affect development in an area generally outlined by these streets: Sixth Avenue and South 23rd Street to the north and south, and Tacoma Avenue and Dock Street to the east and west. This includes the University of Washington Tacoma and what is known as the International Financial Services Area, which was created in 2008 as part of the city’s attempt to keep Russell Investments in Tacoma.
Several people representing downtown business interests told the council they’re opposed to maximums, arguing that market forces will determine the right number of spaces, not city rules.
“Developers don’t want to build more parking than they absolutely have to,” said Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber staff member David Schroedel at a late January council meeting. “Developers can build what they can afford to lease, what they have to build for their buildings, and no more.”
The rules in the IFSA currently have no minimum and no maximum, and one of the largest property owners in the area also opposed re-instituting a maximum.
German billionaire and Tacoma property owner Erivan Haub owns what’s called the Superblock, where he had proposed a new headquarters for Russell. John Barline, who is Haub’s attorney and local representative, told the council Jan. 24 that re-instituting parking maximums in the IFSA puts Haub and other property owners at a competitive disadvantage to places with higher maximums, like the suburbs.
“We want to remain competitive. We’re looking for tenants for that, and when the market dictates that and there’s demand, we’d like to be able to respond to it,” he said.