Frog in a Pot: a Terrace Saga

posted Oct 19, 2015, 11:50 AM by Stephen Barnes   [ updated Oct 21, 2017, 8:30 AM ]
This is the expanded version of an issues statement I sent into the Everett Herald which appeared on October 13, 2015.  Sometimes we can't view the whole picture, but we get indications of our City health by small measures:

Frog in a pot: a parking saga
Mountlake Terrace has been granting reductions to parking for any builder who will listen and that will impact your neighborhood (and our future downtown) if you are within a half mile of our "downtown" and will severely impact your parking if you are within 1/3 mile of the transit hub.  It is soon to be joined by a light rail component (more parked cars) and over 650 apartments.  That will add to the parking dilemma transit users already face with a parking garage filled years ahead of the predictions.  Expect to see some of their cars in nearby streets as well.
You probably remember the old story about a frog in a tepid pot where the temperature rises and rises until the frog is cooked?  That frog is us and the cook is the current Terrace City Council, including my long-tenured opponent.  The record is one of continuously increased density.  In 2006 they came up with a brilliant idea to fix our 30 year stagnant growth by talking up a new city hall.  (Yep, we have had 30 years hanging around 20,000, give or take a few hundred.)  Anyway, as they continued the discussion in 2009, they imagined small ten story skyscrapers and underground utilities, an infrastructure to help like the three million they had included in the latest two city hall proposals (which not enough people said "yes" to) for a downtown 100 year drainage system that all new downtown builders must buy in to at a substantial discount to building something compliant themselves which you provide.  As a side note, Vineyard Park which was recently completed benefited from "your" investment: they stated they saved over half the cost of complying with the 100 year standard themselves.  Recently the Council was told that the infrastructure we are scheduled to pay has spiraled upward from eleven million to as much as 25 million (more if you include that 100 year drainage)!  Then the mayor himself said that he might not have gone ahead if he understood the cost creep it has undergone.
Why should this interest you?  First of all, your name is on the bill for this adventure the Council calls Town Center.  In 2006 the opposition to going any higher than three stories was wiped away.  Yes, they did have town meetings but it was the very small minority which spoke for an urbanized town center which was to be kicked off by a new City Hall, based on their own published materials (the Dec 2009 updated Town Center plan available on the City's website).  The Council did not (hats off) go for ten story building heights in our little downtown area which they had first suggested to you, the public.  They settled for a block of seven story and then five and four stories permitted in the core area and down mainstreet (56th) a permitted three story height.  (So why did they allow a five story building on 244th, currently under construction?  But I digress...)
Well, what does that have to do with parking?  Because the city staff in behalf of the "vision" of the current council has been granting exceptions to our reasonable  2009 agreed ordinances of 1.25 parking spaces required per home downtown. That was changed at least twice since then. 

How did the City's regulations state it?  The regulations state: "Recommended parking requirement:  In order to create a vibrant, mixed use district, it is important that the area is neither under or over parked. Using shared parking strategies, realistic parking requirements are two spaces per 1,000 square feet for most retail and office uses. For residential units, an average of one space per unit, plus an additional guest space to be shared between every four units, is optimal. 

The original cry when the city came up with the urban center idea was that there should be one parking space for every new home in an apartment building downtown.  Is that suddenly not realistic?  When downtown signature piece Arbor Village was drawn up, the city gave them a sweetheart deal: build 123 units (that's 153 parking spots for apartments based on the 2009 agreement with you PLUS 20 more for the businesses for a grand total of 174) but we will only require 123 parking spaces TOTAL of the builder.  And that despite the fact that business customers should have a place to park too!  Some of you neighbors knows where the others are parking.
What can we do about it?  As your candidate willing to represent the majority suburbanites, you need a voice questioning benefits to builders that end up on your and my back.  I propose to be that voice if you will send in your ballot, voting for Steve Barnes, City Council position #1 (now) 

Some grist for thought for those who like details:
Some of the recent approvals (from the city staff reports):
 Mountlake Senior Living (that was supposed to be the name of Vineyard Park downtown, but the owners decided to use it differently) 5525 244th St SW Develop a 0.86 acre vacant lot with approximately 96 units of affordable, independent senior housing (55 and older, not state licensed). The proposal also includes garage parking for bicycles and vehicles, pedestrian activity area, shared open space, and landscaping. Request to reduce parking requirements approved. What they don't say, there is only 54 or 55 parking spots for what may be multiple-car tenants in the 96 home building.

 Hall Lake Townhomes 5913 212th Pl SW 8 new townhomes in two, 3 story buildings on a 0.52 acre lot. Existing singular family residential home was demolished.

 Arbor Village 23601 56th Ave W One 5 story mixed use building on a 1.3 acre parcel with about 10,000 sq. ft. commercial space and 123 leased residences, 2 levels of parking garage, interior courtyard, and pedestrian activity areas along 56 & 57th Avenues W and 236th St SW. What is not mentioned is that originally the East side of that lot was to be three story.  And according to their 2009 agreement with you the 123 parking spots should have been 174!  Have you noticed the pinch nearby?

 234th Street Townhomes 5503 234th St SW One mixed use building with about 650 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor and 1 residential unit above, and 1 building with 6 townhomes, together with parking, landscaping, and pedestrian activity area. Existing single home was demolished. Lot size: 0.26 acre

 Terrace at Park West Townhomes Short Plat 21309 48th Ave W Subdivide one 1.36‐acre multifamily lot into 2 multifamily lots. Proposed Lot 1 will retain the existing Park West condominium complex. Proposed Lot 2 will be developed with a 27‐unit townhouse project, for which land use approval was received on June 5, 2013, and subdivided under a fee simple unit lot subdivision process

  Promenade Living @ Towne Square 23713 56th Ave W Develop a 0.83‐acre lot with a 3‐story, mixed‐use development consisting of 47 multifamily residential units and commercial eating/drinking establishments. The proposal also includes surface and under‐structure parking, shared open space, pedestrian activity area and landscaping. The existing single‐family residential home will be demolished. What they don't say is that the only way to get to the parking is a very narrow lane in the residential neighborhood.

  Andorra Estates 22817 Lakeview Dr Proposal to add 242 new multifamily units to a 14.3‐acre site already developed with 193 multifamily units. 32 of the existing units would be demolished. What they don't say, they granted a reduction of over 150 spaces versus the EXISTING parking code!  From over 700 to in the 500's.

 Kings Gate 24007 56th Ave W Construct a mixed‐use (commercial/residential) project in the Town Center District with 3,475 square feet of commercial space and 46 residential units on a 0.93‐acre site. Includes shared open space, landscaping, and vehicular/bicycle parking, and pedestrian activity area. The existing structures will be demolished. Land use expires January 29, 2015.

  52nd Ave West 21216 52nd Ave W Construct a 63‐unit multi‐household building with under‐structure parking on a 0.94‐acre lot, together with other site improvements. Existing structures will be demolished. Land use approval expires September 5, 2014.  

 Vineyard Park (formerly Mountlake Senior Living) 23008 56th Ave W Construct a 3‐ and 4‐story mixed‐use assisted living community development consisting of 80 housing units and 29‐30 memory care beds, 8,241 sf., commercial space, under‐structure and surface parking consisting of 38 parking spaces (most of which are already used per a downtown resident even though the project is one-third occupied acc to last report), pedestrian activity area, shared open space, and landscaping. All existing structures have been demolished.

[not in their reports]
What hasn't yet been discussed: the affordable housing of the trailer park on 244th (some may not like it but it is a means for the less financially capable to have a home) is within the expansion area of the finalized 2009 boundaries.  The park straddles up to the 2nd street north and is completely within the buildout zone depicted in city reports.