The Capitol Hill Renters Initiative took on mobility issues facing residents in and around Capitol Hill on Wednesday, Dec. 14, including bicycling, parking and transit passes offered through housing affordability and youth student programs.

More than 20 residents took part in discussion groups that tackled cost, transit pass programs and parking, following reports from work groups on budget, state-level advocacy, Airbnbs, Mandatory Housing Affordability zoning and the status of the detached accessory dwelling unit or backyard cottages. The ordinance is being revisited over parking concerns in neighborhoods.

“Parking is a really controversial topic and a really expensive thing overall,” said Emilio Garza, legislative assistant to Seattle City Councilmember Rob Johnson. “One of the biggest push backs that local communities have for adding more housing or increasing density is that, well, where are all these folks going to park?”

The issue is one that continues to grow, with residents voicing concerns over  increased traffic flow, lack of space, access to businesses and homes and the loss of public space.

“Those are real concerns, whether or not you believe they are valid or not,” Garza said, “but what I think the city is moving toward is mitigating some of these concerns.”

Garza said the average parking space cost the building owner  $40,000- $50,000, which is often passed on to the tenant, whether they use it or not. He also said the city is moving away from vehicle use by encouraging public transportation options, noting that 30 percent of total land use is tied up in paved roads.

Capitol Hill Housing resident services manager Elliot Swanson  reported on a program initiated to provide reduced-cost transit passes for low-income housing residents of the organization’s buildings. CHH purchased passes for every resident in the pilot, offering prices of $10 to $17 per tenant.

The program was widely successful, Swanson said, with about 60 percent of tenants taking advantage of the transit passes. He said the program has moved from a pilot to something that owners of multifamily residences can purchase for their tenants, Swanson said. Capitol Hill Housing received a grant that subsidized the program.

Scott Bonjukian spoke on behalf of the Pike/Pine protected bike lane project.

“Seattle’s certainly making improvements, but one key issue is still the lack of connectivity between existing — especially protected — bicycle lanes,” Bonjukian said. 

He said a working group of residents and members of the Cascade Bicycle Club recently convened to advocate for improvement in the area of Pike and Pine streets, between downtown, across I-5 and up to Broadway.

“That intersects a little bit with a process the city is going through called the One Center City, where they are looking at a very robust transportation system for not only the downtown but the surrounding neighborhoods,” Bonjukian said.

He said the process has paused some programs in the downtown area around Second, Seven and Eighth avenues.

Bonjukian said his group is focused on identifying businesses and property owners that would be interested in more bicycling infrastructure and starting a coalition because the city has not done any dedicated community outreach or a feedback campaign. While not supporting a certain design or proposal, the group is looking for support.

A special meeting of the MHA zoning group was held before the official member gathering, which was attended by Spencer Williams from Johnson’s Office and Janet Shull from the Office of Planning and Community Development.

Mandatory Housing Authority is a city program for commercial and residential development, where developers would be required to include a certain amount of affordable housing or pay into a fund that supports the creation of affordable housing units.

The special meeting provided information on 20-year growth estimates, with the number of additional housing units that could be developed by area and region. According to a draft of the zoning changes, the Capitol Hill and First Hill areas would increase by an additional 6,263 units by 2035 with the proposed zoning changes. Shull said 9 percent would be affordable housing through MHA.

The MHA zoning working group had several questions, as well as concerns over the stability and balance of the MHA and Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA). Several questions centered on how mandatory affordability fees would be paid and whether increasing the building height limit would discourage development because of cost.

The working group will meet again next month to collaborate on how to best address the zoning proposals and their impact, as well as create opportunities to shape the community.