The City of Seattle has a thing recently for approving “affordable” living spaces like apodments and apartments with essentially no parking.

The excuse is always that “since these are built in a high density, high walk score neighborhood, the residents don’t need a car (or two) and therefore won’t have one.”

This is a recipe for disaster.

Invariably the streets around the new structure are inundated with all of the un-needed and not had cars of the residents. This happened to my friend Holly in West Seattle (part of Seattle proper FWIW) — the street she was on with her old place was an absolute nightmare to park on. You could be left circling the block just looking for someplace to park. This was because of the super-high density build-out with no parking to match.

Now, I’m not saying that matching not-car-having individuals with these places is a problem. Nor am I saying that the notion of an apodment is a problem. What I am saying is the there is a problem and let’s look for solutions. This is really another manifestation of the tragedy of the commons. In this case the landlord takes more than their share of a limited (and generally public) resource. Parking in this case.

Brainstorming on our way back from dinner we came up with a list of potential solutions:

Simple solution: Permit-only parking. Lots of Seattle neighborhoods have it. You get a window sticker for a zone and you need one to park in that zone. A structure could be eligible for a certain number of permits, and once those are issued, you need to get in line. The downside is that it starts limiting things like visitors from outside that neighborhood since they wouldn’t have the requisite sticker.

Sharing solution: Partner with a company like Zip Car to have a subsidized rate for cars and have a few parked in the building. Really encourage your residents to not have a car because it’s cheaper to not have one.

License-based solution: Like the permit-based solution but actually forbid registration of more than x vehicles for a structure. Or perhaps have car-free units that get zero registrations. Feel free to buy a car, but don’t expect that getting a license for it is a right.