Parking. There is no other topic in the International District that is wrought with so many myths and misconceptions. Parking is not a problem. But it seems that everything else associated with parking in the neighborhood is a problem.

Unless there is a Safeco or Qwest Field event that draws more than 35,000 people, one should be able to find parking in the neighborhood. Sadly, Mariners game days are not much a problem, except for Opening Day or when the Red Sox or Yankees are in town when attendance balloons to around 46,000. Attendance this season for Sounders games has increased to 36,000, up from 30,000 last year, so more soccer fans are finding their parking in the ID. Seahawk games draw 60,000+ fans, so Sunday Seahawk games generally create the worse parking days of the year. But even on Sunday Seahawk day, it is not impossible to find parking.

Here is a parking secret. If you want to come to the ID during a 35,000+ event day, wait to after the event has started. You’ll have less people to compete with for the parking spaces that do become available.

My biggest secret, don’t be cheap. If you can afford a latte or bubble tea, be prepared to pay a few bucks for parking. There are surface lots that offer plenty of parking. Save yourself the aggravation of driving around in circles.

I have discovered when most people complain about parking in the ID, they are really complaining about the availability of free or cheap parking for themselves. Years ago, when the new paid metered parking was going to replace the most of the free hourly parking zones in the ID, there was an outcry that it would be detrimental to business because customers were not going to pay for parking. In reality, the new metered parking created more turnover and parking spaces for customers. Many of the free parking spaces were actually being monopolized by business owners, employees, residents and downtown commuters. It is still problematic that employees park in the valuable street parking spaces and that business owners don’t provide enough incentives for employees to park on surface lots. It is not as prevalent with the higher meter rates, but the attitude that customers come second in the parking war still remains.

But there are some that escalate the parking problem to a new level. Those that like to monopolize free hourly parking spaces by parking business vehicles at night and then rotate their personal vehicles in the morning. I can understand hourly wage making employees trying to save some money. However, I don’t have any sympathy for business owners and management that encourage the practice. The practice hurts the rest of the community, especially surrounding businesses and service agencies.

We all know SPD parking enforcement officers have a tough job. Police officers are encouraged to know their neighborhoods, but I’m not sure if parking enforcement officers are asked the same. I once approached a parking enforcement officer who was getting ready to ticket a car parked in the street in front of the driveway to a building that the car owner leases. When I asked the officer if I could go get the car owner to avoid a ticket, he quickly responded that the car was parked illegally. When I asked him why, he gave a very authoritative response in a demeaning tone. It was clear that he would not let me challenge his authority. Instead of taking an opportunity to determine who I was, who the car owner was and to learn something about the community, he dispensed without any attempt to create a collaborative relationship with community members. He acted like a robot. A piece of advice: act like a robot and you’ll be replaced by a robot. Act with some humanity and bring value to the communities you serve, and you’ll be harder to replace.

When will our City officials realize that almost every small business in Seattle relies on customers driving to their business? Public officials say they support small business but treat parking for small businesses like a sin. Mayor McGinn’s recent parking tax is example of the lack of leadership in the City to support small businesses. Our City officials tout our wonderful neighborhoods but lack the vision to help create meaningful parking solutions to support those neighborhoods. The City should collaborate with neighborhoods to create parking facilities that makes it easier for customers and visitors. It will support local businesses, thereby, creating greater tax revenue. The City already has a history of making hard decisions regarding public transportation, like viaduct, street car and light rail, a generation or two too late. I have a bad feeling that they will likely see the need to support neighborhood parking a generation too late.

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