Editor’s note: This is an edited version of a longer letter that was sent to Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn by Chinatown-International District business owners and community leaders.
Dear Mayor McGinn,
We are writing to ask for your help — the extension of paid on-street parking hours from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Chinatown-International District has greatly compromised the economic vitality of our neighborhood.
Over the past year, we have had the opportunities to meaningfully engage the City on a wide range of issues ranging from public safety, to economic development, and neighborhood access. … Through those conversations, we were assured that any changes to on-street parking would be monitored closely to measure potential impacts to our local businesses.
Unfortunately, this past fall, we came to learn that the City has focused primarily on measuring parking space usage, and not on how this policy impacts local businesses. …
Parking occupancy has declined 12 percent on average in neighborhoods where rates have increased.
For example, First Hill experienced a $2 per hour rate increase that resulted in an 18 percent reduction in occupancy. … However, occupancy in the First Hill neighborhood is consistently between 70 to 80 percent (or more) throughout the daytime, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. — probably due to the many healthcare facilities in the neighborhood with patients visiting their healthcare providers. …
In contrast, if we look at the City’s parking data for the Chinatown-International District, it is clear that most of the parking space usage comes from restaurant customers due to the uniquely large concentration of diverse restaurants in our neighborhood. Unlike First Hill, where the neighborhood is made up of many healthcare facilities, the Chinatown-ID’s peak occupancy hours are specifically 12–2 p.m. and 6–8 p.m.
As a result, the changes to paid parking affect the Chinatown-ID much more than First Hill.
While First Hill have experienced an 18 percent reduction in occupancy from a $2 per hour rate increase, restaurant owners in the International District have reported a decline of 30 to 50 percent in lost business during their peak dinner hours as a result of the $2.50 per hour rate increase between the hours of 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. This dramatic decline is not surprising — dining out is entirely discretionary, and our neighborhood is visited mainly for its restaurants, unlike First Hill with its concentration of hospitals. Medical visits are a necessity, despite any increase in parking rates. …
We are not stating that rates should never be increased, and we appreciate the need to increase rates to keep up with rising costs. The point is simply that increased rates clearly have a negative impact on usage, and we hope to work with the City to devise a parking plan that benefits both our neighborhood and the City. …
In light of this clear correlation, we ask you to please eliminate the two hours of paid parking during our peak business hours. Delaying the implementation of these extended hours for paid parking in our neighborhood will provide immediate relief and spare our businesses the unique hardship they are enduring until SDOT has time to better understand the unintended implications of this policy.
- The Ratepayer Board of the Chinatown-International District BIA
- Maiko Winkler-Chin, Executive Director, Seattle Chinatown-ID Preservation & Development Authority
- Hyeok Kim, Executive Director, InterIm Community Development Association
- Beth Takekawa, Director, The Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience
- Tuck Eng, Board Member, Chong Wa Benevolent Association & China Gate Foundation
- Nora Chan, President, Seniors in Action Foundation
- Jeff Kirihara, Property Manager, Lorig Management Services at Uwajimaya Village
- The Restaurants of Chinatown and Japantown