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January 26, 2011 at 2:34 PM

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City Council says it may adjust new parking rates

Posted by Lynn Thompson

Seattle city officials suggested on Wednesday that there will likely be adjustments to the proposed new $4 an hour parking rates scheduled to go into effect in March.

At a lunch-time forum at City Hall, Councilmember Tim Burgess said the City Council has asked for a review of a parking study used by the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to set the new rates.

Mike Estey, SDOT manager, said staff were "scrubbing the numbers, the data and methodology" in the wake of criticism that the rates would hurt small businesses and were based on peak-occupancy, not typical parking availability.

The higher parking rates are part of a city strategy to promote more frequent parking turnover in busy neighborhood business districts, including downtown.

The SDOT plan, announced less than two weeks ago, would have raised rates downtown, on First Hill and in Pioneer Square from $2.50 an hour to $4 an hour. Parking rates also would remain in effect an extra two hours -- until 8 p.m. in eight neighborhoods, including Pioneer Square, Capitol Hill, Belltown and the University District.

Pioneer Square merchants attending today's forum complained that the new rates would kill business in a neighborhood already struggling with the recession and the loss of Elliott Bay Book Company.

Kate Joncas, president of the Downtown Seattle Association which sponsored the forum, said the business community supports making parking more available, but she said "we're concerned about small and independent retailers."

Councilmember Sally Bagshaw said the council is looking to make some adjustments "that won't punish people for coming downtown."

SDOT officials said it didn't have specifics yet on what might be changed in the new parking plan.

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Jim Brunner
Covers politics.

Keith Ervin
Covers the Eastside.

Andrew Garber
Covers politics and state government from Olympia.

Emily Heffter
Covers local government.

Mike Lindblom
Covers transportation.

Kyung Song
Covers politics and regional issues from Washington, D.C.

Lynn Thompson
Covers Seattle City Hall.

Bob Young
Covers King County and urban affairs.