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  • Writer's pictureMatt Hays

Downtown Seattle Surface Parking Acreage Falls by 62%

Ever make a giant spreadsheet just because you're curious about something?

Well, I did. And you clicked, so here goes!

From 54 to 21

My question was how much Downtown Seattle's surface parking acreage had fallen over the past two booms. During some January downtime, I sat down with Google Earth, Excel, and Photoshop to figure this out and show the difference visually.

Google Earth provided the July 2003 aerial (the "before" condition), a newer aerial for the image, and a measurement tool. The King County Parcel viewer provided exact areas when the parking was an entire parcel.

I chose an area bounded by Denny, I-5, Yesler, and the piers on Elliott Bay. This was 235 blocks and piers (all blocks, but piers only if they had surface parking).

This area now has 20.9 acres of off-street surface parking. That's down from 54.4 acres in 2003, a 62% drop.

The Central Business District south of Olive and Stewart saw surface parking shrink from 10.0 to 4.0 acres, a 60% drop.

Belltown west of Sixth went from 20.9 to 11.5 acres, a decrease of 45%.

Denny Triangle parking decreased from 23.6 to 5.3 acres, a remarkable 77% drop.

Collectively, that "universe" is about 630 acres including the piers. So surface parking totals about 3.3% of the total area. I didn't quantify public ROW, but if you assume 40%, parking lots would be 5.5% of the rest.

Why It Might Be Interesting

Surface parking in the Seattle core is awaiting a better use, sooner or later, or at least not at its most intense potential use.

If you're a developer, it's a data point about why easy land is so rare and expensive. Parking lots are becoming rare, and are generally small or not entire parcels.

If you're a builder, it's why laydown space is hard to find.

If you're an urbanity enthusiast, it's a sign that Seattle has become a more traditionally-urban big city.

If you're a driver expecting a surface parking lot next to your destination, well...

Regardless, it's a data point.


Only surface parking is counted, including related landscaping, driveways, and outbuildings, as well as permanent parking in temporary construction use. Transportation facilities are omitted. Single rows of parking along alleys was omitted unless tied to bigger lots.

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