New ordinance allows parking lot at El Centro

The El Centro de la Raza parking lot is a step closer to existence. On March 21, the Seattle City Council unanimously passed an ordinance that allows parking lots of up to 100 spaces as interim uses on sites “occupied or owned by established institutions within a quarter mile of a light rail station, including the North Beacon Hill light rail station.” Earlier proposed versions of the ordinance limited all lots to 40 spaces.

“Parking, especially at places like El Centro de la Raza on Beacon Hill, will serve as a handy resource for game day fans.”

El Centro has expressed an intent to put 80 parking spaces on the lot directly south of their building, which is located across South Lander Street from Beacon Hill Station.

The ordinance also allows parking lots of up to 40 spaces on other properties within Southeast Seattle station areas, however, this part of the ordinance excludes the Beacon Hill station area.

The City Council’s press release on the ordinance quotes Councilmember Sally J. Clark: “We want to see these lifeless, empty parking spaces serve a use, at least until the economy rebounds. Allowing longer-term parking, particularly at places like El Centro de la Raza on Beacon Hill, will serve as a handy resource for game-day fans hoping to avoid parking around Safeco Field or Qwest Field.”

The ordinance will not allow permanent parking lots; permits for the lots will expire after three years.

The El Centro parking lot has been the subject of some neighborhood controversy, as seen by a lively discussion on our earlier post. BHB contributors Melissa Jonas and Joel Lee also posted dueling opinion pieces, one supporting the parking lot, and one suggesting different uses.

A group of neighbors enjoy last summer's Beacon Rocks! in front of the El Centro south lot, soon to become a parking lot. Photo by Wendi.

12 thoughts on “New ordinance allows parking lot at El Centro”

  1. “The ordinance will not allow permanent parking lots; permits for the lots will expire after three years.”

    I haven’t had a chance to review the actual language, but does that apply to the El Centro property as well? One of the provisions of their proposal was to not set an end point, creating the potential for relatively long-term operation of the parking lot at below-code conditions.

  2. hmmm, so when the economy rebounds and El Centro follows through on their promise to develop, game day parkers have to go back looking for parking near the stadiums. I don’t know why I’m so skeptical that this day will happen, I’m usually such a positive person.

  3. Chris, I will have to reread it. I had a link to the ordinance above, and I’m not sure why the link isn’t there now — it’s possible I forgot to save the version with the link to the ordinance in it.

    My understanding, though, was that all lots including El Centro have the three year limit, and I thought that El Centro presented it to us with the 3 year limit at the NBHC meeting last month. My notes don’t mention that, however, but that might be because it was something I already knew.

    Joel, I thought my notes from the Feb. NBHC meeting also listed the number of spaces that used to be in the El Centro lot, but it does not. However, the lot apparently has room for 118 spaces.

  4. OK, apparently I did forget to click the “publish” button after adding the link to the ordinance. There’s a link in the article now. I checked the ordinance and, unless I’m misreading it, there’s no exception to the three year limit for El Centro.

    The ordinance states: “A permit for interim principal use surface parking may be issued for a period not to exceed three years. A permit for interim principal use surface parking may not be renewed or extended, and a new permit to reauthorize the principal use surface parking shall not be issued.”

  5. Wendi, I found the ordinance and came to the same conclusion that the 100-space lots (i.e., El Centro) have the same 3-year limit as the 40-unit lots. There was definitely some confusion at the last NBHC meeting, with the 3-year limit mentioned a few times in the context of the proposal for the lots within the Station Overlays (except Beacon Hill). I think the El Centro position remained that they wanted to keep the parking lot use as long as possible until construction of their development, without committing to a specific duration.

  6. This is a bad idea and three years is a very long time. I thought one of the reasons why the lot isn’t being developed is due to the dispute over up-zoning? Isn’t that supposed to be resolved by next year?

  7. How much are the going to charge for parking and what is the money going to be used for?

  8. My understanding is that the permit is for 3 years (as people have stated above), but that if the economy does not rebound it will be VERY easy for El Centro to get an extension (likely, 1-3 more years). Councilmember Bagshaw made this very clear at the 3/23 Committee on the Built Environment meeting (, minute 133:00). In addition, Council makes these term limits and council can change them whenever they want, so really we can expect parking there until El Centro is ready to build, whenever that may be.

    Estella said at the last NHBC meeting that they were looking at charging 4 dollars/day for parking, but this also may change. I am sure El Centro has come to rely on the revenue generated from leasing to Sound Transit, this parking will help soften the blow of that lost revenue. It is also crystal clear that El Centro’s primary goal is to develop the site with what looks to be an exciting mixed use, human scale, community oriented development. Beacon Hill residents should do whatever they can to help them manifest this vision.

  9. Completely agree with Dylan on his last point. I’d like to see neighbors supporting El Centro’s development.

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