May 6, 2024

MEDIA CONTACT: Catie Gould, Sightline Institute,   

FULL ARTICLE: Bellingham’s parking reform pilot pays off 

SEATTLE, WA – Decision-makers in Bellingham tried a new concept for developing the city’s industrial Old Town district: they gave builders full flexibility over how many parking spaces to include. Because of that regulatory change, the first building proposed on an eight-block former scrapyard in Old Town will have more than twice the number of homes as would have been allowed last year.   

The latest design for the planned six-story building includes 84 new homes with 36 parking stalls. Located on the former recycling facility at 707 Astor, the space will house a mix of studio and one- and two-bedroom apartments, with 1,600 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor.  

  • The building has more homes (and less parking) than would have been possible under the old code, where the small site would have been hard pressed to find more mandated car space. 
  • The project is likely the first of several coming to the neighborhood after the city signed a development agreement in 2023 for eight city blocks. 
  • The planned building now serves as a pilot for the local Planning Commission to consider lifting minimum parking requirements citywide.  

Catie Gould, senior transportation researcher for the nonprofit research organization Sightline Institute, is available for comment on how the zoning changes helped with the vision to transform Old Town from an industrial scrapyard into a walkable mixed-use neighborhood.  

In this case, flexibility over parking has allowed builders to provide a wider mix of apartment sizes, and Old Town will gain twice as many homes than would have been allowed last year, says Gould. The outcome of the experiment is clear parking mandates are preventing homes from being built Retiring these outdated ratios is an easy step any city can take to increase housing production. 

Bellingham City Council directed staff to study possible outcomes of removing parking minimums citywide in February 2024, and a work session on the topic is scheduled for later this May.  

Read the full analysis: Bellingham’s parking reform pilot pays off 



Catie Gould is a senior transportation researcher for Sightline Institute, specializing in parking policy. Find her latest research here, and follow her on X (fka Twitter). 

Sightline Institute is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank providing leading original analysis of housing, democracy, energy, and forests policy in the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, British Columbia, and beyond. 

May 6, 2024