Seattle leaders mulling controversial parking changes

SEATTLE -- The Seattle City Council is eying a proposal that would open up restricted parking zones to people who don't live in the neighborhood.

Teachers and staff at Montlake Elementary School have a parking problem on their hands. The lot designated for them has three spots for 30 staff members, and parking on the surrounding streets is set aside for residents.

"What happens with the teachers is many times they are parking two, three, four blocks away from the building and having to make numerous trips back and forth," said teacher Jollene Vining.

Some teachers borrow guest passes from neighborhood parents to stay closer to campus, but the rest are forced to move their cars every couple of hours to avoid a ticket.

"I don't think we've ever had a teacher towed, but we have had tickets, and they are not cheap tickets," Vining said.

Councilman Tom Rasmussen heard the complaints and wants to open up restricted parking zones.

"I've been working with our Department of Transportation to see if we could make some exceptions and allow some employees in some neighborhoods to also have parking permits," Rasmussen said.

Marilee Rautenberg said a restricted parking zone allows her to find parking spots in her Queen Anne neighborhood. She said she's all for teachers getting parking spots, but fears opening up the zones to non-residents could undo the improvements she's seen.

"I totally get there could be some exceptions for teachers and all that," she said. "You know, there's only about 10 spaces here in front of this spot, and if they take up half of them. I'm going to be parked a couple blocks away again."

The parking proposal introduced on Monday will get its first committee hearing later this month. If the council approves the changes, officials would review each application on a case-by-case basis.

"We're going to look at this very carefully so we don't just open this up to all neighborhoods and all businesses that might want more parking for their employees," Rasmussen said.