It may be Seattle's last free parking lot, and it may be gone

SEATTLE – Some business owners in a West Seattle shopping area are concerned the free parking lots behind their buildings may be developed or start charging customers.

“It’s the only way our customers in the West Seattle area can get here anymore,” said Jack Miller, owner of Husky Deli. The shop has been on California Avenue since the 1930’s and parking behind the building has been free for customers since the 1950s. Miller said he pays a small portion, along with all the other businesses, to offer the perk for his clientele.

“We’re trying real hard to keep it the way it is, but it’s tough,” he said.

Miller said he’s fighting keep the parking behind his store the way it’s always been. He’s competing with other shareholders who see the value underneath the black top. The seven lots used for parking in the area are valued at $5.5 million dollars and could be sold to developers.

That ground could be used to help the housing crisis in Seattle, building apartments, stores and businesses for the community.

“It’s like the parking lots all of a sudden, the ground they are sitting on is worth a lot of money,” said Miller.

Miller said all that development is worthless if there isn’t anywhere for people to park. He said he fears that if the parking goes, so will his customers.

“They want a one stop shop. We lose out on that to the grocery stores. They’ve got big parking lots and they’ve got everything,” he said.

“We would think twice about coming up to the Junction if we are going to come up here,” said Wolf Hellriegel. The West Seattle resident said he may not be able to afford the neighborhood shops if they started to charge for parking.

“It would increase our budget by probably $100 bucks a month,” he said.

Currently, customers like Hellriegel and Anna Knudson are able to pick a parking stop and leave, parking up to three hours without a ticket, attendant or gate to worry about. It may be the last parking lot of its kind in Seattle.

“It definitely makes it much more convenient, to know that you’re going to park easily, especially when you have small children,” said Knudsen.

She said the cost of living in the area is adding up, and parking would become a burden.

“I think it’s another way in which the middle class is being squeezed,” she said. “If we had to pay for it, it’s another way in which the middle class here in West Seattle, all of Seattle, are being priced out of the city.”

Knudsen said she would still visit places like Husky Deli, even if she had to pay for parking, but that is of course, said Miller, if she can find a spot at all.

“If you can’t find a place to park in the Junction, in our parking lots, you go somewhere else,” he said.

There will be a meeting to discuss the parking option on May 4th. It is not open to the public.