Shared parking could reduce asphalt

One of the first things many people teach their children is to share. So why don’t we do it as adults?

That was a message Planning Commissioner Lisa Macchio shared at their meeting last week. “Let’s share. We have plenty of asphalt; we just don’t have it as a collective resource,” she said.

Macchio was talking about the need to share parking, especially in downtown Winslow. There are plenty of spaces that aren’t being used at various times. “We need creative solutions to transportation issues we all have.”

Her comments were made during a discussion of a Housing Resources Bainbridge project that would continue to try to chip away at the lack of affordable housing on BI. Its latest effort is a 22-unit building on Erickson Avenue. It would consist of 14 one-bedroom units of 450 square feet each and 8 two-bedroom units at 650 square feet.

One of the newer commissioners, Ariel Birtley, wondered if any of the units could be three-bedroom to accommodate a family. “It seems like an ideal location to address affordable housing. I wish it could do more,” she said, asking if there could be more living units by reducing buffers and/or parking.

Architect Charlie Wenzlau said the exact makeup is not set in stone, and HRB would like to have a few larger units of about 800 square feet. Larger units will depend on the amount of parking and buffers required. If either or both of those could be reduced, a full third story could be added, rather than just a partial one.

They would look at any sensible option “to allow us to have one more family,” he added.

Rather than one parking spot per unit, the project is asking for half a one, along with one bike parking spot for each unit. “I love that you’re asking for reduced parking,” Macchio said, adding she’s always wanting reduced car use. “This project has the ability to do that.”

While agreeing with the concept, Commissioner Sarah Blossom warned that tenants may park nearby if there are not enough spaces on site. They don’t want neighbors to have to chase people out of their parking areas, she said.

It was also mentioned that some people need cars for various reasons, and more transportation options would be needed for fewer folks to need vehicles.

City engineer Paul Nyland said entrance to the units would be to the north on an existing paved driveway. That would provide the best traffic flow since it’s off the busier Erickson Avenue road.

Wenzlau explained the site is undeveloped and heavily wooded, with a dense tree canopy between the site and Highway 305. Nearby there is a mixture of commercial and residential. It’s centrally located, just a 10-minute walk to Winslow Way.

“It’s a prime position for reduced use of cars,” he said.

He added that the building footprint is very small, just 7,000 square feet, with the entire building 12,750 square feet. The building will average a 50-foot buffer from the highway, with the minimum 35 feet. The 18 tree units required will come from new plantings. With parking under part of the building, the height allowance would be 35 feet, rather than 25.

Phaedra Elliott, executive director of HRB, said it was able to buy the property in 2019 at half its value, thanks to a donor. It would be for low-income apartment tenants, and it’s located near many services, such as shopping and schools. “It’s desperately needed for the island,” she said.