San Diego Padres and the Northgate Parking Garage

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I made a quick trip to San Diego on June 4 to see how they had successfully wrapped a residential neighborhood, the city's historic Gaslamp district, the nearby convention center and a working port and rail yard around Petco Park, the home of the Padres. It was impressive, to say the least.

I also saw something I hadn't expected that could help Sound Transit and Seattle smartly prepare for integrated mobility at the Northgate Link Light Rail Station. 

My colleague, Richard Conlin, has proposed that we develop a new parking garage and a pedestrian/bicycle bridge across Interstate 5 to link the Northgate station with the west side of the freeway, including North Seattle Community College. Writing in yesterday’s Seattle Times, two neighborhood advocates also urge a comprehensive mobility solution at Northgate that includes walkers, cyclists, transit riders and commuters in vehicles. 

I agree with these sentiments, but let's also plan for increased residential density at the location of the parking garage, a smart move that might also help offset the costs of the garage and the bridge through negotiated development agreements.

Our Northgate opportunity brings me back to what I saw in San Diego. As I walked the neighborhood around Petco Park, I realized that they had successfully integrated what some would see as incompatible or even competing components. It is a wonderful, mixed use, diverse neighborhood that's alive and bustling with energy.  We watched container ships being unloaded, freight trains switching and loading containers, diners coming and going from restaurants, families with kids in tow. Petco Park is surrounded by residential towers. And then there's the parking garage, mostly concealed by condo and apartment buildings. Take a look in the photo below.


The residential units in the building to the left in the above photo are upscale, market rate condos. The units in the building to the right are apartments, including work force units. The only part of the garage that's visible from the street is the exterior staircase and the vehicle access point which is more clearly seen in the photo below.


The parking garage accommodates vehicles on Padre game days and visitors, shoppers, residents and others on non-game days. One parking level below ground is reserved for residents in the condo and apartments buildings wrapped around the garage (all are separate buildings). A completely underground garage is not possible near Petco Park because of the high water table.

The next photo is taken from the roof deck of one of the condo towers adjacent to Petco Park. We watched as crews prepared the outfield for a company party later in the evening.



So, I brought back two take-away lessons from San Diego. 

First, when a parking garage is deemed essential we can get creative about how it fits into a neighborhood.

Second, in a broader sense, uses that are often seen as incompatible—industrial and residential, for example—don’t have to be if we plan carefully. My San Diego trip prompted a lot of thoughts about what we might do to bring more residents to Pioneer Square and the SODO Stadium District. Regardless of our final decisions on the proposed new sports arena, we have opportunities to inject more vitality into this section of our city by carefully considering a mix of residential, restaurant, and entertainment uses while, at the same time, recommitting ourselves to protection of our vitally important maritime and manufacturing businesses.