Sustainability Updates: Electric Vehicles, Bike Facilities, Etc

Among proposed updates to Tacoma's Comprehensive Plan and Municipal Code being considered for 2014 are a list of amendments related to sustainability issues.

The amendments in this section were developed by City staff with the intent of updating the Land Use Regulatory Code to encourage sustainable development practices and advance identified City goals related to sustainable development, public health, and active living. Proposed amendments fall into four basic categories.

Electric vehicle parking and infrastructure provision: Electric vehicle charging and battery exchange stations are currently allowed. Amendments proposed in this area would refine the code for these stations, adding design, accessibility, and location standards for new electric vehicle stations, along with minimum quantity requirements.

  • Quantity requirements - intended to ensure that a percentage of new parking spaces either provide level 2 charging facilities or are constructed with the capacity to provide those facilities in the future. These requirements would be focused on providing charging stations at trip origin and destination locations, with a particular emphasis on multi-family developments. Multi-family developments would be required to provide 10% of parking spaces with charging infrastructure such that a level 2 charging station could be provided in the future. Rates are set by use, requiring the number of spaces with charging stations: A 3% minimum would be set for lodging, office, and institutional (over 12,000 square feet) uses; 1% for retail and shopping centers (of at least 15,000 square feet) up to 8 total; and 1% for auditorium, stadium, and theater uses (of at least 500 seats) up to 12 total.

The requirements would apply to all new construction and alterations that exceed 50% of existing value in a two-year period.

Bicycle start and end of trip infrastructure:

  • Bicycle parking requirements (quantity) - Bicycle parking requirements are currently based on a percentage of required auto parking requirements. This made sense when the requirements were originally drafted, but changes in the last few years have decreased or eliminated auto parking requirements, meaning a corresponding decrease in the number of required bike parking spots. The proposed amendment would decouple bike and auto parking requirements, resetting the quantity of bicycle spots required in line with the City's goals around urban design, healthy living, transportation mode shifts, and greenhouse gas reduction.
  • Short- vs. long-term - A distinction would also be created between short- and long-term bike parking facilities. Short-term bike parking will be required to be located within 50 feet of, and visible from primary building entrances. Short-term parking can be shared by different facilities, as long as quantity and location requirements are met. Long-term bike parking would be required on-site for residential developments, and within 300 feet of non-residential uses. Quantity of bike parking is set as a ratio based on type of use and size of development. Lighting, minimum space per bike, and bike rack requirements are also specified.
  • Trip destination facilities - Requirements for identified end of trip destinations would be added, including shower and changing facilities when a certain amount of long-term bike parking is required. Any use requiring at least 10 long-term bike parking spaces would also be required to provide at least one shower and changing facility, with an additional shower being required for every 20 long-term spaces required, up to a total of four showers. Multi-family and transportation facilities are exempt. Looking at the numbers, it appears that a business or professional office would have to be at least 40,000 square feet, and warehouses would have to be 400,000 to trigger this requirement; while a retail, dining, or medical facility could be up to 120,000 square feet before requiring one shower.

Setback and height exceptions for exterior insulation: This amendment would provide an exception to setback and height  requirements to make it easier for existing structures to be retrofitted with exterior insulation to improve energy efficiency.
Low Impact Development barriers: The proposed changes include minor code revisions to remove barriers to the use of pervious pavement and rainfall catchment systems, and identify sections of the code that support low-impact stormwater management, in line with EPA guidance. Minor changes are also made to the purpose and intent statements of specific code sections to reflect this support.

At a public meeting scheduled for this Wednesday City staff will share details of all the proposed amendments, and answer questions from the public. The official public hearing for the amendments is scheduled for next week.

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fred davie

Developers will have to provide bicyclists with places to park their bikes AND places for them to shower?

What if the showers aren’t warm enough or nobody is available to scrub the bicyclists back and private parts?

What if the bicyclist needs a massage because of cramping? Does the developer need to provide a massage therapist too?

Why does our city need to be a poster boy for bureaucratic stupidity?

March 11, 2014 at 3:01 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Jim C

The number of people, as a percentage of the overall population, that actually use bicycles for regular transportation is pretty small - Seattle Bike Blog reports that the last transportation census in Seattle came up with a number of 4.1% and I would be willing to bet Tacoma’s number is less than that (most studies I have seen report in the area of 1-2%).

So where is the popular support for all of these initiatives?  Why does the council seem to think this is one of the more important issues facing us as a city?

I can tell you that it’s not one of the more important issues facing the: elderly, handicapped, anyone with kids, anyone who has work tools/materials to haul around.  In other words, the vast majority of our city’s population for whom bicycling is not a realistic means of transportation.  In addition to the people who would like to get where they are going without the expectation that they will have to shower and change when they get there.

March 11, 2014 at 3:37 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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The levels to actually trigger these provisions are so huge that they are not unreasonable.  We’re talking like Costco sized ventures…  These reccomendations are coming from the Sustainable Tacoma Commission and the Bike/Ped Committee most likely and I’m not sure where you get that people with kids and the elderly don’t ride bicyles.  There is only a fraction of population that are unable to ride one.  These changes follow places like Portland, OR that have seen their biking population explode over the past couple decades and creating the bike infrastructure/amenities to promote more people to bike to work and to do business.  It is only unreasonable to those stuck in the Single-Occupancy Vehcile mindset.

March 12, 2014 at 1:55 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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fred davie

Once these requirements are in the code then it’s easy to lower the thresholds so that smaller developments are also affected. It’s called tweeking the law.  I don’t doubt that a lot of bicyclists need a shower. But they can join the YMCA or rent a motel room for an hour.  Bicyclists are SAVING lots of money by not using cars or transit. So they can afford to attend to their own hygiene issues.

March 12, 2014 at 2:36 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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It isn’t feasible to locate showering facilities at another location other than the one you would be going to.  Sort of defeats the purpose of what the code is trying to promote.  And as far as lowering the thresholds go those would go through their own feasibility study and comp plan procedure.  There are many provisions in the comp plan and you needn’t be afraid of snowballing into a scary burden.

March 12, 2014 at 11:09 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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