Opinion: Stop Paving Seattle Playgrounds for Parking Lots

Seattle schools are often forced to reduce their playground space in favor of parking and circulation for private cars, but altering the city code could change that.

March 5, 2021, 7:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

School Drop Off

Tom Gowanlock / Shutterstock

An analysis of recent retrofits at two Seattle schools shows that "if the Seattle School District had complied with the City requirement for private car storage in the recent retrofits at Magnolia and Queen Anne Elementaries it would have obliterated all outdoor play space and a significant amount of indoor education space." Margaret McCauley argues that city code requiring Seattle schools to replace playground and activity space with surface parking and car traffic doesn't address the needs of bike riders and pedestrians and takes away valuable outdoor space.

With low-income families less likely to own cars, devoting "scarce land resources to circulation for privately owned cars is inequitable." McCauley writes that "encouraging a dispersed traffic pattern, where families (excluding the medically fragile of course) park remotely in the neighborhood and walk the final block with their kids, produces a safer setting" and encourages friendlier interactions than expecting families to "be able to easily drive to and from the school at arrival and departure times."

According to McCauley, a city code change that prioritizes "safe routes to school instead of a requirement for on-site parking and drop-off zones" would "allow Seattle’s School Traffic Safety Committee to focus efforts on safe routes to school rather than parking plans that are counterproductive to safety."

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