Parking Standards and Variances

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Off-Street Parking Lot Development Standards
Each business or use is required to provide a certain number of off-street parking stalls, depending on the zoning district it’s located in.  A parking area of 5 or more motorized vehicles, trailers, or a combination thereof, must meet the minimum standards listed in Tacoma Municipal Code (hereinafter TMC) 13.06.510.B.2.  The standards include review of entrances and exits by a City engineer, minimum parking aisle widths and stall sizes, border barricades, surfacing of parking areas, landscaping, & lighting.

Parking Lot Changes
A Site Development Permit (SDEV) is required for any work that changes the configuration of existing off-street parking or adding new off-street parking.  This includes, but is not limited to, modifying or adding new drive aisles or driveways, reconfiguring existing parking stalls/restriping, adding or removing parking stalls, resurfacing or installing new pavement, and altering pedestrian walkways or access to and from a parking area.

Americans with Disibilities Act (ADA)
The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) 2010 standards and the International Building Code require accessible parking in public and private parking lots.  The required number of accessible parking stalls is proportional to the total number of stalls provided in the parking lot. Individuals with disabilities require parking spaces with access aisles as close to business entrances as possible.  Without these parking spaces, many people with disabilities are unable to safely access buildings and other facilities.    Details on accessible parking are available from the Northwest ADA Center and can be accessed online at http://www.dbtacnorthwest.org or by phone at 1-800-949-4232 or TTY 711.

Environmental Review
If adding, removing, or replacing pavement, gravel, or other impervious surfaces, stormwater regulations for pollution
generating surfaces are applicable.

Submittal Checklist for Parking Lot Change (SDEV Permit)
All application materials must be submitted in electronic PDF format on compact disc (CD) or online at TacomaPermits.org.  See Tip Sheet G-230.

  • Site plan including layout of parking spaces, drive aisles, and other proposed changes to the parking lot,
  • Location and dimension of proposed accessible parking stalls and access aisles
  • Grade/Fill Quantities and Information
  • Stormwater Details
  • Other applicable information, as requested

How do I know if I need a variance?
If there are circumstances that prevent compliance with either the parking lot development standards or the parking quantity standards, the project may be discussed with a Land Use Planner over the phone at (253) 591-5030 or in-person at Building and Land Use Services on the 3rd floor of the Tacoma Municipal Building, 747 Market Street.

Except under extraordinary circumstances, the off-street parking quanitiy standard shall not be reduced by more than 50 percent. The Land Use Administrator or Hearing Examiner may issue such conditions as necessary to maximize possible compliance with the intent of the regulations. It is the applicant’s responsibility to demonstrate how each variance criteria pertains to the project.

Variance Process

  1. A meeting with a Planner and Traffic Engineer in Permit Intake Center, located on the third floor of the Tacoma Municipal Building at 747 Market Street, is recommended prior to submittal.
  2. A submittal checklist is provided below.
  3. Once the application packet is ready, it may be submitted online or in-person. Pre-application meetings can be requested online via www.TacomaPermits.org, See Tip Sheet G-310.
  4. After submittal, the applicant is notified if additional information is needed. If no additional information is needed, a complete application letter is mailed and the applicant is directed to pick-up the property information sign(s) to post at the site.
  5. Yellow post card public notices are mailed to neighbors within 100 feet of the property. The public notice includes instructions for viewing the submitted application materials on-line.  The public is given 14 days to comment on the project.  Neighbors who have provided comments will receive a copy of the full report and decision. 
  6. The Planning Director will issue a decision to either approve or deny the request within 120 calendar days from the date that the application is submitted. (Timeline is approximate and does not account for any time when the permit is in an inactive status.)
  7. A request for reconsideration or an appeal may be made within 14 days after the decision is issued.
  8. If the variance is approved, the applicant has five years from the date of approval to submit a complete application for the construction permit(s).

Submittal Checklist
All application materials must be submitted in electronic PDF format on compact disc (CD) or online at TacomaPermits.org.  See Tip Sheet G-230.

  • Application for Land Use Permit, completed and signed
  • Site Plan to scale
  • Written response to criteria
  • Application fee
  • Other applicable information, as requested

Variance to Development Standards
A written response to the criteria listed under TMC 13.06.645.B.6 is required as part of a submittal packet.  The following questions may be used as guidelines in providing information for the written response.  Applicants must describe how the variance request meets one or more of the following:

  1. Does the project provide reasonable alternatives which are in the same spirit and intent of the municipal code standards? Specifically describe the alternatives proposed and why they meet the intent of the code.
  2. Would strict enforcement of the standards cause unnecessary hardship due to the unique character or use of the property? Describe the hardships that would effect the project and uniqueness of the property.

Variance to the Quantity of Required Parking Stalls
The following questions may be used as guidelines in providing a written response to the review criteria contained in TMC 13.06.645.B.7.  Applicants must describe how the variance request meets each of criteria 1-3 and at least one of criteria 4-7 listed below:

  1. How would granting the variance allow for reasonable use of the property? Describe in detail.
  2. How would the project be consistent with the Comprehensive Plan? How would the project improve the character of the neighborhood?  Describe specific aspects of the Comprehensive Plan and neighborhood characteristics that would be consistent with or improved by the project.  The Comprehensive Plan is available on-line: http://www.cityoftacoma.org/planning.
  3. How would the project be beneficial to the public interest?
  4. Have you talked to the affected neighbors about the project? Would approval of the request grant special privilege that is not enjoyed by other properties in the area?  How does the project allow for a more environmentally sensitive property design or construction than would otherwise be allowed?
  5. What are the hardships on the property, such as size, shape, location, or other conditions that make it difficult to meet zoning standards? How will zoning goals still be met with the request (such as maintaining space between structures to prevent fire hazards and ensuring yard space for neighbor privacy)?   The response should clearly describe what the specific hardship is, how the applicant did not create this hardship, and why strict application of the zoning code would be unreasonable due to this hardship.  This response should describe the existing conditions of the property and why there is a hardship affecting the site due to unique conditions.
  6. Does the project provide reasonable alternatives to the standards which are in the spirit and intent of the Tacoma Municipal Code?
  7. Do any of the following site-specific circumstances apply?
  8. A parking study was done that demonstrates that the individual characteristics of the use at that location require less parking than is generally required for a use of this type and intensity.
  9. An approved carpooling/vanpooling or commute trip reduction program applies, consistent with TMC 13.15.
  10. The site has availability of private, convenient transportation services to meet the needs of the use.
  11. The site has access to public transportation which stops near the site frequently.
  12. The site is residential and has availability of pedestrian access due to proximity to health and medical facilities, shopping facilities and other services providing for everyday needs and amenities.

Applicable Regulations