Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Parking Minimums

Can cities rethink decades worth of parking doctrine?

MSNBC has a story about how a number of U.S. cities are reconsidering the idea that every building must have a minimum number of parking spaces attached to it.

From the story: "D.C. is now considering scrapping those requirements — part of a growing national trend. Officials hope that offering the freedom to forgo parking will lead to denser, more walkable, transit-friendly development.

Opponents say making parking more scarce will only make the city less hospitable. Commuters like Randy Michael of Catharpin, Va., complain they are already forced to circle for hours in some neighborhoods."

The story opens anecdotally: Jeff Speck and his family don't have a car, don't want one, and had to fight DC zoning regulations for nine months to build their house without one.

(I'm not sure Jeff Speck is an everyman, tho. He was the director of design for the National Endowment of the Arts and collaborated on Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream with Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk. He also spoke here earlier this year.)

But he does make a good point when he says this: "Half the great buildings in America's great cities would not be legal to build today under current land use codes. Every house on my block is illegal by current standards, particularly parking standards."

That's one of the reasons OPD was redoing the unified development code, to not hamper an area like Broad Avenue with suburban-like zoning.

But getting back to parking, I remember talking to Henry Turley (who, full disclosure, is one of the Flyer's ownership group) once about parking affects retail development. National retailers mandate a certain number of spaces; you want those retailers, you have to give them their parking lots. (And how often do you see a full parking lot unless it's near Christmas?)

A parking lot. Just in case you've never seen one before.

And not to go all Doug Farr on you again, but he did mention last week that he thought cities would be wise to exchange parking minimums for parking maximums.

Of course, the caveat is that it doesn't work without good transit.

No comments: