No Parking Required

As a very small city with a limited amount of available land for high density development and a small fragile tax base, Pittsburgh is very affected by it’s car oriented land use policies. Up until recently few cities in America even bothered to study the effects of mandated parking requirements on their tax base,transit usage, environment or housing affordability.This has started to change, and a suprising number of people seem to be interested in buying places with no parking.

“Although condominiums without parking are common in Manhattan and the downtowns of a few other East Coast cities, they are the exception to the rule in most of the country. In fact, almost all local governments require developers to provide a minimum number of parking spaces for each unit — and to fold the cost of the space into the housing price. The exact regulations, which are intended to prevent clogged streets and provide sufficient parking, vary by city. Houston’s code requires a minimum of 1.33 parking spaces for a one-bedroom and 2 spaces for a three-bedroom. Downtown Los Angeles mandates 2.25 parking spaces per unit, regardless of size.”(which is interesting since LA until recently was famous for it’s dead downtown)

“Minimum parking requirements became popular in the 1950s with the growth of suburbia, said Donald Shoup, a professor of urban planning at the University of California at Los Angeles and the author of “The High Cost of Free Parking” (American Planning Association, 2005). “They spread like wildfire,” he said.

But in the 21st century, skyrocketing housing prices and the move toward high-density urban development are bringing scrutiny to the ways in which cities and developers manage the relationship between parking and residential real estate. Once a tool of government, parking requirements are increasingly driven by the market.”

A number of cities are in fact trying out the idea of replacing minimum requirements for spaces with the idea of maximums.

“In San Francisco, more downtown housing has been approved over the last few years than in the last 20 years combined, said Joshua Switzky, a city planner. The booming real estate market there inspired local officials to revoke minimum-parking requirements in the central core, Mr. Switzky said. “The city’s modus operandi is ‘transit first,’ ” he said. “Everyone recognized the existing rules didn’t match the policy.”

Under San Francisco’s new parking maximums, downtown developers are also required to “unbundle” the price of parking from the price of the condo. “Buyers aren’t obligated to buy a parking space, and developers don’t have the incentive to build spaces they can’t sell,” Mr. Switzky said. Sustainable development is not the only factor driving changes to parking standards. “We talk about affordable housing as the most critical thing facing cities and the nation,” Mr. Cody said. “But we never talk about the costs of the automobile.” Since individual parking spaces cost about $40,000, reducing or eliminating parking is an effective way to lower housing prices, he said.”

What seems very evident by looking at parking policies is how little serious thought or study seems to have been done. Cars have been given, huge percentages of free or low cost real estate in critical urban areas with almost no study. In fact, trying to guess what real world demand for parking might be in a free market is almost impossible in most places because market forces have been eliminated by law.

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