This idea from the Stranger’s Erica Barnett makes a ton of sense. Especially around light-rail stations, we shouldn’t need more than a single parking spot per residential unit. Tying it to the number of residential units makes less sense than the number of bedrooms. I would make the law like this: in dense areas -especially those around light rail stations – aparments get half spaces baseline, and an additional half a space for each bedroom. So a building with 40 studios would have 20 spots, and a building with 40 one bedrooms would have at most 40 spots, and a building with 40 two bedrooms could have at most 60 spots.

What do you guys think? Is putting a cap on parking spaces a good idea or more nanny-statism?

23 Replies to “Parking Maximum Makes Sense”

  1. Your post is titled “minimum”. It’s hard to reduce the minimum beyond… zero. Seattle’s Land Use Code doesn’t require any residential parking Downtown, in Urban Centers, or in Station Area Overlays.

    But developers still build it. ECB’s comment is to parking maximums. It’s a good point to raise.

  2. In ECB’s post, you see another SF idea: One that “requires developers to sell parking separately from residential units.” I think this is a smart idea, especially in urban centers where units are already so expensive.

    (Effectively, a market-driven parking maximum would come from this idea as those who don’t need a car won’t pay for a parking spot.)

  3. Zoning by nature can be argued as nanny-statism, so I don’t think we can avoid that. What we’re doing is not trying to control who drives and how much – we’re trying to shape the city into a place with less road/parking space because it allows for more density and living space. This is no different than requiring alleys, sidewalks, etc.

    I like the idea of maximums per bedroom, and I love the idea of separating parking space sales from housing sales. Nobody can say we’re playing nanny if you’re suddenly allowed to buy 10 parking spaces if you want (assuming you can afford to buy all of your neighbors’ spaces from them).

  4. I think developers should determine how much parking they build for their projects. However that parking should be subject to tax (maybe as a source of transportation funding) and required to be sold separate from the units.

    1. There should be a baseline, though. If you want a parking space with your unit, you should be able to get one, a single person shouldn’t be able to buy that many until the units are sold.

      1. Actually I’m against any sort of parking minimum … if people want on-site parking they will demand it. As above the two things I’d demand are taxing the parking and that all parking be rented/leased in addition to any unit sales/rentals (IOW no free off-street parking except for single family).

        Maximums probably make some sense in TOD areas and dense neighborhoods, but a tax can likely be just as effective in limiting parking.

      2. I’m just saying that if it’s built, it shouldn’t be sold off before the unit is sold. Buyers of a condo should have right of first refusal.

  5. I’d prefer a system based on livable square footage. Hmm. Even then, I’m not sure. See the problem is that now a developer can come into an area and say: wow, let’s cram even more studio units and 1 bedroom units into this building so that we can get more of them valuable parking spaces. Same will go for townhomes, ridiculously small bedrooms to purchase more parking.

    I’d prefer the city simply tell developers: build underground parking (ie make profit on the parking you build yourself).

    And the city tell renters: want roadside parking? Buy a yearly/monthly permit from us.

    And the city tell homeowners: here’s a parking tag you can use, but since you ought to have a garage, it really is meant for you to be able to entertain overnight visitors. Want another permit? See renter rule.

  6. There are condos in downtown Toronto that come with zero (0) parking. If a condo buyer wants to, they have to pay a space at an additional sum (usually equal to the price of a new car).
    Some buyers go without. Whenever they need to use a car, they use an car sharing outfit, like ZipCar or AutoShare.

  7. No, each unit needs at least one reserved and assigned parking space. If the resident doesn’t need the space, they can take a slight reduction in their rent and the space can be leased to someone else, like another tenant who needs an extra space. Let’s not go to extremes the other way and say “If you’re rich enough to have a car, you’re not welcome here.”

    I’ve seen some complexes in L.A. that even had a separate section (separate entrances, fenced off inside.) for public parking. Some lots cost money (either hourly or monthly), some lots were free. And I saw other complexes that offered short-term guest parking (outside the secured gated resident parking).

    Let’s make it really easy for someone to drive in to the area and park and take advantage of local businesses *and then* hop on transit and go somewhere else. Make the stops not just convenient for those who live nearby, but also a hub to draw in people who own cars, aren’t served by transit and want to use transit.

    The car can be a short-haul substitute to get the bus-averse onto transit.

    1. (sigh) L.A. should in no way be our model.

      We don’t need to draw people in, luring them with wide open parking lots. People want to live in the city – it’s the reason rents are much higher than the suburbs. What we’re trying to do is work with the limited space available in an urban environment to make life enjoyable. Encouraging less car use allows for less car infrastructure – which takes up a huge amount of space and makes pedestrian life difficult.

      Think of a walk in L.A., an compare it to a walk in San Francisco. Or New York. Or Paris. I think you’ll find that of these cities, L.A. is the one where you’d never want to leave your car.

      1. Ah, snobbery.

        There are many horrible parts of LA but much of the city of LA itself (and immediately neighboring suburbs like Long Beach, Santa Monica, etc) first developed with streetcar lines (or in the case of Santa Monica with a bus line prior to widespread car ownership), so streetcar neighborhood characteristics are quite widespread. Which is not to say that the other places aren’t superior but I think leasing automobile spots happens in those places, too so attacking it as an “LA idea” smacks of… what’s that logical fallacy again?

      2. Fine point, but I grew up about a mile from Long Beach and I would not emulate their strips of free parking.

      3. [cjh] No snobbery involved. Of the most sprawled, car-based environments I’ve visited I’d place L.A. as #1, followed by parts of Florida and San Jose (before they built light rail). Of course I haven’t been to L.A. since they’ve built light rail, but if it’s any better I doubt you can credit the spacious free parking.

      4. I wasn’t talking about free parking as such but the idea of parking garages being shared between tenants and non-tenants. That the sub-thread starter used an LA example (including free parking) of that should be no reason to discount the core of the idea as such since the very thing exists in New York, San Francisco and Toronto.

        Your list of sprawling, car-based environments reveals your massive provincialism and, unsurprising for an engineer, lack of historical awareness.

        To travel long distances in LA, sure, you absolutely need a car for traveling long distances and working – but why? Because the freeway system essentially replaced the electric railways and doodlebugs wholesale. And, further, those very same rails were surprisingly decentralized ( – note the lack of hub) so the skeleton of the city was already sprawled out.

        But because of that substitution, do you need a car to go to the store? The movies? Several restaurants? Normal shopping? All the quotidian things that you shouldn’t expect to have to ride a streetcar to reach. Not necessarily because, once again, the bones of the initial settlement pattern left many, many streetcar neighborhood characteristics spread throughout the whole basin.

        If you want to talk about sprawled out messes, have you visited Dallas lately? St. Louis? Atlanta? The latter two have had “modern” rapid mass transit longer than LA, by the way.

    2. I see no reason to require parking spaces be built. There are lots of buildings without parking, and they fill up just fine.

  8. I like the idea of new buildings having less parking, but I’m not sure parking maximums (maxima?) are a winning idea at this point in this city.

    First, I’m not sure it’s needed. In places where we’ve removed parking minimums, we’re seeing some developments with very little parking. The Plymouth Housing project at 1st and Cedar is at the extreme end, with have 5 parking spaces for a 60 unit building, but some market rate projects (on Capitol Hill, if I remember correctly) are coming in at about half a space per unit.

    Second, it’ll be fodder for more charges of social engineering by the transit/density crowd (i.e. us). Yes, I know, freeways and single-family zoning are also social engineering. But given that just removing minimums may be enough to accomplish the goal, why invite more anger and risk backlashes?

    Third, there’s some risk, albeit small, that developers will be not be able to make otherwise good project pencil out given maximums. Consider, for example, a super high-end downtown condo project replacing a 70-space surface parking lot with a 30-story, 300 unit building with 300 parking spaces. I’d argue that such a project is good for the transit cause (those folks will at least walk and spend money in downtown, and likely will take at least some transit, even if it’s just light rail from Westlake to the stadiums), but the potential buyers may not be ready to give up on cars entirely. Given the cost of digging for parking downtown, I suspect developers try to hit as close as possible to the minimum parking they need to sell units.

    And last, I believe private parking in housing isn’t nearly the car-use incentive that public parking at destinations is. The city can do a lot more to reduce car use just by pricing street parking closer to its actual value, as Don Shoup and others have recommended, and by slowly (don’t incite ire by doing it all at once) replacing parking with well-landscaped, fully separated bike lanes, as Copenhagen has done.

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