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"Cities Rethink Wisdom of 50s-era Parking Standards"

September 22, 2008 By: Peter Smith Category: Development

That’s the headline from an Associated Press story today, which details how 50-year old parking regulations are crushing our cities and towns:

WASHINGTON - Alice and Jeff Speck didn’t have a car and didn’t want one. But District of Columbia zoning regulations required them to carve out a place to park one at the house they were building.

It would have eaten up precious space on their odd-shaped lot and marred the aesthetics of their neighborhood, dominated by historic row houses. The Specks succeeded in getting a waiver, even though it took nine months.

“The Parking Professor,” Donald Shoup, is quoted. We first mentioned Professor Shoup here.

The whole “fix parking” meme seemed to get a boost when the NYT wrote about car-less or reduced-car condo construction in cities like Portland and Seattle. One interesting tidbit from the article: dropping the car parking requirement from a downtown condo could remove as much as $40,000 from the cost of that condo, an important consideration, especially if you are an affordable housing advocate. (Or even if you’d just like to own your own home someday.)

Cubix Micro-condos in SFSan Francisco micro-condos Cubix were recently completed, in part because they didn’t have the heavy parking requirements of more traditional condo developments. The $300,000 pricetag for about 300 square feet is what you’ll get, which doesn’t necessarily sound great, but that price is a lot more doable for people than the typical cost of a San Francisco home - $750,000. Less parking means more residences and people, fewer cars, more density and all the great things that can come with increased density.

In the Q&A session of John Pucher’s talk at SFU (for which I haven’t completed the transcription yet), Pucher noted how we needed to change laws so that proper bicycle development had to occur from the outset of each new project. He mentioned one example—how many policies in European countries prevented urban sprawl; only in extreme circumstances could builders get permission to build housing so far away from everything else. It’s just one example of a public policy that can help us get to a more bikable, sustainable future. Things that are closer together are easier to get to by bike.

New parking regulations—such as dropping or reducing “parking minimums”—would help cities increase their population densities in productive, sustainable, and life-enriching ways.

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