Shoup To APA: Let Planners Lead on Parking Requirements

Donald Shoup explains his disappointment with the American Planning Association's opposition to California legislation (AB 904), that would cap minimum parking requirements.

"I have spent the last 35 years working ineffectively to reform American parking policies, especially minimum parking requirements in zoning ordinances," writes UCLA Professor and parking expert Donald Shoup, who is author of the book, The High Cost of Free Parking (one of Planetizen's Top Books in 2006).

"This year I thought my time had come when Assembly Bill 904 (The Sustainable Minimum Parking Requirements Act of 2012) was introduced in the California Legislature."

"AB 904 would cap minimum parking requirements at 1 space per dwelling unit or 2 spaces per 1,000 square feet of commercial space in transit-intensive districts, which the bill defined as areas within a quarter-mile of transit lines that run every 15 minutes or better. Although AB 904 would limit how much off-street parking cities could require, it would not "restrain" off-street parking; if the market demands more parking, developers could always provide it.

"...I was disappointed when the California Chapter of the American Planning Association opposed AB 904 and lobbied against it in the Legislature. Cal APA argued that AB 904 "would restrict local agencies' ability to require parking in excess of statewide ratios for transit intensive areas unless the local agency makes certain findings and adopts an ordinance to opt out of the requirement... AB 904 gave planners an opportunity to lead, but instead the APA insisted on local control over parking requirements regardless of any larger consequences." 

Editor's note: The links below are to a Word document version of this article, and to the ITEA's PDF newsletter (Shoup's article begins on page 8).
Also of interest are a variety of letters (PDF, 5MB) from mayors and academics supporting AB 904, and the letter from the California APA opposing the Bill.
Full Story: Planners and Parking Requirements (Word Document)



Bargaining Tool

I appreciate the movement to reduce parking for new developments, but is there more to this than the face argument that the less parking spaces the better?

The reality is that California has been built for the car for the past 60-70 years, and is well-suited for it. Other modes of transport have been neglected during this time, including walking, cycling and public transport. So in most areas of the state, it would be an inconvenience to be without a car. So does being within a quarter mile of a transit line mean you can easily live without a car? Aren't there major retrofit needs within the current public realm to make walking, cycling and public transport effortless?

Basically, some developers love not needing to provide a lot of parking. It is costly and the need for spaces can just be deferred on-street (another issue). So of course they'll jump on the idea of reducing the cost of their development for free. In these situations, where the developers are willing to provide less parking, why aren't cities taking advantage of this bargaining tool and requiring small payments per each space waived to fund the necessary sustainable transport retrofits, such as walking, cycling and public transport infrastructure? It would require keeping standard parking requirements, then having developers both justify waivers and contribute to the public realm, which can have positive impacts on property values. This is a great opportunity that can have tremendous impacts on the State's transport network.

Brian Labadie
Moonee Valley City Council

GreenTRIP Certification encourages free transit passes/carsharin

Until the codes change, or to accelerate change, check out a new path for distinguishing forward thinking communities and developers in the market with TransForm's newish GreenTRIP Certification program.

Instead of providing more parking than necessary in a transit rich neighborhood, with TransForm's GreenTRIP Certification program (leed for transportation) we've convinced and supported developers of over 2,000 multifamily TOD units to voluntarily offer the most effective traffic reduction strategies, like free transit passes....for 40 years. Resulting in more people rather than cars housed in transit-rich, walkable communities.

With the help of our Parker Place GreenTRIP Certified project in Berkeley, we emboldened the City of Berkeley to adopt a zoning ordinance that caps parking at 0.3 spaces per unit in the downtown area, requires one bus transit pass per unit, mandatory unbundling of parking and that carshare spaces be offered to carshare providers free in projects of a minimum size.

We currently support and will continue supporting a growing wave of SF Bay Area cities underway with right- sizing parking codes, streamlining a path to much needed investment in new homes in super convenient and safe communities.

Learn more here:

Ann Cheng
Program Director
El Cerrito City Council

APA and California APA Aren't One and the Same

APA National's Policy Guide on Surface Transportation (April 2010) lays out a different standard:
Specific Policy #2.12:
In transit supportive environments, maximum parking requirements instead of minimum parking requirements shall be encouraged…The goal should be to provide the least amount of parking necessary to meet a community's overall goals.

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