San Diego Unbundles Parking, Eliminates Parking Minimums and Sets Maximums

In addition to replacing parking minimums with parking maximums of one space per unit in transit corridors, the city council went a step further by requiring unbundling, that is, requiring separate payment for parking from the housing.

3 minute read

March 22, 2019, 9:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid


San Diego Trolley

Pazut Wutigornsombatkul / Shutterstock

"San Diego took a step toward becoming a less car-reliant city on Monday [March 4] when the City Council voted 8-1 to eliminate parking requirements for new condominium and apartment complexes in neighborhoods near mass transit [called Transit Priority Areas or TPAs]," wrote David Garrick, city hall reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune. The policy reforms originated in Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer's office.

The policy change eliminates rules requiring developers to create at least one parking spot per unit for most projects, including steeper parking requirements for larger apartments and condominiums.

In addition, the policy sets a maximum of one parking space per unit for new apartment and condominium projects downtown.

It also requires developers to “unbundle” the cost of a parking spot from monthly rent or a condominium purchase price, allowing residents who prefer not to have a car to pay less for housing.

There is one ironic exception to the unbundling requirement included among the parking reforms in the Housing SD plan: no unbundling is required for projects in TPAs that include at least 20 percent affordable units. Lower income residents are more likely to use transit than wealthier tenants and be more willing to forgo owning a motor vehicle to lower housing costs. 

While parking will no longer be required for new multifamily residences located within TPAs, there are mobility requirements in the parking reform policies:

Based on a project’s ranking for vehicle trip reduction, transportation amenities would be required. Amenities could include bicycle storage or repair stations; onsite bike share; transit pass subsidies; or onsite healthy food, retail or day care facilities.

It's not just about housing

While the major purpose of the parking reform measures is to increase housing development and affordability in transit-accessible locations, Garrick notes that "the plan also aims to help the city meet the goals of its legally binding climate action plan, which requires more people to commute by bicycling, walking and transit in order to reduce greenhouse gases."

Critics say...

As the vote count indicates, one council member opposed the parking reform measures. "The removal of parking requirements should be one of the last steps in moving our city away from car-centric transit, instead of one of the first," stated Councilwoman Jennifer Campbell. Garrick adds that critics predict that the reforms "will worsen parking scarcity in many neighborhoods, reducing quality of life and frustrating many residents."

Campbell and other critics said they’re concerned the policy change is a financial giveaway to developers, who are not obligated to pass the savings from not being required to build parking onto renters and home buyers.

Garrick notes that the parking reforms are "based on similar changes in Portland and Seattle, where softer parking requirements have resulted in decreased automobile ownership, increased transit use and greater housing production and affordability."

Before the parking reforms are codified, the ordinance must be approved for a second time, which Garrick noted will be within "coming weeks."

Why Mayor Faulconer?

There is only one Republican mayor among the ten U.S. cities with populations exceeding one million residents, and that would be Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer. Readers may wish to listen to a 20-minute interview of the mayor by Liam Dillon, who covers California state politics and policy for the Los Angeles Times: California housing crisis podcast: San Diego’s ‘Yes in My Backyard’ turn (March 14).

[The actual interview begins at 21:50 in the 42-minute podcast.]

Related in Planetizen:

Hat tip to Brett Simpson of California Planning & Development Report.

Monday, March 4, 2019 in The San Diego Union-Tribune

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