Legislating the Waste of Land

Surveys of parking use in multifamily buildings across Cascadia have quantified the extent to which parking requirements have 'force fed' more spaces into projects than developers would provide based on demand. Alan Durning examines the implications.

1 minute read

July 30, 2013, 11:00 AM PDT

By Jonathan Nettler @nettsj


"For more than half a century, cities have mandated oversized quotas of on-site parking at stores, offices, housesapartments and condominiums, and all other types of new buildings—even bars," writes Durning in the fifth post in Sightline's "Parking? Lots!" series. "The result has been millions of parking stalls that stand empty even at their hour of peak demand. No doubt about it: we have legislated the waste of land."

"British Columbia and the Northwest states of Idaho, Oregon, and Washington have 2 million apartments, condominiums, and other dwellings in multifamily buildings, according to data from BC Stats and the US Census Bureau. For each of these dwellings, if the region has an extra 0.4 parking spaces, that’s 800,000 empties. Each space likely occupies at least 325 square feet of pavement, including access and maneuvering room. All told, that’s 260 million square feet of superfluous parking: more than 9 square miles of vacancy that, unlike mall lots, isn’t even useful for driver’s ed. It is, with apologies to T.S. Eliot, the waste land."

"Remember: that’s just the extra parking spots—the ones idle around 2 a.m.—and it’s only the excess parking at apartment and condo buildings," he adds. "It ignores the far-more numerous ones at single-family homes, on the street, at offices, factories, churches, schools, park-and-ride lots—and the malls where my kids have been practicing."

Thursday, July 25, 2013 in Sightline Daily

View of Mount Hood at golden hour with Happy Valley, Oregon homes in foreground.

Clackamas County Votes to Allow ADUs, Residential RVs

County officials hope the zoning changes will help boost the housing supply in the region.

June 18, 2024 - Mountain Times

Single-family homes in a suburban neighborhood in Florida.

New Florida Law Curbs HOA Power

The legislation seeks to cut down on ‘absurd’ citations for low-level violations.

June 16, 2024 - The Guardian

Aerial view of intersection in New York City with yellow cabs and zebra crosswalks.

Planners’ Complicity in Excessive Traffic Deaths

Professor Wes Marshall’s provocatively-titled new book, "Killed by a Traffic Engineer," has stimulated fierce debates. Are his criticisms justified? Let’s examine the degree that traffic engineers contribute to avoidable traffic deaths.

June 13, 2024 - Todd Litman

Digital drawing of person holding city skyline with wifi symbols and lines indicating smart cities or data.

Cities Awarded for Data-Driven Projects

The What Cities Works Certification recognizes cities for using data to solve real problems.

5 hours ago - Smart Cities Dive

The Basilica of St. Joseph in San Jose, California.

Faith-Based Housing Movement Grows

More churches and municipalities are saying ‘Yes in God’s Backyard.’

6 hours ago - Vox

Close-up of red and white BUS LANE sign painted in street lane.

Why BRT Can Benefit Cities More Than Rail

Bus rapid transit lines offer a less expensive, quicker-build alternative to rail that can bring other infrastructure improvements with it.

7 hours ago - Governing

City Planner I

Department of Housing and Community Development

City Planner II

Department of Housing and Community Development

City Planner Supervisor

Department of Housing and Community Development

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.