Bad news for car owners: Developers in more U.S. cities are reducing the amount of parking spaces included in new projects as local authorities seek to encourage the use of mass transit and free up space for parks, housing or other uses.
In San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood, architecture and development company Jonathan Segal FAIA ruffled feathers of nearby residents after it revealed plans to build an eight-story, 35-unit apartment complex with no parking spaces. Without the added costs of a garage, the studio units of around 400 square feet apiece would be more affordable, the firm said.
Each car takes up about 350 square feet of parking space, including access lanes. Without these costs, the estimates rents will be $1,300 to $1,500 a month, barely half that of comparable apartments nearby.
Property developers must adhere to zoning codes that typically include providing a minimum number of parking spaces for a certain amount of space used by tenants. But cities such as New York and San Francisco have been leaders in removing or reducing parking requirements in recent years as part of efforts to curb traffic congestion and encourage more people to use mass transit. Now smaller cities and even some states are following suit.
Los Angeles in 1999 allowed developers to convert vacant commercial buildings downtown into housing and exempted them from parking requirements. The Adaptive Reuse Ordinance accounted for 75% of the 9,200 housing units built between 2000 and 2010, according to Michael Manville, assistant professor at UCLA’s Department of Urban Planning, who surveyed these developments and compared them with ground-up housing projects that were still subject to parking requirements.
To be sure, reducing or removing parking requirements still gives developers the leeway to supply parking spaces creatively. Rather than dig costly underground garage spaces on-site, some provide parking lots off-site, while others rent existing spaces at nearby garages.
Even so, developers looking to build fewer parking lots often face pushback from the incumbent residents who fear heightened competition for on-street parking when residents who own cars move in.
And in some cities, the deep-rooted habits of residents are still a big influence on parking. Developer D4 Urban LLC successfully leased mostly studio and one-bedroom apartments adjacent to a rail stop in Denver with a 1:1 ratio of parking space to unit, but noted that post-occupancy surveys show that residents still want ample parking spaces.