Recently, the City Council voted 8-1, with District 2 Councilmember Dr. Jen Campbell dissenting, to reduce parking requirements to a zero minimum at new multifamily residential developments within transit priority areas (TPAs). A TPA is defined as any area sitting within a half-mile of one or more planned or existing transit stops.
PB resident Marcie Beckett characterized the City Council action as legislative slight of hand. “The City is using the ‘housing crisis’ to give developers a huge underserved gift: maximum density with no parking required,” she said. “If the City were really serious about providing housing, they would put deed restrictions on all these new developments requiring rentals to be at least 30 days and requiring buyers and renters to swear they will not own a car.”
Longtime PB resident and community planner Scott Chipman concurred.
“For years we have fought for appropriate off-street parking in new construction projects,” noted Chipman. “Units with three bedrooms are allowed with only two off-street parking spaces. Three people nearly always have three cars. We have seen tandem garage parking allowed with one or more of those cars ending up on the street.”
Added Chipman: “… Apartments are rented without garages included as part of the rent. Now no parking requirements? That only works if the person living in that development gives up their right to own a car. Will people moving into these developments agree not to store a car on any city street? If not it burdens the community.”
Longtime PB community planner Chris Olson, on vacation in Vietnam, noted the city he was in, How An, “Has no parking and they close off many streets for what they call a ‘walking and cycling city.’ The town is wonderful and a major tourist attraction.”
Added Olson: “Local government has an important role for transportation and housing to promote the well being of all, and it should provide a vision and leadership. We are slowly coming around to the realities of how to deal with population growth, the future of transportation and protecting the environment. I foresee a time in the future when we look back and marvel at the era when we prioritized land use for private motor vehicles.”
PB Planning Group chair Henish Pulickal saw scaling-back parking for new developments differently.
“I support the no-parking policy,” Pulickal said. “It doesn't mean current developments lose their parking, or all new development has no-parking. It means that developers can build some units without parking based on what they think the market will bear. Maybe it's only 5 percent of units to start. But I know there is a growing population of residents that don't have cars, aren't getting their driver's licenses and are using Uber/Lyft to go everywhere.”
Added Pulickal: “Considering parking costs more than $35,000 to $90,000 per space to build, and owning a car costs more than $700/month, housing should be cheaper for people that don't need a parking spot. Many other cities are doing this and it seems to be getting positive results. We can't solve our current new problems with old solutions.”
Campbell opposed loosening parking regulations now in transit-oriented areas. “Putting in zero parking while adding density without the infrastructure of mass transit already present will lead to decreased quality of life and frustration for our citizens,” she said.
Thinking longer-term, City planning director Mike Hansen said: “These parking reforms set the city on the right path for the future as new mobility technologies emerge and younger generations increasingly want the option of living without a car. It’s important to keep in mind that the proposed parking reforms are for future residential development projects near transit. So this will be a big long-term change for San Diego, but the change will be gradual as new housing is built in the coming years.”