Parking is bad for our communities and it’s time we stop building new parking structures. Cities (and preferably regions) can accomplish this by parking maximums, impact fees, or other mechanisms, but, given our precarious ecological crisis, it’s clear we need to dramatically curb car culture.
But would a city acting alone to restrict new parking supply simply push new development to the suburbs and make things even worse?
Would parking maximums push development out of cities?
Many argue that restrictive maximums would require less parking than the market demanded and push development to less regulated regions. But what is market demand? Banks and developers predict parking demand based on existing projects with cheap or free bundled on-site parking surrounded by cheap, or free, on-street parking. San Francisco has very, very low parking entitlements in the Transit Center District, developers and investors still want to build there.
One possibility overlooked by these critics is the development of secondary markets for parking. Most American cities have vast amounts of existing structured parking, but much of it is underutilized because it’s reserved for particular land uses or is restricted for private access. Parking maximums should be matched with rules allowing (or requiring) shared use of existing parking. I suspect there is ample existing supply in most cities to support new development for a long time.
Would impact fees increase the cost of housing?
Parking has a lot of external costs and those costs should be borne by the people who build and use parking. Impact fees for new parking could price those externalities into, already expensive, parking costs. Would those fees just discourage new housing development or make housing more expensive? Similar concerns underlie criticism of rent controls, mandatory inclusionary housing, and other well-meaning fees.
One big difference between these fees, however, is that the parking impact fees are easily avoidable by not building parking, which makes the actual development costs much cheaper! Remember, these are REAL COSTS borne by society for every parking space, not charging for them doesn’t mean the costs go away, it just makes everyone else pay for the convenience of a few.
In new developments in Portland, many apartments are built with little to no parking (unless the city requires it) but high-end condos and office space have lots of new parking. Would impact fees discourage this high-end development (and should we care)? If not , impact fees on these projects, could subsidize housing costs and improve transit.
Let’s keep the conversation going
This is a contentious topic and clearly there are a lot of concerns about restricting new parking, but it’s a conversation we need to have. Join me in the comments, on facebook, and on twitter and we’ll figure it out!