Greater Greater Washington

Parking


Starting Apple Computer in a garage was against the law

Steve Jobs made history when he started Apple in his parents' garage in Silicon Valley almost 40 years ago. He also broke the law by building computers in required parking spaces.


The Jobs' garage. Photo by michelleysbelly on Flickr.

Jobs parents' lived in California's Santa Clara County. Like many suburbs, it requires every property to have its own off-street parking. The rules are enforced selectively, as they are in many places, and Jobs' lawbreaking was ignored.

Steve Jobs found a use for the garage that was more productive than storing his parents' car. But computer-building is hardly the only alternative use for parking spaces. Getting rid of off-street parking requirements altogether would allow many other beneficial conversions.

The Santa Clara County zoning code, which applied to the Jobs home in 1976, requires houses to have two parking spaces. One of them must have a roof. The Jobs family, living in a home without a covered parking space, did not comply:

The provision and maintenance of off-street parking spaces as required by this chapter shall be a continuing obligation so long as the building or use that such spaces serve continues. It shall be a violation of the zoning ordinance to reduce or cause the reduction of the number of spaces below the number required by this chapter.
Like Montgomery County and the District, Santa Clara County only enforces its rules about parking at single-family homes when the house is first built. People routinely fill up their garages with lawnmowers, shop tools, and much else. Jim Lanz, Santa Clara County's chief of code enforcement, cannot remember receiving a complaint about use of a garage for storage purposes in his 26 years with the county.

But the building inspector springs into action when the space reserved for automobiles is used as a bedroom or living room. And don't try to build a new apartment building without a garage. Suburbs often make people who don't own cars pay for an underground parking space that costs $50,000 to build. Automobiles have a right to subsidized housing, people not so much.

The world is better off because Santa Clara County let Steve Jobs ignore its rules, but selective enforcement is not the proper remedy for bad laws. It's far better to repeal minimum parking requirements altogether, and put the land and money now wasted on unneeded parking to better use.

Ben Ross was president of the Action Committee for Transit for 15 years. His new book about the politics of urbanism and transit, Dead End: Suburban Sprawl and the Rebirth of American Urbanism, is published by Oxford University Press. 

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Interesting factoid.

But the connection between how suburban garages are actually used, to the parking zoning requirements in a dense city, are tenuous at best.

by goldfish on May 30, 2013 11:35 am • linkreport

But if houses aren't required to have garages, the next Apple(s) will never have a place to get started! Do you hate innovation?

by darren on May 30, 2013 11:41 am • linkreport

"And don't try to build a new apartment building without a garage. "

We toured one of the new buildings in DC, and they said if the garage doesnt fill up, they would convert part of it to storage for residents. Does anyone know the legal aspects of that?

by Emptynester on May 30, 2013 12:03 pm • linkreport

Well maybe the suburban garage could be used as anything else (and you wouldn't be required to have a door big enough to fit a car) much like how a parking garage could be used for something else (and eliminate a lot o blank wall space needed because cars can only turn so tightly)

by drumz on May 30, 2013 12:10 pm • linkreport

This article is silly. As much as I'd love it if fewer people used cars because there were other viable alternatives like public transit or sidewalks and density, the reality of building apartments without any parking is a long way off.

Let me offer a counter example based on personal experience. Bucharest, the capital of Romania and the place where I grew up, was built up during a period when most people couldn't afford cars and the Communist government at the time never thought there would be a time when most people would afford them. After the fall of the regime and the associated increase in wealth, people bought cars but had limited places to park them. So people took to parking them on the wide sidewalks, in boulevard medians, and in formerly green spaces behind and between buildings. Here's the scene in my old neighborhood: http://goo.gl/maps/ZD3rQ Cars parked on one of the two sidewalks, and the green space nearby turned into a parking lot. No amount of ticketing can solve a problem when it's a city wide problem and I'm not suggesting that the same would happen here, I'm just saying that forcing apartment buildings to not have garages will just result in more people living in houses further out where parking is available, or moving to buildings that do have parking.

by Teyo on May 30, 2013 12:17 pm • linkreport

Steve Jobs broke many more laws along the way, starting with hacking the phone network, avoiding taxes. He was also, on a personal level, kinda dickish. You could just as well make this a story about how we should all be douchebags.

by SJE on May 30, 2013 12:18 pm • linkreport

Jobs' garage would have looked much better with windows. Oh snap.

by aaa on May 30, 2013 12:19 pm • linkreport

Couldn't you make the argument that the computer might not have been built at all without a garage there in the first place?

I'm a bit confused why this story touches on parking minimums when it seems more like an endorsement to repeal laws that require parking spaces only be used to store cars. Even in the presence of parking minimums, there is still lots of demand for car parking out in the suburbs.

And don't try to build a new apartment building without a garage.

I can't really speak for the suburbs, but the District of Columbia's new draft zoning regulations seek to repeal the parking minimums downtown, in transit zones, in small buildings, in commercial zones and industrial land. Eventually the city will repeal the parking minimum altogether. Over the last few years the city has been throwing out developer exemptions to parking minimums like confetti on new year's eve.

by Scoot on May 30, 2013 12:23 pm • linkreport

Teyo, I dont own a car, why am I being forced to pay for a space I dont want or need? Why cant I have the option to move into a enw building where instead of spending $10m on a garage, there are better common spaces...and a cheaper lease?

by JJJ on May 30, 2013 12:29 pm • linkreport

sorry. I don't really understand this. Maybe I'm just dense, but isn't the off-street parking requirement already met just by having a driveway? The garage itself isn't a requirement, nor the space inside the garage that's must be dedicated to housing a car. There are many, many people who use their garage as a storage space, an extra room, as a laundry area, etc.
The building inspector "springs" into action when a garage is used as a extra bedroom because for taxing purposes it would increase the livable space which is how a house is typically assessed. Again, please correct me if i'm wrong but there is absolutely nothing that mandates a house must have an inside space for a car. I guess this depends on city ordinances, but typically as long as you have a driveway you should be covered.

by Derpy on May 30, 2013 12:33 pm • linkreport

JJJ, I never said no buildings could be built that way. I'm saying that people with cars wouldn't want to live there and would choose buildings that do have parking, or are at least close to a parking garage. What I'm saying is that having ALL buildings have NO parking would be unwise and actually might contribute to sprawl as people with cars or who want cars, will seek places where they can park them. I also wonder if this was a contributing factor to the first wave of sprawl, as dense cities built before cars existed also didn't have accommodations for cars.

by Teyo on May 30, 2013 12:33 pm • linkreport

Derpy - Read the ordinance (at link). One of the off-street spaces must be covered in Santa Clara County. Only one space can be in the driveway, the other must be in a garage or carport.

by Ben Ross on May 30, 2013 12:38 pm • linkreport

The point of the Santa Clara ordinance seems to be geared towards preventing people from parking their cars on the streets. The ordinance recognizes that in a generally suburban area like Santa Clara, multiple care per household are going to be common. This requirement puts the cost of vehicle parking on the property owner, rather than turning the streets into the default for vehicle storage. That seems like a positive approach to parking, frankly.

by Potowmack on May 30, 2013 12:46 pm • linkreport

the reality of building apartments without any parking is a long way off.

There are something like 90,000 households in DC without a car. But somehow building some buildings sans parking is an unthinkable unreality? That makes no sense.

by MLD on May 30, 2013 12:56 pm • linkreport

Cute story, but was that the ordinance in 1975? Also, its not accurate to say Zoning enforcement is "selective". In most communities, Zoning enforcement actions are the result from complaints by a member of the public. It wouldn't be immediately obvious that there is a business operating inside to someone passing by, like an inspector, and generally in my experience citizens are reluctant to tattle on their neighbors to the authorities.

by Chareth on May 30, 2013 1:10 pm • linkreport

And here I was waiting for a link to the Airbnb discussion...

by Jasper on May 30, 2013 1:12 pm • linkreport

Teyo, Germany and other northern European nations with cities built before the automobile enforce laws against parking on sidewalks, in parks, etc. routinely. Towing the car away is usually effective. Costs can be recovered from the owner when they come to claim the vehicle.

If there is a need for parking greater than the cost of providing it, then private garages can be built for those willing to pay. Those not willing to pay will have to get rid of their vehicles. This seems fair to me; the government should not tax people too poor to own cars in order to pay for free parking for those who can. Or require private developers to do so, since the same transfer then takes place from poor to wealthy.

by Michael Farrell on May 30, 2013 1:20 pm • linkreport

I'd second Michael Farrell: IIRC, last year the mayor of an Eastern European city used a tank to crush an illegally parked car. Enforcement comes in different flavors.

by SJE on May 30, 2013 1:24 pm • linkreport

@Michael Farrel,

You write:

If there is a need for parking greater than the cost of providing it, then private garages can be built for those willing to pay.

Well...not exactly possible in all cases. The DC preservation community is a huge obstacle to this kind of sensible market-oriented solution. Do you really think that you could build a parking garage on Capitol Hill? Over Nancy Metzger's dead body.

PW

by Preservation Watch on May 30, 2013 1:45 pm • linkreport

@ Michael Farrell

Those not willing to pay will have to get rid of their vehicles. This seems fair to me; the government should not tax people too poor to own cars in order to pay for free parking for those who can.

Generally with the exception of sales taxes, poor people do not really pay for the city to build parking spaces (poor people pay FICA, but that money does not pay for roads). They do not really pay tax for much of anything; in fact, they often receive way more benefits than what they pay. Much of the money to build roads comes from wealthy people -- people who pay lots of sales, income and property taxes.

I think the bigger question should be why people who can own cars but choose not to must pay for free parking for those who choose to drive. One partially satisfying answer is that our American system was not built on the idea of being able to opt of paying for things we don't directly use.

by Scoot on May 30, 2013 1:47 pm • linkreport

What I'm saying is that having ALL buildings have NO parking would be unwise

You're right, of course, but you're also arguing against the wispiest of straw men, since neither this piece nor any other on GGW has argued for that.

by worthing on May 30, 2013 1:52 pm • linkreport

"One partially satisfying answer is that our American system was not built on the idea of being able to opt of paying for things we don't directly use."

sure it was. We dont pay for each clothes, or food, or entertainment, or what have you.

We only pay for things we dont use when there is some rationale - a market failure that means the free market would under provide it, or not provide it at all. There are many examples of that. There may well be a few places where that applies to parking (for example a subsidized lot in a key shopping or tourist zone where non auto alternatives are minimal, and the market will underprovide for various reasons) Or a commuter rail station.

I don't see the rationale for subsidizing parking in urban or dense suburban areas like most of DC, Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax, etc.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 30, 2013 1:57 pm • linkreport

@Potowmack: The point of the Santa Clara ordinance seems to be geared towards preventing people from parking their cars on the streets.

Then why the specific requirement that one of the two required parking spaces must have a roof?

by Miriam on May 30, 2013 1:58 pm • linkreport

"for each others"

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 30, 2013 1:58 pm • linkreport

So the message of this story seems to be that humanity is very fortunate the Jobs' property had a garage, otherwise we'd have no iPhones. Well, OK I guess. They are also good for hanging basketball hoops. Um, garages that is.

by Chris S. on May 30, 2013 2:09 pm • linkreport

Then why the specific requirement that one of the two required parking spaces must have a roof?

An aesthetic goal, maybe. I think the idea was to encourage people to park their car in a garage if possible. Some people do so, while others turn their garage into storage.

Or, more cynically, the roof requirement was put in by the construction industry lobby in order to create more business for them.

by Potowmack on May 30, 2013 2:16 pm • linkreport

We don't have to look at Burcharest or anywhere internationally to see how cities with large areas built before automobiles adapted to cars. We can look right here in DC! There are lots of buildings already without parking and its either been added or residents have had to figure out how to live without a guaranteed parking space. What we've learned is that minimums don't really solve existing problems and that those existing problems are best solved by being handled directly.

Regardless, we will still see a net increase in parking spots in DC as te city grows.

by drumz on May 30, 2013 2:28 pm • linkreport

Looking at the other side of the earth, the simple solution could be to follow Japan's lead and prohibit people without dedicated parking spaces (or I guess RPPs in DC's case) from purchasing vehicles.

by Chris S. on May 30, 2013 2:36 pm • linkreport

@AWalker

sure it was. We dont pay for each clothes, or food, or entertainment, or what have you.

Sure we do. We pay for the roads, bridges, planes & fuel subsidies to ship strawberries from California, clothes from India, or movie screens from warehouses in Arizona. We pay for tax benefits to open new bars, restaurants, cafes and other businesses. We pay for the water and electricity infrastructure to power all of that. We pay for the government to educate people who can design, build and provide these services. Would you like me to go on? It's not a question of market failure but rather of scale -- the free market can provide roads, but can it provide thousands of miles or roads at a low per-user cost? Probably not.

There may well be a few places where that applies to parking (for example a subsidized lot in a key shopping or tourist zone where non auto alternatives are minimal, and the market will underprovide for various reasons).

I would not really say there are "a few places" in this region where the market demands parking. In a few places, it does not. In Fairfax county, 73.4% of commuters drive to work (ACS 2011). Many commercial corridors and shopping centers are not well served by transit non-auto alternatives.

In 1980, when Steve Jobs was 25 y.o., 89% of Santa Clara commuters drove to work in a private vehicle (Census 1980). Today, 87% of Santa Clara County residents drive to work in a private vehicle (ACS 2006-2010). The suburbs seem like a rather bad place to steer the discussion on parking minimums.

by Scoot on May 30, 2013 2:41 pm • linkreport

"We pay for the roads, bridges, planes & fuel subsidies to ship strawberries from California, clothes from India, or movie screens from warehouses in Arizona."

we pay for the roads and bridges because at least until recently, charging for them was not feasible in most places. even today pricing local road may not be possible. As for planes, theres no reason to subsidize them, or to subsidize fuel.

" We pay for tax benefits to open new bars, restaurants, cafes and other businesses."

many localities do not. And many of us beleive we should not do that at all.

" We pay for the water and electricity infrastructure to power all of that."

actually those are paid for by ratepayers.

" We pay for the government to educate people who can design, build and provide these services."

Education finance is terribly complicated.

" Would you like me to go on? It's not a question of market failure but rather of scale -- the free market can provide roads, but can it provide thousands of miles or roads at a low per-user cost? Probably not."

It provides factories at a massive scale. The problems with roads are not scale of the system, but issues of pricing, fixed cost, and eminent domain.

As I said, we subsidize where there is a market failure leading to underprovision. I dont see that with parking.

"I would not really say there are "a few places" in this region where the market demands parking. "

I didnt say that there were. I said few places where there is a market failure making subsidies for it a good idea.

"In a few places, it does not. In Fairfax county, 73.4% of commuters drive to work (ACS 2011). Many commercial corridors and shopping centers are not well served by transit non-auto alternatives."

But they almost always provide parking on their own, without subsidy or govt mandate. The issue is not whether parking should be allowed (of course it should be) but whether it should be subsidized. Fairfax county does not subsidize shopping center parking lots (though it does mandate them) and I know of no one in the county proposing the county do so. By subsidized parking I was thinking of say, a municipal lot in small town shopping center. I see few places around here where that would be justified. This was in response to your saying "we dont let people opt out of paying for what they do not use"

Again, we regularly do so. And my not having to pay for a shopping center parking lot, hardly implies I think parking lots are not useful. Not everything thats needed requires subsidy. Or even a a mandate. And thats certainly very much the American way.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 30, 2013 2:59 pm • linkreport

@AWalker,

I don't see any of your points that appeared to disagree with what I'm saying. I did misunderstand you about providing subsidized parking where it is not needed. I agree that there are "few" places where that happens (I'm not sure why we're focusing on it if it only happens in a few places).

However it's not true that "we >>only<< pay for things we dont use when there is some rationale - a market failure that means the free market would under provide it, or not provide it at all." Truth is we not only pay for things we don't use to correct market failures, but also pay for things we don't use for a whole bunch of other reasons.

I really have no clue what role a story about Steve Jobs plays in all of this. He grew up in an area where the government was subsidizing roads and cars because that's what people were demanding. His family moved to Silicon Valley because his father's repo businesses would thrive in the newly developing suburbs in Santa Clara county.

by Scoot on May 30, 2013 3:21 pm • linkreport

The suburbs seem like a rather bad place to steer the discussion on parking minimums.

Actually, the suburbs are the perfect place to start because that's where all the excessive parking is located. That said, the excessive parking issue isn't so much in residential areas as commercial areas. Businesses should be relieved of parking minimums, however, there should be strict regulations (like RPPs) that prohibit their customers/employees from parking in neighborhoods. Let businesses determine how much parking they need rather than a blanket one-size-fits-all policy for all businesses.

by Falls Church on May 30, 2013 3:42 pm • linkreport

I think the point is that not requiring that a garage actually be used to store a car is a good thing - and this suggest that mandatory car storage as a policy is questionable. The counter, that absent mandatory offstreet parking, that wouldnt have been a garage - but possible a garden, or whatever - is reasonable. Im not sure the actual implications for parking policy. I think limiting mandates for offstreet parking (even in low density suburban areas) has something to be said for it - and that where it is mandated to build, allowing alternative uses is good - plus going easy on commercial uses in residential zones.

"Truth is we not only pay for things we don't use to correct market failures, but also pay for things we don't use for a whole bunch of other reasons."

Yes, but objecting to that seems very much the American way. Im still having trouble with this

"I think the bigger question should be why people who can own cars but choose not to must pay for free parking for those who choose to drive. One partially satisfying answer is that our American system was not built on the idea of being able to opt of paying for things we don't directly use."

I find that answer very unsatisfying. I think our system is very much built on private provision except where there is some rationale for subsidy - even where the rationales are weak, the attempt to make a rationale shows the underlying assumption. In general if I am going to pay for something I dont use, I will hear some argument for its public merit, or I will object, and strongly. And again, I do not see that here.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 30, 2013 3:44 pm • linkreport

I think the point is that not requiring that a garage actually be used to store a car is a good thing - and this suggest that mandatory car storage as a policy is questionable. The counter, that absent mandatory offstreet parking, that wouldnt have been a garage - but possible a garden, or whatever - is reasonable. Im not sure the actual implications for parking policy. I think limiting mandates for offstreet parking (even in low density suburban areas) has something to be said for it - and that where it is mandated to build, allowing alternative uses is good - plus going easy on commercial uses in residential zones.

"Truth is we not only pay for things we don't use to correct market failures, but also pay for things we don't use for a whole bunch of other reasons."

Yes, but objecting to that seems very much the American way. Im still having trouble with this

"I think the bigger question should be why people who can own cars but choose not to must pay for free parking for those who choose to drive. One partially satisfying answer is that our American system was not built on the idea of being able to opt of paying for things we don't directly use."

I find that answer very unsatisfying. I think our system is very much built on private provision except where there is some rationale for subsidy - even where the rationales are weak, the attempt to make a rationale shows the underlying assumption. In general if I am going to pay for something I dont use, I will hear some argument for its public merit, or I will object, and strongly. And again, I do not see that here.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 30, 2013 3:44 pm • linkreport

@ Falls Church

Actually, the suburbs are the perfect place to start because that's where all the excessive parking is located.

But is that where the parking problem is most burdensome on the public? I would guess not. It would seem that a parking minimum in Dupont Circle is quite a bit more burdensome than one in Chantilly, VA where most people already own cars and drive everywhere (partly because they want to and partly because they have to). Personally, I think parking minimum laws are pretty stupid, but repealing them would likely not have a huge impact in the suburbs -- especially as there are already exemptions for TOD/TDM, shared use, revitalization districts and proximity to transit.

@ AWalker

In general if I am going to pay for something I dont use, I will hear some argument for its public merit, or I will object, and strongly. And again, I do not see that here.

Sure, who wouldn't object? But first you said that we pay for things only because of market failures. Now you're saying we pay for things because they have public merit. Those are two very distinct, if related, premises.

by Scoot on May 30, 2013 4:12 pm • linkreport

The wonderful thing about garages is that they can be used for many things, whether storing a car or working on art/home improvement projects or starting a multibillion-dollar technology empire.

Plus, no garage means your car is constantly exposed to the elements, which can contribute to various problems over the long run unless you live in a very mild, dry climate.

by Chris S. on May 30, 2013 4:16 pm • linkreport

"Sure, who wouldn't object? But first you said that we pay for things only because of market failures. Now you're saying we pay for things because they have public merit. Those are two very distinct, if related, premises."

if there is something desirable to have and the market does not provide, it in the optimal quantity and fashion, that IS a market failure, by my definition.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 30, 2013 4:19 pm • linkreport

"if there is something desirable to have and the market does not provide, it in the optimal quantity and fashion, that IS a market failure, by my definition."

Hmm, parking for a show at the Kennedy center is $22, and for a Nats game is $40. Is that a market failure?

by goldfish on May 30, 2013 4:43 pm • linkreport

I have no reason to think so. Its possible there is a market failure causing the price to be different from optimal cost, or the quanitity to be incorrect, etc, but one cannot tell from the price alone. If the price matches the marginal cost, price is appropriately signaling, and will generate the same quantity as an omniscient govt planner would.

if you think the relative prices indicates something wrong, Im not sure. Its likely that there is more parking near the Kennedy center because of legacy parking built in a different era, which could mena the price is lower than that needed to build more spaces.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 30, 2013 4:55 pm • linkreport

btw Ive seen signs for cheaper parking on game nights in near SE

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 30, 2013 4:59 pm • linkreport

Also in this context aren't we talking about "desirable" in a social/economics sense and not in a "gee wouldn't it be nice if I could drive to the Nats game and park for free" sense?

by MLD on May 30, 2013 5:01 pm • linkreport

Both are examples of local monopolies -- no competition. Market failures.

Parking in the city is a tightly regulated. To expect the market to fulfill this like any other commodity, under such regulation, is folly.

by goldfish on May 30, 2013 5:02 pm • linkreport

There are private lots near the ballpark unconnected to the Nats. Im not sure that the Nats are pricing to deliberately keep empty spots.

If they are, its likely a market failure I agree. Spots will be empty that would be filled at a lower price, and have trivial incremental cost. The proper regulatory response though would be some kind of price limitation, to make them price at the optimal price, not the revenue maximizing price. It wouldnt be to subsidize parking, or mandate it.

And its probably not something the district would have any real interest in getting involved in anyway. After all at least in the case of the Nats, the prospect of such monopoly profits on parking was probably part of the inducement to locate there. And in the case of the Kennedy center, the (monopoly) parking revenue supports the arts.

I fail to see what this has to do with the question about someone who does not drive, wanting to opt out of paying to provide parking.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 30, 2013 5:19 pm • linkreport

The entire premise of this article is false. Apple was not founded in a garage. Wozniak did all the hardware engineering in his apartment, and Jobs spent most of the time making phone calls from his bedroom.

The famous garage was used for a demo to the Homebrew Computer Club, which is where this perception came from.

Source: http://www.amazon.com/Woz-Computer-Getting-Inventor-ebook/dp/B000VUCIZO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1369952980&sr=8-1&keywords=iWoz

by Adam LAssek on May 30, 2013 6:31 pm • linkreport

""" It's far better to repeal minimum parking requirements altogether, and put the land and money now wasted on unneeded parking to better use"""

A better use like paying the developer's country club fees or buying them a better yacht?

People have a right to oppose giving the minimums away instead of trading them for smart transit-oriented things like other places do.

This is a typical DC charade of cloaking corruption in progressive terms.

I'm sure funding Gray's re-election campaign is all that matters these days.

by Tom Coumaris on May 30, 2013 6:54 pm • linkreport

The regulations described here are the suburban version of the abolition of mixed use buildings to cities. The latter killed entire sections of Manhattan by creating dead zones certain times of day. NOT a good idea.

Some flexibility is good!

by Capt. Hilts on May 30, 2013 8:47 pm • linkreport

In working as a draftsman, you cannot possibly imagine how many times I have wondered why people bother with building codes as offering a reasonable measure for parking needs. It is always either way too much or way too little and the codes always trump common sense.

by Jacob Tothe on May 31, 2013 2:33 am • linkreport

I've never understood how the supposed smart blogger set fell hook line and sinker into the "repear parking minimums for developers" charade.

The only, and I mean the ONLY benefactor is the developer as they now save millions of dollars on parking, money they keep to themselves. It isn't like they turn around and cut the price of their condo or rental by 20% as "thanks". No, they continue to charge market rates for things and the enormous problems caused by all the additional parking traffic that comes part and parcel with the additional developement and people, now becomes everyone elses problem to solve, rather than the developers.

Lastly, there seems to be some confusion re what "developers" want.

Retail developers want MORE parking and are constantly having to try to negotiate higher parking allowances. More parking, more people except for the incredibly rare circumstances where a large retailer is moving atop a metro rail stop.

Residential developers hate parking minimums. Building parking for their customers costs them money. Making it the publics problem saves them money.

by Minimums on May 31, 2013 8:28 am • linkreport

We all benefit from lower parking minimums if it means fewer people own and drive cars.

by MLD on May 31, 2013 8:41 am • linkreport

@Minimums

First, just because there aren't parking minimums doesn't mean there won't be new parking.

Second, part of the issue here is how many parking spaces a mixed-use development requires. As you indicate, retail properties want more, residential less. So here is a novel idea: let the mixed-use developer determine the right amount so the two uses can share the parking. This is what was proposed with the mixed use development at the Safeway in Tenleytown.

I would also add as a point that two recent development proposals in Upper NW, 5333 CT Ave and Van Ness Park at Yuma and CT both have parking proposals that far exceed what is currently required by zoning. Why does one automatically assume no parking or minimal parking?

by Andrew on May 31, 2013 8:47 am • linkreport

@MLD,

You are assuming that only car less people will purchase or rent there. There will be a few, sure, but current experience in the District shows us that really isn't true. The people who can afford the $2500 one bedroom apts, or the 500K one bedroom condos, by in large own cars.

Thats the cause. The effect is that because the developer decided he didn't want to build any parking, these new renters or residents now park on the streets, which I always thought the GGW crowd thought was the ultimate sin.

And you point to one example, but the world is filled with the Douglas's who would sell his mother into slavery for a small tax break.

by Minimums on May 31, 2013 8:56 am • linkreport

Are you also opposed to buildings like the one discussed the other day where there is no parking and residents also can't get RPP? That seems like a good tradeoff to me.

by MLD on May 31, 2013 8:57 am • linkreport

"People have a right to oppose giving the minimums away instead of trading them for smart transit-oriented things like other places do."

the issue is doing that in a predictable way that doesnt add too much time and cost to the development process. Looking not at parking but at density, Arlco offers density premiums in exchange for affordable units. But IIUC its a fixed formula, written into law. Not something that has to be negotiated as a variance - which can be a chance to debate other issues, to delay, etc.

I think a FIXED, PREDICTABLE quid pro quo - involving TDM, bike storage, support for CaBi and transit, could make sense. But I dont think that argues for the current case by case variance process.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 31, 2013 9:12 am • linkreport

The effect is that because the developer decided he didn't want to build any parking, these new renters or residents now park on the streets, which I always thought the GGW crowd thought was the ultimate sin.

Well, I don't know where that sentiment came from but my guess would say that most on here who are in favor of repealing parking minimums don't really care where you park and in fact we have lots of stories on here that discuss various ways of making street parking more available (i.e. RPP reform, performance pricing, etc.).

by drumz on May 31, 2013 9:15 am • linkreport

@MLD: We all benefit from lower parking minimums if it means fewer people own and drive cars.

..and they will only do so if there is infrastructure to support public transportation. Yet on many other threads there is a constant "Metro is going down the tubes" meme.

So without the latter, people will drive, and need parking.

by goldfish on May 31, 2013 9:16 am • linkreport

Follow-up, often when discussing things like a transit lane or a bike lane there is a conflict with those who would wish to preserve street parking and that's when a lot of peoeple decide it isn't sacrosanct but still, if you want to solve an issue with street parking, a minimum for new developments isn't going to do it.

by drumz on May 31, 2013 9:20 am • linkreport

Scoot,

It would seem that a parking minimum in Dupont Circle is quite a bit more burdensome than one in Chantilly, VA where most people already own cars and drive everywhere

While parking is an inefficient use of expensive land in Dupont, at least the parking would actually be used. Many places in the burbs are required to have far more parking than actually gets used. For example, shopping malls are designed with far more parking than gets used 360 days of the year and at many malls, even on the busiest day of the year there is excess parking. Although, this is more the case in MD than VA, which seems to require less parking, based on my observation (e.g., parking at Tysons mall is tighter than at Mo Mall).

Also, Dupont vs. Chantilly is a straw-man as I don't believe Dupont has parking mins for commercial buildings -- and I'm talking about eliminating mins for commercial as opposed to residential. Eliminating commercial mins (coupled with strictly enforced RPP programs for adjoining neighborhoods) makes more sense than eliminating residential mins. For one thing, businesses would welcome the reduced regulatory burden (and are sophisticated enough to gauge demand for parking and build accordingly) while there's likely to be a lot more resistance from people who don't want mins eliminated in neighborhoods.

by Falls Church on May 31, 2013 9:53 am • linkreport

Also, Dupont vs. Chantilly is a straw-man as I don't believe Dupont has parking mins for commercial buildings -- and I'm talking about eliminating mins for commercial as opposed to residential.

A TOD or a high density commercial area proximal to transit in Chantilly is **already exempt** from a parking minimum under the existing Fairfax county regulations. The regulations protect parking minimums in commercial districts without any TOD or transit access.

I'm not sure what the parking minimum for C-3 zoned commercial corridors in Dupont is -- I know for C-2 zoned corridors it is 1 per 300 additional sq.ft over 3000 sqft. I think Dupont may be exempted as an overlay district, or maybe there is no minimum for C-3 zones... but I'm not certain.

by Scoot on May 31, 2013 11:23 am • linkreport

@ Falls Church: "For example, shopping malls are designed with far more parking than gets used 360 days of the year and at many malls, even on the busiest day of the year there is excess parking. Although, this is more the case in MD than VA, which seems to require less parking, based on my observation (e.g., parking at Tysons mall is tighter than at Mo Mall)."

I'm not so sure the difference in congestion at Tyson's and Montgomery Mall is due to differences in parking minimums. Tyson's is a madhouse because everyone in Virginia is there, along with MD and DC people. I don't imagine Montgomery Mall draws too many people from outside the county, and residents also have the options of Tyson's and Friendship Heights. Also Montgomery Mall's movie theater became obsolete decades ago, and it doesn't have the large number of upscale restaurants that Tyson's does. That said, Montgomery Mall is currently building a large, allegedly state of the art movie theater and more restaurants, and there is ton of new housing going up nearby, so maybe it will start getting more crowded.

by Chris S. on May 31, 2013 11:55 am • linkreport

"A TOD or a high density commercial area proximal to transit in Chantilly is **already exempt** from a parking minimum under the existing Fairfax county regulations. "

Link? I recall seeing a discussion document about parking minimusm in the Tysons Urban District, and while they were seriously looking at relaxing current minimums, even there they did not seem to envision abolishing all minimums.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 31, 2013 12:00 pm • linkreport

http://www.sullydistrict.org/presentations/20120612BOSRecommendationsonParkingRequirementsinTransitOrientedDevelopmentAreasOutsideTysons.pdf

i dont think these recommendations have been passed yet, and they seem to envision continued minimums in TODs other than designated Urban districts (of which I think Tysons is still the only one)

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 31, 2013 12:04 pm • linkreport

@AWalker

Zoning Ordinance Article 11-102 provides for exemptions to the minimum around TOD, theoretically down to no minimum at all. But as I understand it, each exemption must be applied for and then approved by the Board. I think the recommendations from the Transportation Committee of June 2012 seek to clearly enumerate the parking requirements in TODs as an amendment to the zoning ordinance so as to prevent a large number of very subjective approvals/denials under the currently regs.

by Scoot on May 31, 2013 12:26 pm • linkreport

I'm not so sure the difference in congestion at Tyson's and Montgomery Mall is due to differences in parking minimums.

Ok, maybe that's a bad example. But, in my experience at strip Malls on Leesburg Pike vs. strip malls on Rockville Pike or at any similar retail areas in Fairfax vs. MoCo, the parking is much tighter in Fairfax. I don't know for a fact, but I'd bet that parking mins are lower in Fairfax than MoCo. It fits in with the general trend that Fairfax imposes less burdensome regulations on business in general.

by Falls Church on May 31, 2013 1:26 pm • linkreport

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