Greater Greater Washington

Zoning


Parking lots remain mandatory

DC planning director Harriet Tregoning announced today that minimum parking requirements in transit-oriented neighborhoods will remain in the new zoning code.


Photo by photobeppus on Flickr.

As part of its rewrite of the zoning code, DC's Office of Planning (DCOP) had proposed eliminating mandatory parking requirements in the densest, most transit-friendly parts of the city.

Anyone who wanted to build parking would still be allowed to do so, but it wouldn't be mandatory. The new zoning code will lower requirements for parking, but won't eliminate them completely.

The new proposal will keep parking requirements for institutional and industrial land uses similar to what they are now. The requirement will drop by about half for residential and office buildings.

Under existing zoning, any new residential units are required to build parking spaces, whether the owner wants them or not. The requirement is a huge subsidy for drivers, and a major burden on car-free households. It also adds tremendously to the cost of new housing.

There is a silver lining: DCOP is still planning to eliminate parking requirements in downtown DC.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Dan Malouff is a professional transportation planner for the Arlington County Department of Transportation. He has a degree in Urban Planning from the University of Colorado, and lives a car-free lifestyle in Northwest Washington. His posts are his own opinions and do not represent the views of his employer in any way. He runs the blog BeyondDC and also contributes to the Washington Post Local Opinions blog. 

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Well I'm bummed, but if they at least remove them for downtown I'm placated a bit.

by Alan B. on Jul 12, 2013 1:30 pm • linkreport

If by downtown they mean the Central Business District then this isn't much of a change at all. There aren't a lot of opportunities for projects that would be affected by parking minimums there. Most parcels are already at max density and height.

by Michael Hamilton on Jul 12, 2013 1:34 pm • linkreport

Hey, at least when street parking problems persist we can tell people "I told you so".

by drumz on Jul 12, 2013 1:35 pm • linkreport

"Parking lots"? Between the title and the picture, it's as if you assume they are requiring surface parking.

by recyclist on Jul 12, 2013 1:39 pm • linkreport

Currently a variance is required to reduce or eliminate parking, in the zoning rewrite this can be done with a special exception.

by Bob See on Jul 12, 2013 1:40 pm • linkreport

Yes clearly if its a very limited definition of downtown to CBD then that's somewhat useless. In my mind pretty much all of Ward 2 east of Rock Creek is downtown.

by Alan B. on Jul 12, 2013 1:40 pm • linkreport

I don't think she pushed back hard enough today on The Kojo Show when people called in to say "there's not enough parking" and didn't really talk at all about the difference between on and off-street parking or why she thought we should price parking to reflect market demand. Milquetoast at best.

by thump on Jul 12, 2013 1:52 pm • linkreport

I asked OP via twitter if downtown included NOMA and beyond, and they were mum.

Fact is, even if they have the courage to make it expansive, the ZC will truncate it, so they ought to go big.

by fongfong on Jul 12, 2013 1:53 pm • linkreport

First GGW argues that mandatory parking minimums increases the COST of housing. Then GGW argues that mandatory parkign minimums are a huge subsidy for car owners/drivers. Which does GGW believe or is cognitive disonance the special cocktail of the day? I believe that in this market, any cost of building/maintaining parking is passed through and probably with a higher ROI required. If that is the case, where is the subsidy in that "deal"??

by Tom M on Jul 12, 2013 1:59 pm • linkreport

Must be a different viewpoint for "planners" vs "economists"????

by Tom M on Jul 12, 2013 2:00 pm • linkreport

Tom,

It's both. It's a subsidy in the sense that people who don't own a car must pay for buildings (via purchases/renting) that include parking even if it goes unused. Then you have people who park on the street via RPP and their status quo is unchanged and protects their already subsidized parking (since street spaces are provided by gov't).

by drumz on Jul 12, 2013 2:01 pm • linkreport

And it still drives up costs (monetary and opportunity) since now you have to plan, engineer, and build parking.

by drumz on Jul 12, 2013 2:02 pm • linkreport

What is the existing parking minimum in transit zones?

by Scoot on Jul 12, 2013 2:04 pm • linkreport

It's a subsidy in the sense that people who don't own a car must pay for buildings (via purchases/renting) that include parking even if it goes unused.

Would you consider a roof top pool or an elevator to be a subsidy? What about a doorman?

by Scoot on Jul 12, 2013 2:07 pm • linkreport

Drumz -- I don't know of any building with parking that doesn't charge for parking and that requires anyone to pay for parking that doesn't use it. Unless you assume that building owners who price rents and parking are dumb, they'll pass all costs on to users or risk losing rental incomes as other alternative purchases of space that don't have parking costs would not need to cross subsidy. Again, difference between a "planner" and "economics" viewpoint.

by Tom M on Jul 12, 2013 2:07 pm • linkreport

I bet transit zones are not currently treated differently unless there has been another update since the 1958 code that specifically dealt with those areas.

by Alan B. on Jul 12, 2013 2:08 pm • linkreport

Scoot, come on. Where in the zoning code is a roof top pool required. We are saying exactly the opposite, that parking should also be an optional amenity.

by Alan B. on Jul 12, 2013 2:10 pm • linkreport

Scoot,

If we had a requirement that all new buildings come with rooftop pools then I'd say that yes, that's a subsidy for rooftop pools.

I'm not sure when an elevator is required or not, but you also need them to comply with the ADA in most cases and I'm ok with thinking that having ADA compliance is a good thing while encouraging car ownership/use is not such a good thing.

by drumz on Jul 12, 2013 2:12 pm • linkreport

If we had a requirement that all new buildings come with rooftop pools then I'd say that yes, that's a subsidy for rooftop pools.

So the thing being subsidized must meet the condition of being required by law in order for it to be called a subsidy?

by Scoot on Jul 12, 2013 2:25 pm • linkreport

"Drumz -- I don't know of any building with parking that doesn't charge for parking and that requires anyone to pay for parking that doesn't use it."

if what the owner gets for the space exceeds the cost of building it, there is no subsidy. And also the parking min doesnt matter, since the developer would build those spots anyway. it only matters in those instances where the price the developer can get is LESS than the cost of building it. In that case the owner faces a net loss for the spaces, and that loss is indeed a subsidy. Who pays for the subsidy is a complex matter - depending on the economics of building construction, it either gets passed on to all buyers/renters in the market, or it gets eaten by developers or landowners. Many of us here believe a large part gets passed on to renters/buyers. To those renters buyers who do use the new spaces, they come out ahead net-net, and are subsidized. Renters/buyers who do not use the spaces bear costs.

If I am a nonswimmer, I can choose to rent/buy in a building with no pool. Because they are not mandated. If I am a non carowner, I can only get a building without parking in an old building from before 1958 - and there are a fixed number of such buildings, while the number of carfree people in search of such buildings (arguably - that too is complex) increases. If I want a new building without parking, Im completely out of luck.

OTOH, if an expansively defined downtown is exempt from parking minimums, that could absorb much of the demand from the car free. except of course for the many for whom downtown is not a good choice at all for other reasons. The numbers of folks like that will determine if allowing parking free buildings downtown will result in a no subsidy equilibrium. Changing the process to get a building by building exemption may also help - I defer to experts on "process" like Mr Richard Layman.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 12, 2013 2:26 pm • linkreport

"So the thing being subsidized must meet the condition of being required by law in order for it to be called a subsidy?"

it must be provided at less than cost. Some religious schools provide subsidies to some students, despite not being required to. I doubt many landlords/developers are similarly motivated. Now some will provide SOME services free, for purposes of marketing, and because charging is too burdensome administratively. But they provide the service to begin with in order to maximize profits - so while you can quibble that the owner is subsidizing swimmers by not charging for pool usage, its not going to impact the supply and demand of pools across the market.

Similarly, when a suburban shopping center offers free parking, in large part because the "optimal" price would be too low to justify the cost of collecting it, we dont usually call that a subsidy. But again would could quibble and do so.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 12, 2013 2:30 pm • linkreport

This is terrible news.

Clearly, the parking minimum requirement has blocked all multifamily units from being built since 1955. Frankly, I have no idea how we've managed to build a city.

by charlie on Jul 12, 2013 2:33 pm • linkreport

@ drumz "encouraging car ownership/use is not such a good thing"

I believe Detroit might have a different take on that.

by Chris S. on Jul 12, 2013 2:35 pm • linkreport

Scoot,

Walker beat me to it. So sometimes a parking deck isn't a subisdy because it would've been built anyway. That doesn't change the fact that buildings that could have been built with less parking must now provide it and subsidize driving.

We can go with Webster that says, a grant by a government to a private person or company to assist an enterprise deemed advantageous to the public

And let's be clear. I like all sorts of subsidies. I don't like ones that encourage the driving of (mostly) environmentally damaging and dangerous vehicles that also take up a lot of room to simply store.

by drumz on Jul 12, 2013 2:37 pm • linkreport

charlie

Im sure if the city mandated swimming pools, that would also not prevent all new buildings being built. They could even, in cases of hardship, allow small building developers in particular to provide memberships in nearby pools instead.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 12, 2013 2:39 pm • linkreport

"@ drumz "encouraging car ownership/use is not such a good thing"
I believe Detroit might have a different take on that."

The bus manufacturers of America might well like DC to run buses, on each and every side street. I don't think its wise for localities to try to use local policy as a substitute for national economic stimulus.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 12, 2013 2:41 pm • linkreport

This is terrible news.
Clearly, the parking minimum requirement has blocked all multifamily units from being built since 1955. Frankly, I have no idea how we've managed to build a city.

You can stop beating the strawman, charlie. It's dead.

by Alex B. on Jul 12, 2013 2:42 pm • linkreport

We're going to Detroit for our urban planning best practices now?

by Alan B. on Jul 12, 2013 2:43 pm • linkreport

@AWITC -- I agree with you in large part (maybe a first?) regarding the detail -- parking minimums may provide a subsidy in those cases (they may be few) where the cost of building and maintaining parking cannot be passed on by the owner to the user AND where the owner is able due to market power impost these costs on others (renters or unit owners who don't have cars or use parking). However, i disagree with your observation that the only option for carless renters or unit owners is in buildings built before 1958. Even if that is the date when parking minimums began, there are other options for renting or owning a unit BEYOND those building where parking minimums are required. Because alternative space is available where parking costs are not imposed by parking minimums, there are space options availabe WITHOUT cross subsidy requirements. AND because there are options availabe, the ability of building owners to impose cross subsidy is thereby limited.

by Tom M on Jul 12, 2013 2:47 pm • linkreport

I would also be very upset if there were a minimum required pool space per dwelling unit in new construction, wouldn't you?

And it's not just each building, by requiring multifamilies to accomodate parking you're subsidizing the availability of on street parking. I think everyone here has to agree that $35 a year is NOT market price.

In transit zones, they could have required a minimum or enacted a reform to make the units ineligible for RPP which would be just great for people that aren't planning to drive anyway. And if it incentivizes some people to not own cars or own less cars then there is likely going to be less road congestion for everyone.

by Alan B. on Jul 12, 2013 2:49 pm • linkreport

That doesn't change the fact that buildings that could have been built with less parking must now provide it and subsidize driving.

I'm still trying to figure out how in your logic the legal requirement comes into play. If a building that could legally be built with less parking merely chooses to provide more parking, isn't there still a subsidy from people living there who don't drive? Or is there not?

What if all the spaces convey with the units in a condo building? Who exactly is providing the subsidy, and to whom?

by Scoot on Jul 12, 2013 2:51 pm • linkreport

"And let's be clear. I like all sorts of subsidies. I don't like ones that encourage the driving of (mostly) environmentally damaging and dangerous vehicles that also take up a lot of room to simply store."

Well, electric cars are here now, and autonomous cars will be here most likely within a decade, so 2 of those objections should be taken care of (and cars are getting smaller all the time). Thanks in part to subsidies.

by Chris S. on Jul 12, 2013 2:51 pm • linkreport

@Chris S.
"I believe Detroit might have a different take on that."

And how did that work out for Detroit?

by alurin on Jul 12, 2013 2:54 pm • linkreport

Ugh. How disappointing.

by Dan Miller on Jul 12, 2013 2:56 pm • linkreport

Tregoning's announcement is a PR stunt, that's all. First of all, how many 'industrial' uses remain in DC? Second, the real news is she is still proposing to drop off-streetparking requirements in so-called transit zones, by 50% for office and residential buildings, which are what, 95% percent of new projects. What this means is that 'matter of right' multi-unit projects will have 1 parking spot per 6 units, rather than 1:3. The net result is still to put more vehicles onto the streets to compete for limited spot.

by Axel on Jul 12, 2013 2:59 pm • linkreport

I think I would have been in favor of getting rid of the minimum while allowing neighborhoods to vote to block residents in forthcoming buildings rather than just lowering the minimum. At least then the building will include as much parking as it thinks it can sell as opposed to how much the government tells them to build. (Later on I'd move to increase the cost of residential parking to try to even the playing field.)

by 7r3y3r on Jul 12, 2013 3:06 pm • linkreport

Another aspect of the proposed revised zoning regulations will be an expansion of the downtown zoning to places like NoMa, Mt Vernon Triangle and more. So this could have an impact on some upcoming construction.

ANC 6C supported variances for two recent projects in NoMa to have zero parking spaces. One was 33 New York Ave NE, currently under construction as a Hyatt Place hotel. The other was 1005 North Capitol Street NE, a 120 unit 100% affordable building hoping to break ground this year.

by Tony Goodman, ANC 6C06 on Jul 12, 2013 3:07 pm • linkreport

Scoot, sure but at that point it's a private transaction. There is no govt mandate.

ChrisS,

I will welcome the day those problems are solved. It's not today though so the best I can do is support policies that mitigate harmful effects.

by drumz on Jul 12, 2013 3:10 pm • linkreport

Scoot, sure but at that point it's a private transaction. There is no govt mandate.

So if a government mandates 2 spaces in a building, and the developer provides 3 spaces, then there's no subsidy? Or is there?

by Scoot on Jul 12, 2013 3:12 pm • linkreport

In the many, many discussions of parking minimums here, I don't recall seeing much discussion of requirements for electric charging stations. Surely there should be minimums for those too, and maybe for Zipcar spaces.

by Chris S. on Jul 12, 2013 3:19 pm • linkreport

Again, as walker pointed out, then it's moot. That doesn't justify the policy though and it doesn't mean that it's not somehow subsidizing when the number of spaces needed is less than the requirement.

I'm not so sure that it needed to be pointed out that a rule doesn't always lead to 100% subsidy all the time for it to qualify as one.

by drumz on Jul 12, 2013 3:20 pm • linkreport

scoot, you are quibbling over words - if you want to call a free service voluntarily provided by a building owner like a swimming pool a "subsidy" thats fine - its an "optimal subsidy" or whatever. Its not a public policy issue, as it is when a developer losses money on parking spaces and passes on that cost.

Tom M

Its not a question of market power enabling the landlord to pass on costs - that can happen in a completely competitive market - in fact its MORE likely in a competitive market, because its in such a market where price is more directly related to cost. In a market with substantial seller market power, the seller will hold product off the market and keep prices long term above marginal costs - so changes in marginal costs matter less. whats at issue is not the amount of market power, but the shape of the supply and demand curves.

This is about a different policy, but shows some of the kind of analysis required to understand the issue.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tax_incidence

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 12, 2013 3:32 pm • linkreport

Scoot maybe you're getting confused between minimums and maximums. If a developer builds more than required that's their right and is probably based on a reasonable market demand. What has been seen multiple times is developers saying there is less demand than the minimum requires. I understand skepticism if that happens in say Chevy Chase, but there is certainly a demand from carfree people naturally around transit zones. I know personally transit is the second thing I look for after a safe living environment in looking at housing. To require units built 1000 from a metro entrance to have parking seems silly to me if the developer doesnt see the demand.

by Alan B. on Jul 12, 2013 3:34 pm • linkreport

chris - we've had discussions of zipcar parking IIUC. As for electrics, I think theres still some question if current electrics are better on GHGs than conventionally fueled vehicles, including full life cycle costs. As for car size, thats not that meaningful in traffic, its the distance between vehicles that matters most. Maybe that will be reduced by autonomous vehicles, but I am not sure. Its also not yet clear that autonomous vehicles will help with safety for walkers and cyclists. You know what might help though? External air bags. Interested in mandating those?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 12, 2013 3:36 pm • linkreport

If you want to see what parking minimums do to a place, just go to Twinbrook station on the red line and walk to Rockville Pike. It's a sea of half-full parking lots. The only lot that is ever full is the Metro lot. If you added up the square feet of the lots and then added up the square feet of the buildings, my guess is that you'd have a two to one ratio. It completely deteriorates the quality-of-life when the storing of cars becomes more important than everything else.

by dc denizen on Jul 12, 2013 3:40 pm • linkreport

LOL autonomous vehicles! Let's not go there again.

by MLD on Jul 12, 2013 3:40 pm • linkreport

what happens to small buildings? are they exempt?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 12, 2013 3:44 pm • linkreport

@AWITC -This is certainly a competitive market for housing and if costs are passed on from owners/builders in such markets, then they can (and mostly are) through fees to users. That is NOT a subsidy. Nor are the "car-less" advesely affected in the scenario you describe.

by Tom M on Jul 12, 2013 3:48 pm • linkreport

Are you allowed to take the parking away on your own property? Say you bought a rowhouse with a parking pad behind it, can you rip it out and turn it to another use? What if you bought a small building and then (after you purchased it) repurposed the parking lot into something else? When exactly does the zoning law take effect?

by dc denizen on Jul 12, 2013 3:54 pm • linkreport

@ Alan B You mentioned Chevy Chase. errrr.

To get my dander up, no doubt. The main complainers are from Ward 3, where they moan and whine about everything, and OP caved. Plenty and I mean plenty of off-street and free on-street parking there.

While I might agree with Richard Layman, were he posting, that having a PUD process in place makes sense so that good actors like Tony Goodman and his ANC can extract needed community amenities from developers, that has not been how the process worked in Ward 3 pre-Babes. Look at all the moaning about a new Safeway in Palisades that will provide ample parking.

Maybe things have changed, and the Babes model is the right model so that the developer will agree to help make the neighborhood better. Historically, that has not been the case where I live, since the NIMBYs are able to unite against a specific project and quash it.

This is why that group does not want the minimums to go away, and why they argued so vigorously. They just want to complain about each new project seeking a PUD. Getting rid of the minimums means there would be fewer projects that need PUDs.

@ Axel makes me feel better though if the minimums do get lowered below where they are.

by Steve Seelig on Jul 12, 2013 3:59 pm • linkreport

@ Steve Seelig - The "Babes Model" may actually be a figement of your imagination. More than six months after the agreement, there is no construction, no plan, no timeline for action. There are no amenities for the community. On the other hand, the owners did escape paying a much higher tax rate on the parcel right away. They may have sought the change/agreement to allow them to hold years longer without acting.

by Tom M on Jul 12, 2013 4:07 pm • linkreport

"This is certainly a competitive market for housing and if costs are passed on from owners/builders in such markets, then they can (and mostly are) through fees to users. That is NOT a subsidy. Nor are the "car-less" advesely affected in the scenario you describe"

they can only be passed completely through fees where there is sufficient demand. That may be most buildings (and it will be more under the new code as announced today, since the requirements are being cut in half) but the issue is those buildings wher the demand is not sufficient - where the market clearing fee (the fee that results in the spots actually being used) is too low to pay the costs.

Try a thought experiment. suppose we mandated 2 spots per unit. Would that cost be passed on to people paying for spots? Would it effect the supply of housing, and end up harming those needing less than 2 spots? Suppose we mandated 3 spots per unit? 5 spots? 100?

The conceptual issues when you mandate 1/3 spot per unit are identical. Its just that there will be fewer buildings where the number of spots mandated exceeds what the market would have supplied anyway.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 12, 2013 4:18 pm • linkreport

@ Tom M. You may be right - Jemal is far from pristine when it comes to holding onto properties until they fester. And this was the precise argument made to the ZC at the hearing - don't approve this delay tactic - that was rejected.

But Tony Goodman and his ANC seem to be of the same mind, and those are not figments.

by Steve Seelig on Jul 12, 2013 4:27 pm • linkreport

@ AWalkerInTheCity "As for electrics, I think theres still some question if current electrics are better on GHGs than conventionally fueled vehicles, including full life cycle costs."

Is there? Not counting fearmongering efforts by the oil industry and Fox News that is.

"As for car size, thats not that meaningful in traffic, its the distance between vehicles that matters most. Maybe that will be reduced by autonomous vehicles, but I am not sure."

I mentioned shrinking car size because the issue of storage space was brought up. But car size is relevant to traffic as well. With some of the new "personal mobility" vehicles being developed by companies like Toyota, you could fit 2 of them side by side into the space occupied by an SUV today.

"Its also not yet clear that autonomous vehicles will help with safety for walkers and cyclists."

Crash avoidance systems are designed to stop autonomous vehicles regardless of whether an oncoming obstacle is another car, a walker, or a cyclist. Hopefully they will be as effective as the manufacturers are claiming.

"You know what might help though? External air bags. Interested in mandating those?"

Maybe that is a good idea, but that of course takes us back to the unpopular idea of helmets. And it raises some tricky insurance questions.

by Chris S. on Jul 12, 2013 4:31 pm • linkreport

Fair enough, Steve. I get tired of using Palisades all the time as my example and was thinking more east of Connecticut when i wrote Chevy Chase. Technically the Babes Parcel is Tenleytown right - so we both win?

by Alan B. on Jul 12, 2013 4:34 pm • linkreport

" mentioned shrinking car size because the issue of storage space was brought up."

Smaller cars only help if we make spaces smaller. Some parking lots have compact only spaces - do you see more spaces even smaller happening? On street spaces are one size fits all - Im not sure there would be support for compact only on street spaces, or sub compact only spaces.

" But car size is relevant to traffic as well. With some of the new "personal mobility" vehicles being developed by companies like Toyota, you could fit 2 of them side by side into the space occupied by an SUV today."

Do you size lanes only for those minicars, and just ban everything else? Or do you have seperate mini car only lanes - that would take up a lot more road space than bike lanes - I doubt the SUV set would give up the road space to "narcissistic single minicar drivers"
"You know what might help though? External air bags. Interested in mandating those?"

Maybe that is a good idea, but that of course takes us back to the unpopular idea of helmets.

Someone is proposing helmets for pedestrians? There are far more pedestrians than cyclists, and they represent many more traffic fatalities than cyclists. Why do you assume the above is only relevant to cyclists?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 12, 2013 4:39 pm • linkreport

To Bob and others who have pointed out that people can still get a variance to avoid parking minimums:

A variance or PUD opens up the entire project to meddling and interference from NIMBYs, even ones who won't be affected by the development. Expect several developers to skip this hassle by building more as-of-right luxury condos instead of larger, more affordable apartment buildings.

by Michael on Jul 12, 2013 4:41 pm • linkreport

Self driving cars reduce the need for parking anyway. Or at least on-site parking. But again, until they're well on their way to being a regular part of our lives they're a straw-man to convince people that we don't need to do anything about planning/transit or whatever because they'll fix everything.

by drumz on Jul 12, 2013 4:41 pm • linkreport

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421513002309

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 12, 2013 4:43 pm • linkreport

I mean self driving cars as a practical reality is what 20 years away to any significant extent? Plus the most efficient self driving cars would be part of some car share/pseudo taxi service that doesnt need local storage so if anything that reinforces that there is less future need for parking space.

by Alan B. on Jul 12, 2013 4:47 pm • linkreport


michael - it will now be a special exception, rather than a variance. I don't know what that means.

" But she says she's not worried that the new minimums will seem equally obsolete in 55 years—partly because it'll be easier for developers to get out of the requirements (they'll be able to do so through a special exception, which is easier to obtain than the current required variance), and partly because the Office of Planning will be monitoring the parking situation closely and adapting as needed."

Im not sure what they mean by adapting as needed - do they think they can manage amendments in medium term - say in five years?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 12, 2013 4:48 pm • linkreport

suppose we mandated 2 spots per unit. Would that cost be passed on to people paying for spots? Would it effect the supply of housing, and end up harming those needing less than 2 spots? Suppose we mandated 3 spots per unit? 5 spots? 100?

The conceptual issues when you mandate 1/3 spot per unit are identical.

Maybe, but I doubt we'd be having this discussion if the law only mandated a minimum of 1 space for every 10,000 units.

Then you'd really get a feel for the supply and demand of spots, as opposed to the status quo: simply guessing.

by Scoot on Jul 12, 2013 4:56 pm • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity-

Special exception? A rose by any other name...

by Michael Hamilton on Jul 12, 2013 5:01 pm • linkreport

@ AWalkerInTheCity "Smaller cars only help if we make spaces smaller. Some parking lots have compact only spaces - do you see more spaces even smaller happening? On street spaces are one size fits all - Im not sure there would be support for compact only on street spaces, or sub compact only spaces."

Drivers will squeeze their cars into any available space. On a given block, you can fit a lot more 7-ft long Toyota I-Roads than you can 15-ft long Honda Accords.

"Do you size lanes only for those minicars, and just ban everything else? Or do you have seperate mini car only lanes - that would take up a lot more road space than bike lanes - I doubt the SUV set would give up the road space to "narcissistic single minicar drivers""

It's a good question. Maybe just take one standard lane and split it into two narrow lanes for 2/3-wheel vehicle use.

"Someone is proposing helmets for pedestrians? There are far more pedestrians than cyclists, and they represent many more traffic fatalities than cyclists. Why do you assume the above is only relevant to cyclists?"

Fair enough, but I expect adding further bulky safety systems to cars will make it more challenging to shrink them and improve fuel economy. Seems better to focus on crash avoidance systems to reduce the odds of impact.

by Chris S. on Jul 12, 2013 5:21 pm • linkreport

Current minimums are typically 1 space for every 2-4 units in a multifamily building (depending on zone - with areas near transit typically zoned for the lower ratios). So, no, people who don't own cars don't have to live in a pre-1958 building to avoid paying for parking. Parking's sold separately and if you don't need it, you don't buy it. This has been true in DC for decades.

The zoning code has been amended about a thousand times (literally) since 1958. It does reflects the existence of metro stations (and car-share, and inclusionary zoning...)

The important thing about parking minimums in downtown DC is that they've incentivized the undergrounding of parking, which is important from a land use perspective and a major contributor to pedestrian-friendliness. I'd like to see that practice continue. I'd also like to see more smart parking technology to make the most efficient use of the spaces that are built (and to cut down on circling and the resultant congestion and pollution).

by BTDT on Jul 12, 2013 6:37 pm • linkreport

Very good article from San Diego on the cost of parking minimums: http://voiceofsandiego.org/2013/06/06/what-we-pay-for-parking/

by 7r3y3r on Jul 12, 2013 9:32 pm • linkreport

Reducing parking requirements (especially for retail and commercial property) is the sort of short sighted lack of planing that has plagued Washington DC for years. When I heard the head of planing say she thinks providing enough parking (for the real world) was bad for DC, I suddenly understood a lot about what is wrong with DC. The people in charge are clearly clueless. In a perfect world it would be wonderful if nobody drove cars. But people do drive. People drive into downtown everyday and that number is going up. Metro is completely overwhelmed already by the small percentage of commuters it already handles. She claims Metro is some sort of "great mass transit system"... Yes she really said that today on the radio. Clearly she has never had to commute on Metro from any place further than five miles away. Metro is fine if you are going from one part of DC to another part, but if you are coming in from anywhere outside the beltway it really wont serve you at all. That means people drive into DC. When they get there they need to park. One would think the head of planing would understand this concept. Clearly she does not.
Somebody needs to take away her bike and force her to move to Woodbridge or south for a year. THen maybe she will be qualified to talk about how "good metro is".

by Dale Top on Jul 12, 2013 10:16 pm • linkreport

Basically all the big developers need since they have to build underground structures for mid rises this size anyway.

DC should require transit benies like car share spots, bike corrals, E V chargers, etc in return for waiving parking spots on a formula. That's what more honest cities do.

But in the District of Corruption "Smart Growth" is an excuse to give developers 100's of millions of $ for nothing in return.

by Tom Coumaris on Jul 12, 2013 10:45 pm • linkreport

@Dale Is auto traffic congestion, parking and pollution a major issue today? If the answer to any part of the question is "yes" then how will trying to legislate the accommodation of a significant increase in cars "tomorrow" help make things better?

The alternative view is to make mass transportation better, provide more housing options closer to where people live, work and shop, and otherwise try to maintain or reduce the number of single occupancy cars on the road.

by William on Jul 12, 2013 11:03 pm • linkreport

Well, electric cars are here now, and autonomous cars will be here most likely within a decade, so 2 of those objections should be taken care of (and cars are getting smaller all the time).

Well, when the day comes that those objections are dealt with, we can revisit zoning regulations.

by David C on Jul 12, 2013 11:16 pm • linkreport

Metro is fine if you are going from one part of DC to another part, but if you are coming in from anywhere outside the beltway it really wont serve you at all.

Why should DC's Dept. of planning care about serving people coming in from outside the beltway?

by David C on Jul 12, 2013 11:18 pm • linkreport

Dale Top: you speak as if removing parking minimums would somehow limit the number of parking spaces that could be built. That's a parking maximum. Don't you think that if there's a demand for parking, someone would provide it? Why should the government mandate how many parking spots are required for every building that gets constructed?

by 7r3y3r on Jul 12, 2013 11:22 pm • linkreport

When they get there they need to park.

I've never seen any shortage of parking garages in DC and I have only rarely ever parked in a parking lot associated with a retail establishment here. You have no idea what you are talking about and, I think, are clueless regarding the zoning issue at hand. I will give you another chance to explain yourself, however. So please go on.

by Tyro on Jul 13, 2013 7:51 am • linkreport

The San Diego article is talking about parking minimums significantly higher than ours. 1.25 per apartment vs. .5 (or .25) per apartment. Once the ratio is 1 or greater, yes, everybody pays. When it's fractional and parking is unbundled that's not the case.

Re why should DC care about people who drive in? Because our economy (and economic growth) depends on them. You wanna be a job center, you have to accommodate commuters. Obviously parking isn't the only way you do that -- I'd love to see more investment in commuter rail, for example, we're way behind other cities in that regard. But it's one component and so the challenge is to build it in ways that have minimal impact on land use, and that enable people to find a space quickly (and once, if possible) and then move around the city by other means.

Undergrounding should be the goal here and that's not something that can generally be retrofitted (the notable exception being major public projects under parks or plaza -- like the proposal for The Mall).

Co-location and shared spaces for complementary uses also makes sense -- e.g. Verizon Center required little or no additional parking infrastructure because it was built in a place where the transportation system generally (Metro and buses as well as parking) was already in place to handle large volumes of traffic. By contrast, the Nats stadium spawned lots of above-ground lots and garages. Not such an appealing land use.

The market may provide, but the function of zoning is to have it do so in ways that serve public interests as well as private. DC's low minimums have been an important tool for keeping parking underground downtown and in other parts of the city where land values are high.

by BTDT on Jul 13, 2013 8:53 am • linkreport

"Under existing zoning, any new residential units are required to build parking spaces, whether the owner wants them or not. The requirement is a huge subsidy for drivers, and a major burden on car-free households."
---

Not so, at any stretch.

The idea that parking is a "subsidy" for drivers is nonsense. Residential developers charge for parking. It's an OPTION that the buyers/renter can choose to buy/rent or not.

The assertion that parking is somehow a "major burden on car-free households" is simply hyperbole that has no basis in faact.

by ceefer66 on Jul 13, 2013 10:01 am • linkreport

In fairness, that claim may have a basis in fact in other jurisdictions where one (or more) spaces are required per unit. In that situation, parking is typically bundled with housing and carless households are stuck paying for something they don't use.

The problem with a lot of the parking debate in DC is the importation of rhetoric from other areas with little or no attention to whether it's relevant here.

by BTDT on Jul 13, 2013 12:54 pm • linkreport

BTDT - In those suburban jurisdictions with high parking minimums, we're told that the minimums aren't needed in the city where there is lots of transit but are essential out here where everyone drives.

by Ben Ross on Jul 13, 2013 1:08 pm • linkreport

it's one component and so the challenge is to build it in ways that have minimal impact on land use

Even if accommodating car commuters is something DC should try to do - and I don't believe it is - a minimum parking limit for residential buildings along a metro line doesn't do that.

the Nats stadium spawned lots of above-ground lots and garages.

I think this is temporary. We'll see most/all of those lots become buildings over the next two decades. Really it spawned the conversion of empty lots into parking lots.

by David C on Jul 13, 2013 1:31 pm • linkreport

The idea that parking is a "subsidy" for drivers is nonsense. Residential developers charge for parking. It's an OPTION that the buyers/renter can choose to buy/rent or not.

I can't believe we're still explaining this to long time readers, but here I go.

If a developer is going to make more money on parking then on anything else or not building, then they will build the parking - minimum or not. The only reason the minimum is needed is because they will make less money on the parking - or even lose money. This means non-drivers pay in three ways.

1. In either of those cases it means that, on average, developers build fewer units because of space limitations. That reduces housing supply and drives up cost for all.

2. In either of those cases it means that some marginal projects don't get build. That reduces housing supply and drives up cost for all.

3. In cases where the price paid for parking is less than the cost to the developer, the developer will likely pass some of that loss on to all buyers/renters in the building. That's also a subsidy.

Does that make sense.

by David C on Jul 13, 2013 1:43 pm • linkreport

I'm intrigued by the prevailing tone on this board, which seems to be "if you would just listen to me, and understand what I'm saying, you'd know I'm right."

I think the truth lies somewhere between parking is a subsidy to drivers, and it isn't.

Most of the costs of providing parking are paid by users, but non-users also bear some of the costs (just as they bear the cost of a lot of resources they don't directly use).

But I'd be surprised if the costs borne by non-users rose to the level of a "major burden" as asserted in the original article. That sounds a bit like hyperbole.

DC is a city with large pockets of very scarce parking availability but still lots of demand for parking, so a building with parking in those areas tends to actually raise the value of property for the people who live there regardless of whether they drive. The cost to provide that parking is shared by everyone, but the pay-off is huge.

The parking minimum is an attempt for the city to increase supply of a scarce resource. The zoning code overhaul enables developers to seek an exemption much more easily than before.

But eventually the minimum will be repealed because it's just not the optimal way to increase the availability of parking.

by Scoot on Jul 13, 2013 3:10 pm • linkreport

1. How is the policy changed if the parking minimum is only a minor burden instead of a major burden? I would still have the same recommendation. So hyperbole or not doesn't really matter.
2. If the payoff for parking is huge, then we don't need a minimum, and it matters little to the people who live there, since they have to pay for that. They aren't winners, at best they break even.

by David C on Jul 13, 2013 3:39 pm • linkreport

Ben --

The high minimums I'm referring to haven't just been in suburbs. Austin and LA, for example, have both had parking minimums that require 2 spaces per unit even in some multifamily contexts.

I think it's a legitimate argument that some neighborhoods need higher minimums than others -- depends on existing housing stock and parking supply as well as empirical rates of car ownership, as well as on what other attractors there are in the vicinity. But that's not inherently a suburban vs. urban phenomenon. (A new subdivision that's essentially a bedroom community consisting exclusively of single family homes on large lots, for example, might not need off street parking to accommodate all the vehicles it attracts).

In the end (and especially locally where the urban/suburban divide is really more a continuum), I think it's more a question of what the ratios should be where rather than an all-or-nothing decision about whether to have minimums.

by BTDT on Jul 13, 2013 3:48 pm • linkreport

Well, it becomes more difficult to convince someone that a policy is bad when it's only a "minor burden". That's why hyperbole is such a handy tool in discussions of policy. It's the worst thing ever, so let's repeal it!

2. If the payoff for parking is huge, then we don't need a minimum, and it matters little to the people who live there, since they have to pay for that. They aren't winners, at best they break even.

That the payoff might be large is neither an argument for parking minimums, nor an argument against it. It's more of an argument for providing parking, period.

To determine whether non-users "break even" (much less "at best break even" which implies that they almost never break even) requires an economic argument which I'm sorry to say lacks any evidence or facts for support.

The cost to provide a parking space is usually spread over a large number of actors -- owners of the spaces by far bear the largest burden, followed by people who use them, followed by non-users -- but generally, they all benefit. Especially when parking elsewhere is scarce.

Non-users certainly bear some cost, but is the cost high enough to satisfy a "major burden"?

There are so many good reasons to eliminate the parking minimums that don't have to rely on conjecture and hyperbole.

by Scoot on Jul 13, 2013 4:18 pm • linkreport

It's not about the cost of the burden, it's about the consistent examples that show that minimums rarely ever meet the actual demand. Sometimes it's not enough, sometimes it's too much. The govt isn't suited for determining how much parking is needed, unless it really wanted to take an extremely heavy hand and come up with numbers for each new development.

So at that point it's not only about costs (costs are still really important!) but about who is best suited to determine the limits. But then that interrupts the "developers are the ultimate evil" meme which is pretty hyperbolic.

by drumz on Jul 13, 2013 4:41 pm • linkreport

These comments are amazing. Ok, some people really want no additional parking for cars. They are doing their best to prevent any mandate requiring it for any new buildings. I get it; cars are not good. Cars pollute.

Cowboys and cars are symbols of the US culture. Walking & bicycles are too, but to a much lesser extent. Removing requiring parking spaces will likely not reduce the amount of parking built. Only a full cultural change will cause that... one that isn't here yet or garages would be empty.

No one wishes they *didn't* have off-street parking. If it's in your yard, you can have a bigger yard; if it's in your building you can sell it. If you are a martyr and you somehow own it you can let it gather dust, but that will only drive up the value of other parking spots.

Even if there were a removal of requirements for parking, the % of buildings built with parking will remain high. If the # of parking spots built actually decreases, the value of them will increase.

As a commenter said, "The idea that parking is a "subsidy" for drivers is nonsense. Residential developers charge for parking. It's an OPTION that the buyers/renter can choose to buy/rent or not."

Of course building of new parking spots will change in the future… when the behavior of people change - when people choose to not drive.

I've never heard of a developer wishing they built a building with no parking spots. Maybe someone else has? The cost per to build an underground parking spot in a garage is about $20,000. Until people choose to not drive, that parking spot can achieve a nice rent. We can't force people to *not* build underground parking.

by Cap Hill Resident on Jul 13, 2013 7:39 pm • linkreport

Wells' bill is the best I've heard.

Those of us living in already dense areas know what increased density in new areas will mean-as new residents park on the street every blade of grass and every tree in rear yards will be turned to concrete parking pads. DC already has one of the worst heat islands and neighborhoods that still have some green between houses will become urban concrete deserts.

There are plenty of potential car-less residents we should encourage the way Arlington does. Depending on street parking for new buildings is a really bad idea.

by Tom Coumaris on Jul 13, 2013 10:25 pm • linkreport

More than a third of DC households don't own a car. I think there is a strong car free culture in DC.

And the rest of the argument is exactly what those of us wishing to see the mandate removed are saying. There will still be a net increase of parkig spaces in DC despite the removal.

by drumz on Jul 13, 2013 10:26 pm • linkreport

it becomes more difficult to convince someone that a policy is bad when it's only a "minor burden"

But that's a political point. You didn't answer the question about policy. I'll assume that you agree that the magnitude of the burden is irrelevant when considering the policy. And that thus the policy is still a good one.

Besides, I fail to see why it is only a minor burden. "The effect of the rule is that the cost of building is raised by as much as a third." Who pays for that?

From that same Lydia DePillis article:

"“Let’s say it’s $100 per month. If you built the parking space, and it cost you $40,000, $1,200 per year doesn’t cover it,” says Four Points Development’s Stan Voudrie, who’s behind the mixed-use Progression Place project in Shaw. “Then you have to spread that out over the whole project.”

With smaller buildings—the five to 25-unit projects that dot the city’s neighborhoods—the parking requirements can just kill plans altogether. For example, Level2 Development eventually gave up on one 12-unit project on Florida Avenue off 14th Street NW because the sloped site made building six parking spots prohibitively expensive. The lot sat for years until somebody else made a go of it.

If it doesn’t torpedo projects outright, the parking minimum rule can limit the number of units in a building. At Justice Park, a Columbia Heights project on city land comprised entirely of affordable apartments, there was only room for 12 spaces, so developer Dantes Partners could only build 28 units—even though the site could have taken more."

How exactly do non-car owners not find themselves significantly burdened when there are fewer units to rent or buy and units are more expensive than they otherwise would be - all to accommodate their neighbors, but not them. And it's not like they can avoid this by going elsewhere, the burden is mandated.

The argument seems to be: we need to force developers to build parking which will drive up the cost of development. But don't worry, car owners will entirely pay for that increase, thus not burdening non-car owners.

But if car owners will pay the cost, then why do we need to force developers to do it?

I think the truth lies somewhere between parking is a subsidy to drivers, and it isn't.

And exactly what is in between those two? To me it either is or isn't. A little bit of a subsidy is still a subsidy.

"at best break even" which implies that they almost never break even

That was not what I meant to imply. I meant that they can either break even or lose money. They can not do better than break even. It was not a judgement of how often they have either outcome.

To determine whether non-users "break even" requires an economic argument which I'm sorry to say lacks any evidence or facts for support.

The cost to provide a parking space is usually spread over a large number of actors but generally, they all benefit.

There's no evidence to support the first statement (despite the evidence that has been given) but there IS evidence to support your second statement? What evidence do you have?

How do non-car owners benefit from parking they won't use, but do have to pay for?

by David C on Jul 13, 2013 11:23 pm • linkreport

The issue is not about who is against parking, but about who has control and who decides. Many members of the public feel that if development is to happen, then they will dictate how, where, and what gets developed. They want to play developer and decide that parking will exist. They do not want someone deciding "I am going to build a parking garage because there is a demand for parking." If someone does decide this, they want to be the ones to dictate where the parking garage goes, or even that there should NOT be a parking garage because parking should have been build for an apartment building already.

This isn't about whether to build parking. It's about who decides to build parking. By removing this requirement, you take power away from the neighborhood busibodies and into the hands of developers and consumers, and we do not do that here in DC.

by Tyro on Jul 14, 2013 2:59 pm • linkreport

The sky is not falling, and developers today already build more than the minimum required. I was at a panel just Thursday where a SVP for DC's largest developer said, on the record: "Parking is extremely expensive and we lose money on it, but if we build too little we're going to pay for it by hurting leasing." Regarding their current development under construction at Fort Totten, "for right now we're over-parked from a zoning standpoint."

Yes, that's right: they built more than the minimum, and yes, they lose money on it. Which means that people who don't park on site are paying for those who do park on site.

Definitions of zones: the current definition of "downtown" can be viewed at the District's zoning map as those areas marked as DD or as C-4/C-5: http://maps.dcoz.dc.gov. As Tony Goodman points out, more areas will be remapped into the "DD" zone in the future, particularly NoMa and Southwest EcoDistrict. There's currently no "transit zone" designation, but maps were circulated showing their maximum extent.

by Payton on Jul 14, 2013 3:31 pm • linkreport

If you're really convinced that developers will build more than the current minimums, then there's no reason to get rid of the current minimums.

And what the Fort Totten example you've given suggests is that even if minimums were repealed the supposed subsidization of drivers by non-drivers would continue.

by BTDT on Jul 14, 2013 3:52 pm • linkreport

@BTDT, that wouldn't be a subsidy. A subsidy is given by the government. This would be the market acting.

by David C on Jul 14, 2013 3:59 pm • linkreport

Great post @Payton. Lots of good insights.

I understand why you say people that don't park pay for those that do. It could also be said that non-parkers pay and receive the same benefit but don't currently use the parking benefit. That would particularly be true if parking minimums are removed from an area and parking is still built because the market demands it. People who don't park could choose to live in a building with no parking.

When it comes to owning and selling or leasing a property will those who don't park only sell or lease to those that don't park? I doubt it. Parking is an amenity with huge demand. Does this particular company lose money in it? Yes and no. Apparently they would lose more if they didn't build with additional parking or why would they do it?

It seems that despite not parking, people who dont park & own in a building with parking will continue to benefit from having parking available when it comes to resale value or leasing. There is more demand for condos/apts w/ parking than there is for those with no parking.

Eventually there will be a change, but how much of a change? At least this law allows for future change. Meanwhile, people can keep creating options to encourage people to not drive and opt to not buy/rent in a building that does offer parking.

by Cap Hill Resident on Jul 14, 2013 4:37 pm • linkreport

This false propaganda that lower cost mean lower rents keeps keeping spread.

Rents are determined by what the market will bear.

Lower costs mean increased profit (and maximizing profit should be the goal in any business).

Only when parking is required to be provided for free to tenants does it affect rents.

by Tom Coumaris on Jul 14, 2013 4:59 pm • linkreport

If you're really convinced that developers will build more than the current minimums, then there's no reason to get rid of the current minimums.

No reason to keep them then, either.

Payton writes:

The sky is not falling, and developers today already build more than the minimum required. I was at a panel just Thursday where a SVP for DC's largest developer said, on the record: "Parking is extremely expensive and we lose money on it, but if we build too little we're going to pay for it by hurting leasing." Regarding their current development under construction at Fort Totten, "for right now we're over-parked from a zoning standpoint."

Yes, that's right: they built more than the minimum, and yes, they lose money on it. Which means that people who don't park on site are paying for those who do park on site.

While I generally agree, I think the breadth of 'developers' is a lot larger than those who speak at conferences like this. Larger developers might not want to take the risk of providing less parking than needed, but other developers that are aiming at a different market segment will be willing to take the risk.

Point being, the very idea that there is one single minimum number that applies to all potential users of a site is part of the problem with these minimums.

We saw this in Portland, where they had zero-parking required for years before builders started to a) find a market for parking-free buildings, and b) found financing willing to take on that risk.

The other negative aspect of any requirement is the lack of flexibility. Geometric flexibility is one example (e.g. the code requires 50 spaces, but you can only fit 45 on one level of below-grade parking. You must either lose a few units or take on the expense of a deeper excavation and larger structure - opportunity cost and real cost), locational flexibility is another (examples in LA show that developers would love to redevelop old offices into loft apartments, but could not provide parking on site. Providing parking nearby would meet their goals for leasing but current requirements do not allow for such flexibility). Procedural flexibility is yet another problem with the current code, although the proposal to allow deviations from the code via a special exception rather than a variance is significant.

by Alex B. on Jul 14, 2013 5:01 pm • linkreport

Tom coumaris, so if developers were required to provide 18 parking spaces per unit that would not change the cost of housing? What about 200? What about 2000? It defies the law of economics. One input to price is cost, and mandatory parking drives up cost.

by David C on Jul 14, 2013 5:37 pm • linkreport

"This false propaganda that lower cost mean lower rents keeps keeping spread.
Rents are determined by what the market will bear."

what part of the market? There is a declining demand curve - some will pay 3000 for a given unit, some 2000 some would only pay 1000. How far down that curve you need to go to fill all units depends on how many units you need to fill - IE supply. which is determined by demand. There is no one single price "the market will bear" This is from like the first week or two of Econ 1. And yes, its reality.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 14, 2013 6:07 pm • linkreport

"If you're really convinced that developers will build more than the current minimums, then there's no reason to get rid of the current minimums."

many will,some won't. Quantity matters.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 14, 2013 6:08 pm • linkreport

BTW, Im not that surprised they'd be overparked at Ft Totten, despite two metro lines - IIUC its not a particularly walkable area.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 14, 2013 6:11 pm • linkreport

"If you're really convinced that developers will build more than the current minimums, then there's no reason to get rid of the current minimums.

No reason to keep them then, either."

If one side's position is "minimums are unnecessary -- developers always exceed them anyway" and the other side's position is "minimums are crucial -- we need to retain them," then it seems pretty rational to keep the minimums in place. If you honestly believe that it won't make a difference, why fight for a change? "Makes no difference, so do it my way" is just BS.

by BTDT on Jul 15, 2013 8:19 am • linkreport

"minimums are unnecessary -- developers always exceed them anyway"

That's not the position. The position is that developers will sometimes exceed them and sometimes won't because it really depends on the project.

by drumz on Jul 15, 2013 8:49 am • linkreport

If one side's position is "minimums are unnecessary -- developers always exceed them anyway" and the other side's position is "minimums are crucial -- we need to retain them," then it seems pretty rational to keep the minimums in place. If you honestly believe that it won't make a difference, why fight for a change?

I don't think that is an accurate summary of the position against minimums. Parking minimums have a large and very real cost. The point that some developers do now and will continue to exceed those minimums is made only to fight back against the false idea that removing this requirement is tantamount to a prohibition on building new off-street parking.

by Alex B. on Jul 15, 2013 8:55 am • linkreport

"If one side's position is "minimums are unnecessary -- developers always exceed them anyway" and the other side's position is "minimums are crucial -- we need to retain them," then it seems pretty rational to keep the minimums in place. If you honestly believe that it won't make a difference, why fight for a change? "Makes no difference, so do it my way" is just BS."

Its so good that english has words like "some" "many" " a few"

Many developers will build above the minimum anyway. SOME won't.

The ones who will, will do so where the demand is sufficient to justify the costs. The ones who will not, will be the ones where the demand is NOT sufficient.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 15, 2013 9:16 am • linkreport

I agree that developers will provide more parking than the current regs require in some projects and will eagerly embrace the option of providing no parking in others if minimums are eliminated.

And I agree that it's projects like Fort Totten Square where producing more parking than the regs require is likely. But what's going on there isn't so much a matter of walkability as of gentrification. Developers (and lenders?) don't perceive it as a place where more affluent newcomers will feel comfortable leaving their cars on the street for extended periods of time. That's why some early projects in Columbia Heights built so much parking. (It may also be a retailer issue -- isn't Walmart part of the Fort Totten project?).

Conversely, where you're likely to see developers bail on parking (if no minimums are in place) is some of the areas where it's needed most -- i.e. where housing is tight and it's a landlord's market rather than a renter's market. Both NYC and Portland planners have remarked on this phenomenon.

by BTDT on Jul 15, 2013 9:40 am • linkreport

It's only going to be about parking on street vs off street if we allow buildings to get RPP's. Thats why CM Wells' bill is important. Then on street is no longer an option for buildings without parking.

And the places where houising is tight are exactly where we parking minimums are most of a problem, by holding back supply of APARTMENTS where THEY are needed most.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 15, 2013 9:45 am • linkreport

anyway, the argument now is over what, for this purpose, should be "downtown" IIUC the DD zones on the map are basically the CBD - they don't even include the West End, or the area from 3rd street NW to NoMa, or any place south of the Mall.

That is after the new zoning code is passed - which should be soon.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 15, 2013 9:47 am • linkreport

Re: Portland,

Everything I've read about Portland and parking minimums is that they were introduced in certain areas because of a perception that parking on the street may become bad despite little evidence of saying so. It's not the best analogy for DC that had already present parking problems despite the minimums already in place.

http://www.oregonlive.com/front-porch/index.ssf/2013/04/porland_city_council_approves.html

by drumz on Jul 15, 2013 9:48 am • linkreport

Someone wrote: "Why should DC's Dept. of planning care about serving people coming in from outside the beltway?"

Uh, because they work here. Like it or not (and it seems that some don't), Washington, DC is a major employment center for the Federal government, law firms, trade associations, media, etc. The employees who work there, in turn, generate a lot of economic activity in DC, from food trucks, to shops, to (even) Colonial Parking receipts -- all of which are taxed. DC is competing with the suburbs for good paying jobs, and N.Va. is becoming more attractive even for those that traditionally thought they needed to be downtown, like trade associations and media. Why make it more difficult to attract and retain employers in the city??

The view that OP shouldn't care about how employees who work for those businesses get to their jobs is shortsighted and, as Courtland Milloy (in)famously put it, "myopic." (I don't much agree with Milloy, but for coining his MLT phrase, he deserves a Pulitzer.)

by Axel on Jul 15, 2013 9:54 am • linkreport

Axel

Im missing the context (this thread is so long) DC shouldnt discourage employment - but I dont think it makes sense to impose parking minimums on residential buildings (which means less residential development) in order to keep spots for long distance commuters. Most jobs held by commuters from the suburbs are downtown, most who commute in take transit (including express buses and commuter rail) A few even bike in. And many of those who do drive in have off street parking - esp, I believe those who work for major employers OUTSIDE downtown.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 15, 2013 10:00 am • linkreport

"How do non-car owners benefit from parking they won't use, but do have to pay for?"

actually even car owners in neighborhoods where parking is abundant do not benefit from parking minimums in the dense areas (and are hurt as less development means less tax revenues) but that case has not been adequately made.

Oh well - lets move forward - no parking mins downtown, lower mins near transit, and the other (nonparking )improvements in the new code are worth passing. Then try to expand the zone with parking mins, one area at a time. In particular fight over SW eco district and NoMa first - thats where the bang for the buck is politically. Not upper NW so much.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 15, 2013 10:09 am • linkreport

"zone without parking minimums"

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 15, 2013 10:10 am • linkreport

For example, Level2 Development eventually gave up on one 12-unit project on Florida Avenue off 14th Street NW because the sloped site made building six parking spots prohibitively expensive. The lot sat for years until somebody else made a go of it.

Well, Level2 built a 12-unit project on Chapin St off 14th (one block north of Florida Ave) shortly thereafter. So maybe that's not the best example of the parking minimum killing development in DC?

Level2 also sought a variance on a 144 unit project (now View14) on Florida Ave just off 14th, down from 80 spaces to 34. Those spaces now rent for $250/month apiece.

The primary reason for the variance for View14, as stated by Mr Franco on Jan. 24th 2012 was "the exceptional site conditions which impose significant development constraints and practical difficulties." Level2 also sought a variance for roof height, roof requirements, and off-street loading.

So that begs the question of why Level2 wouldn't also seek a variance on that 12-unit project.

Level 2 also sought, and received, a $5.7M tax abatement on the View14 project. In a 2009 interview, Mr Franco said that "the tax abatement was critical for both completing the building and allowing us to keep the building." (Housing Complex Nov. 18th 2009). So who stands to be burdened by that is a discussion for another day, I suppose.

by Scoot on Jul 15, 2013 10:23 am • linkreport

Wells's bill is stupid (and was even more so when he introduced it at a time where repeal of minimums in transit zones was on the table). And it hasn't passed -- it failed last time around. Understandable, though, that, as a NoVA resident, AWITC doesn't know how RPPs work in DC. Less understandable when CMs and ANC Commissioners make the same kind of mistakes.

by BTDT on Jul 15, 2013 10:23 am • linkreport

His bill logically addresses the complaints people have about buildings without parking. There are lots of DC residents here who support it. I suspect that as more actual park free buildings are built (downtown, and by special exception elsewhere) the support for it will increase.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 15, 2013 10:29 am • linkreport

BTDT

Why are parking minimums needed in the Southwest Eco District?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 15, 2013 10:29 am • linkreport

Well, Level2 built a 12-unit project on Chapin St off 14th (one block north of Florida Ave) shortly thereafter. So maybe that's not the best example of the parking minimum killing development in DC?

That's not particularly relevant. The impact of the minimums on each site will depend on the circumstances of each site.

Likewise, perhaps they could have fit 16 or 20 units on that site, but only put in 12 because of the parking requirement. That didn't 'kill' the project, but it sure did scale it back. That is a major impact and needs to be accounted for.

Level2 also sought a variance on a 144 unit project (now View14) on Florida Ave just off 14th, down from 80 spaces to 34. Those spaces now rent for $250/month apiece.

And that rent is likely not enough to cover the construction cost of underground parking spaces. Not to mention the added cost of the additional approvals required to get the variance in the first place.

So that begs the question of why Level2 wouldn't also seek a variance on that 12-unit project.

Variances take time, time is money. A 144 unit project makes it worthwile to spend that time on the variance. The smaller, 12 unit project requires the same level of time to get the variance (if you get it at all) without the larger payoff.

These zoning rules particularly hurt small-scale development, not the bigger developments.

by Alex B. on Jul 15, 2013 2:27 pm • linkreport

Dang, my comment got mis-read somehow. The point of quoting JBG (in that case) was to say that parking WILL still get built even if there were no minimums. The sky will not fall.

On the other hand, there are developments (like Douglas at Babe's Billiards) where the correct amount of parking to be supplied will be zero. Years ago, I helped Chicago lower its parking minimums to as low as 0.55 per unit downtown (from 1:1). New luxury apartment towers at the edge of downtown are reporting demand of 0.4 parking spaces per unit; other towers report 0.3. Even the lower parking minimum isn't low enough to prevent a government-mandated sub-optimal outcome.

$250/month for a parking space is about average for the central city. It's still less, on a per-foot basis, than the rent for every single use that caters to human beings: storage, residential, office, or retail. If people really want parking, they will pay fair market rate for it.

by Payton on Jul 15, 2013 3:30 pm • linkreport

"This false propaganda that lower cost mean lower rents keeps keeping spread." - Parking minimums obviously mandate that more parking be built than would otherwise be supplied. Otherwise, why have the minimum? The parking minimum raises the cost of building housing units, which decreases the number built. Lower supply = higher prices. The parking minimum raises the number of parking spaces built, such that the parking must be subsidized by housing. Higher costs = higher prices for people, lower prices for cars.

I want lower prices for people and higher prices for cars. This is not that complicated.

by Payton on Jul 15, 2013 3:37 pm • linkreport

That's not particularly relevant. The impact of the minimums on each site will depend on the circumstances of each site.

I think it's relevant if one is trying to imply that parking minimums do major damage to development. In this case, the development just moved one block to the north. Bad for the developer, but a rather neutral outcome for the neighborhood.

Likewise, perhaps they could have fit 16 or 20 units on that site, but only put in 12 because of the parking requirement. That didn't 'kill' the project, but it sure did scale it back. That is a major impact and needs to be accounted for.

Maybe, but that's not something the developer has ever disclosed or even suggested was the case.

And that rent is likely not enough to cover the construction cost of underground parking spaces. Not to mention the added cost of the additional approvals required to get the variance in the first place.

Maybe, but again, just a guess. Assuming that renting carries 80% of the cost of building a $40,000 space, they can be paid off in 10 years at $250/month. Everything after that is basically profit.

The developer would be unlikely to build those spaces at all if it figured they could not be paid for in a reasonable amount of time, or if it figured they could not be used to attract tenants.

Not that it really matters anymore to Level2, because View14, which cost $80M to build, was sold to a real estate investment trust for $104M back in 2011.

by Scoot on Jul 15, 2013 3:40 pm • linkreport

Statements and a question:
Not everyone is so fortunate to be able to take public transit, walk, or bike to work.

Is there a limit to how many RPP stickers are allowed if new buildings do not offer off-street parking?

If building a large property with lower than X% off-street parking spots, make a contribution toward public transportation establishment.

Having more transportation options more often. The greater the density the more we need them & the less functional cars are… a trolley on H Street is nice but I still want to go where busses and metro rail don't go or take too long to get there & back. We can't have a huge time lag in solving this problem if we ramp up density quickly.

by Cap Hill Resident on Jul 15, 2013 4:16 pm • linkreport

I think it's relevant if one is trying to imply that parking minimums do major damage to development. In this case, the development just moved one block to the north. Bad for the developer, but a rather neutral outcome for the neighborhood.

The development did not move. The neighborhood could likely support both developments. This is not a neutral outcome.

Likewise, if there were no parking requirements, the developer may have built more units.

Maybe, but that's not something the developer has ever disclosed or even suggested was the case.

I can't speak to this particular case, but it absolutely has been disclosed and suggested in other cases.

http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/housingcomplex/2012/03/21/park-it/

" At Justice Park, a Columbia Heights project on city land comprised entirely of affordable apartments, there was only room for 12 spaces, so developer Dantes Partners could only build 28 units—even though the site could have taken more."

The developer would be unlikely to build those spaces at all if it figured they could not be paid for in a reasonable amount of time, or if it figured they could not be used to attract tenants.

Yes, which is why parking minimum requirements are poor policy. That is a huge increase in the cost of building new housing in DC; and that cost gets passed on to the consumers of that housing.

by Alex B. on Jul 15, 2013 5:07 pm • linkreport

Back in 2011 when developers were vying for contracts on Justice Park, they all sought to build between 27-39 units but only one of them (who lost) suggested that 39 units might be delayed by inevitable zoning variances given that the existing restrictions on maximum height and FAR would probably not support 39 units, to say nothing of the parking minimum.

On top of that, all the units are reserved for low-income households, making it difficult for the developer to recoup its costs from market-rate parking even delivering on a promise of 39 units to begin with.

And then there are the issues of financing that bog down or scale down many projects. And there is also no opportunity for ground floor retail.

Of course, initial design doesn't cost very much. There isn't a whole lot to lose from shooting for the moon and then scaling back over time. That is of course the exceedingly common route these days.

So while the parking minimum definitely presents an obstacle, there could, and usually are, many other factors that can converge to reduce unit delivery. The contract for Justice Park was awarded back in mid-2010 and is just now breaking ground, so it's likely there were many such issues.

Given that it is fairly common for the 30-40 unit buildings in Ward 1 to get approved for a variance, Justice Park did not appear to submit an application for one.

by Scoot on Jul 15, 2013 6:23 pm • linkreport

Given that it is fairly common for the 30-40 unit buildings in Ward 1 to get approved for a variance, Justice Park did not appear to submit an application for one.

How is this relevant? If you want to show that development projects are complex, that goes without saying.

How is this support for the status quo?

Why should a building like that be forced to apply for a variance in the first place?

by Alex B. on Jul 15, 2013 6:49 pm • linkreport

Why are parking minimums needed in the Southwest Ecodistrict?

Because if you want to create a real neighborhood (rather than dormitories for transients) in an area that is now a federal office enclave and will soon be sandwiched between tourist attractions (The Wharf and The Mall), then residents will need/want cars and, given the scale of new development planned in the area, the roads are going to be so seriously overburdened that curbside parking will probably be eliminated in some areas. Frankly, it'd also be helpful to get tourists and commuters off the road and out of their cars ASAP and on-site/underground garages will be crucial to that enterprise. And some tourists and commuter clearly will arrive in cars, given points of origin, freeway access, economics, etc.

I don't know much about how the fed rules/GSA guidelines re onsite parking for federal office buildings work, so I can't speak to that.

All that said, much better commuter rail service is tops of my wishlist for SWE, but CSX could be a real problem when it comes to expanding VRE's capacity (and/or enabling MARC to run through to Alexandria). I think commuter rail will be an element that is essential to the area's success but it's not a cure-all and it's not likely to happen immediately.

by BTDT on Jul 15, 2013 6:51 pm • linkreport

Because if you want to create a real neighborhood (rather than dormitories for transients) in an area that is now a federal office enclave and will soon be sandwiched between tourist attractions (The Wharf and The Mall), then residents will need/want cars and, given the scale of new development planned in the area, the roads are going to be so seriously overburdened that curbside parking will probably be eliminated in some areas. Frankly, it'd also be helpful to get tourists and commuters off the road and out of their cars ASAP and on-site/underground garages will be crucial to that enterprise. And some tourists and commuter clearly will arrive in cars, given points of origin, freeway access, economics, etc.

This is a compelling argument for providing some level parking in the re-development of the area.

However, it is not a compelling argument for mandating that parking be required through the zoning code.

"Why are parking minimums needed in the Southwest Ecodistrict?" is a very different question from "why is parking likely needed in the SW Ecodistrict?"

That may be a subtle difference, but it is an important one.

by Alex B. on Jul 15, 2013 7:07 pm • linkreport

Only if you're a fairly dogmatic free marketeer.

For the rest of us, it's pretty easy to accept regulation as a legitimate strategy for preventing a tragedy of the commons and/or for improving market performance by forcing the internalization of the social costs of growth.

by BTDT on Jul 15, 2013 9:48 pm • linkreport

BTDT,

Well that goes to David C's point about whether you view parking as a social good. It's not because cars are large, dangerous and polluting. Most of us pro-no minimum people recognize though that lots of people drive, even in DC where it's already difficult. Coupled with the fact that minimums don't really solve their intended problems then you have a situation where its better that the market just provide parking than gov't try to A: provide something it shouldn't be in the business of providing (unlike say: transit) B: not even doing a good job of ensuring the right amount of parking is provided.

by drumz on Jul 15, 2013 10:10 pm • linkreport

a legitimate strategy for preventing a tragedy of the commons

Another way of preventing this is by reforming how the city actually manages its own spaces (the ones along the sides of the street).

by drumz on Jul 15, 2013 10:12 pm • linkreport

Also I just realized David C's comment is part of another thread (the story today about whether OP caved). My B.

Anyway since I'm on a roll, re: being dogmatic about the free market. I can't speak for Alex but for me its about what acheives the best result. In regards to solving problems like parking or housing it seems better to let the market do its work. In other matters like transit or health care, I've become convinced that heavy government intervention/management is better.

I guess instead of a minimum you could just have gov't dictate the parking required for each project (basing it on the same research that a developer would do anyway) but no one has suggested that because of all the pitfalls that would come with.

by drumz on Jul 15, 2013 10:19 pm • linkreport

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