Greater Greater Washington

Zoning Commission grills AAA on parking minimums

We don't know yet if the DC Zoning Commission will go along with proposals to reduce parking minimum requirements, but some commissioners certainly seemed skeptical about a few arguments to keep the old rules from AAA Mid-Atlantic.


Photo by Wally Gobetz on Flickr.

Many residents testified on the proposal at a hearing on Tuesday. So many people had signed up that there's an overflow hearing this coming Tuesday (and you can still sign up to speak!) 33 residents spoke in favor of reducing minimums, while only 7 opposed the reduction.

Many supporters echoed a theme about housing affordability. Since underground parking can add $30,000-50,000 per space to the cost of construction, that forces buildings that would provide more affordable market-rate or below-market units to charge more and/or create fewer units.

AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesperson John Townsend was one of the opponents, and he took issue with this approach. Earlier in the night, outside the hearing room, he personally apologized to me for the insulting remarks he made about me to Aaron Wiener of the Washington City Paper, which I accepted. He also said he wasn't going to be testifying, which is odd since he very quickly thereafter did.

Townsend argued that reducing parking minimums would have "a deleterious impact, not only on the District and its residents and its businesses and its houses of worship, but its restaurants and its citizens." He said that parking is a problem, and we know it is because DC wrote more than 1.8 million parking tickets last year, Townsend said, a practice he called "a hidden tax on people who only want to do one thing: to enjoy the nation's capital."

He also claimed that the affordability argument was a "myth," and asked for empirical studies proving that reducing this cost actually cuts down on the cost of housing. Instead, he said, there is not enough parking and it's too expensive. "It drives people out of this city. It makes housing more unaffordable," he said, especially "the one-third of the population below the poverty line that has been edged out and edged out of the social fabric" of the city, as well as tourists.

Later, in response to questions, he also brought up the Washington area's heavy traffic as another reason to believe there is a problem and mandate more parking in zoning.

Some members of the Zoning Commission, who will actually decide the zoning code, weren't buying Townsend's arguments. Dupont resident and Zoning Commission vice-chair Marcie Cohen talked about her own experience with housing finance.

Cohen: I almost thought you were arguing two sides of the coin. Basically, if we suffer the greatest gridlock in the country, then it seems to me you would want to encourage people to use alternative transits, and that the more parking you have, the more you are encouraging people to park in those spaces within buildings. ... You seem to be saying that we have a problem and the way to solve that problem is to add parking spaces. ...

I do believe, strongly, because I did finance for 20 years, housing throughout the country, that parking, especially underground parking, does contribute to the cost of housing.

Townsend: What I said was, where are the real world empirical studies that say that the developers will pass on the cost, the savings if you were to jettison the parking minimums? Where is the real-world, economically-based, research-based empirical studies that they will pass on these costs to homeowners? That, in our worldview, is not a reality.

Cohen: Yeah, we've heard from witnesses who are expert in this area, and my own experience, which I mentioned is over 20 years of financing housing, is it does happen. It's passed along. I can't cite a particular study except the testimony we've heard tonight plus my own experience in financing housing. And, in affordable housing, we attempt to reduce the requirements so that they won't be burdened by these costs.

Peter May, the representative from the National Park Service and a Capitol Hill resident, grilled Townsend on some of his points. May also challenged Townsend on the argument that since we have a lot of traffic, we need more parking. "We have the worst gridlock in the country," said Townsend. May replied, "So, if there are more parking spaces available, and theoretically it's cheaper and easier to get parking, wouldn't that increase gridlock?"

Ultimately, that led to an entertainingly barbed exchange. After Townsend cited a number of statistics on DC's growth, May said, "So, uh, can you answer my question?"

Townsend: "I did answer your question."

May: "No, you didn't. I asked whether the availability of parking has an effect on gridlock, and you told me that there's an increase in the number of people living in the District and the number of jobs."

May also probed Townsend's claim that DC's high number of tickets relates to parking policy. People probably get tickets, May suggested, because they're trying to avoid paying a higher garage rate, not necessarily because there's no garage at all. It quickly became clear May wasn't buying Townsend's argument.

May: So, the people who are getting parking tickets here are all doing it because they can't find another place to park? It's not because they're not willing to pay $25 to park?

Townsend: Yes, that's what I'm saying. It's symptomatic of the fact that you have a pernicious parking problem in the city already. That's what it means.

May: I think you can look at the same set of facts and come to a different conclusion about why people are getting parking tickets. A lot of times people are getting parking tickets because they're not willing to walk an extra block, or not willing to pay 25 bucks.

Townsend: "It comes down to whether we perceive that parking is a public good or a private good. And by that I mean, the city has a role to play in this and to make parking part of the social and economic fabric of the city.

This exchange actually illuminates a great deal about why AAA is advocating so hard on this issue. By one argument, why should it matter to them? They provide services to drivers (including at least 3 members of the Zoning Commission, as those members themselves noted at the hearing). However much parking there might be, those people who want or have to drive will probably want to sign up with some kind of towing and lockout protection service like AAA. Why alienate so many residents with their divisiveness?

But if you view parking as part of a culture clash, where car-owner culture is fighting for dominance within the city with non-car-owner culture (walking, biking, taking transit, using Zipcar and car2go and taxis and Uber), then the very idea of allowing more car-free residents doesn't fit into that vision or might even seem like a threat.

For most of us, drivers and non-drivers alike, parking is a necessary evil. Cars will be a part of the transportation mix, and (until they become self-driving and need not park) there has to be space to store them near many of the homes and the jobs and the stores. But parking spaces drive up the cost of housing, create pedestrian dead zones, and otherwise interrupt the city's historic, walkable character.

Lower car dependence isn't really a serious business risk for AAA, since cars won't be going away. But it's certainly possible that, as the city grows, more and more residents have many available choices for transportation, and cars and parking become just one in the crowd. Alternately, AAA would like cars to be more than just a tool, but a part of our very soul, the "social and economic fabric" of the city.

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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It seems like the concept of induced demand is alien to John Townsend. Or simply that he does not want to admit that it exists.

by engrish_major on Nov 14, 2013 10:43 am • linkreport

This is the underlying purpose of off-street parking minimums - to assert the cultural dominance of car drivers. Many early off-street parking requirements actually reduced the availability of parking. There will be much more about this in my book.

by Ben Ross on Nov 14, 2013 10:52 am • linkreport

required parking is a fertility drug for cars.

by Michael Perkins on Nov 14, 2013 10:54 am • linkreport

Does the parking minimum mandate that parking be available publicly? I don't think so since plenty of new buildings go up with private garages meaning that you're screwed if you're trying to drive to a place that doesn't have a garage. Then you're stuck on the street and the parking minimums don't create any more spots on the street (that may go away anyway to make room for transit or bike lanes).

by drumz on Nov 14, 2013 10:59 am • linkreport

I am so glad to see this exchange brought to light. It really undermines (depending on how one wants to interpret the statistics) the claims made by those opposed to this OP proposal.

At the end of the day, this is a zoning code, and should not be confused and comingled with street parking policy.

It appears as if some of the Zoning Commissioners understand this. It is very refreshing to see that smart policy makers can see all sides of the issues in a public forum and are not clouded by misguided hysteria.

by William on Nov 14, 2013 11:04 am • linkreport

DA

this hearing was about the OP proposal, which is to eliminate parking minimums in greater downtown(including NoMa, Navy Yard, and SW waterfront) and lower minimums in transit zones elsewhere, correct?

1. It sounds like some commission members would have been okay with no minimums in the transit zones. Is it your sense that there was push from them for a more radical proposal than OP's?

2. or did you get the feel that the compromise has strengthened the case for the change, and they might have been more reluctant had the original proposal still been on the table?

3. Was there any discussion of givebacks - IE the case (made here often) that there should be some specified concessions from developers in exchange not having to build the amount of parking required under the old code?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 14, 2013 11:04 am • linkreport

It's great to see them taking him on! His arguments are so weak. Why don't local media ask him similarly tough questions?

by TakomaNick on Nov 14, 2013 11:23 am • linkreport

AWITC:
this hearing was about the OP proposal, which is to eliminate parking minimums in greater downtown(including NoMa, Navy Yard, and SW waterfront) and lower minimums in transit zones elsewhere, correct?
Basically. There is a separate hearing on downtown so this was technically mostly about the citywide rules, which lower minimums for multifamily housing some everywhere, more near transit.
1. It sounds like some commission members would have been okay with no minimums in the transit zones. Is it your sense that there was push from them for a more radical proposal than OP's?

2. or did you get the feel that the compromise has strengthened the case for the change, and they might have been more reluctant had the original proposal still been on the table?

I don't think they are going to push for a stronger change at this point; I think basically they aren't going to step beyond what OP wants. I suspect some of the members would have been willing to go for an earlier, less watered-down draft; meanwhile chair Anthony Hood seemed to like that OP has made this compromise (I will post videos of that soon).

So it's not clear if OP is better or worse off having backed off. Maybe they would have gotten something bolder through anyway. Maybe the commission would have gotten nervous, asked OP to back off a bit, and OP could have just come back with what they have now and we'd be in the same place we are. Maybe OP doing this now just sped up approval, or maybe the commission will still want to compromise further, in which case the city will lose out.

3. Was there any discussion of givebacks - IE the case (made here often) that there should be some specified concessions from developers in exchange not having to build the amount of parking required under the old code?
There's actually something similar to that now but on the other end: if a developer goes over twice the new minimum, they have to put in some TDM features like car share spaces, electric car charging stations, and CaBi. That came out while I was on leave so I never got to really write about it but maybe I can still.

by David Alpert on Nov 14, 2013 11:24 am • linkreport

David, I was at the mayor candidate forum last night. There was someone there (whose name I did not catch, nor did I think to take one of his flyers) trying to get candidates to come to some anti zoning re-write event on Tuesday. He's claiming the ANCs east of the river were never consulted and have only been given 2 weeks to give feedback. Looks like yet another group claiming to speak for all attempting to further derail the zoning update that's had ample opportunity for public input, peddling, if not outright lies, some interesting interpretations of the facts.

by Birdie on Nov 14, 2013 11:35 am • linkreport

Once the zoning rewrite is in place, could it be easier to reduce the minimums later? This zoning update is wonderful (yes, could be better) but also massive. Would updates to specific values (to further reduce minimums) be easier to get through as a future smaller change that does not contain new concepts but rather only value adjustments? Those who try to delay the rewrite argue that more time is needed since the changes are so big. Could these smaller changes be realized with reduced delay tactics and less number of required hearings later to reduce the minimums over time?

by GP Steve on Nov 14, 2013 11:45 am • linkreport

GP Steve: Yes, the minimums can be changed without being a part of the whole big rewrite process. That is, if OP wants to tackle that in the future.

by David Alpert on Nov 14, 2013 12:02 pm • linkreport

I have to agree with Townsend on this.

There is no verifiable data that supports the argument that developers who aren't required to build underground parking will pass the savings on to the market in the form of lower rents or sales prices.

No matter how much Marcie Cohen insists that it's so.

by ceefer66 on Nov 14, 2013 12:12 pm • linkreport

there is no verifiable data that they won't though. Theres also no verifiable data that requiring free breakfast be provided to renters in every building will increase rents, rather than just lower developer profits.

There IS verifiable data showing that parking requirements increase construction costs. There is a massive amount of studies showing that increasing the cost of producing something, tends to increase the price of that thing.
And any reasonable review of the DC real estate market suggests there is no reason to think requiring parking does not add to rents.

And AFAIK no one in the "keep the minimums" camp is suggesting funding a study (which would have to deal with a whole lot of confounding variables, like that cities that drop parking mins are usually the pricier ones, and might not end up being that useful anyway)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 14, 2013 12:19 pm • linkreport

"But parking spaces drive up the cost of housing, create pedestrian dead zones, and otherwise interrupt the city's historic, walkable character. " David, I don't disagree with your point here, but I think you didn't word this very carefully. Not all parking spaces have the ill effects you mentioned. It's not that all parking spaces equally contribute to these problems. It's the mandate that every piece of land, every development have a specified number of spaces that creates an incentive to create more parking irregardless of these costs. The problem is a mandate that parking is needed no matter what the cost to the urban environment, to the transportation system, etc... Some parking spaces require access points for garages, add to the cost of housing, or prevent redevelopment of parking lots in ways that are more harmful than beneficial. Some parking spaces benefit the city's urban fabric and quite nicely contribute to a more comfortable environment for walking by creating a barrier of parked cars around our sidewalks. I hope you can revise this sentence to avoid making a blanket statement that parking is bad. I think a blanket anti-parking statement plays into the wrong hands by reinforcing a pernicious "war on cars" rhetoric that creating a balanced transportation system is somehow anti-car. Not all parking is bad, but mandatory minimums don't allow us to meaningfully distinguish when parking is more harm than benefit and don't allow us to tailor creation of parking in ways that support a broader range of policy goals.

by Solution Giver on Nov 14, 2013 12:23 pm • linkreport

In my condo buildings, a deeded parking space increases the value of a unit by approximately $30,000. This is reflected in the listing prices and in the eventual sales prices. This difference in value is also reflected in my tax bill and in my monthly fees.

Given that there is a price differential in existing stock of condos, why would there not be a similar price differential in new stock? I suspect people who doubt this relationship are mistaking other things that drive up the cost of a condo (primarily location) for there being no price effect.

by RDHD on Nov 14, 2013 12:34 pm • linkreport

"I have to agree with Townsend on this.

There is no verifiable data that supports the argument that developers who aren't required to build underground parking will pass the savings on to the market in the form of lower rents or sales prices.

No matter how much Marcie Cohen insists that it's so."

Everything about what we know of housing markets is that they do work somewhat accurately at pricing costs and benefits. Look, you and I can go sit down with a half-cocked, lousy realtor and we can talk about ten condos. Even a lousy, half-cocked realtor will tell you that this one includes a parking space and that one doesn't. Compare two similar units and the guy bidding on the condo knows if his parking is included. You really think the person paying the mortgage is going to be willing to pay the same price for a comparable unit that has no parking? Let me tell you what will happen: the developer cannot recoup the same return on investment from units that don't have parking included. He markets both buildings the same way, one with parking and one without. It takes longer to sell the units without parking, he has to offer more incentives and he has to negotiate more. And, frankly, given that the developer took owes a lot of money for a construction loan, the longer it takes to sell out the building, the more of his profit disappears and becomes interest payments made to the investor. So, the market will price that into the cost of the unit, and even a lousy realtor will tell the buyer whether the parking is included.

by Solution Giver on Nov 14, 2013 12:37 pm • linkreport

Well, I am number 72 for the next hearing, so not all the ballots are in on who is in favor and who is opposed. Which means like David said, it is important to show up and testify.

by Steve Seelig on Nov 14, 2013 12:43 pm • linkreport

Basic economics tells you the cost will be passed along. The developer who passes along more of the savings will have his units sell faster, and thereby lower his debt expenses. And, eventually, the housing market will turn from being a largely seller's market, like it is now, to being a buyer's market. That's how cycles work. At that point, the developer who seeks to pocket the cost savings will find himself losing out every time to the developer who accepts a reasonable return, essentially the rate of return they would have gotten in selling a unit with required parking, except the sales price is now $30-$50k lower.

That's how markets work. No one has ever shown why they fail to work in this instance.

by Crickey7 on Nov 14, 2013 1:19 pm • linkreport

@RDHD, DC’s minimum parking requirement for apartments is at one space for every two, three or four units. The price of a deeded parking space that you give is in line with the construction costs in the report that OP recently sent to Congress. Condominium purchasers who choose to have a space will pay this differential. But if you only consider the minimum parking requirements, a building can be constructed where half the condominium owners will not have a parking space. Those purchasers are paying only for the cost of their apartment, which is $30,000 less than you pay for your apartment plus a parking space. (Some developers might evaluate their market and decide to provide more than the minimum required.)

The minimum parking requirement doesn’t drive up the cost of a unit without a parking space. It just partially addresses the externality when new development creates an increase in demand for parking by requiring the developer to increase the supply although by less than the increase in demand.

The question isn’t whether someone who purchases parking pays more than someone who doesn’t, but whether someone who purchases or rents an apartment without a parking space is paying more because the developer was required to provide one space for every two, three or four units, and can sell those spaces to people who are covering the costs.

There is no evidence that our minimum parking requirements increase housing costs to people who don’t want parking. You might have a different conclusion if you are looking at a parking requirement like Arlington’s with more than one space per unit required. People who do not purchase parking are not paying $30,000 more because other residents have parking in the building.

by OtherMike on Nov 14, 2013 1:37 pm • linkreport

I have trouble understanding why the AAA is so invested in this issue. I don't own a car, but remain a AAA member because it gives me a significant discount on Amtrak.

AAA has also started a bicycle service (I don't know if it's available in the mid-Atlantic region), but did see here: http://minneapolis.aaa.com/news.asp?DocID=1484

My first reaction is: Wow! Roadside service for bikes! That is something I would sign up for, and it would great, as well, if AAA offered theft and damage protection for bikes.

If the AAA is going to offer bike services, will they start advocating for bicycle lanes? The AAA could easily become a powerful advocate for bicyclist. Wouldn't that be something?

The AAA is a great organization and has delivered outstanding value to me over the decades. But I do think it needs to look at its lobbying priorities, and stepping back from the DC's debate on this might be a wise move.

I'd rather see the AAA win customers by developing new types of services that meet the needs of all its customers.

by kob on Nov 14, 2013 1:40 pm • linkreport

AAA is wrong when it says there is no research. This article summarizes it, with links to original publications.

by Ben Ross on Nov 14, 2013 1:40 pm • linkreport

There is no verifiable data that I know of that granite countertops drive up the cost of units either but I'd be pretty suspcious of something aruging they don't without data to back that up.

by BTA on Nov 14, 2013 1:49 pm • linkreport

How did the zoning commission react to the idea of limiting RPP permit eligibility in parking-lite buildings in transit zones? Arlington does this very successfully to encourage transit oriented development, while preventing developers from forcibly schtupping the surrounding neighborhood by offloading parking their added burdens onto already-crowded streets.

by Alicia on Nov 14, 2013 1:53 pm • linkreport

"The minimum parking requirement doesn’t drive up the cost of a unit without a parking space."

If it makes some buildings unprofitable to build, it shifts the supply curve, and thus increases price.

" It just partially addresses the externality when new development creates an increase in demand for parking by requiring the developer to increase the supply although by less than the increase in demand."

There is an externality only because we do not price on street parking optimally.

If the city gave out free breakfast to everyone with a resident breakfast permit, and charged, say, $60 a year for the permit, then an apt building that did not offer free breakfast to residents would presumably be generating an externality. That is not, however, a reason to mandate that developers provide free breakfasts to tenants. Its a reason to reexamine the policy of the city handing out free breakfasts.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 14, 2013 1:59 pm • linkreport

"Arlington does this very successfully to encourage transit oriented development, while preventing developers from forcibly schtupping the surrounding neighborhood by offloading parking their added burdens onto already-crowded streets. "

arlington does that because the entire area that is zoned for those buildings is zoned commercial and is not included in Arlingtons RPP zones. Unlike DC, where RPP is by ward, RPP in Arlington (and also btw in Alexandria and FFX) is by RPP zone, and most of each jurisdiction is not in an RPP zone and thus is not RPP eligible.

So its really not at all the same thing. Unless of course DC is to switch to an RPP system more like Arlingtons - but I dont think that is in the zoning commision's power.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 14, 2013 2:02 pm • linkreport

for example, I live in FFX county, which has over 40 RPP zones. However those zones make up only a small minority of the streets in the county.

I do not live in such a zone, and so do not get a permit.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 14, 2013 2:06 pm • linkreport

@BTA, do you have any evidence that granite countertops in some units increase the price of apartments with Formica countertops in the same building? That would be the relevant question for the discussion of the impact of reducing minimum parking requirements from DC’s current levels to those proposed in the ZRR.

@Ben Ross, The assumptions in the model that you posted a link to do not reflect DC’s zoning regulations.

by OtherMike on Nov 14, 2013 2:07 pm • linkreport

There's no externality in building without parking minima. To equate increasing demand for a good or service with "externality" just because it has impacts on the general consuming population is to make virtually everything into an externality.

by Crickey7 on Nov 14, 2013 2:10 pm • linkreport

Clearly the failure to mandate minimum numbers of units with granite countertops is a failure of DC to improve the lives of tenants at no cost to anyone but developers.

Look, supply is either elastic or not. If its elastic, then yes the cost is passed on, and rents/prices will he higher.

If its inelastic then yes, there may be an 'economic rent' to the developer that a parking minimum could capture - but then so could a development impact fee, a higher real estate tax, mandated public facilities, etc. There is no clear reason why DC should take the windfall in the form of mandated offstreet parking, except as a way to preserve the current problematic on street parking system. IE to shift as much value as possible to existing residents, in particular those existing residents who own more vehices than they do off street spots, and live in areas where there is new development.

Of course folks like that are among the most politically active and vocal in the District.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 14, 2013 2:15 pm • linkreport

I think it's frankly unrealistic to think that developers will suddenly be struck with a sense of benevolence that will compel them to reduce prices just because they don't have to build parking.

They'll certainly do it if required by law. But before I believe they'll do it out of the goodness of their hearts, I'll invest in the next Brooklyn Bridge IPO.

by ceefer66 on Nov 14, 2013 2:17 pm • linkreport

and just to clarify, the beneficiaries of the free RPP regime are not only DC residents.

Anyone who owns a grandfathered unit with no offstreet space, and with the right to an RPP, would have value to lose if RPPs were priced to market, or if RPP were replaced with a more market based system for on street spots. So that would include landlords who own say a house in DC but live in the suburbs. It would also include an owner of an existing older, parking free building, of which there are quite a few in the District - how many owners of such buildings live outside the district?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 14, 2013 2:18 pm • linkreport

"I think it's frankly unrealistic to think that developers will suddenly be struck with a sense of benevolence that will compel them to reduce prices just because they don't have to build parking. "

Its got nothing do with benevolence, its got to do with supply. If they dont have to build parking, more new buildings will be built including in places where rents are not currently high enough to justify the cost.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 14, 2013 2:20 pm • linkreport

Well it's pretty much standard practice that developers put less lavish amenities in affordable units eg formica instead of granite. So it's not a direct comparision but it seems clear to me that there is a cost savings and developers directly understand how amenities affect their bottom line and provide them when they see them as financially affordable and don't when they don't contribute to the profit margin.

by BTA on Nov 14, 2013 2:34 pm • linkreport

A few things:

AAA Potomac is completely clueless on the bike service thing. I asked the other spokesguy, and he looked at me like I had two heads. Each of these AAA things operates regionally, and apparently autonomously.

The cost of building parking, I'd told, increases exponentially as an extra floor needs to be dug. So the first basement is cheaper than the second and the third. If true, this means that a developer needs to think long and hard if they want to dig to that third level because they may not be able to recoup that cost, assuming the rate they can charge per parking space remains constant in a particular area.

So for the zoning regs to mandate that she dig deeper means a higher cost and potentially lower profit on that building. Which then means that developer might not build at that site.

Some of the smarter NIMBYs know this, and that the battle is really whether the new regulations will make it cheaper to build because many developers won't build parking they don't have to. Cheaper to build = more development.

Happily, for the smarter NIMBYs, they can use the fear of losing parking spaces to get others who actually might be in favor of new development to cry about the City taking away their parking. A lost parking space is much worse than getting a neighborhood amenity.

by fongfong on Nov 14, 2013 2:39 pm • linkreport

I've heard a lot of complaints about how Columbia Heights doesn't have enough parking yet DCUSA's garage never meets capacity. I think Mr. May is right. This is not about parking, it's about free parking. The cost to park at DCUSA is ridiculously low. This city doesn't have enough space to park everyone; the math doesn't add up. Frankly, people need to understand that they live in a dense, pre-car-era city with little parking and an infrastructure that doesn't support a lot of cars. Drivers have been complaining about the traffic in this city since the 40s, never mind today. Mr. Towsend, if you come to from PGC to visit us, do us a favor and leave your car at home.

by dc denizen on Nov 14, 2013 2:53 pm • linkreport

wrt fongfong's comments 1. yes, AAA affiliates operate regionally. The one in Pacific NW has had a bicycle program for a long time. Obviously the MN program is new. I've talked to the PR person at AAA National about the local, but they don't seem to be too clued into generating better practice wrt sustainable transportation across their affiliates.

2. wrt your other point about the cost of underground construction you're right generally about the cost of basements. But also the difference between concrete construction and wood construction, although this is a difference only for buildings up to 6 stories. (Although there is new research out there, and some practice in Vienna, Austria, about building taller than that with wood.)

Parking garages necessitate concrete construction. That can be as much as 2.5 times higher than wood construction. Hence a huge difference in the cost of production for every unit.

http://places.designobserver.com/media/pdf/Explaining_Res_803.pdf

The point about parking minimum elimination is that right now, there are few units available in the market for people who don't want cars. Whereas as someone else said, in the city we want to be able to attract and serve more people who don't want to own cars to reduce the stress on the road network.

by Richard Layman on Nov 14, 2013 3:26 pm • linkreport

"What I said was, where are the real world empirical studies that say that the developers will pass on the cost, savings if you were to jettison the parking minimums?"

Listen, Townsend is a buffoon to be sure, but he nailed it with this. Absolutely.Nailed.It

We all act as though we don't know what units sell or rent for that don't have parking when we do.

Comparable new fee simple or rental units in conversions or SFA refits without parking literally a block away from a building that does (Kenyon sq, Colulmbia Heights) sell for the same per square foot as those that do. Capital City real estate didn't have to meet the minimum parking requirement, didn't have to build extra parking, or sacrifice a unit to do so, so why didn't they sell for less. Same goes for rentals.

JPI was caught breaking ground at their 909 Capital Yards luxury building in 2008. They were well capitalized, so the credit markets didn't hurt them, but due to the cratering of the local contracting market, they were able to renegotiate their GC hardocsts costs down nearly 20% (8 million) over the contract they had signed 8 months earlier.

That 8 million in savings equates to 34K per unit in savings. Did JPI (and now the new owner) rent those units rent for less than other comparable buildings in Capitol Yards, or Navy Yard? No? Well why not? They saved a bundle in the construction costs of the building over what they had proforma'd, why in the world wouldn't they have passed those savings on to the customer?

Its called capitalism folks, and I am shocked that there are so many rose colored assertions that developers not having to pay for parking will simply pass the savings on to the customer. Why would they ever do that when they can simply charge market rate?

Here is a question. You inherited a house in DC that is worth 1 million bucks and you go to sell it. You know this because your neighbor just sold his for a million last week and your homes are identical, and you inheritied it so you could sell it for alomst nothing and it would still result in profit for you (after all the taxes etc, lets not get wrapped around the axel here folks)

Do you accept an offer for 750K over the million dollar offer (same qualifications etc)? Of course you don't.

Not one person here, despite your annon assertions otherwise would "be a nice guy" and sell your house for 25% less then you could get it, and you are an individual without shareholders or investors to please. Why in the world would you ever think someone like Akridge would "do you a favor" and pass on whatever savings they realized?

by Huh on Nov 14, 2013 3:28 pm • linkreport

"Why would they ever do that when they can simply charge market rate?"

The market rate itself would be lower if there was more supply. Its got NOTHING to do with being a nice guy.

I wish I had a buck for every time somebody said thatthe reason cost reductions would or would not be passed on had to do with benevolence or being a nice guy. I could afford one of those condos in City Center if I had that much money.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 14, 2013 3:39 pm • linkreport

Well, it's a good thing that grocery stores are operated by altruistic companies, or we'd all starve.

Fer crissakes, market economics only assume actors are rational, not whether they are good people or bad people. In fact, it absolutely does not matter which kind they are, as long as they are, in the aggregate, rational.

by Crickey7 on Nov 14, 2013 3:39 pm • linkreport

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

Building parking adds to the cost of construction. If the margins are thin then savings you get from construction get passed to the consumer. They might not if there is a large gap between the cost of construction and what people are paying for their housing. Seeing marginally reduced housing prices won't come from goodwill but from marginally reduced costs. That's what the argument has always been. No one in favor of removing parking minimums has ever argued that developers will just arbitrarily lower prices.

by drumz on Nov 14, 2013 3:40 pm • linkreport

@Huh
So a condo building sells it's parking and non-parking units at exactly the same price, all else being the same? There are several condos around where I live and the ones with parking sell for more.

by dc denizen on Nov 14, 2013 3:44 pm • linkreport

@Other Mike: that's not what AAA is arguing. He said that there is no evidence that removing the parking minima will reduce costs. I merely gave evidence that the existence of a parking spot does increase the value and the price of a unit. Therefore, if there's no parking, it's cheaper.

But let's take the case of a brand new building with parking for sale optional. How is that priced? It is only priced at a rate that guarantees cost recover plus return. Worst case scenario he doesn't sell everything, the builder has to price everything (units and parking) with a risk factor of not selling at that price. This would drive up the price of everything. I could see in an absolutely booming market that risk premium being low; but not all the time. If we take the very realistic scenario of not selling parking spots because people living within a few blocks of Metro don't want them (yet the builder is forced to build them) then that risk premium will be tacked onto all of the units.

I'm not a real estate economist and I have no evidence to back it up; but I have enough experience and knowledge to think my argument is pretty reasonable.

by RDHD on Nov 14, 2013 4:07 pm • linkreport

I love how all the responses to my post ignored the hard factual examples and went right into anecdotal rebuttals.

DC Denizen,
I gave you two specific examples in Columbia Heights. Anecdotal doesn't work, please provide the two places in which you reference.

Drumz,
No one is denying parking adds cost and that it gets passed on to the consumer. In DC there is an enormous gap between construction /development costs, and what people are paying for housing so I am not sure what your point is.

Crickey,
And what rational investor /developer decides to charge 20% less than market price just because he saved it in parking?

There seems to be a real gap here in peoples assumed logic.

This is how it reads...

1. Remove parking minimums
2. Developer profits
3. ?
4. Buyer/renter saves money.

No one here can explain the mechanism of why or how the developer decides his saved expenditure is being passed on to you when the market pricing is so much higher. All other assumptions being the same, and in consideration of the number of multifamily housing units (183,000) out of a total 300K housing units in the District how many units would have to be built in parking free buildings in the District over the next 20 years to reach the critical mass necessary to "force" develoers and landlords to pass on the savings to the customer?

Keep in mind the District has built 29,000 new housing units in the past 12 years, more than enough to accommodate every last of the 58,000 people who have moved to the District during that period, with a few thousand in spare (persons per household in the District is 2.13) so despite actually building more housing than needed by population growth, rental and fee simple prices have skyrocketed, not decreased.

6,000 of those housing units were built in the last two years, with another 8,000 under construction right now, another 28,000 in the pipeline yet to break ground (many of which will probably be caught there as DC's economy cools). DCRA has permitted nearly 60 billion dollars of privately funded residential and commercial construction in the past 12 years.

Knowing all that, please explain the mechanism and associated time frame that lets us go from letting someone like Jemal, the slimiest penny pinching developer within 300 miles who purposesly doesn't pay his taxes for years until his properties show up on the courthouse steps for auction, getting a pass on paying for parking, and those savings ending up in your pocket?

by Huh on Nov 14, 2013 4:19 pm • linkreport

For those people who are arguing that adding parking spaces to a building doesn't increase the cost of an apartment in that building, what are some other amenities we can require buildings to provide that won't increase the cost of an apartment? Exercise rooms? Free Wi-fi? Because it seems to me we're really hurting our standard of living by not taking advantage of these free resources.

by cminus on Nov 14, 2013 4:23 pm • linkreport

You didnt really give examples that are refutable since you simply stated that was teh case. If you are going to give examples, we should at least have some firm numbers to compare.

by BTA on Nov 14, 2013 4:24 pm • linkreport

"Keep in mind the District has built 29,000 new housing units in the past 12 years, more than enough to accommodate every last of the 58,000 people who have moved to the District during that period, with a few thousand in spare (persons per household in the District is 2.13) so despite actually building more housing than needed by population growth, rental and fee simple prices have skyrocketed, not decreased."

you are ignoring the drop in household size, driven not only by the new residents, but also by heads of household aging (and their kids moving on) in many less central parts of DC. The increase in the number who live in the district, and the number who want to, has enabled prices to go up. Rents will stabilize (and decline relative to income) when enough have been built to meet demand - at the household sizes of today, and in the locations (transit adjacent mostly) that are in demand today.

As the latest report on DC development shows, the number of units to break ground is diminishing in 2013 from what it was in 2011 and 2012, despite rents still being high enough to present affordability issues. That suggests supply problems.

There is certainly a gap between rents/prices and construction costs - that suggests that land is the limiting factor (perhaps its the number of skilled developers who can pull off an urban project, but that should change over time). By reducing the number of units that can be built on parcels where parking is an issue, where its not worth it to build a second level to a garage, etc, we make land that can be economically built on artificially scarce, and so increase that premium.

So yes - the meachanism is that more gets built, which makes it harder to hold the line on rents, which puts money in the pockets of renters and purchasers.

"Remove parking minimums
2. Developer profits
3. ?
4. Buyer/renter saves money"

Here

"Remove parking minimums
2. Developer profits
3. More developers build more buildings, at more locations, and with more units
3b. To sell/rent the additional units prices/rents must decline. Landlords with empty units, offer one month off deals, dont raise rents, etc.
4. Buyer/renter saves money"

Now, if you insist (as someone called Chatham did, IIRC - are you chatham?) that the pace of development is so fast the last couple of years that it CANNOT be any faster (IE that its somehow constrained by developer capacity or some other unspecified factor) that would be different.

But we are already seeing that ground breakings in 2013 are falling off from 2011 and 2012, so clearly they COULD be higher than they are. Even if they only returned to the pace of the previous year.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 14, 2013 4:32 pm • linkreport

No one is denying parking adds cost and that it gets passed on to the consumer.

Yes, similarly if you remove the requirement for parking some buildings may not build parking and all things being equal, the price will be lower since the cost was lower. Then you can measure what else is driving up demand.

by drumz on Nov 14, 2013 4:34 pm • linkreport

"Exercise rooms? Free Wi-fi? Because it seems to me we're really hurting our standard of living by not taking advantage of these free resources. "

or why not just charge developers a fixed fee per unit built since they wont pass it on. Free money for the DC treasury.

Of course that would go to all DC residents, and not specifically help the small class of DC residents who both have more cars than they have off street spots AND live in areas with lots of new development.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 14, 2013 4:35 pm • linkreport

Really, huh.

The developer who decides to sell his units at a price that gets him an acceptable rate of return, but not the full $30,000 (let's call him "Rational Developer"), will sell his units first. Mr. Greedy-pants has his units sit on the market longer. Assuming reasonably good distribution of information, they won't sell until most or all of Rational Developer's units are gone. He incurs carrying costs on those units, so he's losing at least part of that $30,000 every month his units don't sell. And if all other developers are similarly rational (or marginally less greedy), his units never sell.

The only way this doesn't work is in there is a cartel setting prices. There isn't, though, becuase there are too many actors and the barriers to entry are low.

by Crickey7 on Nov 14, 2013 4:37 pm • linkreport

Reminder, housing prices aren't the only reason to oppose parking minimums. I'm not even sure if it's the major reason. There is also traffic and safety issues.

by drumz on Nov 14, 2013 4:39 pm • linkreport

One of the problems with this general discussion is that demand to live in DC is greater than the supply of units, at least right now. So units are going to be priced higher, regardless of whether or not parking is bundled or not. Demand in the face of scarcity is going to push up pricing because of bidding by the most motivated of the buyers. (It's the same reason that marginal, f*ed up, badly renovated properties sell fast and high in strong markets. People are buying for the location and the availability, and they overlook factors that would ordinarily make them hesitate. e.g., the shell that sold for over $700,000 with 100+ offers on 4th St. NE in the H St. NE neighborhood.)

by Richard Layman on Nov 14, 2013 4:50 pm • linkreport

@RDHD, the relevant question is whether the availability of 50 parking spaces in a building with 100 condominiums drives up the prices of the 50 units that are sold without spaces.

We know that a unit without parking is less expensive than a unit with parking, and your post states that the price difference between units with parking and units without parking is about the same as OP’s September estimate of the construction cost for underground parking with three or fewer levels in residential buildings. My understanding is that in a condominium, owners of parking spaces will pay an additional maintenance fee, so operating costs would be covered by the residents using the garage.

So for your example, meeting the minimum parking requirements does not increase the housing costs of the households who choose not to purchase or rent parking. Purchasers aren’t being forced to buy a $30,000 space that they don’t need. Instead, if only the minimum parking is built, there will likely be a waiting list for the spaces and some residents forced to look for parking for rent outside of the building.

by OtherMike on Nov 14, 2013 4:58 pm • linkreport

"The only way this doesn't work is in there is a cartel setting prices. There isn't, though, becuase there are too many actors and the barriers to entry are low."

and the cartel would have to be holding vacant units off the market by not cutting rents even though they have lots of vacancies - and there is not even a hint of that in the local residential market (the class A office space market is rather more complex - and DOES have large blocks of vacant space, though there the fact that would be tenants may be looking for very large blocks gives landlords an inducement not to cut rents to fill space).

Chatham/Huh.

It sounds like you have identified a money machine. For a developer to buy land in DC, and develop it, assures a huge return not justified by risk. Why don't you form a development company? Why dont developers from other markets move in? Why doesnt any given existing developer double the number of units he builds to muscle out the other developers?

The argument is either that there is some hard limit on the number of units that can be built - its simply not possible to build more than were built in 2011/2012 for some reason - or its a cartel.

Since Huh thinks that there were enough units built in the 2000 to meet demand (I think he is eliding differences in location, differences in time across that period, and ignoring the changes in household size) and yet rent increased, it seems more likely he believes in a cartel.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 14, 2013 5:00 pm • linkreport

"the price difference between units with parking and units without parking is about the same as OP’s September estimate of the construction cost for underground parking with three or fewer levels in residential buildings."

In which case there is no need for parking minimums since it will be profitable to build the parking. So whats the fuss about?

Clearly not all buildings are alike, either in the cost to build or the rent premium folks will pay for a space. In places where the premium exceeds the cost the parking will get built ANYWAY (just as granite counters get built with no mandate.) In other places they will not be built BECAUSE the premium is lower than the cost to build - which are precisely the places where the minimum is imposing a cost.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 14, 2013 5:03 pm • linkreport

@Cminus,

Who here says parking doesn't add to the cost of the structure/unit?

@Awalker,

I asked for mechanism and time frame? If you are saying no parking minimums will result in cheaper rents in 50 years, thats one thing. Saying it will immediately reduce rents is another. What is your time frame?

Crickey,
Median days on market for the District is 36 days which is astromically fast. No rational person is going to give up 30K in profit so they don't have to spend another 30 days on the market (twice median time). The only time that would ever make sense is if the carrying costs exceeded your 30K example, which means the unit/house being sold carried financing (mortgage) of 10 million bucks or more. Not exactly the demo folks here are trying to help.

Oh, and days on market at the pit of the recession were 95, so even then the rational person isn't having a firesale to save 30K in the recession.

Drumz,

I gave everyone a perfect example above (909 Yards) The developer saved 20%, (8 million) which prorated over the 237 units was 34K per unit, yet renters on opening day paid the same market prices as everyone around them and still do to this day, so no...all things being equal the price to the consumer did not come down even though the developer saved a bundle.

by Huh on Nov 14, 2013 5:10 pm • linkreport

huh

i cant say how much without doing a full market study. And it might not actually decrease rents, but make them increase by less than they otherwise would. They will have an impact immediately, I think - I dont know what the time series of average rents or rents in specific areas will be like either with them or without them (just to note, OPs proposal still keeps parking minimums outside downtown, just less stringent ones that before)

I gave you the mechanism. thats all i read you as asking for.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 14, 2013 5:22 pm • linkreport

BTW, why are all the owners of existing buildings, who have gained windfall profits without lifting a finger, gotten a pass?

It seems like when property zooms in value because of changes in demand there are windfalls to property owners. Whether its Jamal sitting on something, to an owner of an old building, to an owner of a parking lot who has not yet sold to a developer, etc. It seems like there already is a mechanism to capture that - its called the property tax.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 14, 2013 5:25 pm • linkreport

all things being equal the price to the consumer did not come down even though the developer saved a bundle.

No, that's not things being equal though. That was high demand coming from other factors (like its location, primarily).

by drumz on Nov 14, 2013 5:26 pm • linkreport

@Cminus,
Who here says parking doesn't add to the cost of the structure/unit?

You keep saying there is no mechanism by which that impacts consumers. If thats the case, why not mandate other things in buildings. Since the price is independent of cost, that would only impact developers, and would not lead to less development. Why focus on parking?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 14, 2013 5:27 pm • linkreport

Jemal may have a different understanding of ethics than most people, but he's done a lot of great things for this city.

by Crickey7 on Nov 14, 2013 5:29 pm • linkreport

the problem is that focusing on the inframarginal development, all you will see is a windfall.

The idea is that out there somewhere (probably not in the heart of Near SE) there is a building that some developer is on the fence about - and by decreasing costs, you make it worthwhile to build. That ultimately means the owner of 909 commands less rent than otherwise.

The crux is the claim that net profits are so high to developers that decreases in expected net profit have zero impact on the quantity supplied.

if thats the case i am not sure how one explains the fall off in new starts from 2012 to 2013.

The fact is the number of new starts varies. It varies with expectations of profit. but its hard to see the relationship to price, because it takes so long to complete a project, and developers are always bettting on the market two years out. That makes it a particularly risky business, btw.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 14, 2013 5:32 pm • linkreport

To the extent that the windfall goes to land owners (developers or otherwise) another approach is a land tax independent of improvements - the Henry George solution. There is much to recommend that - and DC has gone farther than many places in that direction, by having a high tax on vacant properties.

Trying to squeeze windfalls out of landowners by mandating parking is a perverse way to deal with the issue, IMO.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 14, 2013 5:34 pm • linkreport

@Awalker,

"It sounds like you have identified a money machine. For a developer to buy land in DC, and develop it, assures a huge return not justified by risk. Why don't you form a development company? Why dont developers from other markets move in? Why doesnt any given existing developer double the number of units he builds to muscle out the other developers?"

My name isn't chatham, and no one ever said it wasn't risky but you haven't been paying attention if you haven't seen the foreign money coming into DC.

Qatari money paid for City Center
Japanese money is paying for the Akridge project at RI and 17th.
Beacon Capital, Colony Capital and Blackstone, all worth atleast 4 billion each and based either on the west coast or nyc are financing projects that are either under developement right now, or have completed in 14th street between U and Logan.

EOP, Grosvner Americas, Westbrook are funding projects on the SW water front, again out of town companies.

We have a Singapore fund that is paying for a mixed-use project at Florida and 50 and Saudi and London money renovating office properties on K street between 14th and 17th.

DC has ranked just behind London and NYC for foreign real estate investment for the past 5 years. Believe me, if I had the capital, I would be in the game as well.

by Huh on Nov 14, 2013 5:41 pm • linkreport

Ok, so why mandate that they provide parking?

by drumz on Nov 14, 2013 5:46 pm • linkreport

It's an inefficient, environmentally damaging, unnecessary anachronism that drives up housing prices.

What's not to like?

by Crickey7 on Nov 14, 2013 6:06 pm • linkreport

For all those who support the current parking minimums because they don't drive up the cost of housing, here is a question. Why are parking minimums better than affordable housing requirements (inclusionary zoning)? Isn't subsidized housing for people better than subsidized housing for cars?

by Ben Ross on Nov 14, 2013 7:15 pm • linkreport

@Huh
Who here says parking doesn't add to the cost of the structure/unit?

Well, you.

You don't think developers will pass along any of the savings created from building fewer parking spaces to the consumer -- in other words, two otherwise identical apartments, one with parking and one without, will be sold for the same price.

Which is exactly the same thing as saying that when we do require developers to build parking spaces, they eat the entire cost of those spaces rather than charge more for the units with parking. Out of the nonexistent goodness of their hearts, apparently. Which raises the question of what else we can require them to build that won't involve them passing along any of the cost to consumers.

by cminus on Nov 14, 2013 8:56 pm • linkreport

Cminus, reading comp is key. I have clearly said above that parking is a cost that is passed through. I don't know how more clearly I can state it.

by Huh on Nov 14, 2013 10:00 pm • linkreport

@awalker,

I clearly asked for the timeframe in the same exact sentence I asked for the mechanism at 4:19pm. I find it troubling that folks are so insistent that a policy will have "x" effect when they admit they have no idea of the timing, let alone the barest idea of mechanism involved in the process.

by Huh on Nov 14, 2013 10:06 pm • linkreport

So why do we want to force developers pass the cost of parking to consumers who may not want or need it? It's not quite necessary for health or safety (why we require bathrooms, sprinkler systems, etc) or equality (why we have rules that require elevators).

Having the parking minimums seems to have at best no effect on ones ability to find a spot on the street with ease so why keep an ineffective rule, especially when it's admitted by proponents of a parking minimum that it adds costs?

by Drumz on Nov 14, 2013 11:15 pm • linkreport

Did JPI (and now the new owner) rent those units rent for less than other comparable buildings in Capitol Yards, or Navy Yard? No? Well why not?

You're asking the question backwards. Did other comparable buildings in Capitol Yards or Navy Yard drop their prices to match the ones JPI was able to charge because of their lower construction costs? Yes they did.

by David C on Nov 14, 2013 11:34 pm • linkreport

I live near Upper Wisconsin Ave. A couple years ago, a new apartment building opened on Wisconsin, built under current zoning with roughly 1:3 off-street parking spots to units. Although the building's address on Wisconsin isn't zoned for residential permit parking, a corner of the building's property abuts a side street with RPP. So everyone in the complex is eligible for RPP. The almost immediate result as the building filled is that the side-street blocks within about a 3 block radius are now jammed with cars,requiring much circling to find a spot, especially in the evening. The impact on surrounding streets was very noticeable, from one building meeting current parking zoning requirements. I am very concerned about the impact of relaxing these requirements further, because I've seen what can happen. If we want denser development in DC, it seems to me the answer is to figure out how to best mitigate the negative effects, rather than making them worse.

by Alicia on Nov 15, 2013 12:13 am • linkreport

High parking requirements do not make on street parking easier. Zero parking requirements do not make on street parking easier, either. There are no examples anywhere in a city where zoning requirements have made on street parking better.

If you want to make on street parking better, you need to manage on street parking. You do not manage on street parking through the zoning code.

by Alex B. on Nov 15, 2013 4:54 am • linkreport

@Huh, so your position is that developers will pass along costs, but not savings? ("Why in the world would you ever think someone like Akridge would "do you a favor" and pass on whatever savings they realized?") I'm not sure that makes sense as an across-the-board conclusion.

Also, does that mean that when we first required parking, we drove up housing prices in places that didn't have any parking? And buildings with exercise rooms or free Wi-fi drive up housing prices in buildings that don't have those amenities, since the developer doesn't pass along the savings for not including those amenities?

by cminus on Nov 15, 2013 8:21 am • linkreport

Huh and others - you're looking at the wrong stage of development. Sure, after the developer has received financing, if there is a change that allows more profit, then the developer keeps the profit. How parking minimums help is by allow more developments to get financing in the first place. All developers do complicated pro formas to get financing for their projects. If they can show lower construction costs (i.e. not having to build a parking garage) then it is easier to get financing for that project. That is probably less true in "hot" markets like Columbia Heights, but it is certainly true in other neighborhoods, where a lender feels the investment is risky - not sure that the projected rents are accurate, etc.

by Urbanette on Nov 15, 2013 8:24 am • linkreport

I told you the exact mechanism.

The timing and extent will depend on a range of complex market factors - if I knew the exact course of future rents, the impact of zoning changes, sequestration, interest rates, the course of the macro economy, gas prices, etc I would be selling that info, and I would be rich.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 15, 2013 8:53 am • linkreport

@Alicia

I am familiar with that building. I would posit that if the residents of that area didn't fight even matter-of-right projects with alarming hysteria, property owners would envision bolder projects via a PUD that would then include the more parking you seem to be seeking.

Instead, every wiff of change is met with skepticism of evil, money-grubbing developers who want to do nothing more than rape and pillage the essence of the neighborhood.

What residents of the area are left with are uninspiring infill like the one you describe, or the wonderful drive through bank further south. Or worse, the still empty used car lot across the street.

by William on Nov 15, 2013 9:07 am • linkreport

@ alicia

You really had me there.

I thought you were going to say that if the City let's people get free parking on the street, there is no need for ANY parking in the building. I have no idea why you conclude that having more parking in the building that people already don't want to pay for would cause there to be more people pay for that extra parking.

Seems like your situation has absolutely nothing to do with the current debate. If instead people had no free on-street parking and you discovered that the parking in the building was filled, then you might have a decent argument that more parking in the building is needed.

While I might agree more parking in the building is needed in that circumstance, that is not the same thing as requiring the developer to build that parking through minimums.

by fongfong on Nov 15, 2013 9:07 am • linkreport

Alicia:

Why don't you admit that the goal of those opposed to parking minimum is to allow present residents to have their nearly free street parking, subsidized in part by the very people you are requiring buy a dwelling unit with parking they may or may not need?

We usually call that a transfer of wealth, or more colloquially, being like a pig sidling up to the trough.

by Crickey7 on Nov 15, 2013 9:14 am • linkreport

Alicia

I agree with you that circling for parking is a bad thing, since it adds to inconvenience, costs, and emissions including GHG.

Some people have proposed changes to how parking is managed to deal with that - in particular increasing the effective price of parking - either through metering, or through more expensive RPP permits. That would give more people the incentive to be car free or car lite, and would increase the incentive of people who live in units with off street parking to utilize those off street spots.

There are ways to mitigate the effect of such a change on the existing residents of the community - one could grandfather in existing residents to discounted RPP's. Or one could use the additional revenue to address community needs.

Would you be open to such a solution?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 15, 2013 9:24 am • linkreport

Eliminate all building regulations/zoning requirements. Allow developers to build what they want, to whatever volume, and to whatever height desired. Washington DC sells off all non-continuously used traffic lanes to the highest bidders, thereby decreasing road widths by 50%(say to maybe 16 foot widths). Obviously private developers would build a 28 story (~18,000 car garage) parking garage if the market demanded it. Amount of desirable develop-able land increases ten fold, causing significant and dramatic decrease in home values and rents. Of course this would cause considerable average real yearly income decline, but it wouldn't surprise me if we saw $50 one bedroom rents in as little as 6 years. DC would have the cheapest, greenest, real estate in the world. This would lead to a mind blowingly accelerated trend towards income parity. It sure would be nice if others shared my views.

by Bill the Wanderer on Nov 15, 2013 9:27 am • linkreport

There's a fair amount of double-talk on this web site when it comes to motor vehicles. In particular, there's much chest thumping about being less car-centric, taking Metro, walkability, less need for parking etc.

Yet if someone suggests restricting street parking permits for "green" development in transit zones like Arlington County does, oh the unfairness! Then street parking becomes a constitutional right for our transit-oriented vibrant urbanists who, well, actually need a place to park the vehicles that they still must have. There's talk about market-based pricing, etc., but doesn't that just benefit the "affluenza" moving into the shiny new buildings?

Same with traffic calming. For all the talk about preserving walkable neighborhoods, when someplace like Chevy Chase or Friendship Heights gets serious about restricing cut-through traffic induced by nearby development, to enhance pedestrian safety and walkability, the hue and cry starts again. Oh, the unfairness! Public streets are for everyone! Elitist gated communities! Traffic restrictions restrict freedom. Blah, blah.

by Sarah on Nov 15, 2013 9:49 am • linkreport

Well without context it would appear to be hypocritical.

Personally, if restricting RPP is what's necessary to get something done then so be it. I just don't think its the optimal solution and is rent-seeking behavior on the part of a certain class of residents.

One also has to be careful when cutting off through-streets. It can lead to overloaded arterials which can degrade the pedestrian/cyclist experience.

Finally, different people have different opinions.

by drumz on Nov 15, 2013 9:55 am • linkreport

Yet if someone suggests restricting street parking permits for "green" development in transit zones like Arlington County does, oh the unfairness!

It is a little unfair to discriminate against one group in favor of another, is it not? And isn't that what this policy does?

when someplace like Chevy Chase or Friendship Heights gets serious about restricing cut-through traffic induced by nearby development, to enhance pedestrian safety and walkability, the hue and cry starts again.

I would need an example. I think people here mostly support traffic calming steps. But you're right - public streets are for everyone.

by David C on Nov 15, 2013 9:58 am • linkreport

"Yet if someone suggests restricting street parking permits for "green" development in transit zones like Arlington County does, oh the unfairness! Then street parking becomes a constitutional right for our transit-oriented vibrant urbanists who, well, actually need a place to park the vehicles that they still must have. There's talk about market-based pricing, etc., but doesn't that just benefit the "affluenza" moving into the shiny new buildings?"

Thats not how it works in Arlington. Its not that individual buildings are excluded from RPP. It's that the entire commercial zone along the RB corridor (IE the place where parking free buildings are legal) is not included in the RPP zone to begin with. Its not like you could build a building there WITH a garage and then be RPP eligible.

IF something like that could be done in DC, it probably wouldnt be a bad idea. It would still be a bad idea (it would certainly encourage car free lifestyles in the new buildings, but why do that and not encourage such lifestyles for other residents as well - if such a solution were adopted I would suggest making the RPP's transferable and allowing permit holders to sell their permits to those who are not eligible) Some folks here have suggested that this solution is not constitutional - I doubt that - but I am not a lawyer.

"Same with traffic calming. For all the talk about preserving walkable neighborhoods, when someplace like Chevy Chase or Friendship Heights gets serious about restricing cut-through traffic induced by nearby development, to enhance pedestrian safety and walkability, the hue and cry starts again. Oh, the unfairness! Public streets are for everyone! Elitist gated communities! Traffic restrictions restrict freedom. Blah, blah."

The problem is that in many instances physically blocking traffic through a neighborhood forces too much traffic - not only long distance through traffic, but traffic from the next neighborhood over - onto the main arterial, which not only increases auto congestion there, but makes that arterial much less desirable for walking and biking. There are of course many other traffic calming solutions which will discourage people looking for a short cut to speed through.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 15, 2013 10:04 am • linkreport

Just to clarify - it wouldnt be a terrible idea - because we would create more options - but it would still not be the best idea, in that it would still give false incentives to existing residents.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 15, 2013 10:07 am • linkreport

I think this is a case of perfect being the enemy of good. Lowered parking minimums are good. Market rate street parking for everyone in the city would be perfect, but it ain't going to happen. Over the long term we can do both, but I'm not willing to hold up one for the other.

by BTA on Nov 15, 2013 10:26 am • linkreport

Public streets may be for everyone, but they are not for every vehicle for every purpose. There is a federal functioal street classification that pretty much every jurisdiction follows, including DC and MD. Arterials are where the through traffic is supposed to go. No one in Chevy Chase, for example, is saying that if you need to go to a destination on a local street that you have no right to drive there. They are saying that if you get frustrated by the traffic on Wisconsin Ave., they don't think you have the right to toggle and careen through residential streets to find a bypass for your commute. Big projects can induce traffic. That's why people review traffic studies and sometimes raise serious questions about the capacity of arterials to handle increased density. But if the real answer is that we'll just look to adjacent, often narrow, streets to provide reliever capacity for the arterials, that's not only unsound from a planning perspective. It's also ill-advised from a political perspective, because it will just stir up more opposition to development along the major corridors.

by Sarah on Nov 15, 2013 10:39 am • linkreport

Traffic and parking are separate though related issues. One is transportaiton and one is vehicle storage. They are related but this is about parking not traffic. Also I don't remember this blog ever promoting cut through traffic as a solution to anything, if anything most here would support better transit access as an alternative for congested areas.

by BTA on Nov 15, 2013 10:47 am • linkreport

Anyway this isn't Connecticut Ave we are talking about now so let's stay on topic. (Yes the references were that transparent.)

by BTA on Nov 15, 2013 10:49 am • linkreport

There is a federal functioal street classification that pretty much every jurisdiction follows, including DC and MD. Arterials are where the through traffic is supposed to go.

Yes but there is honest debate about whether that's optimal.

http://moderntransit.org/fmt/fmt17.html

or

http://www.humantransit.org/2010/06/on-standard-street-grids.html

They are saying that if you get frustrated by the traffic on Wisconsin Ave., they don't think you have the right to toggle and careen through residential streets to find a bypass for your commute.

Well, I doubt many would advise driving recklessly (I certainly don't). Roads can be calmed and connecting.

Now, it is great that there are still pedestrian and cyclist connections. And there may be factors at place specifically in chevy chase. The overall point though is, its not duplicitous or hypocritical to want safer streets and a connected street grid.

by drumz on Nov 15, 2013 10:50 am • linkreport

Arterials in many places also serve as local main streets, and in some places are the only good through routes for pedestrians and cyclists. The traditional street hierarchy does not recognize that.

If you want to avoid people careening through local streets then you should have traffic calming - which can include traffic circles, narrower streets/bump outs, bike lanes, speed bumps, etc. Those would still allow people from the next neighborhood over (not ONLY local residents) to avoid the arterial, but would discourage long distance speeders.

I'm not sure what that has to do with new development though. You seem to indicate that this is a reason to not allow new development. Given the need to have less our regional growth take place in "sprawl" locations, and more close to transit and closer to employment centers, it seems a mistake to both force all traffic (other than local residents) onto arterials, and then stop development because the arterial is congested.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 15, 2013 10:51 am • linkreport

I don't see why RPP parking has to be restricted, or priced differently.

If the time it takes to find a parking space grows from 10 min to 20 to 30 minutes, that's restriction enough. It will motivate you to consider the need for a car, or pay for a parking space.

by kob on Nov 15, 2013 11:04 am • linkreport

because it makes more sense to use price to ration, rather than time. Using time is inefficient, especially in that the circling means more vehicles moving on local streets (unnecessarily) and it adds to auto emissions. Including C02.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 15, 2013 11:08 am • linkreport

Why not both? Isn't that what performance parking is?

by BTA on Nov 15, 2013 11:12 am • linkreport

Cars will be a part of the transportation mix, and (until they become self-driving and need not park) there has to be space to store them near many of the homes and the jobs and the stores.
Um, excuse me, what?

Are you seriously suggesting that a world in which autonomous vehicles containing no passengers driving around in circles forever is going to be somehow better than the world we have right now?

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.] How can you suggest with a straight face that flushing thousands of empty cars into our roadways is going to somehow nullify the existing congestion problems, promote complete streets, reduce automobile dependency, cut down on emissions, or impact anybody in any remotely positive way?

Do you honestly not realize what an unmitigated disaster for every single road user including SOV drivers the autonomous non-parking vehicle would be?

by Ryan on Nov 15, 2013 11:22 am • linkreport

The Shoupian method of performance parking is to price so that about 85% of spots on a given block are open at any time. In some neighborhoods that might be high, in others the price may be 0.

Time limits can be tough, if there is a concert at the black cat I want to go to I'm likely to drive because the bands usually play past the last train anyway. I'm willing to pay at a garage or meter but the shows are longer than 2 hours anyway which is what most RPP/meters allow. Plus you'd maybe see garage fees go down until its about the same price to park in the street or a garage (though then garages might compete on other things like being sheltered and such).

by drumz on Nov 15, 2013 11:26 am • linkreport

If RPPs are to function as a quasi-carbon tax, perhaps a fairer alternative is to impose a carbon tax on any Co2 energy source. An SUV that parks in garage isn't necessarily cleaner than a Chevy Volt owner who spends 15min hunting for a parking space.

by kob on Nov 15, 2013 11:33 am • linkreport

That's a mistatement of how self driving cars would work. Local street parking would be largely obselete but centralized parking nodes would still be essential. However car sharing would reduce by a significant amount the time cars are spent parked fromthe current average of ~95% of the time so overall less parking space will be essential in denser places.

by BTA on Nov 15, 2013 11:39 am • linkreport

I support carbon taxes, but the idea here is not to use RPP fee as a sub for a carbon tax. Its to use it to allocate a limited resource in the optimal way. Using peoples tolerance for delay and inconvenience as a rationing mechanism is much like the old Soviet way of allocating consumer goods - drastically under price them, then use long lines to determine who gets one. its frustrating and a waste of time, and does not result in the product going to those who value it most. In the case of parking the emissions (and other costs of added VMT) are one more cost.

The only argument for that method over price is that its somehow more equitable between income groups. There are a number of ways to address that however - you could give discounts on RPPs to lower income people, you could grandfather in low income residents, you could use the revenues specifically for local services of greatest use to low income people, or you could use the revenue to lower other taxes on low income people across the District.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 15, 2013 11:40 am • linkreport

That's a mistatement of how self driving cars would work. Local street parking would be largely obselete but centralized parking nodes would still be essential.

Think 100,000 autonomous vehicles idling at Haines Point forever and ever.

by oboe on Nov 15, 2013 1:47 pm • linkreport

The following paragraph is from a SW DC Blog post (link below) about a new apartment building in SW DC that will offer "shared parking" for its residents. The parking spaces are in the office building. Is it realistic to think that the apartment residents will drive away during the day freeing up the spaces for the office building, especially since the buildings are next to the Waterfront Metro station? How has this arrangement worked elsewhere?

"The common areas have been designed by RD Jones to give a “clubby” feel and Davis calls some of the building amenities “trendsetting for the area, but also a harbinger of things to come for the DC market.” One of those innovations is the parking, which will be shared with the office building next door. There are 140 spaces licensed to the residential units, resulting in a parking ratio of approximately 0.5 per unit, double the minimum amount allowed by zoning. The theory behind the parking solution is office workers will use the parking spaces during the day and residents will use the same spaces in the evenings. Sky House will be one of the first buildings in DC to utilize a shared parking solution."

http://southwestquadrant.blogspot.com/2013/11/hard-hat-tour-of-sky-house.html

by BZ on Nov 15, 2013 2:27 pm • linkreport

@BZ, That isn't what is described as "shared parking" in Subtitle C of the ZRR for precisely the reasons you highlight. Similarly, it wouldn't qualify as "shared parking" in Arlington.

The reason they can do this is that DC's current minimum parking requirement is so low, for this site one space for every four units, that they can provide the 70 required spaces, and also make some of the spaces that residents can use available to office tenants during the day.

by OtherMike on Nov 15, 2013 2:45 pm • linkreport

@ Sarah

Troll much? You live on one of those streets where access is blocked, so don't be all high and mighty about how others on this site whine about cutting off access especially since that has never happened.

I would think most folks here would not advocate the cul-de-sac approach you are suggesting or the restricted access that Montgomery County uses to try and preserve that ancient and transportation unfriendly approach. Most smart growthers would support a completely open street grid with stop signs at every intersection to help discourage cut-throughs as this makes life for all residents on whatever street they live on completely democratic.

by fongfong on Nov 15, 2013 2:49 pm • linkreport

@OtherMike

I don't know how many spaces the apartment building itself has. I understood from the article that the 140 so-called "shared" spaces are in the office building. I work in the office building and my colleagues who drive to work tell me that the office building has already posted a sign on one level saying "Residential Parking Only."

Thanks for pointing out Subtitle C of the ZRR. I'll check it out.

by BZ on Nov 15, 2013 3:14 pm • linkreport

note well - that building is virtually on top of the Waterfront metro station. It is about a 3/4 of a mile walk to the L'enfant metro station, which gives you the orange and blue lines as well. And VRE commuter rail.

Its about a one mile walk to the Capitol building, and about 2 miles to the White House.

Its right by the 4th street SW bike lanes, and close to the Eye Street SW bike lanes.

Eventually the N-S line of the DC streetcar will likely pass right next to it.

I think the amount of parking it has may well be more than enough.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 15, 2013 3:23 pm • linkreport

It has been noted on this blog before that residents of Chevy Chase, MD have essentially cut their neighborhood off from the local grid, forcing drivers on to Western, Wisconsin and Connecticut. Residents of Friendship Heights and Tenleytown have done something similar with physical barricades and turn restrictions, turning River Road and Wisconsin Avenue into traffic gutters.

What any of this has to do with zoning or parking is beyond me, but let's stick to the facts: residents of these areas have talked their local transportation agencies into turning their streets into relative oasis at the expense of the rest of the region. These one-off solutions need to be revisited in a comprehensive manner.

by William on Nov 15, 2013 3:32 pm • linkreport

Shared office/residential parking makes sense. Some portion of residents are going to commute by car even if its insane. I had an old coworker that DROVE from Adams Morgan to Mcpherson every day... (insert something about fools with more money than sense) Asumming most residents will leave before most workers arrive give or take a bit, you could get double duty for a good number of parking spaces.

by BTA on Nov 15, 2013 3:40 pm • linkreport

@BZ, From your description, it sounds like off-site parking, not shared parking, where the required parking for the residential building is located in an existing garage, utilizing parking that is not required for the office use. This is covered in Section 2116 of the current zoning regulations. There should be a BZA order authorizing the off-site location for the residential parking. Presumably the 70 spaces in the level marked "resident parking only" were not required spaces for the office building. When there is a sign that says "resident parking only," those spaces aren't being "shared" with other uses. From your description, it sounds as though they are also offering 70 regular spaces that residents can rent with 24/7 availablity.

In the ZRR, the sections on shared and off-site parking are Subtitle C, Sections 1901.8 and 1901.9.

@BTA, In general, there are problems with shared parking with residential uses, since there is no reason to assume that the residents will be reliably removing their vehicles from the garage every day, especially when the apartment building is near transit, so many households will have at least one car, but most of the residents take transit or even walk or bike to work. It is more likely to be allowed when there are nearby uses with different hours, such as offices and restaurants or entertainment. Arlington has some strict rules for shared parking, and it doesn't applly to residential uses.

by OtherMike on Nov 15, 2013 4:10 pm • linkreport

@ William

Sad to say, keeping people off their streets is precisely the issue for these folks. They want to park for free and have no traffic on their block. They think the zoning rewrite has everything to do with this particular issue.

by fongfong on Nov 15, 2013 4:25 pm • linkreport

Yeah obviously it wouldn't be a one to one replacement but say if there was a stable 50% shared rate for those spaces say like 50 office spaces and 50 residentical spaces with 30 of each to end up shared on average those 70 spaces would do the work of 100. It's not like people couldn't find other parking places in the area in an occassional pinch.

by BTA on Nov 15, 2013 4:36 pm • linkreport

Townsend is a paid shill for the problem creators. There. I said that in a nice way instead of stating the obvious, i.e.,that he is a harlot

by NE John on Nov 16, 2013 3:56 pm • linkreport

Please make sure, in case you haven't, to go back and watch his entire testimony, not just his responses to questions. It was the most rambling, non-sensical thing I heard in the room all night.

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Nov 17, 2013 7:35 pm • linkreport

FWIW, my testimony on Thursday referenced Michael Manville's study of downtown LA's partial experiment with lifting parking minimums -- which did find an empirical correlation between affordability and a lack of bundled parking. Marcie Cohen thanked me for "the data points" or something like that.

@BZ: That Manville article mentions several case studies where apartment developers in LA secured off-site shared parking spaces for their tenants to meet lenders' requirements. (The city required no parking.) In the end, they were able to tailor the number of spaces to meet their needs. That particular development has offices and retail, and the parking garage is woefully empty -- hence, they rent out spaces to Arena Stage, Car2Go, etc. Even though it's next to Metro, I do know some people who reverse-commute from SW via 395 & Suitland.

by Payton on Nov 18, 2013 12:42 pm • linkreport

@ William. You call Wisconsin and Connecticut "traffic gutters." Others would call them major arterial roads, where the through traffic is supposed to go -- not flushed through narrow residential streets. You sound like a driver who is frustrated about traffic and that thru traffic short cuts through neighborhoods aren't always available. Chill out -- I thought all good urbanists took transit, biked or walked.

BTW, as there is more intensive development along Wisconsin Avenue, one can expect that 'hoods like AU Park and Cleveland Park will follow the Chevy Chase and Friendship Heights model on traffic.

by Alicia on Nov 19, 2013 9:44 am • linkreport

I thought all good urbanists took transit, biked or walked.

Yes, and a major impediment to walking/biking/transit are streets that are very clogged with traffic because it's the only way from A-B.

by drumz on Nov 19, 2013 9:47 am • linkreport

@Drumz--

If you don't like the traffic on Wisconsin Ave., then try walking or biking on quieter streets. Unlike with fast-moving, fume spewing commuter traffic and trucks, I'm sure you would be most welcome and find it a pleasant experience.
:0

by Jamie on Nov 19, 2013 10:12 am • linkreport

Right, but eventually I might need to cross Wisconsin or get to someplace on Wisconsin and my experience is that much worse for it.

Even in places with completely unfettered grids you'll have naturally louder and quieter streets. (compare 14th street in DC to 13th for example). Again, Wisconsin or Connecticut may be exceptional but the baseline should be for streets to be connected unless there is a really compelling reason for there not to be.

by drumz on Nov 19, 2013 10:38 am • linkreport

But the specifics aren't worth debating. But again, it's possible to be an advocate for walking/biking and want connected streets, that's all.

by drumz on Nov 19, 2013 10:39 am • linkreport

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