By MADISON HIRNEISEN
THE CENTER SQUARE
(The Center Square) – California is facing a housing crisis, but costly parking requirements can hinder development in many cities. One California lawmaker is looking to change that.
Parking mandates, which set minimum requirements for the number of parking spaces that must accompany new development, are common in many California cities. The mandates can have a significant impact on the cost of new development, adding “$40,000 or more to the cost of construction per parking spot,” according to California YIMBY (Yes in My Backyard).
The nonprofit and other housing advocates have thrown support behind a bill prohibiting public agencies from enforcing a minimum parking requirement for new development within half a mile of walking distance to a “major transit stop.” The proposal would not prohibit off-street parking from being built if a developer decides it is needed, but it gives builders the flexibility to choose how much parking is needed.
The Glendale Democrat told The Center Square that developers sometimes walk away from projects due to municipal requirements and the costs of parking spaces in new developments.
“When cities are given a choice between accommodating cars or accommodating human beings, they are choosing accommodating cars over human beings,” Ms. Friedman said. “We have got to change that and prioritize people and housing first.”
The state is simultaneously looking to tackle its affordable housing crisis and mitigate the impacts of climate change. Assemblymember Friedman said this bill would begin conversations with cities about reducing the impact of urban sprawl and pollution by building more environmentally-friendly housing near transit. It would also reduce the cost of housing for tenants and homeowners, supporters say.
Some California cities have already moved to eliminate city parking mandates for housing development and businesses. In 2019, San Diego eliminated parking mandates for new apartments located near transit, and last year, the city slashed parking mandates for many businesses, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Ms. Friedman says that there is “empirical evidence” from San Diego that developers who take advantage of the city’s policy do pass along cost savings to their renters and tenants. She also noted that she has heard from constituents who have saved up to $400 a month on rent because they opted to rent an apartment that comes without a parking space because they did not own a vehicle.
Dozens of housing advocacy groups across the state say the bill will allow for the development of more housing at a lower cost to renters and homeowners and reduce pollution by increasing housing options near areas with public transit.
Advocates also say it will help address the overabundance of parking in California cities, such as Los Angeles. LA County has almost two parking spots for each of its 10 million residents, according to pro-housing advocacy nonprofit Abundant Housing LA. The nine-county Bay Area faces a similar situation, with twice as many parking spots as people, the San Francisco Examiner reports.
In a support letter for the bill, Abundant Housing LA wrote in February that “parking requirements make solving some of our biggest social problems, like housing affordability and climate change, much more difficult.”
“Parking requirements undermine public investment in affordable housing, which is already insufficient, by increasing construction costs, reducing the number of affordable homes that can be built, and thus resulting in fewer lower-income households served,” the letter states.
A handful of city and county governments and the League of California Cities oppose the idea. In a statement, the league said prohibiting parking requirements within a half a mile of public transit “does not guarantee individuals living, working, or shopping on those parcels will actually use transit.”
“Many residents will continue to own automobiles and require nearby parking, which will only increase parking demand and congestion,” the League of California cities wrote.
Assemblymember Friedman countered, saying, “what increases traffic congestion is more cars,” and the more cars there are in an area, the more traffic there will be.
“If your goal is to reduce traffic congestion, particularly in transit hubs, which is what we’re talking about, stop bringing all the cars in. It’s as simple as that,” she said.
The bill will be heard next in the Senate, though it was not yet assigned to a committee as of Friday.