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Public opposition led the Office of Planning to change course and scrap its plans to eliminate parking minimums in transit zones as part of its rewrite of the city’s 55-year-old zoning code.
“We listened, and people were really concerned about it,” says Office of Planning Director Harriet Tregoning. “The absolute no required parking was really wigging people out.”
Tregoning made the announcement this afternoon on The Kojo Nnamdi Show, and explained the decision in a subsequent phone interview with me. The Office of Planning’s proposal had included the complete elimination of minimum parking requirements in transit zones—-within half a mile of Metro stations and a quarter of a mile of high-frequency bus routes—-as well as downtown, allowing developers to build as many or as few off-street spaces as they thought the market demanded. While the proposal the Office of Planning will submit to the Zoning Commission later this month will retain the elimination of downtown parking minimums, the minimums in transit zones will be reduced, not cut out altogether.
Tregoning says that parking minimums for institutional uses like schools, industrial uses, and low-density residential neighborhoods near transit zones will be kept largely as is. For office buildings, residential buildings, and retail in transit zones, they will be about halved.
With one side of the zoning debate partially appeased, Tregoning expects to hear criticism from the other side now, the advocates of a market-based, minimum-free parking system. “Am I expecting to get the backlash from the other side? Yes, I am,” she says.Tregoning has long argued that the current zoning code, with its parking minimums, is obsolete, given that it came from an era when the city was expected to become thoroughly car-dependent. But she says she’s not worried that the new minimums will seem equally obsolete in 55 years—-partly because it’ll be easier for developers to get out of the requirements (they’ll be able to do so through a special exception, which is easier to obtain than the current required variance), and partly because the Office of Planning will be monitoring the parking situation closely and adapting as needed.
Update 3:24 p.m.: The Coalition for Smarter Growth’s Stewart Schwartz emails a statement criticizing the move. “We are disappointed that the opposition to progressive reforms has caused the city to back down on the important reform of removing minimum parking requirements,” he says. “Parking minimums have driven up the cost of housing in a city that needs more affordable housing. The costs of too much parking are being passed on to all residents even if they want to save money by living car free.”
Photo by Darrow Montgomery