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State Bill Would Cut Back on Parking Required Near Transit

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The American Planning Association has made surprise objections to AB 904, a state bill that would lower parking minimums for housing and commercial projects adjacent to transit. An updated version of last year's AB 710, which failed to pass the State Senate, AB 904 appears to be an urban planner's dream come true: the bill would require cities to reduce parking requirements in transit-rich neighborhoods in the hopes of lowering the cost of construction and making housing and commercial buildings easier to build in areas served by public transit. As an example of the bill's provisions, "[AB 904] would prohibit cities from imposing minimum parking requirements of more than one space per residential unit or 1,000 square feet of commercial space in 'transit-intensive areas'--defined, with certain qualifiers, as areas within a half-mile of a major transit stop," according to the California Planning & Development Report. In effect, the bill would allow for parking requirements that resemble other cities around the country, like Seattle (which has no parking requirements at all in its Downtown), Portland, Kansas City, Chicago, San Antonio, and Denver. Last year's AB 710 died because of opposition from affordable housing advocates and the League of California Cities; the latter has already expressed opposition to the new version of the bill because it "prohibit(s) communities from determining the level of sufficient parking appropriate for their neighborhoods."

Market Urbanism last week shared news of a new twist in the ongoing saga to reform the state's parking requirements: a lobbyist for the American Planning Association of California recently sent an email to its members arguing that the bill is an inappropriate "one-sized-fits-all statewide standard." Such a standard would allow "builders and the market [to] decide how much parking to provide." The weirdness of the APA's opposition is not lost on Mott Smith of the California Infill Builders Association, the organization that helped author the bill. In response to the email by the APA-CA, Smith explains to CP&DR that the new bill is "a relaxation of restrictions, not an imposition of restrictions," and is more flexible than AB 710, which APA-CA did not oppose. As for the benefits of the bill: "Countless cities throughout California would like to have more infill-friendly parking standards ... This bill gives cities basically a gift certificate to accept relaxed parking standards if they want them." Smith also tells CP&DR that the case for parking minimums was made most eloquently in one of the APA's best selling books: The High Price of Free Parking by UCLA Professor/parking guru Donald Shoup.

Shoup has also added his voice to the AB 904 debate. Curbed has obtained a copy a letter from Shoup to Skinner supporting the bill: "AB 904 is a restraint on off-street parking requirements in transit-intensive districts, but it is not a restraint on off-street parking. It will simply allow developers to rebuild in transit-intensive districts with less parking. Now that all Community Redevelopment Agencies have been abolished, AB 904 is one of the few ways available for cities to encourage redevelopment that will create jobs and increase tax revenues. AB 904 offers huge advantages for all of California, and I urge you to support this valuable bill." Shoup then goes on to cite the renaissance of Downtown LA, enabled by the reduced parking requirements of the Adaptive Reuse Ordinance, as an example of a neighborhood set free by progressive parking policies.

Shoup also disagrees with affordable housing advocates who believe AB 904 will make it harder to build affordable housing; "With AB 904, however, affordable developers in transit-intensive areas will be able to provide additional family units because high parking costs will not erode project feasibility. Affordable housing developers will be able to provide only half the number of parking spaces now required for affordable units, meaning that, with a given subsidy, they will be able to build more housing at lower cost than is currently the case."

AB 904 already passed the Assembly in January, with a unanimous vote. The bill is expected to appear before the Senate Governance and Finance Committee on June 27. If you want to bone up on the issue ahead of the next round of hearings, the California Infill Builders Association has posted an FAQ sheet about the bill on its website (pdf). Image via Hoax-Slayer
· APA California hints (strongly) at opposition to parking minimum reform bill [Market Urbanism]
· Resurrected Parking Bill Draws Fire from APA [CP&DR]
· Last Year's Parking Bill AB 710 Resurrected in AB 904 [League of California Cities]