A.B. 710 Sails Through Committee, No Date Yet for Full Assembly Hearing

Earlier today, A.B. 710, the Infill Development and Sustainable Community Act of 2011, sailed through a hearing of the California State Assembly Committee on Housing and Community Development. If adopted, A.B. 710 would drop minimum parking requirements for infill development in “transit intensive areas” down to one car per residential unit or per 1,000 square feet of retail space.  Infill development is any new project that is built on a currently unoccupied space.

The Oakland Uptown Project is often used as an example of progressive infill development in Northern California.

The only Assembly Member to speak on the legislation was Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), who authored the legislation. Also testifying in favor were Meea Kang, from the California Infill Developers Association, Mark Christian from the American Institute of Architects, Ethan Elkind, a researcher with UCLA and Cal-Berkley, and Christine Minnehan representing both the Western Center for Law and Poverty and California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation.  The NRDC, Policy in Motion, Creative Housing Associates and California Infill Builder’s Association also voiced support for the proposal.

Kang commented that reducing the parking requirements will make it easier and less expensive for developers to invest in transit oriented communities.   Another developer testified that he spends “90% of his time” figuring out the parking for new development and 10% on the other community benefits.

While Minnehan recognized the importance of reforming the state’s parking requirements, she expressed the same concerns that Public Counsel expressed to Streetsblog last week.  First, A.B. 710, as written, undermines existing legislation that encourages developers to include a 5% set-aside for affordable housing in exchange for reduced parking minimums in some circumstances.  Second, Minnehan worried that by making it less expensive to develop near transit that many rent-controlled units in urban areas would be demolished to make way for more expensive development.

Skinner touted her record supporting affordable housing and vowed to make sure her legislation doesn’t have any unintended consequences.  Earlier this week, she accepted an amendment that limits the scope of A.B. 71 by narrowly defining “transit intensive area.”

“transit intensive area” means  an area that is within one-half mile of a major transit stop or  high-quality transit corridor included in a regional transportation  plan. A major transit stop is as defined in Section 21064.3 of the  Public Resources Code, except that, for purposes of this section, it also includes major transit stops that are included in the applicable  regional transportation plan. For purposes of this section, a  high-quality transit corridor means a corridor with fixed route bus  service with service intervals no longer than 15 minutes during peak  commute hours. A project shall be considered to be within one-half  mile of a major transit stop or high-quality transit corridor if all  parcels within the project have no more than 25 percent of their area  farther than one-half mile from the stop or corridor and if not more  than 10 percent of the residential units or 100 units, whichever is  less, in the project are farther than one-half mile from the stop or  corridor.

All four Committee members present, Chair Norma J. Torres, Vice Chair Toni Atkins and Members Steven Bradford and Ben Hueso voted to advance the legislation.

  • “A high-quality transit corridor means a corridor with fixed route bus service with service intervals no longer than 15 minutes during peak commute hours.”

    In peak commute hours only? That’s almost every Metro bus route, which means almost everywhere within central LA is within 1/2 mile.

    Does this mean all of central Los Angeles and Long Beach will see parking requirements fall to 1 per unit?

    I was skeptical about this legislation before, on the assumption that “transit intensive area” meant “1/4 mile from a rail or BRT station”. I feel those areas near rapid transit should have NO parking minimum, and perhaps a parking maximum. But this is great; it means the center of most cities in California will finally be allow to build new residential with a sane parking ratio.

    Now we just need another bill to eliminate parking minimums from areas within a 5 minute walk of an existing or planned rapid transit station, and we would see some real TOD.

  • This is a map of the areas in Long Beach that could qualify as being within 1/2 mile of a “high-quality transit corridor”, based on the 15 minute bus standard. It’s not clear if this whole area would count, based on the current “regional transportation plan” definition of a “transit corridor”, but if the plan was changed to include all existing good bus service about 75% of Long Beach could fit in this area:

    http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&ll=33.815381,-118.170319&spn=0.150039,0.220757&z=12&msid=209582850025375035802.0004a1f03d3a8698b1109

  • Mlewyn

    Why is the state involved in this? I always thought parking requirements were set by municipalities rather than states.

  • The point about affordable housing is interesting. Demanding deed-restricted affordable units in exchange for lowering parking requirements is a way to get more affordable housing. However, is there no other way to achieve that outcome? Isn’t there some other regulation that can be bargained away? Can’t cities just require a certain percentage of deed restricted units near transit in general if they want to? Building with reduced parking, and with parking costs separated from housing costs has a lot of potential to reduce housing costs.

    Preventing cities from setting minimum parking requirements above a certain level near transit seems like a good step forward. We shouldn’t have to bargain away a bad rule (minimum parking requirements) to get a good outcome (affordable housing).

  • Guest

    What you are referring to in terms of requiring a percentage of units to be affordable, which is known as Inclusionary Zoning, has been blocked for rental housing in CA by recent court cases – see summary here:

    http://www.p4sc.org/articles/all/inclusionary-zoning-faces-hurdles

    SB184 would address this issue by clarifying state law:

    http://www.totalcapitol.com/?bill_id=201120120SB184

  • Anonymous

    This is exactly what I was thinking. Here’s the Metro 15-minute map.

    http://www.metro.net/riding_metro/maps/images/15_min_map.pdf

    Basically all of the core of the City of Los Angeles (excluding SFV) would be covered. Of course there are some patches that are long distances between major boulevards — i.e. parts of Baldwin Hills, everything north of Sunset, parts of Cheviot Hills — but it’s still a huge swath of the city.

  • Anonymous

    It’s too bad this legislation, as light in scope as it is, is still going to face difficult hurtles due strictly to politics based out of ignorance and an irrational fear of change. The market should dictate parking supply for virtually all development, not arbitrary standards.

    And let me respond to this: “Minnehan worried that by making it less expensive to develop near transit that many rent-controlled units in urban areas would be demolished to make way for more expensive development.”

    Let’s think about this. An affordable housing advocate concerned about making infill development LESS expensive???? What do you think is one of the main factors that makes housing unaffordable to begin with? That’s right, parking requirements!

    Some of these affordable housing advocates are just as irrational and short-sighted as the public in that they can’t see the big picture. Removing these restrictions will lead to an increased supply in infill housing units (mostly on parking lots and underutilized parcels as they are now, not rent-controlled housing for the poor), and cheaper units that don’t include the price of a mandatory $30,000/space markup.

  • Nathanael

    I would have nailed that definition down harder. Legislators, in future consult with me before writing legislation. :-) The definition of “major transit stop” is weak as it includes stops not yet constructed.

  • Jamworks

    The key to protecting rent-controlled units would be to abolish the Ellis Act.

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