Less Parking, More Healthy Food

The other day, we looked at a supermarket in a densely populated part of New Haven that is unwelcoming to pedestrians. Today, courtesy of member blog The City Fix,
we’re taking another look at urban supermarket planning, specifically
the issue of how to get quality food markets built in underserved
neighborhoods (so-called food deserts) — where people often walk or
take transit to the store. They write about how cities like New York
and Washington, DC, can encourage supermarket construction by relaxing
onerous zoning requirements for parking spaces:

2698531404_a3dcb8f508_m.jpgShe doesn’t need a parking space. Photo by Ed Yourdon via Flickr.

The New York Times…mentioned
that one of the strategies New York City is using to attract more
supermarkets into food deserts is to change the city’s zoning laws that
would “free smaller supermarkets from having to
supply parking spaces.” Reducing or eliminating parking minimums for
new development is good urbanism.
But
if it can help provide affordable, accessible, and nutritious food to
low-income residents of the District — which is already a District goal — the planning commission has one more very good reason to wean us off of cars.

The District is taking steps to achieve this. Anita Hairston, the Chief of Staff of the Office of Planning, assures me by e-mail that:

–Any
commercial building (this would include supermarkets) located in the
central employment area of the city and is connected to a Metrorail
station can have their parking requirements reduced or eliminated.

–Any
commercial buildings that are less than 800 feet from a Metrorail
station can have their parking requirements reduced by one-quarter.

–Any
planned unit development project (regardless of location) can work with
staff in our office to propose potential reduction or elimination of
parking requirements.

Elsewhere around the network: The Complete Streets Blog shares its view on the Oberstar bill. We hear about a meaningful cash for clunkers program north of the border, via Sustainable Montréal (this one offers transit credit or money toward a new bike). And Active Transportation Alliance has the scoop on an iPhone bike app.

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