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San Diego Will No Longer Require Parking at New Housing Near Transit

In a sign that maybe San Diego leaders are beginning to understand that the status quo isn't going to solve the city's congestion and transportation problems, the City Council approved new rules that eliminate parking requirements for new housing in areas close to public transit. The new rules will also reduce parking requirements in downtown to equal one space per unit rather than one space per bedroom.

Note that this does not mean new housing developments cannot build parking. It just eliminates the requirement that they build a certain number of parking spaces per unit.

The council approved the measure on an 8-1 vote.

It's been hard for officials in many cities to grasp this Shoupian concept that providing "free" parking not only encourages more driving, it drives up the cost of housing for everyone, even those who don't drive.

Carter Rubin* at NRDC points out some stats (emphasis added):

A city report estimates that the city’s parking requirements add from $40,000 to $90,000 to the cost of a housing unit, which translates into thousands more a year in rent and mortgage payments.

But over half of San Diego renter households have either no car or one car. Renters shouldn’t be forced to pay this extra cost.

Also, writes Rubin, "There are sometimes concerns that getting rid of these required minimums might lead to more cars hunting for street parking."

The data indicate otherwise: city requirements force the overbuilding of expensive parking. The city surveyed over 30 locations in transit priority areas, and found that nine out of ten of the sites had fewer occupied spaces than are currently required, and downtown the parking occupancy rate was less than one car per unit, as many people don’t own cars there at all.

This is in keeping with data collected in the Bay Area by TransForm as part of its GreenTrip program. That project has found that across the housing sites it surveyed, about a third of the parking spaces go unused.

This will also make it a little bit easier to add more housing where it's needed--near transit--and is consistent with a recent move by the San Diego Transit Board to replace some of the unused parking at its stations with housing.

Go, San Diego!

* Carter Rubin is a board member of the California Streets Initiative, the nonprofit that publishes Streetsblog California

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