By Hannah Wiley | Sacramento Bee
California housing advocates want to do away with one of the state’s biggest obstacles to new home construction: requirements that builders provide parking spaces for tenants and homeowners.
Environmentalists are also on board, citing the detrimental climate effects caused by reliance on cars.
Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, D- Glendale, wrote Assembly Bill 1401 to prohibit local governments from imposing minimum parking requirements for certain residential and commercial developments located within half a mile of transit hubs.
Friedman said too many areas of California have become “oceans of concrete” parking lots that discourage walking, biking and other forms of transportation. The rules also block new housing construction, increase prices and weaken statewide environmental goals, Friedman argued.
“We’re putting a lot more priority in making parking spaces than we are in housing, or green space or anything else we need,” she said. “It’s not pleasant, it’s not healthy and it’s certainly not sustainable.”
Parking requirements are generally tied to a building’s business. Restaurants and hotels, for example, might require a minimum number of spaces based on how many tables, rooms, beds and guests they can accommodate, according to a legislative analysis of AB 1401.
Similarly, new housing projects often require at least one parking space per unit. Proponents of the bill argue that’s led to a surplus of parking spots despite there being alternative transportation options nearby.
That’s led to led to urban sprawl, increased carbon emissions and high housing costs, said Donald Shoup, a distinguished research professor in the Department of Urban Planning at UCLA. The oversupply of spots also discourages walking, increases traffic congestion and diminishes urban design.
“Removing parking requirements will help achieve all the goals the state has in terms of housing, environment, traffic congestion, air pollution and public health,” Shoup said.
Several California cities in recent years have made moves to do away with certain minimum parking requirements, including Berkeley, San Diego, San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento.
Mike Griffiths, founder of California Cities for Local Control and a Torrance city council member, said it should be up to cities to decide whether they want to eradicate parking requirements.
“(AB 1401) just basically mandates us to do something that we might not have otherwise have done,” Griffiths said, adding that the state government should first make investments in public transportation infrastructure a priority.
Griffiths said getting rid of the parking rules could end up “creating a negative energy” in communities.
“We are not opposed to housing,” he said. “We want housing that adds to a neighborhood, not detracts from a neighborhood. We really see that as a devaluing of what was once a nice, comfortable neighborhood.”
Sacramento is also facing public pushback over its plan to eliminate requirements throughout the city in its quest to spur housing construction.
Building smaller multifamily buildings such as triplexes and fourplexes currently requires on-site parking in most areas, said Sacramento Planning Director Greg Sandlund, which makes them difficult projects to build.
“There’s a lot of people in these single-family residential zones that if you added more housing, there would be more cars parking on these streets, parking in front of their houses,” Sandlund added.
“At the end of the day,” he said, “it’s weighing do we want to find homes for cars or find homes for people?”