By David M. Greenwald
In an editorial on Friday, the LA Times wrote that Governor Newsom “can chip away at one of the biggest barriers to building more housing, more cheaply. All he has to do is buck the naysayers, including from Los Angeles, and sign Assembly Bill 2097 to eliminate parking requirements in new development near transit.”
Parking seems to be one of those “can’t win” issues. If a project permits too much parking, naysayers argue that it is a car-centric development that will increase GHG impact. Not enough parking and they complain that it will force residents to park and walk from other areas of the city.
Parking mandates are expensive and prohibitive. And cities can prioritize people who don’t own or use vehicles.
As the Times pointed out, “Most cities demand that residential and commercial developments are built with lots of on-site parking, no matter if the spots are needed or desired. When the construction cost of a parking spot can be as high as $55,000 in urban areas like Los Angeles, and cities typically mandate one or two spaces per unit in residential developments, some building projects won’t pencil out unless they are designed and priced as high-end units.”
Moreover, “In communities resistant to new development, strict parking requirements can be a de facto way to block apartment buildings and lower-income housing.”
The Times however argues, “But that mindset — that everyone drives everywhere all the time — conflicts with the state’s climate and livability goals. California is investing billions of dollars a year to expand public transit and promote walkable and bikeable communities so people can get around without a car, which will reduce the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change.”
Enter in AB 2097—legislation that intends to reduce the cost of housing, slashing pollution that leads to climate change, “by eliminating expensive parking mandates for homes and commercial buildings near transit, or in neighborhoods with low rates of car use.”
The legislation notes, “Eliminating these costly parking mandates will give Californians more choices about whether they want to pay for parking, or have lower-cost housing in walkable, transit-accessible neighborhoods.
“California cities are currently over-producing parking — Los Angeles alone has 200 square miles of parking — largely because of rules that require the construction of parking with each new home or business, even when there is no need for additional parking.”
The bill was authored by Assemblymember Laura Friedman and co-authored in the Senate by Nancy Skinner and Scott Wiener.
“California’s lack of housing near transit worsens the climate crisis, by forcing millions of people to endure long commutes and burn expensive gasoline,” said Brian Hanlon, CEO of California YIMBY. “By ending costly parking mandates, we can reduce housing costs while addressing the number one source of pollution in our state — transportation. AB 2097 is a win for housing and a win for the climate.”
The Times points out, “Builders could still choose to provide parking — and many probably would — but the number of spaces would be determined by market demand, not by a blanket requirement.”
We have seen in Davis some developments, like the Olive Drive Mixed Use that seek to greatly reduce parking, as they provide housing not only near transit but in close proximity to the downtown and university.
The Times notes, “Los Angeles also has seen how reducing parking requirements can increase production and help lower rents and home prices. After the state relaxed parking minimums for accessory dwelling units on single-family lots near transit, construction of those living spaces increased dramatically.”
They added, “Two decades ago, Los Angeles eased parking requirements to make it easier to convert old commercial buildings into apartments and condos. This adaptive reuse ordinance helped create nearly 7,000 units downtown by 2008.”
But AB 2097 isn’t just about housing. It is about moving away from a car-centric world.
The Times writes, “It would also eliminate parking requirements on transit-adjacent commercial development.”
They argue, “That’s important if California wants to support the growth of compact, walkable communities. Steep parking requirements can make it harder to revitalize vacant properties and older commercial corridors — often built before the era of mandatory parking minimums. Parking requirements end up forcing businesses to dedicate property to cars rather than, say, al fresco dining.”
In conclusion they note, “California leaders have demonstrated they are ready to break the old paradigm of car-focused development so we can have more sustainable, affordable and livable communities.”
They add, “There’s a lot more work to be done, but with his signature on AB 2097, Newsom can help California take another monumental step in that direction.”