This afternoon, the City Council passed into law an ordinance revising requirements for off-street vehicle and bicycle parking.
Here’s my summary of the bill as it passed out of committee two weeks ago.
As promised, Council member Herbold re-introduced a revised form of an amendment that previously had failed in committee. It would give the city more flexibility to mitigate parking impacts for new development projects where there otherwise would not be minimum parking requirements for the project (in urban villages within a 10-minute walk of frequent transit service) and where current parking utilization is above 85%. Her revised version of the amendment prioritized several mitigation options that SDCI could utilize, with “additional parking” at the bottom of the list.
Herbold’s amendment was discussed at both Council Briefing this morning and at Full Council this afternoon. In between, Herbold further revised it to remove one of the mitigation options: increasing restrictions on a Restricted Parking Zone (RPZ) program. In both the morning and afternoon cases, she made her best effort to present it as giving the city more flexibility since not all neighborhoods are the same — and even quoted from critiques of anti-parking guru Donald Shoup that call him out for not incorporating neighborhood-specific context into his recommendations.
It didn’t help. She only managed to attract support from Council President Harrell; the other six Council members present (Sawant was absent) voted against her amendment. For most of them, the argument was simple: they want to create more affordable housing, and anything that could add to the cost of new housing (like building parking) is a bad idea. Council member Johnson, the bill’s sponsor, summed it up: “I think it’s unfair to have a city where parking is abundant and free, and housing is scarce and expensive.” He also noted that the bill’s loosening of parking requirements is narrowly applied to urban villages near frequent transit, which in the Council’s vision (and in the Comprehensive Plan) is intended to be “transit-oriented development” for people who don’t own vehicles. But Council member O’Brien took it further: while recognizing “the outcry from many in the community,” he said, “The work on climate that we’re doing and the protection of off-street parking are mutually exclusive… This bill is going to pass, because you have elected a Council that is committed to do climate work.” O’Brien went on to comment on how he would approach reform to on-street parking, a topic he expects to take on later this year, noting that he would not support policies that give preference to some people over others (such as RPZs for homeowners but not renters).
The final bill, unchanged from the version passed out of committee, passed by a 7-1 vote; Herbold voted no, criticizing the lack of flexibility the likes of which the Council had written into tenant and labor ordinances. “Our cities are made of people who don’t always fit into our models of how we want the world to be,” she said.
Johnson issued a press release after the vote praising the passage of the bill — and even including a statement from Donald Shoup.