A p p end i x
born. If the car was going to be the lifeline holding suburbs together, then managing them in their “parked” state (which is nearly 95% of the time) is the primary requirement. As a result, zoning codes today include a table of minimum parking requirements that span a dozen or more pages. With 30% or more of our communities covered by asphalt, it’s time for our profession to take action. In 2000, the Urban Land Institute (ULI) and the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) recommended 4 to 4.5 spaces per thousand square feet for shopping centers, depending on the size of the center. These numbers are based on peak demand at centers across the country. According to their own analyses, the ULI/ICSC parking ratios “provide for a surplus of parking spaces during all but 19 hours of the more than 3,000 hours per year during which a shopping center is open.” The Results Are In Spartanburg, South Carolina chose to eliminate their standards years ago. In doing so, development decisions shifted from being centered around parking cars to being centered around the pedestrian — how close they were to the central square or other amenities. Places for people came first, and parking was more efficiently managed as a collective utility, resulting in individual parcels performing better economically. Smaller buildings in downtown can now be viably reoccupied without the burden of off-street parking standards. Other cities have followed, like Fayetteville, Arkansas, a city that recently stopped using minimum parking standards citywide and Fargo, North Dakota, a city that discovered
the vibrancy that ensues in downtown when parking is no longer the “driver.” A Necessary First Step Removing parking requirements alone won’t solve the problem. Unraveling the web of standards that supports the automobile’s dominance over our cities will take time and a concerted focus around revising zoning ordinances.
If your community isn’t ready to take the plunge, these baby steps will help.
■ Cut existing standards in half. It still preserves a safety net and finds compromise with those who believe parking standards are necessary. ■ Eliminate standards for small buildings . The best way to energize a vacant building is not to require more parking to re-occupy it, but less. Consider eliminating requirements for buildings that are less than 5,000 square feet. ■ Eliminate parking standards in down- towns. In downtown areas, parking should be treated like a utility just like water and power, and managed collectively. Most downtowns are actually plagued with too much parking. When I wrote my first minimum parking code almost 20 years ago, we cut the current standards in half and it turned out just fine. The parking apocalypse never occurred. Instead, those communities became more compact, more walkable, and more vibrant. Today, I ask you to join me in reclaiming our cities and towns. We can begin by driving a stake in the heart of minimum parking standards. ■
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