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Jo Clifton is the Politics Editor for the Austin Monitor.
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Council votes to get rid of parking requirements
Friday, May 5, 2023 by Jo Clifton
City Council on Thursday directed city staff to eliminate parking requirements from the city’s land use regulations outside the central business district.
The city eliminated downtown parking requirements, except for spaces for those with disabilities, in 2013. Thursday’s resolution would not change Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.
District 9 Council Member Zo Qadri was the lead sponsor of the resolution. His co-sponsors included Council members Vanessa Fuentes, Ryan Alter, Leslie Pool and Mayor Pro Tem Paige Ellis. Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison added her name to the list of co-sponsors on Thursday.
“While we’re trying to get more people out of their cars, while we’re trying to reduce our carbon footprint and while we’re trying” to increase the city’s housing supply, Qadri said, the city’s Land Development Code “is standing in our way. I think our priorities should be space for people rather than mandating space for cars.”
His resolution said eliminating the parking requirements would be in sync with recommendations from a variety of groups, including the city’s Pedestrian Advisory Council, and with Austin’s Strategic Mobility Plan, which set a citywide transportation goal of 50 percent non-single-occupancy-vehicle trips by 2039. He added that other cities that have eliminated parking requirements have gained additional housing as a result, and he urged people who worry that eliminating the parking mandate would mean there was no more parking to look at the science.
After the city eliminated parking requirements for downtown towers, Qadri said, developers still built “a generous amount of parking.”
Only Council Member Alison Alter voted against the change. Alter said she would support reducing minimum requirements for parking spaces, but she was not ready to eliminate them. She also expressed concern about the number of new regulations Council was asking city staff to write.
A variety of citizens came to Council to urge them to make the change, some citing the fact that other cities have already taken the step. According to an aide to Qadri, other cities that have eliminated parking minimums citywide include Anchorage, Alaska; Salem, Ore.; Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn.; San Francisco, Calif.; San Jose, Calif.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Fayetteville, Ark.; and Norman, Okla.
Christian Chaffee told Council he is a homeowner in District 10. If he were to build an accessory dwelling unit in his backyard, Chaffee said he would have to build a parking space for that unit even though he lives a one-minute walk from a bus stop for the bus that brought him to City Hall.
Luke Metzger, of Environment Texas, told Council there are already 2 billion parking spaces in the United States – about 2½ for every car in the country. This comes at a cost of about $20 billion a year, he said.
Under current regulations, the builder of an apartment complex must build 1.5 parking spaces for every one-bedroom apartment in the complex. According to the resolution, the cost of building a single parking space ranges from $10,000 to $40,000, adding that “those costs are passed along to homebuyers and renters.”
Harper-Madison said she hopes passage of the resolution “will kick off a larger conversation about how we not only change our code but also our culture. … How we move people around is critical and not everybody can afford to climb in a car and drive around. With 360,000 people who work in the hospitality industry in the city – they can’t afford to live anywhere near the hotels they serve. … We have to prioritize people – and how they get around.”
The resolution directed interim City Manager Jesús Garza to bring back the code amendment to eliminate parking requirements, except for parking for the disabled, by the end of 2023.
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