The Math of Parking Minimums


The Math of Parking Minimums

There’s usually a fair amount of noise in parking industry about parking codes as they are applied to apartment buildings, condos, mixed-used developments, businesses, and so on.

The people trying to comply with, or who object to, these codes are vocal about the challenges they face.

The idea that one algorithm or equation can accurately predict the need for parking makes sense to some and outrages others – I guess it depends on which side of the math you’re on.

Regardless, parking must be made and provided and the decisions about how much parking is required aren’t up to me – I’m just the person who hopes to find a spot.

I’ve read the arguments for making parking scarce and how this leads to higher revenue and overall higher valuation for parking and those arguments seem rational. However, scarcity bothers those pesky people driving cars who want to see a play or window shop or eat out. It’s a difficult balance.

Recently, those who oppose minimum parking requirements won a little battle against the practice. At a city council meeting in late October, Culver City, California leaders abolished minimum parking requirements citywide. reported that three city council members, including the mayor, voted in favor of ending minimum parking mandates. Two voted against.

In an article that quoted parking’s favorite nerd, Professor Donald Shoup, the blog states that Culver City is the first in Los Angeles County’s to end citywide parking minimum mandates.

Not to worry, it also reported that the ordinance clarifies the change: “The amendment eliminates minimum required parking but will not preclude the provision of parking.”

Further: The proposed Zoning Code Amendment is intended to address changes in in mobility trends and technology advancements, and to further key objectives of the City, including reducing parking supply and parking footprints, encouraging use of alternative modes of transportation, increasing transit/mobility options, promoting housing development, promoting transit alternatives, and promoting livability and sustainability. The amendment eliminates minimum required parking but will not preclude the provision of parking, will streamline the process for more space efficient parking methods (e.g., automated parking, tandem parking, etc.), and will update bicycle parking and loading requirements to be more consistent with the actual needs.

Two real objectives of the ordinance are 100 percent positive for the parking industry. 1. “…streamline the process for more space efficient parking methods (e.g., automated parking, tandem parking)” is a nod to new technology and new parking dynamics. 2. “…update bicycle parking and loading requirements to be more consistent with the actual needs” addresses issues affecting the industry that are currently problematic. also reported that many cities have ended parking requirements, including Buffalo, New York; Hartford, Connecticut; Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota; and Cambridge Massachusetts. In addition, in California, Sacramento, Berkeley, Emeryville and Alameda have all eliminated their parking mandates. San Diego and San Jose have adjusted parking requirements in “quality transit areas,” and others, including Santa Monica, have changed requirements in downtown areas.

Anyone who vilifies the parking industry doesn’t understand what it really does. Parking doesn’t prevent the creation of public transit, affordable housing or sustainability any more than Amazon is responsible for killing brick-and-mortar business. People decide how to travel and how to purchase the things they need, and they are consistently looking for the easiest and cheapest way to do that.

People decide for themselves. Those who value public transit can use it. Those who want to promote a sustainable city can ride their bikes, recycle, and conserve water and electricity.

The parking industry has the difficult job of trying to please a long list of customers: the owner, the operator, the city, the university, the developer, and last but not least, the consumer.

Parking minimums have made decisions for every entity involved in building a city. Now, in Culver City, maybe the free market will make those decisions.

Any changes Culver City hopes to make with the passing of this ordinance will take years to accomplish. And there will be quite a bit of disruption in the meantime. Developers won’t know how much parking to build; there will be questions about making the ordinance retroactive; new builds won’t have enough parking; people won’t know where to park, etc.

But I think it will all work out eventually. While “less parking” might seem like a negative for the parking industry, parking that people are willing to pay more for is a win.

Article contributed by:
Melissa Bean Sterzick
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