April 7, 2021

Getting out of the ‘free parking’ hole

Daily Scot found another egregious example of what ‘free parking’ actually costs.

Oh the lengths we go to for underground parking.  I walked past this open pit mine suspending these three heritage homes in the air on Birch and West 8th Avenue just blocks away from the new Broadway subway line station at Granville.*


But there is hope.  From StreetsblogCal:

Requiring a minimum number of parking places also makes housing, even “affordable” housing, much more expensive – some estimates put the extra cost of a single parking space at between 30 and 75K – and it frequently sits unused.  Having easy, abundant parking is one thing; having too much parking just makes it a lot harder and more dangerous for people who are not in cars to navigate streets and parking lots. …

(State of California) Assembly Transportation Chair Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) is tackling all of this with A.B. 1401, which would prohibit cities from imposing minimum parking requirements on certain developments, specifically those located near existing public transit. The bill has strong support from housing advocates, affordable housing developers, and a few mayors who showed up to the press conference to tout its benefits. …

“Right now, empty parking places are taking precedence over housing for people,” said Ricardo Flores of LISC San Diego. The costs associated with minimum parking requirements “will continue to fall on low-income communities and communities of concern,” he said, and people are being forced to pay for a luxury they don’t even use. “Overcoming housing inequities is key to developing healthy communities.” …

A.B. 1401 would not disallow building any parking; it would simply prohibit cities from setting minimum requirements for certain developments in areas where other options exist. In other words, those who want parking can have it, but those who don’t need it would not have to pay for it, either as part of their housing costs or in other price increases from higher development costs. …

“It’s important to be clear: this legislation does not prevent a developer from building whatever amount of parking they think is appropriate,” said Senator Scott Wiener, a co-author on the bill. “The people building housing are going to best understand a specific project and what is warranted there, but to have one-size -fits-all approach mandating a set amount of parking, no matter what, makes no sense whatsoever.” …

A.B. 1401 has been set for a hearing in the Local Government Committee on Wednesday, April 14.


*Here’s a rendering of the finished project:

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  1. Cathy Wood of ARK is projected EV costing 75% of ICE vehicles by 2025 with autonomous taxi services eventually evaporating economics of private car ownership. Can repurpose underground parking areas for storage services, communal hobby spaces, small business startup, music practice rooms, artist studios…

    1. We’ll have robotic butlers before we have an autonomous taxi fleet. I know some people really, really want it to happen but the sensor-and-response technology for driverless cars out negotiating complex urban environments is a lot more than 4 years away. Open pit mines and test tracks in the Israeli desert do not yet count as “proof” these will work (or be socially acceptable) in the West End. Alternatively, these people driving all of this ‘no car necessary’ travel demand could take the bus – or regular (driver-ed) taxis.

      It would, however, be smart for architects to build these underground parkades ‘retrofit-ready’ should spaces become obsolete. At present, there are usually fire code constraints on the simple renovation of underground parkades into residential units. Not insurmountable but does take some forethought and a little more up-front money than your usual pit in the ground.

  2. The more eggregious thing is that I think these aren’t even being considered heritage … their ‘retention’ was required as condition of attaining the full ‘conditional FSR’ allowed in FM-1 zoning … but the bottom story has been demo’d, and most of the wood inside has had to be sistered with acceptable wood, so almost literally they are Houses of Theseus.

    On twitter I dubbed them ‘Houses of Icarus’ also, for obvious reason (they’re ~46′ in the air at the moment).


  3. This developer told me that the only way the city would let him build the number of units required to make the project feasible would be to retain the three existing houses. If you look at the rendering of the approved soon to-be-completed project with the extra density allowed by keeping these three ‘sisters’ it does not appear to me out-of-scale or character on this steeply sloping site in a polyglot multi-family neighborhood steps away from a skytrain station.

    In good faith and with much effort he complied – just the geotechnical and temporary structural steel frame must have put a serious dent in his proforma. I wonder how much actual ‘heritage’ value remains on the few boards and rafters left? And of course the city wouldn’t bend on the minimum underground off-street parking spaces required given their demand to retain the existing single family houses.

    1. It’s easier for city staff to put a developer through hoops than field complaints from neighbourhood “stakeholders” (and their councillors) over parking.

    2. the developers financial dent is not the problem_________the problem is that theC O V is using the dent
      to subsidize parking & fake heritage instead of social housing_________ unfortunately C O V s priorities are that car storage is far more important than housing for people

  4. Municipalities can set up an example by not allowing FREE parking in all their parking lots. CoV does it in some lots but not all.
    Other Cities have FREE parking everywhere and have union agreements to provide FREE parking to all their employees.

  5. BC Children’s Hospital not only waives parking fees during the pandemic, but offers free valet service too! Today there was barely a parking spot available. I’d be curious if anyone knows how easy finding parking there was when fees were charged.

  6. The appendix for Transportation 2040 calls for a number of measures including parking as a shared district resource, that is adaptable, and can be used by car share. In the meantime this project is not proportionately that far off what we are getting in the West End and Downtown with 5-11 storey private parkades as well as 2-3 storeys of underground parking on new “transit-oriented” development along the Cambie corridor. Not one large scale project such as the Plaza of Nations, Oakridge Transit Centre or the Oakridge Centre has attempted to look at parking as a shared district resource. The Climate Emergency Action Plan calls for looking at parking maximums, yet the Parking Management Branch hardly seems aware of this with no concrete plans for implementation. I have a suggestion: the walkable West End RM-5B, where there are currently three projects: 1150 and 2030 Barclay, and 1116 Pendrell which are replacing affordable housing with luxury oriented units with 2 parking spaces per unit. Parking maximums could be useful for saving existing affordable housing.

    1. COV s mandating private off street parking 3 blocks from a station on a new $3 billion subway line could be an inspiration for a monty python or a YES Minister british comedy tv episode

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