California APA Pooh Poohs Statewide Parking Reform Efforts

Parking reform is always difficult. Decades of market-distorting parking minimums have made people feel more than a little bit entitled to subsidized off-street car storage. (See this reaction from a Seattle resident: “We need parking to survive.”)

Downtown San Diego parking. The California APA isn't lining up behind a smart statewide parking reform bill. Photo: Carstations.com

But parking reform makes housing more affordable and reduces artificial incentives to drive. So it’s disappointing to see an influential group of professional planners — who really ought to know better — fail to emphasize the high cost of laws that force developers to build expensive, and potentially unnecessary, amounts of car parking.

That’s the take of Stephen Smith at Market Urbanism. With the California legislature considering a bill that would ease parking mandates in transit-accessible areas, Smith notes that the state chapter of the American Planning Association displayed a distinct lack of enthusiasm in a recent email to members:

Minimum parking requirement reform bills have been floating around the California legislature for a while – last year it was AB 710, and this year it’s AB 904, both authored by East Bay Asm. Nancy Skinner.

This email blast to members from the American Planning Association’s California chapter doesn’t take an official position and does ask at the end for input, but their feelings on the bill are kind of hard to miss:

The APA’s email contained this warning:

APA California is not opposed to the concept of lower parking requirements near transit when a community decides it is right for them – the issue is that a one-sized-fits-all statewide standard is not appropriate.

Let’s be clear: We’re not talking about something tremendously radical here. The bill wouldn’t even get rid of parking minimums. It would simply set some limits on the parking mandates that municipalities can establish in transit-accessible areas.

The California APA should be one of the biggest advocates of this legislation. Hopefully they get some smart feedback and it’s enough to turn their heads.

Elsewhere on the Network today: The Political Environment outlines how a 1990s civil rights complaint might save the Milwaukee Streetcar from Governor Scott “No Train” Walker. Streets.mn explains how open streets events and food trucks have helped revive street culture in Minneapolis. And Commuter Page Blog shares a video explaining how Arlington, Virginia increased its population without increasing traffic congestion.