Housing Complex

Parking Minimums Prolong Recessions?

Less parking please! (www.jairlynch.com)

Less parking please! (www.jairlynch.com)

The Washington Convention Center is packed full of real estate types today for the Urban Land Institute's annual wingding. This morning, local wonder boy Jair K. Lynch sat on a panel about prospects for smaller-scale developers, and dropped one of the more interesting remarks of the morning: Jurisdictions that lag behind current trends in personal transportation are putting themselves at a big disadvantage.

"I think there is a dislocation happening between communities, developers, and [local governments], and it's around parking," Lynch said. Some cities, however, are making moves to reduce the minimum number of parking spaces required for new developments. "The District has been out in front of that," Lynch noted. "Because of that, they might come out of the downturn a little faster."

Of course, developers will always ask for less regulation that limits the amount of profit they can make on a given residential unit. But Lynch has put his finger on a real trend in cities, where a traditional conception of how many cars people need has created more parking in residential buildings than is really necessary (although neighborhoods, of course, still complain about the lack of street parking). Chris Donatelli found this out when he built the first phase of the Highland Park a few years ago: He built 1.5 spaces per occupant, but later figured the right number was around half a space.

"We just didn’t fully appreciate the power of being on top of the Metro, and the reliance the residents would have on Metro...and their willingness to abandon cars altogether," he told the Zoning Commission, in seeking permission to build less parking for the second phase of the project.

Instead of requiring residents to pay more for apartment buildings with parking spaces, let them choose to live in buildings that don't have them. That way, more things get built.

  • W Jordan

    Parking ratios should be reduced in some areas like around Metro and etc., but don't believe the hype. During the go go times of cheap money when the luxury condo market was hot for quick flip developers they where selling those spaces for $15K - $35K and did not care much. Donatelli asked for a reduction in spaces for retail on his Columbia Heights projects, but did not for the residential spaces because the thought he needed them for profit. Now, that they are not profitable they want the requirement to go, damn the neighborhood impact. As well there is no evidence that reducing parking requirements would leave to less expensive units.

    W Jordan


    We need more parking garages in D.C. like in downtown Silver Spring. Is this young man a colored, Negro, black, or African American?

  • http://fedward.org fedward

    I live at Park Place, another Donatelli building, and the other thing he miscalculated was the price on the parking he did build. I might have been willing to hold onto my car despite living on top of a metro station, but not for the $200/mo they want for parking.

  • Pingback: Yglesias » Endgame

  • http://alexblock.net Alex B.

    That's the other key element - de-couple parking costs from housing costs. Make it so a parking space is not included with a condo or with rent, but purchased/rented additionally. That way, the end user pays the full incremental cost of providing that parking (which is a lot) instead of bundling it in with rent/mortgage payments automatically.

    When you do that and people see how much it really costs to park, demand drops off quite a bit.

  • Ben Ross

    Fedward - It costs more than $200 a month to pay for building and operating an underground parking space. If spaces in your building are going for $200 a month, the people who don't own cars are subsidizing the people who do.

  • Oakley

    Ben Ross,

    Pure hogwash. Care to provide a link outlining your costs?

    Were you correct, half the people who have built parking garages under their condos and office buildings the past decade would be operating at a loss, when we all know that they are for the most part, money printing machines.

    The one I live in for example. Condo building in U Street built 7 years ago. Our HOA budgets 5 a month per space for "maintenance" (garage lighting, line repainting, automated gates) but we rent them for 160 a month and they are all rented. Our garage is a cash cow for our association, as they are for most applications.

    This isn't a one size fits all issue, which is where DC is again behind the curve. Our surburban neighbors like ffx and montgomery make allownaces in their zoning requirements that differentiate between residential/commerical parking requirements and where they are. Building 1.5 spaces on top of a metro stop is a dumb idea that only gets made into reality in a place like DC. Mont Co doesn't require that kind of parking in residential buildings above their metro stops.

  • Michael

    Oakley, DC actually has very low minimum parking requirements. For apartment buildings, the minimum parking requirement ranges for 0.25 spaces per unit to 0.5 spaces per unit. If Donatelli built 1.5 spaces per unit, it was based on his own judgment, and not on any zoning requirement. Even half that amount would have been more than required in any zone allowing apartment buildings. DC’s minimum parking requirement is a fraction of what is required in Arlington County, even near the Metro. There are also requirements for commercial uses and those requirements vary with the type of use and proximity to Metro. Many of the people who testified requesting that DC reduce its minimum parking requirement did not seem understand the current parking requirement, as was evident from the examples that they gave.

    Alex B., Clearly with a parking requirement well below one space per unit, there is no requirement that a landlord or developer couple the parking with the apartments or condominiums. If they are doing so, they presumably are responding to market demands.

  • W Jordan

    When Donatelli switched Highland Park from the original rentals to luxury condos, it paid to have lots of spaces as they would be sold with the units in most cases and bundled with the mortgage. When the luxury condo market collapsed, he was left holding the bag for the spaces and a mortgage to refinance. The city then gave him a $8M plus tax break. So the city paid for his space as well all the affordable units and any other community benefits. Donatelli really not a good example in terms of the zoning issue. Allegro down the street played the same game with parking.

  • http://alexblock.net Alex B.

    Michael, even if there are fewer spaces than units, you can still tie a parking space to a condo purchase or to a rent payment - you obviously cannot do that for all of the units, but you can do it for some of them. The fact that there are, say, .75 spaces per unit doesn't mean anything since you can't park 75% of a car in a space.

    And it's not that there is a requirement that developers couple parking spaces to rents/sales - rather there should be a requirement that they de-couple parking. Right now they are free to bundle parking into the total cost if they so choose. By requiring de-coupled parking, that choice falls to the occupant instead. It's a far more efficient function of the market.

  • Pingback: blue ofica