A draft resolution set to appear on the agenda of Austin City Council’s upcoming May 4 meeting would initiate an amendment to the city’s Land Development Code removing minimum parking requirements citywide, a long-awaited urban reform intended to reduce carbon emissions, create safer streets, and promote the development of affordable housing types while reducing sprawl. Introduced by Council Member Zohaib “Zo” Qadri and co-sponsored by a broad spectrum of district representatives including CMs Ryan Alter, Paige Ellis, Vanessa Fuentes, and Leslie Pool, this long-awaited resolution directs city staff to draft an ordinance removing parking mandates from city code for consideration by Council no later than December 31, 2023 — meaning we could see the end of parking requirements before the end of the year.
We’ve spent a lot of time on this site going over the reasoning behind abolishing these parking requirements, but the short version is that cities across the country are increasingly skeptical of mandates for parking imposed on urban development by old zoning regulations like Austin’s 1980s-vintage land development code, with the high cost and climate effects of large quantities of parking now in question. It’s important to remember that removing these mandates from the code — which could very well be based on junk science to begin with — doesn’t actually prevent developers from building as much parking as they want in new buildings.
Minimum parking requirements were removed from downtown Austin’s zoning in 2013, and you’ll notice that nearly every new project still includes at least some garage space. But discarding parking mandates allows developers to provide parking for new projects based on individual market needs alone, unlocking a wider variety of building types while reducing costs. A single parking space can represent a cost of $10,000 or more to a new building, with structured parking costing upwards of $25,000 per space.
Minimum parking requirements have resulted in an overabundance of parking in many locations throughout Austin and have continued to encourage people to drive to their destination. These parking spaces are expensive to build and maintain, and promote automobile use even when short trips can be easily accessed by walking, bicycling, or by taking transit.
This code change also wouldn’t effect the construction of accessible parking spaces, which would still be required alongside any regular parking a developer chooses to build. One of the considerations of the ordinance set to be drafted by city staff is the preservation of these accessible options:
The City Manager is directed to return with recommendations for developments proposing no on-site parking that allows for accessible parking spaces on-street, adjacent to or reasonably nearby the development and located on an accessible route. The recommendations should ensure accessible parking spaces comply with all design, accessibility, and location requirements of the ADA and FHAA as appropriate.
— Draft Resolution, Lines 57-61
It’s unclear why Council worked to end minimum parking requirements for bars immediately prior to this broader code change, but it appears that the staff of CM Velásquez wasn’t aware that CM Qadri planned to introduce this resolution so soon when bar parking came up earlier this month. Anyway, since the bar parking item didn’t inspire any controversy at Council, it’s high time we took more drastic action — we said 2022 should be the year Austin abolished parking mandates citywide, but it turns out we were one year off. Anybody want some champagne?