We’ve known for a long time that requiring new buildings to have abundant free parking isn’t all it's cracked up to be. Even if we individually rejoice at finding that coveted parking spot in front of our favorite shop, the social costs of too much free parking are staggering. More parking causes more driving, which affects our air quality, the safety of our streets, the cost of homes, and much more.
NRDC has long supported state and local policies to reduce the amount of parking mandated for everything from housing units to bowling alleys, to support more affordable, walkable communities with lighter carbon footprints and healthier streets.
We championed San Diego’s recent efforts to reform its laws that previously required new housing to come with $40,000 to $90,000 worth of parking spaces per unit, which was followed with a major increase in affordable housing construction.
And this year we’re delighted to support AB 1401 from Assemblymember Laura Friedman.
AB 1401 would eliminate parking requirements for homes and commercial buildings in two types of places:
- In neighborhoods that are within one-half mile walking distance of a major transit stop, such a rail or bus rapid transit stop, or a bus stop served by two or more frequent buses
- In neighborhoods along a high-quality transit corridor with service every 15 minutes or better
Typically the rules around parking in new buildings are set by cities. Why is now the time for the state legislature to act? In the midst of affordable housing and climate crises, we need to ensure our state’s investments in affordable housing and clean transportation go as far as possible.
As the state invests billions in rail, electric buses, bike lanes, and bus rapid transit to provide affordable and low-carbon mobility, these investments are undermined by local mandates for lots of parking in new housing and job centers—even those near transit. The results? Even homes and jobs near high quality transit investments come with lots of unnecessary parking for people that don’t drive much, if at all.
There’s strong evidence parking requirements force the overbuilding of costly and unnecessary parking. When preparing to eliminate parking requirements, San Diego surveyed 30 housing locations near transit and found nine out of ten had fewer occupied spaces than were required to be built, and the downtown area had less than one occupied space per housing unit. A study of 86 transit-adjacent apartment buildings in Denver similarly found parking lots only 60% full at their peak occupancy, and only 50% full in income-qualified affordable housing units.
Considering transportation is the largest source of carbon emissions—over 40% of the state’s annual total—whatever rationale for local parking requirements near public transit has long since expired.
That’s why NRDC is excited to support Assemblymember Friedman and her bill to eliminate harmful parking requirements and support healthy and affordable communities.