San Francisco is becoming the first major city to remove parking requirements from new urban developments. The story was first reported by the San Francisco Examiner. Most cities typically require developers to include parking as part of their development plans, but as cities like San Francisco grapple with congestion and an acute housing crisis, parking is less of a priority.
According to Supervisor Jane Kim, many developers had already gone around the parking requirement by getting creative with the rules – offering bicycle parking or parking for other, smaller vehicles like scooters. The change wouldn’t set new limits on parking, but it does mean that developers will no longer have to offer a minimum number of spaces. By removing parking, building footprints can change to enable more efficient uses of space and closer configurations – both of which are important considerations in urban centers.
The rule change is supported by a number of groups that want to make San Francisco more pedestrian friendly while also cutting back on vehicle emissions.
It is unlikely that parking will go away entirely, however. Many neighborhoods have put pressure on developers to include parking options and public parking lots in the urban core are still in use. The rule change simply acknowledges shifting priorities of city residents and city planners. Hartford, Connecticut introduced a similar measure although it goes a step further and eliminates all parking requirements from new developments. Smaller cities have also started to consider ways of relaxing parking requirements in order to encourage mixed-use development on their main streets.
Many parking rules in place today were implemented in the 1950s when vehicles were significantly larger and there were fewer public transportation options. Policymakers now view changes to parking rules as mere updates to reflect how transit has expanded over the years.
Other cities like New York are considering congestion pricing as a way of dealing with the overwhelming presence of vehicles. New York City is looking at putting additional tolls on drivers downtown where streets are especially tight. The city is also looking at adding more bike lanes and busways as residents shift toward more sustainable modes of transport.