City Council Reduces-Eliminates Multifamily Parking at Transportation Priority Areas

Commentary by Louis Rodolico

On March 4th Council approved and on March 19th reaffirmed; reducing-eliminating parking at condo-apartment complexes within a half mile of transportation priority areas. Some council members were openly uncomfortable with this gamble to provide more affordable housing. At the final reading on March 19th Barbra Bry voted no and stated that she would: “work with community groups to monitor impacts and protect neighborhoods”.  Dr. Campbell was the only other council member to vote no.

Developers can now provide no parking if they think their buyers will use public transportation exclusively. Residential structures without adequate designated parking spaces will be cheaper but the parking burden will transfer to local neighborhoods, with many cars circling and adding to the carbon load. Neighbors testified in frustration demanding that reduced/zero parking proposals are premature. Local Planning and Community Groups will probably respond with permit parking or some other control to get their neighborhoods back. City Council needs to revisit and finalize this legislation.

Many workers use their cars to carry equipment necessary for their jobs, for them a car is a necessity. Many jobs will require this far into the future. Council’s proposal allows developers to offer designated parking if they choose.

Housing is expensive in San Diego, the average worker making less than 2/3 of the earnings necessary for a median $483,000 home. So we need new living units with an average price point of about $300,000. Parking spaces are about a quarter of the cost of a residential development, on this basis Council is moving forward with reduced-zero parking to lower the cost of residential development. One developer testified that, on their project, the cost of a residential unit equaled the cost of parking. Councilman Sherman stated that: “47% of the cost of housing is government”

Let’s compare an existing $320,000 affordable living unit with parking to a similar zero parking living unit that could be attractively priced at $295,000. Parking spaces are generally about 25% of the cost of a unit so the $320,000 unit with parking has an $80,000 parking value built into it. The $25,000 reduction for a zero parking unit is attractive and will draw buyers. However when a buyer needs to sell their zero parking unit they will find themselves in direct competition with comparable living units with parking and the true value of the zero parking units will be exposed. Too late and an expensive lesson learned for our new buyer. Agents should be required to provide value notifications for this new type of housing.

Accessible parking is required by the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). ADA abstract; “a public entity should provide an adequate number of accessible parking spaces in existing parking lots or garages over which it has jurisdiction”.  The California Building Code (CBC) requires 400 spaces for 200 residences with 6 accessible spaces, but if the developer provides 40 spaces for 200 residences then only one accessible space is required. In these situations ADA regulations do not support disabled residents. Several people testified to these discrepancies and the only answer offered was a blue curb that would allow accessible street parking, we can do better than that. I wrote ADA a letter outlining the issue. The City Municipal Code and CBC should be modified to offer relief.

The Municipal Code has always required developers to provide affordable housing but there is a back door out of the requirement. Developers can pay fines to remove affordable housing from their projects. These fines fall into the category of: “Alternate Means of Compliance’. The fines go into city coffers, providing a clear dis-incentive for the city to provide affordable housing.  See Planning Commission Link. Had the City Municipal Code removed this back door years ago we would have more affordable housing stock today.

Dr. Campbell was correct to say this legislation is premature. However it is not too early to make some code changes. New parking garages should be designed as level floors convertible into living units as fewer of us own cars. See Illustration. These “Flex Space” structures will allow building owners to gradually remove parking as mass transit improves and we move away from car ownership. This also gives building owners additional incentive to support mass transit. Some owners have already done this but flex space structures should be a Municipal Code requirement not an option.

We will need several additional strategies to solve our affordable housing shortfall; flex space structures, and modifying the “Alternate Means of Compliance” are two possibilities. We also need a few more trolley lines to reach a mass transit tipping point.

San Diego city politicians and planners should grade this parking legislation incomplete. They will need to further improve this legislation to support; neighbors, building owners, home buyers and disabled citizens.


Louis Rodolico is a candidate for District 1 City Council                                                                               



March 4th Hearing; Rodolico 31:36

March 19th Reading; Bry 48:20   Campbell 49:10   Sherman 51:00

Planning Commission, Time: 2:57:45

San Diego Municipal Code

Transportation Priority Areas  SB743

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