Last month, Eric Fidler of Greater Greater Washington left a tantalizing comment suggesting that DC was going to do away with its minimum parking requirements soon. Obviously this would be very big news and a welcome change for market urbanists, and it looks like it might indeed pan out. On Monday the Zoning Commission is taking comments, but the DC Office of Planning’s draft is apparently very promising. The documents themselves are, like all planning documents, quite long and bury all the dirt within a morass of bullet-points. While I read over the first dozen or so pages, my eyes soon glazed over and so I’ll be relying on GGW’s summary.
So, to start out with, here’s the good news:
Parking minimums would disappear in most cases. In neighborhood commercial corridors or low-density residential areas without good transit, commercial, institutional, or multi-family residential buildings would still need to provide some parking. But any area with good transit service, or high-density areas, would have no requirements.
Beyond that, however, the plan falls short of the market urbanist ideal. To misquote the internet meme, “planners gonna plan” – not content to simply dismantle the previous density-forbidden regimes, the planners are trying to stay relevant by instituting a few density-forcing rules. Parking maximums would come into effect (total lot size, for example, would be capped at 500 or 1000 spaces), and new parking lots wouldn’t be allowed adjacent to sidewalks, a reversal of the traditional setback requirements which encourage the parking-in-front designs so common in America. And while I’m sure in many of these cases the maximums will be set higher than people want to build anyway, GGW points out at least a few proposed projects that would have too much parking under the guidelines.
One thing the plan doesn’t seem to mention is what coping measures will be instituted for the remaining on-street parking places, which will become even more under-priced. (Perhaps because these things are regulated by some other part of the city government?) One commenter on GGW’s posts puts it thusly:
Parking minimums were intended to reduce spillover. If we get rid of minimums we have to address spillover either by resident permit parking or performance based meters or some other means.
There are also some other smaller and more unusual elements to the plan. Parking lots, for example, will have to be 30% covered by “tree canopy.” And while the mandatory showers for bicyclists in new non-residential developments probably won’t be a huge burden for developers, I don’t think such requirements played any part in building bike meccas like Amsterdam and Copenhagen.