San Jose is considering removing decades-old policies aimed at ensuring that there are enough parking spaces in the largest city in the Gulf region amid concerns about climate change and high housing prices.
For years, the city has required developers to set aside a minimum amount of parking on site. But city officials say it has raised the price of housing, increased the growth of suburbs and made it difficult for people to walk, cycle or use public transport to their destination.
This has also led to an oversupply of parking throughout the city, with approximately 2.68 spaces for each of the 720,000 registered vehicles in San Jose, according to a city note.
“The problem with parking is that it assumes that the only way to get to point A to B is by driving and that everyone is driving,” said Michael Brilliant, deputy director of the city’s planning department, at a recent meeting of the planning committee.
On Tuesday, the San Jose City Council will discuss whether to completely abolish the “mandatory parking minimums” for new housing and commercial buildings or reduce it only in certain parts of the city.
The solution is not unique to San Jose, as more and more cities are withdrawing from parking policies that emerged in the 1960s. In the last few years, San Francisco and San Diego have removed their parking minimums. And in 2016, Auckland eliminates the requirement near transit centers.
For Alex Shore, executive director of the non-profit community engagement organization Catalyze SV, eliminating parking minimums would give developers the flexibility to build more needed housing due to the high costs involved in parking.
According to a 2020 report from the SPUR city think tank, building a parking garage could cost about $ 50,000 on site. That number rises to $ 75,000 on site if the garage extends underground, money the city may ask developers to set aside for things like more green space along with new developments or other community benefits, according to Shoor.
“You won’t be able to provide all these things if you have to spend all this money on unused, unnecessary parking spaces,” he added.
The change could also have implications for San Jose’s ambitious climate goals. Car pollution is currently the biggest obstacle in the city’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, with a city report for 2019 finding that vehicles account for 51% of all emissions in San Jose.
Building less parking, especially in areas with transit access, could help reduce that number by prioritizing public transportation, said Zoe Siegel, senior director of the Greenbelt Alliance for Climate Sustainability.
“Until we really change the way we think about driving, we will not achieve our climate goals,” she said.
Not everyone agrees that removing the minimum value throughout the city is a good idea for everyone.
At a meeting of the planning committee this week, chairman Rolando Bonilla, who lives in the east, said the “economic perspective of the working class” was largely lacking in the conversation. While some parts of the city are easily accessible by public transportation, residents of East San Jose are heavily dependent on their cars.
“Cars are not a luxury here,” he said. “Cars here are a necessity to enable families to really support themselves and others.”