Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s political action committee, Courage to Change, released a new questionnaire for Council candidates that asks anyone seeking her endorsement to pledge to end single-family zoning and encourage the density and mixed-income development. Moving earned him accolades in the world of housing, and as a socialist colleague, I too, applaud AOC for enthusiastically pushing forward a progressive housing policy.
A progressive agenda for cities means creating the conditions for public transit to win: residents of cities with dense housing with storefronts tend to support and use buses and subways. But another feature of zoning is equally essential to any serious reform aimed at promoting mass transit and dense housing and mitigating climate change: ending mandatory parking requirements.
Such parking requirements compel developers to provide a minimum number of off-street parking spaces, which results in lower housing densities and transit use, and higher and higher vehicle densities. driving, as well as higher rents. These results undermine the Green New Deal’s stated goals of mass affordable housing and high transit modal split.
The AOC has addressed parking minimums in Congress, sponsoring a bill in 2019, “A Place To Prosper Act,” which would have denied federal highway funds to municipalities that, among other things, enforce “the requirements of off-street parking for housing”. (He died at the last Congress.) In any case, such measures lend themselves more easily to local pushes; more than 200 US cities have phased them out in recent years, according to the Parking Reform Network. AOC’s nominee questionnaire contains language promoting “multimodal transit and walkable communities,” but it should explicitly insist that its local endorsers also oppose parking minimums.
Like single-family zoning, minimum parking requirements were designed and advocated by corporations and enforced by governments in order to shape urban spaces to benefit certain industries – and certain types of residents. Originally pushed by people like The American Automobile Association and Automotive Safety Foundation (which is associated with “automotive and related industries“) to accommodate the influx of cars in the post-war years, the parking requirements written into the zoning law that has guided city policy since 1961 has mandated residential and commercial storage space for thousands of vehicles, regardless of proximity to public transit (current or future), transportation needs, and from resident demographics, or even local air quality or road safety statistics.
Back in 1950, when NYC implemented its first parking minimum laws, the innocuously named Automotive Safety Foundation was behind the scenes pushing its research.
The leaders of this group, of course, were Harvey Firestone and HH Rice (of Firestone and GM tires). So strange! https://t.co/3i3QxvKUbP pic.twitter.com/fz27XI8zG1
— Paul E Williams (@PEWilliams_) December 16, 2021
Here are a few ways the mandate frustrates transportation and housing:
- It’s expensive: each place increases the cost of renting each accommodation. A survey of eight New York City parking lots found that the average construction price per space for a space was $205,552, or $615 per square foot. Inevitably, these costs — which can total several thousand dollars — are passed on to renters, whether or not they have a car.
- It’s a space eater: a parking space in New York should measure 102 inches by 18 feet. That means this new 99-unit mixed-use development in Sunnyside, Queens — that’s in the AOC neighborhood — will have 99 parking spaces occupying at least 21,114 square feet (not including the width of the parking spaces). aisles), or about 31 apartments worth the space. Carless residents outnumber car owners in this 17 to 3 zip code.
- It creates congestion: According to parking guru Donald Shoup, a mere one unit increase in parking requirements is associated with an increase of 6,000 vehicles per square mile.
These reasons alone should prompt city and state governments to remove parking requirements from the books. Getting rid of the minimums will get us most of the way, but constraining maximums are also needed. Some housing advocates believe that developers never want to build expensive parking spaces, so parking spaces are a good bargaining chip for affordable housing or other concessions. But without caps, the city could see developers add even more more parking spaces than necessary to meet the needs of high-income motorists who will pay a premium to avoid taking the bus. In fact, the aforementioned 99-unit Jackson Heights development, which sits around the corner from the #7 train, is zoned to require no more than 50 parking spaces. New York’s Real Estate Board, to name just one giant local lobby group, opposes parking caps as a means of catering to its luxury clientele.
Parking requirements hurt tenants, who have to pay more rent for equipment whether they drive or not, and carless transit riders, who get no benefit from residents’ private parking. Rather, it is the fossil fuel and auto companies that gain from state-mandated, tenant-subsidized storage of their products. Robert Moses could not have asked for more to keep the mass automobile alive.
Vitality comes to a city when housing is built, no parking – not even for electric car. It’s time for progressive and socialist policymakers to tackle parking regulations so we can build a brighter, greener, and fairer cityscape.
Nicole A. Murray (@nicoleamurraylisten)) is a member of the Ecosocialist Task Force of NYC-Democratic Socialists of America.