(Unedited) Podcast Transcript 388: Parking Policy for Cities

June 22, 2022

This week we’re joined by Catie Gould of the Sightline Institute, to talk about Oregon’s plans for reducing parking regulations in cities. We chat about case studies from Portland OR and Fayetteville AR and the impact of parking lots on the urban heat island.

You can listen to the show at Streetsblog USA or at our podcast hosting site.

Below is a full unedited transcript of the show:

 

Jeff Wood (1m 32s):
Catie Gould. Welcome to the Talking Headways podcast.

Catie Gould (1m 45s):
Thanks for having me

Jeff Wood (1m 46s):
Well, thanks for being here. Before we get started. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Catie Gould (1m 49s):
Sure. I live in Portland, Oregon, which is where I moved 10 years ago. And I got really into transportation from biking is kind of my entry point. Going on social bike rides for me was a wonderful way to meet people and see the city and kind of learn about this place. So I didn’t know anyone when I moved here and now I research transportation policy issues for a sight line. We are a climate think tank in the Pacific Northwest, trying to turn the Pacific Northwest into a model of global sustainability. So for the last six months I’ve been writing a lot about off-street parking requirements and kind of telling some of these stories about what these requirements do to our cities.

Jeff Wood (2m 27s):
And how did you get into, I mean, you obviously were a cyclist before, but were you always into cities? Were you always planning on being in the policy world of cities? Was that something that crossed your mind when you were younger?

Catie Gould (2m 38s):
Not really. I grew up in rural Maine. There’s probably 1300 people in the town I grew up in. So you can see any other neighbors from my street. And sometimes it felt kind of isolating. I never really wanted to live in rural areas since I’ve been really attracted to cities. I think they’re really dynamic. There’s a lot of people around and stuff to do.

Jeff Wood (2m 56s):
That’s awesome. And then what got you into parking? Like what’s getting you into discussing this topic that maybe only urban planners care about, but everybody seems to think about often.

Catie Gould (3m 6s):
Yeah. Parking is something that everyone experiences on their daily life. I kind of joke that like before this, I had a career in engineering and I worked on office printers, right? So you tell someone, this is what I do. And immediately they start giving you complaints about everything they hate about office printers. And now it’s the same with parking.

Jeff Wood (3m 24s):
Really people complained about office printers

Catie Gould (3m 27s):
Constantly. Why does it jam? Right? There was an excellent article in the new Yorker a few years ago that really laid out why printers still jam, which is pretty much cause people ask them to go faster and faster every year. So it’s nice to reference people to that. Just read this explains everything, but yeah, I think a lot of people who’ve done any transportation advocacy, right? That wants to make cities better places for riding transit or biking or walking comes up against parking in their work, right? Why can’t we put a bike lane on the street? Well, it’s gonna eliminate, we’re going to have to get rid of 50 parking spots and how can that be managed or how can our city grow to include more homes for new neighbors, people like me who move, you know, move to different cities and not, we have these conversations about cars and are our cities being too full, already have cars.

Catie Gould (4m 15s):
And what’s the solution for that. So we can make space for more of the things that we want and less of what we don’t want, which is like big, empty parking lots.

Jeff Wood (4m 24s):
What’s the first thing. People along the same vein as the printer, my printer is great, by the way, I don’t have any complaints about it, but what’s the first thing that people ask you and you say, oh, I work on Parking Policy or I work on transportation policy. What’s like the first thing that comes out of their mouth,

Catie Gould (4m 36s):
He will say, what’s that, you know, I’ve done this a lot. You know, since you’ve been vaccinated, I’m like at parties trying to talk about, oh, what do you do for work? And I said, well, I work on parking minimums. What’s that most people have never heard of parking minimums despite their, in nearly every zoning code. And we say nearly I write it a lot in my work because it seems just completely wild to think that there’s no single town, maybe in all of north America that did not adopt these tables, that specify how many parking spaces, every single type of building needs to have. Right. These swept through zoning codes in the late fifties, very quickly were adopted. They’ve been the policies on the books for decades and decades.

Catie Gould (5m 18s):
And what we see now in our land use is the result of that. So places that we like, and then we cherish and our cities like historic downtowns, little commercial areas are illegal right there. We’ll say they’re non-conforming with the current zoning code where places like the suburbs, where everything is a drive-through right. That’s a large part because we required it to be like that. So when I say that, that’s what a parking requirement is. They’ll say, well, that’s dumb. We should get rid of it. Right. Which is kind of a growing feeling. Lots of cities are talking about getting rid of them or reducing them. And we’re really starting to account for all the negative impacts these rules have had on how we use our space, which is so precious.

Jeff Wood (5m 57s):
It was really interesting to read in one of the pieces that either you or Michael wrote that basically parking regulations in codes, it happened really quickly, like something going from like 17 to 90% or something along those lines. Don’t quote me on the numbers. I know they’re in the east, but it was really insane, like two years, three years. And they were all at one point, there were none. And then a couple of years later, they were ubiquitous. And it’s frustrating from the standpoint of thinking about how fast they were implemented, but how hard they are to untangle from our daily lives. Do you think about that often about the swiftness of which it was implemented, but the hard kind of Scrabble push to get rid of parking requirements and minimums and maximums and all that stuff.

Catie Gould (6m 37s):
I think it stems from the same, you know, it’s the same political issue, right? We get this surge of cars in the fifties of more people owning cars. Now there’s parking headaches, cities. Aren’t always great at managing parking, right? Putting in parking meters, doing parking districts in Portland sometimes can really lag in this respect where there’s a lot of areas that are hard to park and there’s just not many management tools being deployed. So off-street parking requirements were that solution to say, you know how we’re going to fix this problem is we’re going to essentially privatize the issue and we’re going to force the cost and the burden of making sure there’s enough parking spaces for all this new number of cars.

Catie Gould (7m 17s):
And we’re going to make every single building, you know, be accountable for that instead of more city-wide strict strategies to manage the land. So what we’ve built is just a huge over supply of parking spaces off the street. And sometimes I don’t know if you’ve experienced this, where you’re driving somewhere. I have a car everyone should know that I have a car. I park on the street where you’re driving somewhere. And there’s a lot of parking lots, but you don’t really feel like you’re allowed to park in any of them. Right. Because they’re all like privately owned by different companies. And you’re like, I don’t want to get ticketed or towed. That’s kind of like what we’ve turned parking into

Jeff Wood (7m 51s):
Private commodity.

Catie Gould (7m 52s):
Yes. Yeah. So I think the estimates, it’s hard to count up the number of off street parking spaces because they aren’t regulated by the city or like there’s not good inventories for them. But I think the estimates are, you know, where somewhere in the realm between three and eight parking spaces for every car in the United States,

Jeff Wood (8m 11s):
It’s insane. That’s insane amount of amount of asphalt and paving. And we’ll talk about the impacts of that in a bit. But I noticed that Sightline has 33 articles and it’s parking question, mark. Lots exclamation point. I love that. A little clever idea, whoever thought of that parking lots. What’s the most interesting parking story right now. That’s on your radar.

Catie Gould (8m 33s):
Oh goodness. I’ve heard, you know, funny, I guess, humorous to me because you wouldn’t think of about like corruption around parking meter companies. Fascinating. Yeah. The role of parking is like not immune from, you know, private interests as well. But you know, mainly we’re kind of on the forefront of lots of cities relaxing the requirements to say it’s actually not our job to be the police of how many parking spaces you’re building builds. We’re going to trust that you can figure it out. We’re not going to step in and tell you anymore. So every gosh, you know, it seems like every month there’s a new study about what were the results of this role back in this city. Right? We have information from Buffalo and Seattle and, but there’s nothing, we have no counterfactual, like here’s a city that never implemented them or one that got rid of it 20 years ago.

Catie Gould (9m 19s):
These are all in the last decade, in the last few years, especially. So there’s going to be a lot of new information about when we get rid of these rules, what are the really positive outcomes that we’re actually getting?

Jeff Wood (9m 29s):
I do like that idea of, well, I don’t know if I like it, but it’s interesting to think about like, you know, coin operated laundry. That’s usually a way for people to launder money thinking about kind of parking in the same way as a scandalous operation. But yeah, there’s, there’s just so much and you know, you guys have two really good examples. I think that that, that struck me. The first one is, is an Oregon where actually, you know, 61 jurisdictions could reduce or completely remove parking mandates. And I’m wondering where this move came from, because obviously there’s a lot of complaints about parking and city councilors seem to Fred about it the most out of any other issue. Where did this come from? An Oregon.

Catie Gould (10m 5s):
Yeah. I mean, what’s so challenging in the local realm, right? For small towns or cities to take on parking reform on their own is that it’s hard to change things, especially rules that people don’t really know about. Now they’re hearing it for the first time and people can kind of equate, oh, we’re going to get rid of parking mandates. That means the parking is going to be harder than before. And that’s not necessarily the case when there is such an oversupply of unused parking spaces, but that’s kind of like where it’s difficult politically. And when there’s so many things that local leaders are facing in their cities with COVID and housing crisis, it’s just hard to kind of stick your neck out. You really need some really strong supporters within city hall or the staff, or some really strong advocates outside to say, we are confident that this is a really good idea to at least try so in Oregon, this is kind of a much broader reform that is kind of in the motions of taking place right now.

Catie Gould (10m 60s):
And it is actually through an administrative rulemaking process through the land conservation and development commission. That is a body that formed in 1973 at the beginning of like Oregon state land use planning. Right? So this is going to apply to cities and towns of certain sizes that are within Metro areas within Oregon. And there’s kind of a number of different parking tools that they can pick from, but we expect, you know, in the next year there’s going to be, there’s no way that a town is going to get out of rolling back some of their parking requirements. It’s all just to what extent. So this very exciting.

Jeff Wood (11m 35s):
Yeah. And it seems to cover some other things, walkway designed, bikeway standards, four story buildings. It’s not just parking, it’s a whole bundle of things that they’re working on.

Catie Gould (11m 44s):
Yeah. The proposal is called the climate friendly and equitable communities. And it’s, you know, land use is really at the heart of a lot of climate issues. When we think about, you know, I think in Oregon, 40% of all carbon emissions come from transportation and transportation and land use are two sides of the same point, right? How walkable places is, how close can the buildings be located to each other to make them walkable and parking requirements are like right in the heart of how we can space our cities around geometrically. So yes, parking reform is just one of the reforms as part of this rulemaking process. There are other requirements for cities to designate climate friendly zones in their cities that will also loosen zoning requirements to allow bigger buildings than before.

Catie Gould (12m 28s):
And also some transportation planning rules, right. To help encourage to move away from some of the autocentric designs into ones that are more multimodal.

Jeff Wood (12m 37s):
Yeah. How does the climate friendly area get designated? Like, is that something that the locals do or does an outside organization put together a geometry? How does that work?

Catie Gould (12m 47s):
I think there are some guidelines is a little less in my area of expertise, but yeah, every city will be defining their own boundaries.

Jeff Wood (12m 55s):
It’s really interesting. I mean, I realize it’s not in your wheelhouse necessarily, but I just found it really interesting because it made me think of like in the bay area, for example, we have these things called priority development areas where there’s a kind of a focused area. You know, the geometry is designated there areas where you can focus development and those types of things. And I like it kind of reframe does this climate friendly area where, you know, you can allow higher density development and you can have better bikeway design and, and things like that. And so it’s interesting that these are, you know, these structures are part of this overall move to improve urban planning towards a more denser, urban environment that we know reduces VMT and therefore reduces emissions.

Catie Gould (13m 31s):
That’s spot on.

Jeff Wood (13m 32s):
I noticed some of the opponents sound a lot, like some of those kind of wacko car loving Twitter feeds that are making fun of the status quo. You know, the ones they’d set up joke, Twitter handles to make fun of the auto centricity. And so I have a quote here from one of them that I thought was hilarious, the proposal upends decades of commercial development patterns and may severely impact car dealerships, service stations, freight access, and any other auto oriented business as if those are God-given rights to have in cities. I do feel, you know, I guess bad for business owners that put their lot in with this certain auto oriented development pattern, but at the same time, like I, it just kind of sounds like something a joke Twitter feed would say, but it’s actually a group of organizations that are trying to defend against this change.

Catie Gould (14m 19s):
Yeah. The funny thing is if parking requirements were proposed today, I doubt they’d have a lot of support, you know, or at least a lot less, you know, this is a huge cost to private property owners. I think people would really balk at to say, where did these rules come from? Where’s the data that supports that this is the right amount for our town versus, you know, New York city or something, the way that we have been doing planning for decades, isn’t, it’s not perfect by any means. So it’s a hard defense in general to say, we should keep doing things as we have been. But especially when we think about the climate future that we want to build, you know, the built environments, things that we’re constructing right now are going to be around for decades. And we certainly want to see a future that 20, 30 years from now, it is possible to get around with a car less than now that doesn’t happen by forcing people on long bike rides or like making them feel guilty about driving.

Catie Gould (15m 10s):
It’s really about how we build places to enable those options to be realistic and fun and joyful.

Jeff Wood (15m 18s):
Yeah. Making it easy for people, I think is the big selling point because you can’t just say, okay, don’t do this and then keep building it the way it was and expect people not to drive. You have to give them opportunities to not drive. One of the things also that you all mentioned is the climate impacts of parking lots and asphalt, you know, during the heat dome last summer, which was a really, you know, kind of intense event in the Pacific Northwest, there were some pretty astonishing temperature readings from parking lots. And I read that one big box, lot measured 180 degrees, which doesn’t really seem possible that, but, you know, I guess, you know, the temperature gauge was, was melting to, did anybody pay attention to that? Did anybody pay attention to what these parking lots were getting up to in terms of temperature in terms of how they were impacting their surrounding environments?

Catie Gould (16m 3s):
Yeah. So we did a little bit of research in this area, Portland in particular, we have some good data about heat island temperatures, and we can see in the city where it gets hotter than other places at different times of day, there is a pretty strong correlation between what areas are the most paved over and which ones stay the hottest in the evening. The evening is the most dangerous time for high temperatures. Because even though it’s the lowest point in the day, if it doesn’t get below 80 degrees at night, your body is in this continual state of heat stress, and you just never get a chance to recover. So it really compounds. Most people actually die of hyperthermia in the evening.

Catie Gould (16m 43s):
So anyways, we looked at one of the bad heat islands in the city, in the lense neighborhood of Portland, which is kind of more suburban. A lot of that area was developed after parking requirements were adopted into the zoning code in 1959. And this one intersection by Southeast 82nd and foster, you know, there’s a lot of big box stores. And I counted up all the parking spaces in this area. And they averaged out to right in this whole area, there’s three parking spaces per every thousand square feet of commercial area. When you look up all the building information, that’s a common requirement. If you look at zoning codes, you know, this place that maybe has like more people living around it than maybe other big box developments that are further on the outskirts of town today.

Catie Gould (17m 29s):
But when you think about yeah, three decades from now, let’s not build more of these places. There is like a certain amount of pavement that when it’s all together really creates this temperature increase, right. That you don’t get when roads are split up or parking lots, or just kind of in smaller parcels on their own.

Jeff Wood (17m 45s):
Yeah. It seems really insane that we have so much coverage that actually, you know, and then also there’s really no way to build trees into these areas, the stress on the trees, even it makes it that they can’t grow because of the issues with the heat that is absorbed into the soil. That’s underneath the parking lot as well.

Catie Gould (18m 2s):
Yeah. It is a really difficult environment for trees to thrive in the middle of a parking lot. They need a lot more moisture. Often the soil gets compacted in the paving process. So their roots can’t spread. Like it’s just not ideal conditions. And I think we’ve all seen parking lots that have trees planted, but they’re like really spindly a little narrow things that like aren’t providing much shade at all. So, you know, when you look at, when we talk about heat islands is also kind of an emerging field of study. As more cities are trying to get a handle of this issue and having more experiences with heat waves and what works and what they can do for the next heat wave parking requirements never comes up as a tool to address a heat island, right? We’re talking about painting surfaces and planting trees.

Catie Gould (18m 44s):
All those things are good, but let’s also not like the pavement is the source of the problem, right? This black impervious surface. So let’s not put down more of that than what we really need to, and then find some ways to address what’s there.

Jeff Wood (18m 58s):
Are you seeing some change in that discussion among city leaders were related to the impervious cover related to the pavement overall?

Catie Gould (19m 5s):
Not much.

Jeff Wood (19m 8s):
I hope you do soon.

Catie Gould (19m 10s):
Yeah. Well, I’ve seen more, especially in terms of, you know, parking minimums is much more of a housing story or a building reuse story. Like in Fayetteville, Arkansas, they got rid of all their commercial parking requirements. I want to say like five or seven years ago. And it was mostly about, Hey, we have these vacant properties that nobody’s been in them for years, people call about them, but they ended up like not being purchased. And maybe if we got rid of parking requirements, we could help some of these buildings like come back into use. And that’s exactly what happened, but it wasn’t about heat island or like a particularly climate friendly push, right. It’s just, you know, Hey, if we get rid of some of these regulations, we can help keep our city more vibrant.

Jeff Wood (19m 53s):
Yeah. I feel like more places will start thinking about those things because they are thinking about these extreme heat events and the heat domes and all the things that are happening related to climate change because they are impacting cities so much. And we saw like last year in the heat, them in the Pacific Northwest, there was so much discussion about, you know, what’s causing this, what’s the problem, what do we need to do to fix it? And so I see in my search for news articles and items all over the world and the country, there’s a lot more people talking about this. I mean, yesterday there was a discussion in Rotterdam about, you know, they’ve for a decade almost, or so maybe it’s even longer. They’ve actually allowed buildings in their downtown to have green roofs. And they gave them some subsidy if they did that. And now they’ve got so many green roofs on the roofs that they can connect them with bridges so that they can make this connected network of parks on top of these buildings, which is really cool.

Jeff Wood (20m 42s):
But also this is part of their discussion about climate change, about heat islands and those types of things. So, you know, once you start to kind of piece together these little solutions, then a larger solution might actually come up in the future, which I hope includes the reduction of pavement to help the reduction of heat. I do want to hear more about Fayetteville though, because I think that’s an interesting case study in terms of getting rid of parking requirements. And also the reasons why, I mean, there’s so many small towns around the country that have these main streets that are very loved. You know, they, they represent the town. There’s even a show on HGTV that just finished. I think their season hometown kickstart where most of the time they go in and they try to renovate or revitalize a place on this main street, on the main street of a city.

Jeff Wood (21m 25s):
And so, you know, why were parking requirements left out of, you know, obviously there’s a lot of places that these buildings, they are exempted, but why were they exempted for these buildings that they love and not for the rest of the city, when in reality, the buildings that they love they’ve loved for a reason. And part of it was because there was no parking requirement.

Catie Gould (21m 44s):
Yeah. There’s kind of like two things I want to highlight. One Fayetteville already had like a lot of cities and exemption process, right? If you believe that these parking tables are not going to work for you, that you either need more than will allow, or you need less, here’s a bunch of reasons why you could request less and here’s like, how much less you could get. But that process is raised now. Certain it’s not my right. Right. You have to go before a planning commission and make your case and people have to rule in your favor. Sometimes I have multiple levels of the government. Your neighbors might be notified to say, Hey, there’s this new development who’s asking for an exception from the rules. Right. So we’re kind of like already framing this.

Catie Gould (22m 24s):
It’s a hard thing to go through. Right. That acts as a barrier, even though technically a lot of these buildings could have gotten an exemption, right. Because they’re historic, they were being remodeled previously vacant. Like there’s all these reasons why. Yeah. Technically of course some of these properties could have gotten a waiver from the current parking requirements, but it’s just a really unfriendly process, especially for small local developers. Right. Or maybe have less experience

Jeff Wood (22m 49s):
If these main streets are loved so much. And the reason why is because there are less parking requirements, you know, why is there a different regime for ex-urban or suburban properties? Whereas, you know, urban properties, even in these small towns, which they’re not Manhattan, they’re not downtown San Francisco, they’re not downtown Portland, but they are urban and they are walkable. Why are those places that people love? And they, they Revere in their cities not treated the same way as the suburban areas.

Catie Gould (23m 17s):
Yeah. Well, Fayetteville was unique in that. They didn’t say downtown’s exempt from the right. Also a lot of cities say, you know, this zone, you know, which is near transit or downtown, they’re exempt from parking requirements, but they exist everywhere else. And this, you know, it’s kind of this line of thinking that when we, if we don’t allow parking requires, it means that we’re trying to encourage you to not drive. And we’re trying to say, this is a, not a space for drivers. And while that is like, maybe right in the big picture, the goal, what we really would love to do with our cities is to make it possible for less driving. No one’s telling you not to drive. What we’re dealing with is a huge over supply of parking spaces.

Catie Gould (23m 57s):
So in that way, if you get rid of the requirements, there’s all these other backstops kind of on the development process, most places they’re still going to build parking. They’re still going to build enough parking either they’ll work for their staff to keep their staff happy. Some of these like small restaurants I talked to, you know, they say, oh yeah, we have five, six parking spaces at our building, but that’s mostly just for people who are working here. Right? So the customers have to find somewhere else to park, but we want to make sure we can provide some spaces for our staff. So it’s not a huge headache to get here. And so, you know, it was just one barrier that gets removed. The other thing is right, the financing. And this is kind of a case that the city of Fayetteville made very strongly, that nobody is going to care more about making sure that your business venture, you know, whether it’s new homes or a new business is going to be successful than the people who are actually putting money into it.

Catie Gould (24m 48s):
Right? Whether that’s like your personal life savings as an entrepreneur or a bank that’s financing, you, you know, people aren’t going to build buildings with zero parking spaces in a suburban context that doesn’t make any sense if they want to be successful. Right. This just says, Hey, this decision belongs to you, the property owner and not the city,

Jeff Wood (25m 9s):
No banks can be frustrating. A lot of times, especially in urban context, I feel like there’s a template that they follow as well. That can be frustrating for urban developers, even though it’s kind of protective of their money, to a certain extent, they’re trying to go along with the existing regime and not make any waves. And I think sometimes that can be frustrating for at least on my end of things, where, you know, thinking about reform and change that could actually benefit in long-term, but maybe it doesn’t help the banks and their capital in the short term.

Catie Gould (25m 38s):
Yes. I think there’s kind of a, I mean, at least I’ve heard a number of stories of, you know, people who are in land use and zoning, trying to get exemptions from zonings, from cities, for certain developments that is possible to negotiate with some banks. And the banks want to see is like, are there comparable properties, right. That have less parking that are still successful. So the fact is that as more and more different places, and there’s more projects that have different amounts of parking, the more examples we’ll be able to supply in the future. So I agree like financially, it’s a bit, that’s kind of maybe conservative. Yes, we have been developing this way for decades, right? So there’s kind of these formulas of how much parking we would expect.

Catie Gould (26m 18s):
I think that will change in the future as well, because the fact is parking is really expensive. Building too much. Parking can kill a project where it’s not feasible. You can’t make enough new housing units in that building for them to be affordable at the price point that you’re trying to market them to, you know, it could require more land, right? Most of your properties actually a parking lot. And so the restaurant that you want to build, so there are like certainly good financial opportunities for saying, you know, parking is discretionary and you can build just as many spaces as you need, and we’re not going to make you pay to build more than what you need.

Jeff Wood (26m 54s):
One of my favorite slides from a conference was by Jeff Tumblin, who is now the head of the SFMTA, but he used to do a lot of parking stuff. And one of my favorite slides is kind of a parking garage where he would push a button and then a price would come up for each of the parking spaces. And I think it was like $90,000 for the structured parking or something like that. And so you just kind of, you see the parking, but you don’t see how much it actually costs. And if you think about, you know, putting together three parking spaces in a city, that could be a housing unit somewhere, right. How much that costs. So there’s a big incentive to reduce parking in that way. Another thing that was really fascinating to me from the Fayetteville experience was how the opposition, even the city attorney apparently flipped out saying that like he was, he was doing his best bill Murray and Ghostbusters dogs and cats living together nothing’s ever going to go right.

Jeff Wood (27m 37s):
Ever again. And it didn’t bear out. And so I’m curious about your thoughts about some of these, some of these naysayers in the Oregon process, but even in this Fayetteville process that are kind of proven wrong over and over again.

Catie Gould (27m 49s):
Yeah. There was a, I think his specific concern was that right. If, if a bunch of properties redeveloped without any off street parking is going to affect negatively affect housing values, right. Property values. And if it gets, you know, below a certain threshold, like 20%, I think there was a new state law to say that the, you know, the jurisdiction could be on the hook for that loss, which the idea that like, you know, Fayetteville is, is actually a rapidly growing city in Northwest Arkansas. That’s the headquarters of Falmer and Tyson. So there’s a lot of growth in that area. Housing prices are not going down in Fayetteville since this rule came into effect because the thing is just like, most people don’t know that that parking minimums exist in the first place.

Catie Gould (28m 33s):
They’re not going to know that they disappeared. It’s not an overnight problem. It’s not a switch that turns off or on it’s something that will, you know, gradually as properties redeveloped, there might be a little less Parking than before or more businesses than before, but it’s not really something that people notice. And even when I talked to some of the, you know, the city gave me a small town, they gave me, here’s a list of like eight properties that we know of, that we had our eye on. And I called some of those business owners. And they were like, yeah, yeah, this is, you know, this, this is a good rule. We’re supportive of it. Didn’t affect us though. You know, the idea that their business would happen required to build more parking spaces to exist seemed so like, far-fetched that they thought, oh no, we never would have had to do this.

Catie Gould (29m 20s):
In fact, like they would have had to go through the exemption process if those rules were set in place, but they didn’t even have to worry about it. Right. So it was all those other considerations about if this property is going to work for me that were more top of mind than the number of parking spaces.

Jeff Wood (29m 34s):
Yeah. And it makes me sad too, that, you know, along the way, from that time in the fifties and sixties, when a lot of these parking from being enacted, a lot of those really precious buildings that were very, you know, downtown centric that could have housed a business of some sort and create some economic base were torn down for parking. Right. So you might’ve had three buildings in a row that made up kind of an urban core. And then one of them in the middle got torn down. And so you broke up the fabric and it got torn down to make a parking lot. Right. So you have, you know, somewhere, somewhere where somebody can park off street. And so I think that’s a frustrating thing. I’m, I’m, you know, I know you don’t have the answer to this, but it’s an interesting thing to think about how much of the urban fabric was destroyed just to create parking and how much property tax was lost over that time period.

Jeff Wood (30m 19s):
Obviously there’s a lot of buildings that probably, you know, they might’ve been demolition because they weren’t in good shape or other things like that, but there’s probably some math or some sort of research to be done on that subject alone because of the history of tearing down buildings for parking as kind of a larger issue.

Catie Gould (30m 36s):
Sure. And this can certainly be the case. I know I was talking to assembly member Friedman in California just a couple of weeks ago. And you know, she said that in her city, in Glendale, California, where she was on city council is pretty common that when people want to renovate their houses, because most of the single family houses, they’re like 80% of them don’t comply with the current zoning code a lot because of garages, right. They require not just off street parking spaces for these homes, but enclosed parking spaces, which is like, it’s very expensive to build if you don’t already have one. So that kind of feeds into this cycle of, you know, smaller homes. You know, if you want to do anything, it just makes more sense to demolish the whole thing and build a much more expensive home that you can make money off of the renovation instead of right.

Catie Gould (31m 24s):
Keeping that smaller housing supply.

Jeff Wood (31m 26s):
Yeah. What do you take away from all these discussions you’ve had with folks over the topic of parking mandates? You know, what’s something you’ve taken away from folks that have been maybe positive or even negative.

Catie Gould (31m 35s):
The number one thing that I try to repeat to people is that getting rid of parking minimums, doesn’t get rid of parking, right? Let’s say it slower. Getting rid of parking minimums does not get rid of parking parking spaces. Don’t vanish into the air. There will be more parking spaces built, but it will be a few less than before. And there’s so many that are built now that are not aided. The odds are, you’re not going to even notice. Right. Nobody is going to notice in Fayetteville, there wasn’t a single op-ed complaining about parking. I scoured the paper right. In years. Has there been any backlash, any development that has gotten people upset? This has never come back before city council people essentially forgot it after it happened, because changes really slow.

Jeff Wood (32m 20s):
Yeah. Have you been surprised by any of the research that you’ve done? Is there any thing that stands out?

Catie Gould (32m 25s):
You know, one thing that I was surprised about, we did this story, I think last month about there was a study out of Sacramento, California saying that like 37% of homes with garages, they don’t park their cars in them. And I think this kind of is funny, seems low, right? I mean, my parents’ garage, you know, for decades, nobody could park any car in the garage. You know, it was a workshop, it was a space for toys and the snow tires. And, you know, they’d be parked their cars in it. Now they’ve cleaned out now that all the kids are out of the house, right? The garage is much cleaner, but it’s such a common experience that really surprised me that so many people took to it. Right. We think once we give every single car, a home for the night for it to sleep in, then there won’t be any parking issues.

Catie Gould (33m 8s):
Right. And then you contact trust that with the other extreme city of Vancouver, right? They have this parking issue in the west end, which is very dense neighborhood. And they had parking requirements. There were one and a half parking spaces for every car that was registered in that neighborhood. So you think, great, there’s more, there’s more than enough spaces, but people weren’t using them efficiently just because there were all these off-street spaces doesn’t mean that people will use some people still preferred the park on street. And it really takes this holistic management from cities to really try to ensure that there is actually convenient parking when you want it. And if your city is not doing that, you should, you can ask for it.

Catie Gould (33m 49s):
You know, when people come with all their parking complaints say, great, the city is failing to provide you with a spot where there any meters on that street. You know, there’s a lot of things that we can do to make it easier to park, because the reality is that we do live in a world where cars are necessary in a lot of places and changing away from that is going to be a slow process. But, you know, we should start now.

Jeff Wood (34m 11s):
I have a great story about parking on my street. I’ve lived in San Francisco and, you know, pretty close to a busy neighborhood and the apartment complex across the street. It’s on stilts. And it was, you know, it’s three stories, tall, it’s got a lot of units in it. And so underneath they’re going to do an earthquake retrofit, and then they were going to put some 80 use underneath. So they put like six units or something where the parking was. And so, you know, my neighbors slipped out and it was Armageddon. Parking would be horrible on the street. Lives would be changed to place would be ruined and that none of that ever came to pass. But the interesting part was that they took six garages that were in, you know, in addition to the parking on the side of the building, they took the six garages that were in the front of the building and they turned those into two units.

Jeff Wood (34m 53s):
And before, you know, they were all filled with junk, nobody ever parked cars in them, but the building owner monopolized the curb cut, which was another interesting thing that happened as well. Where if you parked on the curb cut, he would write a nasty note on your car. Even though you knew that there were no cars coming out of those parking spaces. So it was like them trying to privately reserve a space on public street for their own vehicles, where in the San Francisco code, it says that if you’re a parking garages are used for storage and not Parking, then somebody can park in front of your curb cut. And if the parking control officer comes by, you have to prove that you have a car there. If they’re going to tow the car on the street, which is really like a roundabout way of just going through the woodchipper for all of these things, just parked car and complained about cars.

Jeff Wood (35m 39s):
Whereas if we didn’t have any of these issues, then none of that code would have to be written. None of, none of the people would have to complain about this stuff. And we wouldn’t worry about it at all. I have a picture from the street from like 1913, nobody was worried about that. At that time, there was like a horse drawn carriage, maybe parked out front of one, but for the most part, the street was empty and people were walking. So it’s just an interesting thought about parking and the politics of parking and the whole industrial complex that goes along with parking and creation of parking spaces. I know you don’t have a comment for that, but

Catie Gould (36m 13s):
Yeah. I don’t know how to follow that up. That’s all, that’s all true.

Jeff Wood (36m 16s):
Yeah, no, I, I, I just, I liked Sarah and that story just because it’s so crazy, like nothing’s going to happen to your, your street. It’s not gonna turn into Armageddon. It’s not, nothing’s going to change. And then also, you know, people use parking for nefarious purposes sometimes. Like it’s just it’s, it goes many different directions.

Catie Gould (36m 34s):
I have one story maybe I can share, you know, I’ve been involved in at least, you know, the city of Portland, we have Tony Jordan, who’s like a parking reform Xtrordinair. That’s probably also part of my tie who brought me in to kind of this whole field of research. And there is in the past, when we have hearings about different parking policies, the city might implement, there was like one neighbor years ago that testified at a hearing, someone who like lives near my neighborhood. Who said, if, you know, if we do this thing, then all the people who live here, they’re going to park in my residential neighborhood. Right. I live in a little commercial area it’s right by the train station. And the thing that she was afraid of is something that I already do every week, which is, you know, I live in an old building that was built in the, like the early 1920s.

Catie Gould (37m 17s):
It has no parking. And if I want to park anywhere close to my building, like within a few blocks, it’s all two hour time limited. There’s no way I can buy. There’s no permit for me to buy to illegally park there there’s also no meters. So like if I park illegally, unless I get ticketed and there’s very little incentive for me to move my car to the neighborhood. But most of the time I just, I drive five blocks north and I park it in the single family housing because that’s where it’s like allowed. And there’s tons of parking up there

Jeff Wood (37m 47s):
And you get good exercise.

Catie Gould (37m 49s):
Yeah. I do. You know, my bike is right downstairs, but it takes me five blocks to walk to my car. But even so like, you know, this is kind of the worst case scenario. Yeah. Parking is already not working for, you know, if parking is not working for you because you can’t find a spot, there’s a lot of tools that cities can do to manage that. Like in Vancouver, what they ended up doing is they put a lot of new meters on streets and shocker, you know, it went from like 90% full, you know, back down to like 70% full, which means there’s always some spaces that are available for you.

Jeff Wood (38m 21s):
Oh, okay. Where can folks find any of your work or research or any of these case studies on say Portland or Fayetteville?

Catie Gould (38m 28s):
Well, all of our work is on our website site line.org. So we’re publishing new stories every month to tell them more about the impacts that parking has on you

Jeff Wood (38m 36s):
And where can folks find you if you wish to be found?

Catie Gould (38m 39s):
Oh, I’m also active on Twitter. My handle is citizen with an underscore Cate, C a T E. My name is actually spelled with a C, not a K, which always trips people up. That’s a great way to connect.

Jeff Wood (38m 52s):
Awesome. Well, can you think so much for joining us? We really appreciate your time.

Catie Gould (38m 55s):
Thank you.

 


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