AB1401: Housing for People, Not Cars
Update, August 26, 2021: The Senate Appropriations Committee declined to take this bill out of the suspense file. Translation: AB 1401, which would have ended parking mandates in certain new construction, will not advance this year.
In the USA, we have a parking problem. As UCLA urban planning professor and parking guru Donald Shoup explained in his masterpiece, “The High Cost of Free Parking.” In the U.S., we have eight parking spaces for every vehicle driven and have created 1000 square feet of parking for every car on the road, but only 800 square feet of housing for each human.
Why is parking a problem?
“Minimum parking requirements increase the supply and reduce the price – but not the cost – of parking. They bundle the cost of parking spaces into the cost of development, and thereby increase the prices of all the goods and services sold at the sites that offer free parking.”– The trouble with minimum parking requirements, Donald C. Shoup, Department of Urban Planning, University of California, Los Angeles, 1999
How did so much parking get built in the first place?
These parking minimum regulations created abundant car parking, but that came with a considerable cost. Too much parking has been a disaster for California.
First, when communities make parking a car-is-easier than alternative transportation, people will drive — and drive, and drive.
Second, those parking minimums are a huge contributor to California’s housing crisis. Every parking spot adds tens of thousands of dollars to construction costs in a state where it’s already expensive to build housing. Worse still, a significant number of parking spots are unused.
San Diego, Oakland, and other California cities have eliminated minimum parking requirements for developments near transit. This is a smart move that will make housing more affordable and projects easier to build. However, some communities are clinging tightly to outdated, car-centric planning regulations. So a statewide law banning parking minimums in transit-rich areas is one of the best steps California can take to relieve its housing crunch.
Let’s house people, not cars
CalBike supports AB 1401 (Friedman), which would eliminate antiquated parking minimums in new buildings near transit. This would free up valuable transit-friendly areas for more housing.
Commuting to work, shop, and recreating without owning a car is easy in walkable, bikeable neighborhoods. But buildings with minimum parking requirements often tie each housing unit to a parking space, forcing people who don’t own cars to pay extra for an amenity they don’t need. Nationally, bundled garage parking costs renters $1,700 more per year.
At the press conference announcing the bill, Assemblymember Friedman said that her goals are to help California set policies that “prioritize and center human beings over cars; that prioritize people, housing, health, and the environment.”
Freedom of choice
By uncoupling parking and housing, we can reduce the cost of housing for car-free Californians. In cities where parking minimums have ended, you can now find places to live with parking available for an extra fee or without parking fees attached.
For example, at Berkeley’s Gaia Building, just 42 parking spaces serve 91 apartments. Residents who want a parking spot pay $230 per space per month. Car-free tenants don’t have to pay for parking. The result is a building that houses 237 adult residents and just 20 cars. That’s a win-win for housing and the climate.
Here’s how AB 1401 would work
The bill to end parking mandates would prohibit a state or local public agency from imposing minimum parking requirements on residential, commercial, or other developments if the building is within 1⁄2 mile of public transit and in a county with a population greater than 600,000. Just 15 of California’s 58 counties meet that criteria; however, those counties are home to more than three-quarters of the state’s population.
In counties with fewer than 600,000 residents, the minimum parking requirement would be prohibited within 1⁄4 mile of transit for cities of 75,000 or more.
Minimum parking laws have been a recipe for high housing and building costs, adding to California’s housing crisis. It’s time to stop building excess parking in transit-rich neighborhoods. Ending parking mandates will help California address homelessness, traffic jams, dirty air, and the climate crisis.
What you can do to end parking mandates
AB 1401 has passed out of the Assembly and will be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee on August 26.
AB 1401 will let individuals decide whether they want to rent a home with parking or without. Sign CalBike’s petition to support developments without parking minimums[link].
And, if your California Senator is on the Appropriations Committee, please call or email them to ask them to support AB 1401 and an end to parking mandates.
California Senate Appropriations Committee Members:
Senator Anthony J. Portantino (Chair)
Senator Patricia C. Bates (Vice Chair)