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City Council OKs Sweeping Urban Parking Reforms

March 5, 2019 1:34 p.m.

GUEST: Andrew Bowen, metro reporter, KPBS News

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Related Story: City Council OKs Sweeping Urban Parking Reforms


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

KPBS is supported by the law firm of Mintz working with startups and growing companies Mintz legal services can help clients raise capital secure space and protect intellectual property to achieve strategic goals. Moore admits myths built on excellence driven by change in a move to boost the use of public transit and ease the city's housing crisis.

The San Diego City Council has approved parking reforms for new housing developments in areas within a half mile of public transit. New apartment and condominium developments will no longer have to provide off street parking spaces. Supporters including San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer say the change will help wean San Diego is off car dependence and allow developers to reduce the cost of housing one parking space he says can cost developers up to ninety thousand dollars.

Those costs are then passed on to renters and buyers making units less affordable for San Diego's Working Families which of course are the lifeblood of our economy.

Critics though say not enough public transit is available to make the plan work. Joining me is Cape PBS metro reporter Andrew Boe and Andrew welcome. Thanks. These parking reforms will allow developers to build housing units with no parking structures included.

Yes so under a number of circumstances. So this only applies to multi-family housing apartments and condos so it won't apply to single family homes. It also only applies as you mentioned in transit priority areas which are defined as a half mile of a major transit stop. So that's any light rail stop frequent bus stop or intersections of multiple bus routes and in transit priority areas are really where the city's general plan and the Climate Action Plan say that we have to focus our development and our growth in these areas. This is infill areas because we need to build compact walkable neighborhoods where people can walk to a transit stop.

Can I ask you to be a little bit more specific about where this would apply what areas of the city would this include.

I have a map right here that the city created so it includes all of downtown basically all of Hillcrest in North Park. Most of City Heights almost all of Mission Valley. Most of Pacific Beach it does not include really any parts of La Hoya Ocean Beach Point Loma. Most of Kearny Mesa. It's kind of it's really a mixed bag across the city because it only includes the existing frequent bus stops and ones that will be improved within the next five years. So it is I would say probably less than half of the city where this will apply.

The reforms also say if parking is included in these new developments it must be unbundled. What does that mean.

This could actually have a huge impact on how the city deals with with parking. So when you buy a condo or you rent an apartment you'll have to buy or rent your parking space separately. People might think well I have an apartment at the parking spaces included. It's free. It's not true. You're already paying for it. The cost is hidden. And so Councilwoman Vivian Marino who represents District 8 that the city's South Bay communities had this to say about that.

Once you have the option to buy a unit without a parking space for less money it makes you weigh the cost of having a car versus finding other modes of transportation.

So this is actually supposed to decrease the cost of housing in San Diego.

Yes. And the goal is to do it through a couple of ways. So we know for one that a major driver of the current affordability crisis in San Diego is a housing shortage. That's what the data tells us. We have a very low vacancy rate and that gives landlords and home sellers and developers the upper hand in those sort of negotiations over price. Tenants and homebuyers are in a really bad bargaining position when there's so little housing available that's on the market. We also know that the cost of parking as you mentioned adds to the cost of construction.

So you know not just because a space taken up by storage for cars is is one that could otherwise be condo or an apartment that someone would be paying rent on but also when parking especially is going underground. That involves a lot of engineering digging I mean it changes the entire equation for a developer. Those costs are as the mayor mentioned passed on to the renter or home buyer. So the goal is to both increase the housing supply and give renters and homebuyers more options. So if they don't want to or can't afford a parking space they don't need to purchase one or rent it.

Now the lone no vote on the City Council came from council member Jen Campbell. What did she say about why she opposed these parking reforms.

She said that the city simply was not ready for this. She supports improving public transit but that the system just isn't efficient or effective enough to allow for these lower parking ratios. And she says that should be one of the last things that the city should do to wean people off of cars as opposed to one of the first things. Now it is important to note I think that most new buildings will you to include off street parking especially in areas where the demand for that off street parking is really high. So developers would really struggle to rent or sell a home with zero parking for any of the residents.

Other cities that have done this have actually found and you know let's also acknowledge that San Diego is not a trailblazer here this has already been proved by a number of large cities across the country. In those cities they often find that it takes many many years for the market to respond with a zero parking project. So the change is likely to be gradual here.

So there may be allowed to eliminate parking but they're not necessarily expected to do so. All of a sudden.

Yeah. And the argument is this listen this is something that the market should decide. We should not be requiring developers to include more parking than they feel the market is asking for. And if a developer wants to create a project that has less parking then than then the city might say is is necessary for the neighborhood. Well let the developer take that risk if they're willing to take that risk on you know that should be their prerogative. And you know if they fail then the price of those homes will probably drop the consumer may ultimately benefit from it.

I don't want to leave this. Before I ask you though about the many areas of the city where public transit is not yet available or commute times are prohibitive. That is still a real problem in San Diego isn't it.

Yes and I think that you know we should see this reform in the context of a larger discussion in San Diego about improving public transit and making more walkable neighborhoods so you know empty right now is considering a new ballot measure that would fund you know a profit possibly a sales tax that would fund new Transit Capital improvements so improved frequent bus or rapid bus lines maybe a new trolley line sandbag is also having that discussion and really shifting the focus of our transportation spending toward public transit. So you know while the system may not be we may not work for a lot of people right now the hope is that it will be better once these reforms really take root in the community.

I've been speaking with K PBS metro reporter Andrew Boe and Andrew thank you. Thank you Maureen.