You Can’t Even Do It In Harvard Yard Anymore

Pahk Ya Cah, that is, if you know what I mean. And now you may not be able to do it in Tacoma. (BTW, I realize this article is, like, three weeks old, but hey, it’s the legislative session.)

The discussion of minimum parking requirements – essentially how many stalls developers need to build in their buildings – is one of costs vs. amenities. On one hand, it can cost the developer up to $25,000 per parking spot because it’s essentially unsell-able or unlease-able space that would otherwise be a commercial or residential unit. But, if you are looking to live or set up an office somewhere, you may want to be able to park (or pahk) your car off-street, unless there is good enough public transportation from home to work.

It’s always seemed to me like this should be a pure market calculation, right? If developers know that they need to have parking in the building to attract tenants, they will. If they don’t (because of that transit or walkability), they won’t. So, why does government need to be involved and setting arbitrary minimums?

Certainly, there are some “tragedy of the commons” issues, potentially. If everyone just relies on street parking, then you may have overcrowding outside the building. But even then, in a perfect market, a commercial garage would spring up. Instead, if government invests in walkability and transit in urban cores, you may not need the parking, and you may reduce both traffic congestion and emissions. I’ve even heard tell of cities with “maximum parking limits” for buildings, which takes it the other way.

Anyway, the point is, this is a good tool for increasing affordability of market rate housing (that $25,000 per space gets divided up among the units), and it’s something our more dense, urban cities should be looking into. Good job, Tacoma!

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