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With affordable housing in short supply, California looks to prioritize people over parking

Posted at 4:19 PM, Jul 15, 2021

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — With affordable housing in short supply, more Americans are ditching their cars in exchange for cheaper rent.

The trend is gaining traction as cities reduce minimum parking requirements for new developments.

“I’ve been doing real estate development in San Diego County for 20 years, and there’s never been a time where you could build without parking," said Gilman Bishop.

In 2019, the city removed parking requirements for multifamily residential developments in transit priority areas and passed the Complete Communities initiative last year, creating incentives to build homes near transit and provide more mobility choices.

Bishop is among the first developers taking part in the urban experiment, breaking ground on the apartment development Secoya on Fifth.

“We could’ve built $25 million condos here, with parking," said Bishop. "But we’re looking to build mixed-income housing, and that’s why we went with micro-units with no parking, so it’s affordable to the lower and middle class.”

The eight-story building features 100 micro-units, including a mix of studios, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom units.

Had they been required to include parking, Bishop says it would've cost an additional $30,000 to $50,000 more per unit.

"Those savings we can pass on to our tenants in the way of lower rents," said Bishop. "We're looking for 100 households that have a more mobile lifestyle, that embrace walking around their community, walking or biking to work, walking to the grocery store."

"They're going to be very high-end, too. A brand new concrete building with beautiful custom cabinetry and neat finishes. We're trying to make it a really nice place to live, as well as affordable," said Scott Murfey, principal at Murfey Company.

In California, Assembly Bill 1401 would prohibit cities from requiring off-street parking within a half-mile of public transit stops in transit-rich areas.

“Parking is the single biggest land use in any city. The footprint of parking is much greater than the footprint of housing, or manufacturing, or retail, or anything else," said Donald Shoup, professor of Urban Planning at UCLA.

Shoup says parking requirements have contributed to urban sprawl, increased carbon emissions, and traffic congestion.

“I think it will be a very slow withdrawal process because most of the parking is already here," said Shoup.

As Bishop and his team's once-impossible vision becomes reality, they other cities will take a chance on change.