Questions for the reader: Are you getting rid of your car anytime soon? And do you expect your guests and service personnel to visit you without cars?
Scottsdale’s current parking code seems to be based on these assumptions.
The proponents of the “less parking is better” would argue that car ownership and ridership is in a steep decline. It’s no secret that ride-share options such as Uber and Lyft are gaining in popularity, and are great for getting visitors around town, and to and from airport. But still, in a city like Scottsdale, how many households exist today who are getting rid of their cars and have guests who visit them without their own cars? (hint: This isn’t New York City).
Last week, a Parking Code Amendment Petition signed by 140+ downtown property owners and merchants was turned in to the city for inclusion in the council work study on Feb. 11 that is dedicated to discussing downtown parking issues.
Two major issues are in serious need of discussion and direction by council: 1) The need to build more public parking downtown, and 2) reforming our current parking requirements.
However, if the inadequacies of our city’s parking requirements are not increased, the additional public parking that the city will use taxpayer dollars to build will only serve as overflow spaces for new developments. It will serve as a form of city concession to new developments.
Here is the root of the issue: Our current downtown parking code requires two parking spaces for each two-plus bedroom apartment, one parking space for each one bedroom unit, and zero guest parking. In fact, the term “guest parking” does not exist in our downtown parking code for multi-family developments. And it appears that the city doesn’t care where these extra cars will park.
I have researched other comparable cities’ parking codes to see how they stack up to ours. Take cities such as Laguna Beach, Carlsbad, or West Hollywood CA. These cities’ code require two spaces per each two bedroom (same as ours), but they require 1.5 space per each one bedroom (vs only one space in our code), and one guest space per each four units (vs zero space in our code).
To get closer to home, according to the council report for the parking work study item, most other “Valley” cities around Scottsdale “require guest parking for multifamily projects”.
I am sure that city staff and critics of this op-ed will point to other cities that have as inadequate of a parking code as ours, or no requirements at all. But, do we want to stack up to the best or the worst benchmarks? Is Scottsdale’s brand not worthy of the best?
By way of background, Scottsdale’s treatment of parking requirements has been according to the size of developments. For smaller parcels and in-fill developments, the city has historically charged parking credits and in-lieu fees instead of requiring the small developments to create their own parking. These funds have been collected over time to build nearby shared parking structures for use by these properties’ occupants, employees as well as for public/guest use.
However, for the larger developments, the city’s code is intended to require the developments to fully address their own parking needs. In other words, the parking code is meant to “self-park” the larger developments. But with a code that doesn’t require guest parking or more than one spot for one bedroom units, it is hard to see how?
This issue was rarely a factor in the old days since there was minimal multifamily development in downtown Scottsdale. But in today’s supercharged downtown development scene, where projects with upwards of 200 to 400 units are routinely proposed, without requiring extra parking spaces for one bedrooms and guest parking, there could be 100+ parking overflow per each development to surrounding public parking spaces.
And the overflow will most likely be to public on-street and public garage spaces that are meant for shoppers or employees. The same spaces that were previously paid for by other property owners or taxpayers.
As previously stated, the proponents of the “less parking is better” ideology argue that car ridership will fade away soon. They also claim that providing more parking “lowers quality of life” and is “bad for the environment.”
I argue the exact opposite: Cars will not be going away anytime soon; providing inadequate parking lowers the quality of life since it adds frustration in finding parking spaces; and actually harms the environment since it adds to the car traffic going in circles emitting carbon while trying to find parking spaces.
And on a local economic level, it hurts Scottsdale’s small businesses when their customers cannot get to them because they can’t find a place to park.
In fact, it can be argued that the only unintended beneficiaries of the “reduced parking requirement” code are developers who don’t have to incur the extra cost of building parking spaces to address the reality of car ownership and ridership.
The 140+ downtown business and property owners who signed the parking petition to increase parking requirements for multifamily, office buildings, and requiring that for example hotel staff have designated on-site parking spaces, are not against new developments. They are not against growth.
They want responsible planned growth that addresses the realities of car ridership and doesn’t create a “dysfunctional” downtown. One that doesn’t make drivers go around in circles looking for public parking. And one that provides adequate parking spaces for our downtown visitors so that they can park to shop and dine, and create tax revenues for the city.
Increasing our current inadequate parking requirements may not be popular with the development community since it adds to their construction cost, but will better serve our residents, merchants, and shoppers. And it will be great for Scottsdale’s brand.
It will also remove one of the major objections to dense development. And if not addressed, this issue will remain a “hot” topic moving forwards, and will be a factor in upcoming mayoral and city council elections in separating the pro-developer candidates from the ones who are resident, visitor, and local-business friendly.
Editor’s Note: Bob Pejman is owner of Pejman Gallery in the Old Town Scottsdale Arts District.