California State Senator Lowenthal (D – 27th – Long Beach and vicinity) last week introduced a bill (pdf) that would require all California cities, counties and city/counties to reform parking laws. The bill includes a menu of reforms, and localities would be required to enact reforms totaling 20 "points" by 2012. For example, eliminating minimum parking requirements is worth 20 points, while requiring on-street parking meter rates to fluctuate to achieve a maximum 85% occupancy is worth 10 points.
The whole menu of points includes reducing required parking minimums, implementing maximum allowable parking, requiring parking to be underground or be "wrapped" in retail or active uses, increasing density limits or floor area ratios to promote infill on existing parking lots, requiring residential and commercial unbundled parking (with a minimum price set equal to a monthly transit pass), performance parking, parking benefit districts, residential parking benefit districts (where commuters can pay to park in a resident zone but the money funds improvements to that zone), parking sales taxes, and parking impact fees with the proceeds going to alternative transportation. Localities can pick any 20 points off the menu, but must have the changes in place by January 1, 2012. Localities are also allowed to propose reforms that are not on the menu, and points would be awarded proportional to the reduction in vehicle trips compared to items on the menu.
The bill includes a carrot for localities to go beyond the minimum requirement, after 50 points localities get a bonus for competitive loan and grant programs.
For many localities in California such as San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley and San Jose, I would agree with this bill and advocate its passage. But I wonder what rural Siskiyou County, CA (largest city Yreka, population 7,300), as an example, is going to do with this mandate. Where are they going to find 20 points from this menu that make sense for such an area? In this case I don’t think the "one size fits all" approach is going to do it.
For these low-density localities, a potential selection could be to cut minimums in half, to 2 spaces per 1000 square feet of building (developers can always build more than the minimum – 5 points), require employers to offer transit passes to employees on a pre-tax basis (costs employers nothing – 2 points), establish a parking benefit district (5 points) to devote parking revenue back to improvements, install meters where parking was crowded (probably not many places except downtowns – 2 points), remove restrictions on mechanical parking and tandem parking (2 points each) because those practices are not likely to be followed, and establish a "shared parking ordinance" for the last two points.
This minimum amount of reform might reduce vehicle trips in rural areas, but it’s not likely to make a huge difference like implementing 50 points off of the menu in San Franciso or Oakland would.
I think this bill probably will not pass in California but it would be an interesting change if it did.