|“We’re hearing unconfirmed reports that the City Council has banned cars.”
image credit: Omar Bárcena
Minneapolis is one City Council vote away from enacting a major, nationally-heralded parking reform authored by Council Member Lisa Bender. I’ve watched with great interest as the debate has unfolded on Channel 79. To summarize the back-and-forth as uncharitably as possible: utopians on bicycles deployed a slew of crowd-pleasing parking analogies* (1, 2), while some of our city’s original inhabitants countered with predictions of the aparkolypse (it’s a “boondoggle” of an “epic fail”).
We’re not telling developers not to build parking. We’re just simply saying we’re not going to tell you what the minimum or maximum is going to be. I personally think that’s a better role for the city. The people who have their money in the game are the ones who are going to have to determine if they can sell or rent homes.
|“This business plan is going to require a manufactured parking crisis. Who do we know at City Hall?”|
Lowry Hill East is fertile ground for parking entrepreneurs, with many parking lots constructed soon after Minneapolis enshrined residential parking minimums into the 1963 zoning code. One of those lots belongs to my apartment building. I regularly and obsessively count the empty stalls; according to my non-scientific analysis, the effect of our city’s 50-year-old regulations is a parking lot that never exceeds 60 percent full (as a pessimist, I tend to see it as 40 percent empty). Extrapolate this surplus parking goldmine to similar buildings in the neighborhood, and you can imagine the potential for ill-gotten gains.**
This is to say nothing of unintended consequences; squeeze the supply of parking too tight, and some “job creator” will capitalize by building more parking. It’s not a stretch to say this policy assures even more parking will be built. If you’re a knee-jerk liberal urbanist like myself, the last thing you want is another corporate parking lot. Even so, I’m not pretending when I say this is still a plan worth supporting.
|Response from the City of Minneapolis to a question about historic parking regulations.|
While I’d prefer to live in a city with fewer full-time drivers, I fully acknowledge their existence. Likewise, this proposed policy change accommodates the reality of car ownership. However, what Minneapolis’ existing parking mandate does not do is acknowledge the existence of people who live without a personal automobile. Residential parking regulations are levied against them, like a tax. It’s illegal for developers to cater to them.