The San Diego City Council voted unanimously last week to eliminate minimum parking space requirements for businesses near public transit and for small plazas in dense residential areas.
Taking effect on Jan. 1, 2022, eligible businesses will have the option to maintain their current parking spaces or turn them into outdoor dining or retail areas.
The policy is “another step in our movement to make San Diego neighborhoods more walkable, bikeable, accessible, and sustainable. It also benefits our small businesses financially, allowing them to invest their money more strategically,” Mayor Todd Gloria said in a Nov. 16 statement.
The current parking requirements can lead to an oversupply of parking spaces, which in turn encourages more driving and creates more environmental pollution, according to the statement.
Also, removing parking minimums could reduce costs of installing and maintaining parking stalls—up to $25,000—for business owners and make it easier for new businesses to start, according to the statement.
Cities that have implemented similar policy changes are less reliant on cars, indicated by “less vehicle miles traveled, less greenhouse gas emissions, and less traffic congestion,” according to a peer city study cited by Tanner French, a senior traffic engineer from Sustainability and Mobility Department, during a Nov. 16 council meeting.
Although the reform won some support from business experts and environmentalists, the policy drew concerns from local residents.
During the Nov. 16 council meeting, Glen Rasmussen, a resident from the San Diego area, said the policy is especially unfriendly to senior citizens.
“The places that I go to aren’t all available to be accessed by methods other than cars. I can’t ride a bike as I get older,” Rasmussen said. “I don’t think this restriction on parking is going to serve renters well. I don’t think that it will, in the long run, serve the needs of senior citizens well, unless there are some very radical changes in the way that we do this.”
Angeli Calinog, a representative of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the new policy will bring opportunities to businesses and create jobs by encouraging the use of public transits.
“We’re happy to support this because it will give new business development flexibility and the choice to provide parking for their customers,” Calinog said.
Echoing Calinog, Rebecca Rybczyk, manager of Downtown San Diego Partnership, a nonprofit focusing on the cultural vitality and economic prosperity of the city, said the reform will “increase public transit use and reduce emissions.”
On the other hand, John Knoll, an attorney from Bankers Hill, said businesses will lose customers if parking is no longer provided.
“If our customers cannot park to see us, our businesses get no business,” Knoll said. “There are many businesses in the Bankers Hill area where I can no longer patronize them because [of a lack of parking spaces].”
In 2019, similar parking reforms were already adopted for residential buildings near public transit, allowing more multifamily units to be built without parking spaces to “lower housing costs and encourage … alternative modes of transportation such as walking, biking and transit,” according to the city’s Planning Department.