Miami has a big decision to make about parking. What we decide will determine who we want to be when we grow up. Which sounds better to you -- a walkable city like Boston, Portland or San Francisco or an auto-dependent one like Atlanta, Phoenix or Las Vegas? It's your choice.
Here is the question at hand -- should we exempt parking requirements for new buildings under 10,000 square feet that are located close to transit? Or, force these small buildings to comply with current parking regulations, which require 1.5 parking spaces per residential unit and three spaces per 1000 square feet of commercial (retail) development.
Before you glaze over and leave it to the city officials, developers and traffic engineers, take a moment to consider that in the time it takes you to circle the block looking for a parking space, you could lend your voice to a cause that will affect your property values, rental expenses and the experience of living in this Magic City that we call home.
Why Size Matters
Small scale development is a major economic component for any thriving city. It forms the framework that allows for a mix of affordable housing options for middle class residents, especially young professionals. It also allows small businesses to grow, creating opportunities for the cafes and shops that make up the lively streetscapes necessary in a world class city.
Current parking requirements stifle growth. Consider this. Under the current regulations, a small apartment building with eight units would require twelve parking spaces (1.5 spaces per unit.) Accommodating space for all of this parking, with the required two-way drive, takes up more space than is available on most small lots zoned for multi-family development. At this point the developer must decide whether they are going to build structured parking, which adds enormous expense to the units and makes rent costs prohibitive for most, or abandon the project altogether.
Waving parking requirements for small buildings near transit encourages small scale economic development and supports local businesses that would otherwise be forced to close shop or never be able to open in the first place.
Cities nationwide are struggling with this same parking dilemma. According to the LA Times, Los Angeles is finding success with reduced parking requirements.
City leaders also decreased parking requirements around the Hollywood and Western subway station and launched pilot parking districts in Eagle Rock and Atwater Village, where businesses without enough spaces were allowed to purchase city parking credits instead.
The program transformed Atwater Village, filling storefronts on Glendale Boulevard that had long been vacant, said Councilman Eric Garcetti. "Instead of just being a thoroughfare from Glendale to downtown, it is now a real model commercial district," he said.
But wouldn't extra parking make it easier to park?
If you've ever driven in an urban area searching for parking, you know the frustration of the hunt. So, it is natural to assume that the solution to the problem is adding more parking. But in actuality, adding parking compounds the issue according to Paul McMorrow in the Boston Globe.
Northeastern University professor Stephanie Pollack has studied gentrification around transit stops across the country, and she's found that one of the biggest mistakes municipalities make is requiring too much parking. Pollack's data show that, given the choice, residents will self-select: Heavy drivers choose to live in homes that provide parking, and residents who don't own cars will choose transit-oriented, low-parking homes. This is especially true for renters. So the answer to an urban parking crunch isn't adding supply.
Density around transit stops with less parking, supports businesses on walkable streets and creates demand for transit. The solution to a parking shortage, isn't more spaces, rather it's creating places that thrive with fewer cars.
Voices for Change
Andrew Frey, Development Manager at CC Residential and a leading advocate in Miami for small scale urban development. "Small property owners should be allowed to choose how much parking to provide. Small properties make up most areas of our community, so letting those owners choose would encourage investment in more neighborhoods. I think required parking is the biggest single legal obstacle to neighborhood investment."
Andrew's voice is not alone in Miami. Raymond Fort and Malone Matson point out in a recent Miami Herald editorial that required parking works against attracting the ever-coveted Millennial market.
What baffles us most is why housing targeted to our generation should be required to have parking at all. Our grandparents' love affair with the car is outdated. We don't want to spend all our money buying and maintaining a car. We don't want the guilt of contributing to air pollution and energy consumption. We don't want to worry about having a designated driver. And we definitely don't want to grow old waiting in traffic.
These parking exemptions are supported by professional organizations, business groups and community groups throughout South Florida, including; The American Planning Association Florida Chapter, Miami Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, Little Havana Merchant Alliance, Haitian American Community Development Corporation, Wynwood Business Improvement District, Transit Action Committee, South Florida Community Development Coalition, Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co, Builders Association of South Florida, Associated Builders and Contractors of South Florida East Coast Chapter, Miami Coalition for the Homeless, and Neighborhood Housing Services of South Florida.
Lend Your Voice
At stake here, even beyond the economic health of our walkable urban neighborhoods is the identity of our city. It is a question of how we want to grow. What do you think? Will you lend your voice to the cause?
Come out this Thursday, Oct. 23 at 11:30 AM to the City of Miami Commission meeting, where they will be discussing parking exemptions for small buildings. Let your voice be heard. Click here to sign a petition of support and to learn more about the issue.
The meeting will be held at the Miami City Hall in Coconut Grove at 3500 Pan American Drive. And good news, there will be plenty of free parking!