Bad News on the Philly Zoning Front

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Minimum parking requirements for housing and businesses are a city-killer for all kinds of reasons, not least because they make housing more expensive. It’s basically a tax on people who don’t drive that subsidizes parking for people who do.

So it’s very annoying to see Philly Councilmen Bobby Henon and Bill Green trying to strip out a very sensible provision of the pending zoning ordinance that basically just says the city should avoid wasting too much land on parking:

The bill also removes references to limits on the amount of parking that development projects may provide. Councilman Green explained that the parking provision was intended to require a minimum amount of parking to offset the impact of certain developments, but that it didn’t make sense to limit the amount of parking area developers could provide. Specifically, the bill deletes the following provision from the “Purpose” section of the new code’s chapter on parking: “Encourage the efficient use of land by avoiding excessive amounts of land being devoted to parking and thus unavailable for other productive uses.”

As I noted yesterday, Philly’s most valuable asset is its expensive land. The more of this land that’s used for productive purposes, the better off the city’s economy will be.

Parking is not a productive use of expensive land. It produces literally nothing. It’s just empty cars wasting space that could be used instead for activities that create actual economic value. So the goal of city land use policy should be to minimize the amount of expensive land that’s wasted on storing idle vehicles.

The best way to do this would be to eliminate minimum parking requirements and maximum parking requirements, and simply let developers build as much or as little parking as people are willing to pay for.

The city certainly shouldn’t be requiring developers to build more parking than they want to. That makes housing more expensive, and ultimately makes the city poorer by wasting valuable land on a value-subtracting use. Unfortunately, that seems to be exactly what Bill Green and Bobby Henon want to do.

(Thanks: Jared Brey)

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8 Responses to Bad News on the Philly Zoning Front

  1. phillydem says:

    LOL! You have NO idea of level of outrage that will emerge if residents, and Philadelphia has a lot of people living around and among developments, are denied the ability to park in front of their rowhouses, etc, because developments don’t have enough parking (limited by law) to serve their customers and the customers are then forced to park on the street. Believe me, I’ve seen it first hand on the side streets near where I used to work when the parking lot filled up.

    Elected officials would be voted out of office, and handily.

    • Jon says:

      They should do a better job of pricing street parking at market rates.

      • phillydem says:

        There aren’t meters on residential streets, Jon. Philadelphia is both a city and neighborhoods at once. Metered parking isn’t the problem, it’s the universal, and possibly unique, perspective of Philadelphians that they “own” the curb area in front of their house as a personal parking spot.

  2. phillydem says:

    LOL! I think you need to live in Philly for a few years to understand the mindset, Jon. It’s pretty much defies logic. :)

    • Jon says:

      I get that people hate paying for parking, but you see the same thing everywhere. Politicians who say they care about the city’s economy and affordable housing need to price parking at market rates. It’s the very least they can do just to avoid causing harm.

      • phillydem says:

        Jon, it’s not paying or having parking permits. It’s that Philly’s residential neighborhoods are inextricably intertwined with its businesses. You can’t put meters many places outside of Center City’s core and to have permit parking would require nearly every street to be closed to non-resident parking. Anyway, you don’t really want to wade into the great Philadelphia parking debate unless you don’t have a choice.

        • Jon says:

          Here’s my endgame: all curb spaces are metered, residents with cars pay for a yearly parking permit, and all city-owned surface lots and garages get sold off to private owners. I really do want to wade into this, ugly as it may be. People should pay market prices for parking. Anything less commits the city to a track with too little development and too little density. That’s a state economic policy problem.