To understand what’s wrong with Philly Council President Darrell Clarke’s bill to reintroduce parking minimums in some of the more walkable multifamily zoning districts, let’s go back to the “piano minimums” analogy:
Everybody understands that if you required developers to include a piano in every apartment unit, this would make rents more expensive. People who play piano might appreciate it, but they also might just prefer to have the cash instead. People who don’t play piano would almost certainly prefer to get a cheaper apartment without the piano, instead of being forced to cross-subsidize piano players.
Let’s say the law is that every apartment building needs 1 piano for every 4 apartment units. People would think it was real funny if you argued that rolling back the minimum piano requirements meant “developers” were unfairly pushing the cost of the pianos onto pianists.
That is because developers don’t ultimately pay for the pianos. The cost of the pianos is bundled into rents, and it’s really the pianists who are unfairly shifting a private expense onto the non-pianists in the building.
If the city changed the law and made pianists responsible for all the costs of owning a piano, instead of requiring non-pianists to subsidize them, then rents would be lower.
The parking issue is more politically charged since more people own cars than pianos, but the implication is the same. Parking costs money. Car owners – not the taxpayers or non-drivers – should be responsible for all their own parking costs. The city should not force non-drivers to pay higher rents so that car owners can save money. That makes housing more expensive, prevents the city from developing in a more walkable and transit-friendly way, and depresses neighborhood retail markets. The zoning reforms changed the parking minimums policy for a very good reason, and people ought to leave it alone.