Blogging Bayport Alameda

August 13, 2014

Max for the minimum

Filed under: Alameda, Development — Lauren Do @ 6:03 am

Here’s a great article on how parking minimums affect the affordability of housing.  Right now, we’re seeing a lot of discussion around rent rates and housing costs in general, SF Gate recently ran another article about how multi-family buildings in San Francisco were at astronomical pricing levels, I saw another map which showed how many roommates you would need if you wanted to only pay $1200 in rent.

From the article:

Urban affordability and parking policy are closely connected. In urban apartment and condo projects, parking is almost always required, and because of the high price of urban land, typically that parking is provided underground. Below-grade parking costs up to $35,000 per stall, while in many places wood-framed apartments cost about $100,000 to $120,000 to build (excluding the price of land). That means that for every parking stall we don’t require developers to build, we can save 25 to 35 percent of the cost of rent, right off the top.

So why do cities require developers to build parking and bundle it with apartments? Because people in surrounding neighborhoods don’t want the residents of new apartments using up “their” street-parking spots.

If cities are really committed to affordable housing, they need to look harder at their land use and building code requirements—such as bundling parking with living space—that structurally raise the cost of urban life. If parking becomes more scarce as a result, cities could implement systems that require residents to pay for street-parking permits, such as those in Toronto and Boston. Properly priced street parking allows cities to generate more revenue, reduce subsidies for cars, and distribute street space more equitably among all residents—not just those who lived there first.

As to the “families element” this writer suggests that perimeter block housing (denser single family homes which surround an open space courtyard) be allowed in single family home zone:

This kind of housing has been successfully developed in many European countries, but one of the main reasons the private sector hasn’t built much of it in North American cities comes back to parking. Perimeter block housing doesn’t accommodate vast parking lots, and building underground parking is prohibitively expensive, so any parking must be kept on surroundings streets.

Even in cities where the zoning does allow perimeter block housing, it’s usually grouped with dense residential buildings rather than with single-family zones, which it more closely resembles in typology, demographic, and customer demand. In practice, this means that two- or three-story, small-footprint perimeter block housing can only be built in zones where four- or five- or six- story apartment buildings are also allowed. Given a certain cost for the land, it will always be more profitable to build to the maximum height and density in these zones, thereby making perimeter block housing the least profitable option. Allowing perimeter block housing within single family zones, where it would be the most profitable form in that zone, would result in much more of it being built.



  1. A friend of mine moved to NYC and had to rent a storage unit in New Jersey to park his car. I believe he finally got rid of it.

    When I lived in San Francisco you had to have a parking permit to park your car. Now you just about need a credit card to feed the meter. On some of these public streets, they have street sweeping days and if you forget you get a ticket which adds up fast. I think I had like $300 or more of parking tickets one year in SF. I took public transportation and would forget to move my car. I mostly only used it on weekends or to go to the grocery store, so it may have been better to rent a car but it was paid off and insurance was reasonable so I kept it. We have 2 cars but probably get by on one with the new Safeway going in. As long as I don’t buy canned foods or a gallon of milk I can walk to the store.

    With all that said maybe they should have higher density housing with limited parking for houses built around the retail centers. We have a 3 car garage so maybe I could have saved some money with less. BYW by Sunday I have a goal of cleaning the garage.

    Comment by Joseph — August 13, 2014 @ 1:49 pm

  2. As more young millennials are forced out of San Francisco by ever higher rents or the lack of family friendly housing described in the instructive article on parking minimums, we can attract them to Alameda. The City of Alameda is beginning to take the steps we need to build housing to attract them. Our City is beginning to place reasonable maximums on the number of parking spaces per new housing unit and allow parking spaces to be unbundled from residential units. Perhaps we will see future developments, perhaps in the North Housing area along the Oakland Inner Harbor, feature the perimeter block housing that promises to be so attractive to families headed by millennials.

    Comment by 2wheelsmith — August 17, 2014 @ 10:11 am

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