City of San Diego Reforms Parking Near Transit

By Brendan Dentino, Research Analyst

Under previous law, housing developments in the City of San Diego must have included a minimum number of parking spaces depending on unit type and size. Unless granted discretionary approval, all housing projects were required by statute to include a certain amount of parking, regardless of owner or tenant needs, proximity to transit, and environmental impact. Last week, San Diego City Council voted 8 to 1 in support of a new policy that could have a great impact on lowering the cost of building new homes near transit.

The new regulations do away with parking minimums for multifamily developments in the downtown neighborhood and within Transit Priority Areas (TPAs). Instead of mandating parking construction, the City now allows developers to provide parking as the market dictates. In some cases that could be no parking at all.

At up to $90,000 per-space, the construction costs for parking can be substantial. Either directly or indirectly, that cost is eventually passed on to the occupant. Relaxing parking requirements, then, is intended to improve the financial viability of smaller, infill housing developments, as well as to provide larger developments regulatory flexibility.

Other revisions include imposing a parking maximum of one parking space-per-unit and “unbundling” parking spaces from housing units. The latter prevents the cost of parking from being passed on to occupants who do not own automobiles. The former represents a shift in focus from housing cars to housing people.

When voicing her support for the proposed changes, Councilmember Vivian Moreno and chair of the Land Use and Housing Committee, said, “We don’t have a parking crisis. We have a housing crisis.” By streamlining regulations, decreasing construction costs, and encouraging the use of alternative modes of transportation, San Diego joins a growing list of world-class cities that has implemented innovative policies to address two of California’s greatest challenges: housing affordability and climate change.