Richmond moves towards eliminating parking minimums for new developments

Posted at 6:00 AM, Apr 18, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-18 06:18:21-04

RICHMOND, Va. — Richmond's Planning Commission unanimously approved an ordinance Monday that would remove parking minimums in the city — requirements that people building new dwellings or businesses provide a minimum number of off-street parking spaces (the number depending on a variety of factors).

Next it will be taken up to the city council.

The vote was held following an over two-hour discussion on the proposal, which began with a presentation from city staff in favor of the move.

Those who supported the elimination said it would reduce costs for builders, businesses and customers, as the costs of building parking spaces are passed on to consumers. They also said it would cut down on unused lots, enable better use of current parking spaces through site-sharing and put more focus on moving people, not cars.

Staff reviewed 50 recent "large-scale residential, commercial, and mixed-use projects approved or built over the last five years," and while city regulations would have required 4,789 spaces, developers provided 12,646 spaces.

"Even with these regulations in place, developers are looking at the market, they are looking at who is potentially going to own, rent, lease these spaces and they're providing parking as they feel appropriate," said Kevin Vonck, director of the Department Planning and Development Review.

The proposal drew support in the meeting and in letters (19 were attached to the meeting agenda) from residents and various groups — who said it will create more walkable areas and affordable housing.

"Any little thing that the city can do to take off some of the price pressures, it would be huge," said Joh Gehlbach,Vice President of Government Affairs, Richmond Association of REALTORS. "Getting rid of parking minimums would be huge."

However, opponents also spoke at the meeting and wrote even more letters (41 were attached to the agenda) raising several concerns, including that it would exacerbate already difficult on-street parking issues for residents.

"My son visited me last week. We went out to dinner, I said, 'Alright, I'll see you tomorrow.' He said, 'I'll just spend the night at the house, dad, I got no place to park.' Can't park," said one man who spoke in person.

Others also expressed doubt that builders would actually pass along savings to consumers, and Richmond does not have the public transit infrastructure in place to support a move away from cars.

"We are not Boston, we do not have the T. We have one Pulse line in the city that doesn't even take you out of the city," said one person who spoke virtually.

Meanwhile, among the reasons planning commissioners voiced support for the project was it starts to right historical wrongs made with cars in mind — such as putting the interstate through Jackson Ward.

"It'll be painful, the influction, to get from here to there. But, as you said, this is a chicken and the egg kind of thing and a first step has to be taken," said commissioner Burchell Pinnock.

First District Councilmember and Planning Commission member Andreas Addison supports the idea and said he's committed to fixing any issues that arise from the elimination of parking minimums.

"I think a lot of concerns are, well if you get rid of parking I can't go somewhere. And I don't believe that's the case. I do believe we'll start seeing better access because this creates a conversation we've never had before about parking," added Addison.

Addison said he believes there is enough support on city council to approve the ordinance and it will be taken up by council at their meeting next Monday.

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