Monday, April 3, 2006

Rethinking on-site parking rules

  Many land use laws that were once seen as unquestioned public benefits are now coming under criticism for their adverse effects (sometimes unintended) on our communities.  Consider, for example, the requirements for “on-site” parking for retail and commercial establishments.  Such rules have made it nearly impossible, of course, to develop the pedestrian-friendly old Main Street streetscape of stores fronting directly on the sidewalk.  The result is strip malls and isolated establishments spread out among acres of mostly unused parking lots – the ugly and sprawling streetscapes of suburban retail America.  In the Planetizen website, Mott Smith, principal of a California planning and development firm, discusses some of the ways that localities can change their parking laws to encourage more pleasant and more efficient use of land, such as through parking garages, the facilitation of on-street parking, and allowing certain establishments to get variances.  Such changes encourage denser construction and encourage stores to compete for foot business through building attractive storefronts.

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