Thursday, January 24, 2013

Food Truck Wars: Dispatches from the Front(s)

For more than two years, a number of us (Ken, Jamie, Matt, and Chad) have blogged about food trucks (usually just around lunchtime).  Here are some articles updating the situation in Chicago and other cities.

The Wall Street Journal reported on legislation and reponsive litigation involving food trucks back in August:  Food Trucks vs. Restaurants (if paywall prevents access, try this Lexis link

and again yesterday, focusing on legal advocacy efforts by the Institute for Justice: Street Vendors Battle Limits (Lexis link)

Earlier this month, the Chicago Tribune published a story on dissatisfaction among the portable vendors with the food truck ordinance Chicago enacted last year.

"Nothing cooking on food trucks \ Since legalization in July, no one has met city's standard" (Lexis link)

 Hat tip to Chris O'Byrne, who passed on this blog post.

 JIm K.

January 24, 2013 in Constitutional Law, Downtown, Food, Parking, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Streamlining Land Use Regulation and Development Review

As reported on Planetizen, Seattle's City Council approved a series of changes to the city's land use regulations on Monday that, it is claimed, "will create jobs and encourage flexibility and creativity in new development."  These changes include an easing of parking requirements for new projects, a higher threshold for the size of projects subject to environmental review, and the elimination of a requirement of ground-floor retail space in certain areas.  Last month, New York City initiated a program aimed at speeding up the land use review process and reducing associated costs for developers.  New York is also considering reductions, in certain areas, of off-street parking requirements for new developments.  (See a Furman Center report on the impact of minimum parking requirements on housing affordability.)   Similarly, Los Angeles recently approved five years of funding for its Planning Department to revise the city's zoning code, part of a broader initiative to streamline development approvals.  

These programs are championed for their benefits in spurring development and increasing predictability. But for critics they threaten to reduce public input and the careful consideration of neighborhood concerns.  It will be interesting to see whether these changes represent a trend, partly motivated by the current economic climate, towards major reforms in city land use regulations and review processes.  If readers know of similar efforts underway elsewhere, please share.   

John Infranca

July 27, 2012 in Development, Local Government, Parking, Planning | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Lewyn on Sprawl in Canada and the United States

Michael Lewyn (Touro) has taken his analysis of sprawl north of the border in Sprawl in Canada and the United States, 44 Urban Lawyer 85 (2012).  The abstract:

The purpose of this article is to show that, in Canada as in the United States, government regulation promotes sprawl through anti-density zoning, minimum parking requirements, and overly wide streets. However, Canadian cities are less "sprawling" than American cities- perhaps because at least some of these regulations are less onerous than in the United States.

It's an interesting article that makes an original point.  We tend to assume that places like Canada must be more regulated than the US, but it isn't necessarily true when it comes to land use.  Lewyn suggests a potential link to comparative levels of sprawl. 

Matt Festa

July 16, 2012 in Comparative Land Use, Density, Parking, Planning, Scholarship, Sprawl, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Food Trucks, Land Use, and the Free Rider Problem

The food truck wars continue. In this piece on Slate, Matt Yglesias talks about several cities' and states' efforts to ban or regulate food trucks in a way that prevents them from competing with existing restaurants.  He cites what he considers a particularly egregious example: a San Francisco ordinance that permits any existing business to comment on an application for a new vending license and directs the city to "consider" whether the new vendor will operate within 300 feet of an existing vendor in deciding whether to grant the license.  Yglesias concludes: "a basic rule of thumb seems to suggest itself: The fact that business owners would prefer not to face competition is not a valid regulatory purpose."

This proposition would surely come as a surprise to most land use folks, who generally accept as a matter of course that land use regulations are, at their core, anti-competitive.  From large-lot single-family residential zoning that inflates the cost of housing for the benefit of existing homeowners to anti-big-box store laws that are designed to protect quaint mom-and-pop businesses, zoning represents pure economic protectionism.  Indeed, the San Francisco ordinance Yglesias mentions is pretty familiar: many zoning laws give neighbors the right to file a protest to a proposed land use change in their neighborhood, which can result in requiring the city to enact the zoning change by a supermajority vote or possibly even block the zoning change (I address the legality of these neighborhood zoning provisions in my article Neighborhood Empowerment and the Future of the City.)

Zoning laws are generally allowed to be anti-competitive because they are thought to be means of combatting free-rider problems.  Economists like William Fischel and Bruce Hamilton have argued, for example, that a preponderance of expensive homes on large lots tends to correlate with higher-quality schools.  But in the absence of large-lot zoning, people would have strategic incentives to build smaller, less expensive homes in the area just to have access to the better schools.  Of course, if too many folks did the same, the very thing that attracted people to the area (the good schools) will be lost as the area becomes congested with smaller homes and more schoolchildren.

Food trucks, it would seem, present an even stronger free-rider problem.  Foot traffic is drawn to an area because of the existing shops, restaurants, etc, and the foot traffic in turn generates a demand for more shops, restaurants, etc.  Rents and property values go up, as do property taxes, and many high-traffic areas use special assessments or business improvement districts to provide collective sanitation or security services for the area (again overcoming a free-rider problem, as I explain in my Neighborhood Empowerment piece).  When a food truck swoops into a high-traffic area, it pays no rent, no property taxes, and no assessments for that privilege, and its lower operating costs enable it to siphon some of that foot-traffic away from existing fixed eateries, thus free-riding on the efforts of those eateries to bring in the foot traffic in the first place.  Think of it this way: if the food trucks are sufficiently successful to bankrupt the existing fixed eateries, leaving lots of vacant storefronts in their wake, people will stop coming to the area altogether, and the food trucks will move elsewhere. In other words, the food trucks depend on the existence of fixed eateries to fuel their business.  But while fixed eateries pay taxes and fees for the ability to do business in a particular place, food trucks do not.  So it should not be a surprise that existing businesses are unhappy.

The solution that suggests itself to me is fairly obvious: since business improvement districts are mechanisms for overcoming free-rider problems, than food trucks should be forced to pay assessments to the business improvement district or special assessment district in those areas where they operate.  Legally and conceptually, though, this is difficult to accomplish because special assessments are, as a matter of hornbook law, supposed to be keyed to the benefits that accrue to real property.  Because food trucks are not real property, it is difficult to apply the special assessment to them.  But wouldn't it be possible for municipalities to use their home rule powers to impose some sort of free-rider fee on food trucks?   I would hope that cities and states will consider this alternative rather than simply banning food trucks altogether.

For more on food trucks, see my colleague Ernesto Hernandez-Lopez's piece, LA’s Taco Truck War: How Law Cooks Food Culture Contests.

Ken Stahl 

April 6, 2012 in California, Food, Parking, Urbanism, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Furman Center Reports on NYC Housing and Parking

The MacArthur Award-winning NYU Furman Center recently has produced two reports that are well worth noting.  First, an important policy paper on parking and housing:

We are pleased to share with you the latest policy brief from the Furman Center and its Institute for Affordable Housing Policy: Searching for the Right Spot: Minimum Parking Requirements and Housing Affordability in New York City. The report examines the minimum residential parking requirements in communities throughout the city, and explores the effects the requirements may have on housing affordability and the city's sustainability goals.


Our findings suggest that the requirements generally cause developers to provide more off-street parking than they think buyers and tenants really demand, potentially driving up the cost of housing and promoting inefficient car ownership. The  report provides examples of tools other cities have used to refine their parking regulations to better balance concerns about housing affordability, sustainability, and traffic congestion with the needs of car owners.


Please find the full report here, and the press release here. We hope you find the report informative, and we look forward to receiving your feedback.

The Center has also released its Fourth Quarter NYC Housing Report:

We are pleased to share with you our latest New York City Quarterly Housing Update (Q4 2011). We find that home sales volume continued to decline, with the number of transactions citywide down 15 percent from the previous quarter and 11 percent from the fourth quarter of 2010.  


The report finds, however, that foreclosure starts were down in most of the city, with 33 percent fewer foreclosure notices issued in the fourth quarter of 2011 compared to the same quarter in 2010. Manhattan was the only borough where the number of foreclosure starts increased, although the number of foreclosure notices issued in Manhattan remained well below the numbers issued in any of the other boroughs. You can read the full report here, or the press release here.


The Furman Center's Quarterly Housing Update is unique among New York City housing reports because it incorporates sales data, residential development indicators, and foreclosures. It also presents a repeat sales index for each borough to capture price appreciation while controlling for housing quality. The publication is available on a quarterly basis at: 

Very valuable research and analysis, as usual. 

Matt Festa

March 31, 2012 in Affordable Housing, Housing, Local Government, New York, Parking, Property, Real Estate Transactions, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"The 19 Building Types That Caused the Recession"

Over at The Atlantic Cities website, I stumbled across this fun little piece,

Among his favorite examples of all the standard real-estate products built ad nauseum across the country over the last half-century, Christopher Leinberger likes to point to the Grocery Anchored Neighborhood Center. This creation is generally about 12 to 15 acres in size on a plot of land that’s 80 percent covered in asphalt. It’s located on the going-home side of a major four-to-eight lane arterial road, where it catches people when they’re most likely to be thinking about what to buy for dinner. . .

Leinberger, an urban land-use strategist and professor at the University of Michigan, includes the Grocery Anchored Neighborhood Center on his list of the 19 standard real estate product types dominant in post-war America. Also on the list: suburban detached starter homes, big-box anchored power centers, multi-tenant bulk warehousing and self-storage facilities. All of these products are designed for drivable suburban communities. They reflect almost exclusively what investors have been willing to finance for the last 50 years. And as construction picks back up following the recession, Leinberger says we'll need to get away from every single one of them.

It's a slightly fancier way to say we must get away from sprawl, but it's certainly food for thought.

And when you're done with that, check out Richard Florida's article "2011's Best Cities for Trick-or-Treating."

Jamie Baker Roskie

October 26, 2011 in Architecture, Community Design, Development, Finance, New Urbanism, Parking, Pedestrian, Planning, Sprawl, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

My next article: sprawl in Canada and the U.S.

In public debate over suburban sprawl, one common argument is the “Inevitability Theory.”  The Inevitability Theory is based on the following chain of logic:

1.  Sprawl happens even in places where government policy doesn’t favor sprawl (such as Canada, Europe, etc.)

2.  Therefore, sprawl is an inevitable result of the free market, rather than government policy.

The Inevitability Theory is designed to rebut the environmentalist argument that sprawl is the result of American public policies such as highway construction, minimum parking requirements, anti-density zoning, and anti-pedestrian street design.

My next article criticizes the Inevitability Theory by focusing on Canada.  Part 1 of the Inevitability Theory discussed above can be broken down into two assumptions: (a) that Canada sprawls as much as the U.S.; and (b) Canadian public policy is antisprawl.  But in my article, I challenge both assumptions, arguing that:

a.  Canada is less suburbanized than the United States; even controlling for changes in city boundaries, Canadian central cities have been more likely to grow than their American counterparts.  Even Canadian cities that have lost population are better off than many older American cities.  For example, the fastest-declining major Canadian city, Montreal, lost 18 percent of its population between 1971 and 2001 (excluding areas annexed to the city in the intervening decades).  By contrast, St. Louis lost 44 percent of its population, and other cities such as Cleveland and Detroit lost over 30 percent of their population.

b.  If you treat sprawl as a matter of “how we develop” rather than “where we develop”,Canada again differs.  14 percent of Canadian commuters (as opposed to 6 percent of Americans) use public transit to get to work, and 5 percent walk (as opposed to 2 percent in the U.S.)

To be sure, Canada has some automobile-dependent cities and suburbs.  But is this necessarily the result of the market at work?  In my article, I show that Canadian cities and suburbs have the same kind of anti-density, pro-sprawl regulations as their American counterpart.  For example, in both nations, municipal zoning regulations limit density, thus limiting the number of people who can live within walking distance of public transit and other destinations.  And in both nations,  zoning regulations require businesses to install large amounts of parking, thus reducing density, making driving more convenient, and also making businesses more inhospitable to pedestrians (who often have to walk through large parking lots).   And in both nations, streets are often designed to be too wide to be comfortably crossed.  However, Canadian regulations do tend to be more lenient (and thus less anti-pedestrian) than their U.S. counterparts.

The full article is at .

September 6, 2011 in Comparative Land Use, Density, Local Government, Parking, Pedestrian, Scholarship, Sprawl, Suburbs, Transportation, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Europe: Annoying Drivers on Purpose

I haven't been able to blog as much as usual lately, and one of the reasons is that we just moved.  It was a local move, but I'm sure you all know what a hassle moving is.  But today, the move actually helped my blogging.  It seems that the previous tenant failed to cancel his multiple newspaper subscriptions.  I rarely read news on dead tree anymore, so I might not otherwise have seen this morning's front page New York Times Story by Elisabeth Rosenthal called: Across Europe, Irking Drivers is Urban Policy.

ZURICH — While American cities are synchronizing green lights to improve traffic flow and offering apps to help drivers find parking, many European cities are doing the opposite: creating environments openly hostile to cars. The methods vary, but the mission is clear — to make car use expensive and just plain miserable enough to tilt drivers toward more environmentally friendly modes of transportation.

Some cities have closed entire streets; some introduced stiff fees for driving into the city; many have reduced on-street parking drastically; bike lanes have replaced car lanes without offset for traffic; others have purposely added red lights to mess with drivers; Zurich's tram operators seem to have the ability to change the lights to their favor as they approach.  (I'm trying to imagine how much a magic traffic-light-changing remote control clicker would fetch on e-bay.)

According to the story, and probably not inconsistent with what some of you may have observed, many of these European cities have dramatically improved in walkability, transit options, and quality of public space.  How much the policies are related causally to the result isn't clear, but we can assume they've had an impact.

I'm not entirely sure what I think of all this.  I'm a strong proponent of improving urban life by incentivizing higher density, mixed-use development and increasing pedestrian-oriented neighborhood viability and transit-oriented development.  Love it.  Still, I am hesitant to pursue these goals through policies that actually make things worse for some people on purpose.  What do these policies do to affordable housing?  How about people from lower socioeconomic strata that need to make their living from driving goods and services around the city?  How do public shared bikes help women who don't cycle (and families with kids)?  By all means, make mass transit better, faster, more economical.  But purposely creating red-light patterns just to deliberately piss people off just concerns me a bit.  It also would seem to thwart a number of smart-growth-friendly options that nonetheless rely on roads, such as bus rapid transit.

Admittedly I'm looking at this from the urban planning side more than the environmental side, but it seems the environmental benefits of these policies will be much more difficult to observe than the effect on quality of life; it's easy to see the quality of life in the very nice and improved transit-accessible mixed-use public spaces, but these types of policies would seem to generate a lot of external costs--on purpose.  Maybe that's a tradeoff people are willing to make.  But to acheive the same progressive land use goals, I still have a preference for a positive approach (e.g., incentivizing (or even just allowing) smart growth and new urbanism) rather than purposely making some aspects of urban life worse by degrading capabilites to make some people's lives "miserable." 

Matt Festa

June 27, 2011 in Affordable Housing, Comparative Land Use, Density, Downtown, Environmentalism, New Urbanism, Parking, Pedestrian, Planning, Politics, Smart Growth, Sprawl, Transportation, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Salkin and Lavine on Zoning for Fraternities & Sororities

Patricia E. Salkin (Albany) and Amy Lavine (Albany) have posted Zoning for Off-Campus Fraternity and Sorority Houses, published in the Zoning and Planning Law Report, Vol. 33, No. 11, 2010.  The abstract:

This article discusses how communities across the country can employ various land use planning and zoning techniques to ensure that the encroachment of off-campus student housing into adjacent residential neighborhoods (specifically fraternity houses and sorority houses) does not negatively impact the character of the community.

Many colleges are in places that are either too dense or too rural to have many options for student housing off campus, and of course, those toga parties can be a contentious neighborhood problem.  This article will certainly be helpful for practitioners.  I might also consider teaching it.  It's short, readable, and provides a good overview of basic concepts (zoning, special use, nonconforming use, permission as of right, etc.) and touches on certain issues (parking, the "family," affordable housing, town-gown relations) that are important in land use.  Furthermore, it might provide an example of a land use problem that students who are short on real world experience can understand.  Some students who haven't had a job, puchased a home, etc. might still have a land use story from their days back at Tappa Kegga Dei.  Plus, it would be a great opportunity show gratuitous clips/insert jokes from Animal House.

Matt Festa

January 3, 2011 in Affordable Housing, Housing, Local Government, Parking, Politics, Property Rights, Scholarship, Teaching, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Only in Hollywood - Film School vs. Farmers' Market

In an interesting variation on "coming to the nuisance," the Los Angeles Film School has moved next door to the Hollywood Farmers' Market and is now contesting renewal of the market's permit.  Apparently, the market - which operates only on Sunday - blocks access to one of the school's parking lots.  There's a Joni Mitchell song in there somewhere.  Read about it in The New York Times.

Happy Holidays!

Jamie Baker Roskie

December 24, 2010 in Agriculture, California, Development, Parking | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Food Truck Scholarship

Chad has a great post below on the latest craze, food trucks.  By coincidence, just yesterday I saw this SSRN paper by Ernesto Hernandez Lopez (Chapman): LA’s Taco Truck War: How Law Cooks Food Culture Contests.  The abstract:

This paper examines the Los Angeles “Taco Truck War” (2008-9), when the city of Los Angeles and LA county used parking regulations to restrict “loncheros,” i.e. “taco trucks.” It describes the legal doctrine used by courts to invalidate these local restrictions. The California Vehicle code makes local food truck regulations illegal. Decades of court decisions affirm this. The paper sheds light, legal and cultural, on food truck debates, which will surely expand nationwide. It examines: the cultural and business arguments for food truck regulations; food’s role in migrant, community, and national identities; Mexican food’s influence in California culture; and recent trends in food trucks such as Koggi BBQ.

And from earlier this year, Alfonso Morales (Urban & Regional Planning, Wisconsin) and Gregg W. Kettles (Law, Mississippi College) posted Healthy Food Outside: Farmers' Markets, Taco Trucks, and Sidewalk Fruit Vendors, published in the Journal of Contemporary Health Law and Policy, Vol. 20 (2009).  The abstract:

This paper explores the many dimensions of street vending and public markets, the multiple intersections vending and markets have with food regulation, and the historical connection markets have with other policy problems. We develop the article in four parts, following the introduction found in section one the article touches on three elements of law and public policy. The second section considers markets and merchants in public goods with their associated dilemmas. Our approach is to reconfigure the emphasis on public space as transportation by justifying the use of the street and sidewalk for street vending. The importance of public space for commerce and other creative activities bridges the second and third sections of the article. The third section chronicles the history of law and regulation around street and public markets. Here we emphasize how cities historically used public markets as public policy tools to address food security, employment, and to help those growing cities accommodate new immigrants. The fourth section focuses on public health by examining the law of outdoor food sold on the street. Through our analysis we set forth numerous suggestions for advocacy, policy, and legal reform.

Chad's right, food trucks are becoming a big deal.  I was skeptical at first, but it looks like they have come a long way from the "roach coaches" I remember on Army posts.  Check out the articles that he linked to, and for an even less highbrow alternative you can watch the Food Network's The Great Food Truck Race (you know that a trend has arrived when it gets a reality show).  It's a serious question, though, how cities are going to choose to accommodate or regulate this phenomenon through their land use laws.  

Matt Festa

November 18, 2010 in California, Food, Local Government, Parking, Pedestrian, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Shoup on Graduated Density Zoning

Prof. Donald Shoup (Urban Planning, UCLA) contributed a comment to our recent post on Daniel Kelly's eminent domain paper.  In case you missed it, I wanted to be sure you had the chance to get the link to Prof. Shoup's important paper Graduated Density Zoning, from the Journal of Planning Education and Research (2008).  The abstract:

The difficulty of assembling sites large enough to redevelop at higher density can impede regeneration in city centers and accelerate suburban sprawl onto large sites already in single ownership. One promising new planning strategy to encourage voluntary land assembly is graduated density zoning, which allows higher density on larger sites. This strategy can increase the incentive for owners to cooperate in a land assembly that creates higher land values.  Graduated density zoning will not eliminatethe incentive to hold out, but it can create a new fear of being left out.  Holdouts who are left with sites that cannot be combined with enough contiguous properties to trigger higher density lose a valuable economic opportunity.This article examines the difficulty of assembling land for infill development, and explains graduated density zoning as away to encourage voluntary land assembly.  Finally, it presents the results of graduated density zoning in practice.

Graduated density zoning is a compelling idea.  You may also be familiar with Shoup's influential work on parking, including his book The High Cost of Free Parking (APA, 2005), and very recent articles quoting him in the New York Times (Tyler Cowen, Free Parking Comes at a Price, Aug. 2010) and Slate (Tom Vanderbilt, Time Expired: The End of the Parking Meter, Oct. 2010).

Matt Festa

November 4, 2010 in Density, Downtown, Eminent Domain, Local Government, Parking, Pedestrian, Planning, Scholarship, Smart Growth, Takings, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Rybczynski in Slate on Ordinary Places

Witold Rybczynski, Slate's architecture critic, UPenn prof, and author of many fascinating books, has an article--well, they call it a "slideshow"--called Ordinary Places: Rediscovering the parking lot, the big-box store, the farmer's market, the gas station.  It's a nice presentation with photos and commentary and well worth taking a quick look.    

Rybczynski has written scads about great public spaces, traditional neighborhood development, and so on, so he certainly isn't a defender of sprawling suburbia.  So I think that his comments on the "ordinary places" in the slideshow are interesting, and make a good point about finding value in the spaces in which we live.  Rybczynski cites landscape historian J.B. Jackson's concept of the "vernacular landscape."  For example, here are some counterintuitive observations on that evil, un-green scourge of our soulless car-bound culture, the Parking Lot:

Whether you are going to a farmers market or a big-box store, chances are you will have to park. Parking lots, rather than squares and plazas, are the most common public outdoor open spaces in America. They are complicated social spaces, where travelling gives way to arriving, driving to walking, privacy to publicness—and vice versa. Although inevitably described as "seas of asphalt"—they look bleak in photographs—they are orderly, clean places; Jackson once referred to their "austere beauty." Parking lots are also surprisingly civic. People politely observe rules of behaviour for the sake of the common good, parking between the lines, staying out of the handicapped spaces, driving slowly. It is one place where cars and pedestrians happily coexist.
Interesting stuff; definitely check out the link for the photos and commentary.

Matt Festa

August 24, 2010 in Architecture, Community Design, New Urbanism, Parking, Sprawl, Suburbs, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Lewyn on What Coase Would Do About Parking

Michael Lewyn has posted a new draft article called What Would Coase Do (About Parking Regulation)?  The abstract:

Like many government regulations, municipal minimum parking requirements exist to prevent externalities - most notably the congestion, pollution and greenhouse gas emissions that occur when motorists drive around a city searching for scarce parking. But because such regulations make parking (and thus driving) cheaper, such regulations may in fact increase congestion and pollution, thus creating, rather than reducing, externalities.

Lewyn has written widely about the effects of regulation on sprawl, and has addressed the impact of parking requirements among other regulations with respect to Houston in How Overregulation Creates Sprawl (Even in a City Without Zoning).  

Perhaps we should just declare a new acronym for Coasian analysis: WWCD?

Matt Festa

July 7, 2010 in Environmental Law, Local Government, Parking, Scholarship, Transportation, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Shared Parking as a Solution for Mixed-Use Neighborhoods

This blog post is by guest blogger and UGA 3L (and recent Land Use Clinic alumna) Catherine Mattingly.

For a project in the Land Use Planning course I took this semester at UGA Law, I researched shared parking in mixed-use areas throughout the country and tried to apply the concept to a neighborhood in Athens, Georgia.  Shared parking allows multiple businesses—or even entire neighborhoods or districts—to combine parking spaces in a way that benefits both the customers and the businesses.  This strategy can be used to either alleviate an existing parking shortage, or to require fewer spaces in building a new development.  I will give a bit of background on the area I studied within Athens, Georgia, and then offer some potential solutions for this dynamic problem in the area.

The Five Points area in Athens, Georgia is a small-scale mixed-use area in this historic college town.  Restaurants, clothing stores, coffee shops, even a grocery store, are located along South Lumpkin, which is the main street of this historic area that takes its name from the five-way intersection at the corner of Lumpkin and Milledge.  Next to this cluster of shops lie residential neighborhoods.  The district is in theory the perfect place to park one’s car and spend the rest of the day running errands, meeting with friends, attending yoga class, etc.  Because these stores are within walking distance of one another, there is really no reason to drive from place to place.

However, you may have noticed that I said “in theory.”  Currently, parking in one place and spending the day shopping throughout Five Points isn’t possible.  With the exception of a few informal parking agreements between neighboring store owners and a few spots lining Lumpkin Street (which only permit limited time parking), the general rule in the area is that a store patron must be parked in the lot of the respective business he or she is visiting.  A frequent visitor to Five Points, I have been burdened by this rule many times.  When my Land Use Professor Christian Turner spoke of this problem as a potential paper topic I jumped on board, wanting to learn more about a problem that has hindered the overall appeal of the area.  While the solution of shared parking is simple, creating a successful strategy for an entire district that will be adaptable as businesses change over time can be extremely difficult.  One must consider the current local ordinances and their restrictions on parking, the local Comprehensive Plan, the total number of spaces as well as potential for new spaces, peak hours for the varying businesses, and the general overall character of the area.
 After researching shared parking generally, I emailed most of the store owners in Five Points asking for their thoughts on the matter.  Overall, most of the owners and managers with whom I spoke supported shared parking, provided it supplied enough spots for their individual use.  A few owners shared that they felt their business suffered at certain times of the day because there was simply no available parking.  After interviewing these people, I looked for case studies of shared parking strategies that had already been implemented or studied throughout the country.  I found that the primary consideration in the success of a shared parking strategy is whether there are different peak parking hours between stores.  The significance behind this factor is that if businesses have varying busy hours, then there are likely spaces available at one nearby store when another is crowded.  Therefore, by simply making agreements with other businesses to share spaces during certain times of the day, available spots can be increased without having to actually add any additional spaces.  These private agreements can exist in the form of revocable licenses, or appurtenant easements or covenants could also be used.

While agreements such as those mentioned above can be achieved by simple agreements between business owners, a successful district-wide shared parking solution likely calls for control of all available parking by the city.  To achieve this, I suggest creating an overlay district.  This district would eliminate the need to follow any current parking restrictions in the Athens-Clarke County Code.  In addition to adding additional limited-time parking in the area, a parking deck could also be constructed.  Alternatively, a larger parking lot could be created by combining many of the smaller lots located behind the old homes that have been turned into local businesses.  To give the city the right to control parking, each owner could deed his spaces to the city.  Alternatively, a temporary lease agreement could be implemented, but this could hinder construction of permanent changes such as the large lot or deck.  These parking options could be geared not just toward immediately neighboring business, but to patrons in the entire area.

In addition to providing additional available spaces to store patrons, shared parking has other benefits.  Changing the character of parking in the area could help to change the nature of the district as a whole.  For instance, the area would necessarily become more pedestrian-friendly, as visitors are expected to park their cars and walk throughout the district.  The city could also take this opportunity to add more green space to the area.  Thus, establishing shared parking would assist in making visiting the area not only more convenient, but also safer and more aesthetically pleasing.  As space becomes an increasingly important commodity, older districts can retrofit their communities to increase the convenience and attractiveness of the area.  Increased revenues will hopefully follow as patrons find these stores easier to visit.

Overall, in researching this issue, I have been reminded of how dynamic local land use issues such as parking truly are.  Implementing shared parking will certainly be difficult, but the ability of the area to adapt to change could be crucial for its success, especially in its competition with downtown Athens.

First, I'd like to give props to my UGA colleague Christian Turner for having his Land Use Planning students work on practical projects in the doctrinal class.  Second, having read and considered Catherine's paper I congratulate her on excellent work on applying land use concepts to a real, local problem.  I shop at the stores and practice at the yoga studio she mentions, so I also struggle with the parking issues.  However, I hadn't considered the lots behind the old houses retrofit as shops as a good joint parking lot, but it really is.  I hope to promote Catherine's solution locally as a way to create a better pedestrian environment in what should be one of Athens' truly walkable neighborhoods.

Jamie Baker Roskie

May 19, 2010 in Community Economic Development, Georgia, Local Government, Parking, Pedestrian, Planning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

McDonnell, Madar, & Been on Minimum Parking Requirements in a Dense Growing City

Simon Thomas McDonnell (NYU--Furman Center for Real Estate & Urban Policy), Josiah Madar (NYU--Furman Center) and Vicki Been (NYU) have posted A Continuing Role for Minimum Parking Requirements in a Dense Urban City? Evidence from New York City.  The abstract:

Many cities throughout the United States require developers of new residential construction to also provide off-street parking, presumably to ensure that new projects absorb any additional parking demand. However, these requirements may potentially increase housing costs directly and indirectly by bundling parking with new housing and reducing the number of units developers can fit on a lot. They may also reduce the subsequent costs of car ownership, increasing car-use and associated externalities. Our research explores the role of minimum parking requirements in New York City, given its shortage of affordable housing and the emphasis policymakers have placed on sustainable growth. After a review of their history, we use lot-level data to calculate and map two measures of parking requirements to better understand their intersection with transit accessibility and development opportunity. Our results indicate that the per-unit parking requirement is generally lower in areas near rail transit, consistent with the City’s development goals. However, we also find that the required number of spaces per square foot of lot area is generally higher in transit accessible areas. This raises the possibility that parking requirements are working counter to the city’s stated development goals in transit-accessible neighborhoods.

Matt Festa

April 29, 2010 in Affordable Housing, Density, Local Government, New York, Parking, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)