My apartment comes with a parking spot. I don’t use it, but I pay for it. My apartment, my parking spot–it’s a package deal. It sits empty through spring, summer, and fall. Sometimes a parking scofflaw appropriates my spot as their own (this happens rarely). But I don’t care, because I don’t need it. In the winter my parking spot fills with snow, and management posts a sign that says move your car, we’re plowing the parking lot. Lucky me, I never worry about having my car towed, because I don’t own one. Still, I pay my share for the plowing.
Aside from the ample parking, my building is pretty no-frills. It doesn’t provide every unit with a bicycle or a bus pass. Those are the kinds of amenities that might entice me to choose living in a building that offered them. Even though I support the idea of a 1:1 bike to bedroom ratio, it’s probably a bad idea for Minneapolis to mandate bicycle minimums for new development. The same goes for parking.
This isn’t to say that I expect everyone in my building, or my neighborhood, to go car-free. Allow me to modify a metaphor previously made famous by Nick Magrino: If Minneapolis abolished a hypothetical law mandating a Keurig minimum, I wouldn’t interpret that as anti-Keurig, but rather giving people the freedom to choose whether they want to own a Keurig (and relieving them of the obligation to buy those expensive K-cups). You could still choose to own one. But my neighbors–one of whom drinks coffee by the potful and another who doesn’t drink coffee at all–wouldn’t be required to subsidize the bulk purchase of 40 Keurigs for the entire building.
Strict parking minimums make the assumption that everyone is living the same car-dependent lifestyle, thereby spreading the cost of car ownership to people who don’t own cars. This should trouble anyone who cares about housing affordability. Fortunately,Council Member Lisa Bender has a plan to ease parking minimums, and the costs that go with them (hint: it’s far more than the price of a Keurig):
Underground parking costs up to $25,000 per stall to build, [Developer Ross Fefercorn] said, and requires the accompanying development to have a larger footprint. It also raises taxes, maintenance and insurance costs.
“If you can build a building without underground parking and you have residents who will live in it, your cost of building the project is greatly reduced,” Fefercorn said. “You pass on the savings to your tenants.”
Based on some of the reaction in certain local comment sections, you’d think this was a proposal to prohibit car ownership. It’s not. Neither is this a proposal to prohibit the construction of more parking (though I once listened in admiration as Council Member Lisa Goodman sang the virtues of a parking maximum on Channel 79). This proposal is only about easing the parking minimum in transit-friendly areas of Minneapolis.
No matter what happens with this proposal, developers will continue to include lots of parking in many of their new projects. Just like they’ll continue to offer gyms and dog parks; these are amenities that certain people want, and somehow it is provided to them without regulating dog park minimums. Car storage is likewise an amenity that a lot of people will continue to expect, meaning there’s unlikely to be a parking shortage anytime soon.
Parking has a cost, just like a gym or a dog park. While shopping for housing it would be nice to have the freedom to choose how much parking you need and, more importantly, how much parking you can afford.
This post was written by John Edwards and originally published on streets.mn. Follow streets.mn on Twitter: @streetsmn.
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