Controversial parking bill to be heard Tuesday

A Bay Area lawmaker’s controversial bill to impose reduced parking requirements near major transit stops will be heard by a state Senate committee tomorrow, and cities and counties are out to stop it.

AB 904 by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, would prevent cities and counties from requiring minimum parking standards of greater than two spaces per 1,000 square feet of nonresidential projects measuring 20,000 square feet or less; and of one space per unit for residential projects.

This would apply to transit-intensive areas: places within half a mile of a major transit stop – either already existing or included in a regional transportation plan – or a quarter-mile of the center line of a high-quality transit corridor (with a fixed-route bus service with service at least every 15 minutes during peak commute hours) included in a regional transportation plan. The law would take effect Jan. 1, 2014.

The idea, according to a state Senate Analysis filed last week, is that “less is more” – by reducing their standard parking requirements, public officials can promote housing affordability and encourage residential densities, especially near transit hubs and corridors. That is, builders say requiring fewer parking spaces boosts residential density while lowering their development costs, which can translate into higher profits and less expensive housing.

The bill is supported by the state’s home-building industry; environmental groups including the California League of Conservation Voters, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club California; and cities including Berkeley and San Francisco.

But opponents say a one-size-fits-all solution to parking standards strips local officials of the discretion to set requirements for individual projects and neighborhoods. They also say it undermines an existing density-bonus law that gives developers incentives for mixed-use development because it lets builders reduce parking spaces without requiring any affordable housing.

The bill is opposed by the California State Association of Counties and the League of California Cities as well as several dozen cities including Danville, Fremont, Hayward, Lafayette, Los Altos, Palo Alto, Santa Clara, San Mateo, South San Francisco and Vacaville.

The state Senate analysis notes San Francisco, Pleasanton, San Leandro, and Pinole all have now parking requirements less than two spaces in central areas, while Oakland and San Jose have no parking requirements for retail in their downtowns.

Skinner first put this forth as AB 710, which the Assembly passed in June 2011 on a 76-0 vote but the state Senate killed in September on an 18-19 vote. She gutted and amended AB 904 – which formerly dealt with energy efficiency programs – to give the idea another try.

The state Senate Governance and Finance Committee’s hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday; committee members include Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, and Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco.

UPDATE @ 10:46 A.M. THURSDAY: Skinner pulled the bill from consideration at the last minute, apparently because it didn’t have enough votes on the committee. Tomorrow (Friday, July 6) is the deadline to move bills out of policy committees, so it’s unlikely the bill will advance this year.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Elwood

    “members include Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, and Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco.”

    Now THERE’S a pair to draw to!

  • Reilleyfam

    Great way to get people to come shop with you & improve the economy = no parking.

  • Thank you for not passing AB 904. We need to make spending money easier not harder for folks if we want to grow the economy. The current ticketing and fining mania is a stress tax on the public psyche and a damper on the economy.