Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Proposed Changes to the City's Downtown Off-Street Parking Requirements

The City Council’s Environment and Public Works Committee has been approached by the Planning Commission with an array of recommended changes to downtown’s off-street parking regulations. Proposed changes include the elimination of a minimum number of parking stalls developers must build, a cap on the number of parking stalls allowed, and limitation on new or expanded on-site surface parking lots. The many aspects of the proposed revisions could be both advantageous and harmful to the development of downtown.

The proposal recognizes that getting rid of the requirement to build a minimum number of parking stalls within new developments encourages movement to a market-based system. No minimum requirements mean that developers will not build stalls that are unnecessary for their developments. Developers will be able to tailor to the unique parking needs of each project.

However, the proposed revisions also would include implementing a maximum number of parking stalls within the IFSA and decreasing the maximum number of stalls within downtown. This moves away from the City’s original intention to create a market-based system. In comparison, the much denser Portland allows 36% more stalls than proposed by the City of Tacoma. A cap on the number of stalls would hinder developers from building the amount of parking that some tenants may require, which puts downtown Tacoma at a clear disadvantage for future development.

It is vital to recognize that the proposed amendment being brought to the City is loaded with potential. While the city is encouraging smart development with one regulation, it is limiting opportunities with another. The City Council will hold a public hearing on the proposed amendment on today, January 24, 2012, at 5:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers, providing an opportunity to those who want to encourage the future growth and development of downtown to give their opinion.

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