Vancouver to consider eliminating minimum parking requirements for new buildings

Sep 10 2020, 2:18 pm

A new motion by Vancouver city councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung calls for the consideration of the abolition of parking minimums — the minimum number of on-site parking spaces that must be provided by newly constructed buildings, according to municipal regulations.

She says there is a growing trend amongst North American cities of reassessing parking capacity requirements against housing and environmental considerations.

The City of Edmonton approved the complete elimination of parking minimums this past June, and the City of Seattle has changed its requirements in 2012 and again in 2018.

The City of Vancouver has made reductions recently, with changes in January 2019 allowing up to 30% parking reductions available to developers as long as they satisfy transportation demand management (TDM), comprised of up to 10% reduction for proximity to public transit and up to 20% reduction from other measures such as free transit passes for residents and a car share service within the building.

Other additional reductions of up to 60% are also permitted for rental housing developments.

Elsewhere in the region, Coquitlam, Surrey, and Richmond have also relaxed their parking minimums in the rezoning process if the proponent offers TDM measures.

But Kirby-Yung wants to go beyond this by using the so-called Open Option Parking method of allowing the market to decide what it needs — a determination by the property owner or business, based on their requirements.

“Open Option Parking does not mean that zero or no on-site parking will be built as part of any given development (although it is possible in some cases with the exception of requirements for accessible parking and loading),” she wrote.

“An Open Option Parking policy merely allows greater choice and flexibility for property owners, developers and businesses to respond to market demand and to better accommodate market changes while retaining adequate space for loading and deliveries, visitors, service providers, and accessible parking needs.”

Parking is often located within underground levels, which is a significant source of embodied carbon emissions given the amount of concrete and steel used.

By removing some of the parking requirements, this could not only reduce emissions from both construction and the use of vehicles, but also cut down the cost of housing, given that parking construction costs are passed on to homeowners or renters.

However, she notes that the city would also have to implement new measures to regulate street and laneway curbside parking spaces to prevent parking spillover.

“Ideally, an Open Option Parking Policy should include measures to monitor how community needs shift and change over time to ensure that there are no barriers to access for residents or patrons, as well as consider implementing maximum parking allowances to align with the City’s Climate Emergency goals and ensure that developers don’t create an oversupply of parking,” wrote Kirby-Yung.

“If successfully adopted and implemented in the City of Vancouver, with flexibility to meet the changing needs of residents and patrons over the long-term (e.g. mobility vehicles, etc.), an Open Option Parking policy could lead to improved development processes by ensuring parking supply and demand are aligned. An Open Option Parking policy would also increase the efficiency with which rezoning applications and development permit applications can be reviewed and approved.”

If approved in a meeting scheduled for next week, city staff will consult with the city’s disabilities and seniors advisory committees, and develop recommendations for city council to consider by the end of this year.

In 2019, a study by Metro Vancouver Regional District found that there is an oversupply of parking stalls in residential buildings across the region, with parking supply exceeding use by 42% for strata apartment buildings and 35% for market rental buildings. The overcapacity rate is similar for mixed tenure and mixed rental apartment buildings, with supply over demand by 41%.

There is also lower parking use in transit-oriented residential developments, such as arterial bus routes and SkyTrain.

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