Stupid Zoning Rules Development Games

324 Bedford Avenue.

[See update, below – ed.]

There is a lot of vestigal crap in the City’s zoning code, as one might expect for a document written in 1961. Its a code written for a time and a place that have long since passed.

One area where this is the case is the requirements for off-street parking. By now, its pretty well established [pdf] that when it comes to parking, if you build it, they will come. And park. When the zoning code was written, however, cars were seen as the answer to the City’s problems and congestion was a problem that could be solved by just building more highways.

The new project at 324 Bedford Avenue epitomizes the stupidity of off-street parking requirements. The building sits at the corner of Bedford and South 2nd. It is designed by Bob Scarano, and is slowly inching its way toward completion (a stop-work order was issued in March, 2007 and the permits have all been revoked). Architecturally, it is quite nice (even if it is an overbuilt collection of quasi-legal mezzanines). Its size and massing fits in well in this more densely built up section of the Southside.

As required by zoning, 324 Bedford includes on-site off-street parking. According to BIS, that works out to two spaces for a project of seven units. To get those two spaces, though, the developer has put in two curb cuts – one on Bedford and one on South 2nd. The net result in terms of parking spaces is zero – the community loses two on-street parking spaces, and gains a virtual guarantee of two additional cars. Oh yes, and the soul-deadening experience of roll-down gates where there might be another retail establishment.

Parking requirements might be a good idea in lower density neighborhoods, where cars are needed on a more day-to-day basis, but in densely built up sections of the City such as this, they contribute nothing.

UPDATE: As noted in the comments, its not the zoning that is creating the parking here. Which makes it that much more ridiculous. I’m not sure what the development angle is, as I would think there would plenty of FAR to turn the parking into retail, and I have to believe that retail at this location ($25 to $40 a foot?) is worth more than two parking spaces. On the zoning side, its silly to even allow this in a densely developed urban area. As noted above, this is essentially privatizing public space. “We” are losing two on-street parking spaces, and the developer now has the right to sell those two spaces. It might be different if the public were losing two spaces in exchange for 25 off-street spaces (though I still believe most of those off-street spaces would result in incremental cars, and not take many cars off the street). But that’s not what’s happening here.

And yes, I still think that required off-street is a losing proposition for the city as a whole. The result is a net increase in cars, congestion and pollution.

2 responses to “Stupid Zoning Rules Development Games”

  1. Actually, this parking is NOT required by zoning. Zoning waives parking requirements when this few spaces are required. This parking is put in purely because the developer wants to be able to sell the parking.

  2. My bad, Mike. Somehow I thought that the community facility was generating the parking requirement, but that’s not the case.
    See the update posted above – I think two curb cuts are still stupid, but I’ll shift the blame elsewhere!
    And is parking really that valuable vis-a-vis retail? Or was it that valuable in 2003 when this was designed?