Photo by Igor Karimov on Unsplash

A bill aimed at removing minimum parking requirements for new residential and commercial developments located near frequent-service transit routes will head to the floor of the California State Assembly for its third reading, prompting a vote that will decide if it progresses to the Senate. 

AB 1401, authored by Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), is intended to prioritize the construction of housing over parking. If the bill is signed into law, California would become the first state in the country to nix minimum parking requirements for new developments within a half-mile walking distance of public transit. 

Some cities, including San Francisco and Berkely, have already eliminated minimum parking requirements citywide, while others like San Diego and Oakland have adopted similar provisions for transit-adjacent new construction. AB 1401 would take this effort statewide, freeing up space for much-needed housing and lowering construction costs.

A report from the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley found that the inclusion of structured parking adds an average of $36,000 to the cost of an affordable housing unit. Because of this, parking requirements often translate into higher rents and home prices, as well as fewer affordable housing units. 

Nearly all of the jurisdictions studied by the Terner Center had some parking requirements for multi-family and single-family development, with the majority mandating at least two parking spaces per housing unit.

AB 1401 would give developers, not planning commissions, the authority to decide how much parking to include in the projects. However, the bill does not prevent local governments from passing minimum requirements for accessibility parking and spaces dedicated to car-sharing and electric vehicle charging.

Critics of the bill argue that it would give city planners less sway with developers. Reduced parking is often used as an incentive in exchange for the inclusion of affordable housing units, as exemplified by Los Angeles’ Transit Oriented Communities Program. Others say smaller cities that aren’t currently well-served by public transit would undoubtedly suffer, worsening traffic congestion and causing more competition for off-street parking.

The third reading of AB 1401 is expected to take place in the coming weeks. If it passes with a majority of the vote it will head to the Senate for further consideration.

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