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Cambridge Abolishes Parking Minimums For New Development

Cambridge City Hall

Cambridge has become the first city in Massachusetts to abolish parking minimums citywide for new buildings.

In an 8-1 vote to amend the city's zoning ordinance, the Cambridge City Council set all minimum parking requirements for new developments in the city to zero, The Harvard Crimson reported. The zoning previously required new residential developments to have at least one off-street parking space per housing unit. 

Supporters of the amendment argued that by abolishing the parking minimum, it would allow developers to produce more housing and make rent for these units more affordable. 

“We support it because it gives developers the flexibility they need to install or not install parking that meets tenant needs, particularly at a time when the cost to build is extraordinarily high,” NAIOP Massachusetts CEO Tamara Small told the Boston Business Journal.

Councilor Marc McGovern, who co-sponsored the amendment, said it would give developers more flexibility when building in the city. Although there will be no parking minimums, developers are still free to include parking in their developments to meet market demands.

Dennis Carlone, the one councilor who voted against the amendment, argued that there was "no basis for it whatsoever." He went on to say that it won't reduce traffic and he is more concerned with zoning restrictions over the maximum number of parking spaces.

Somerville and Boston officials have also amended their zoning codes to limit parking minimums but haven't implemented the policy for all new buildings citywide. In 2019, Somerville eliminated minimums in most of the city, and last year Mayor Michelle Wu signed an amendment to abolish the minimums for affordable housing projects

Cambridge City Councilor Burhan Azeem spearheaded the efforts and said he hopes this amendement will be an example for more change for other cities in the state. 

“I’m hoping that Somerville and Boston will use this as an impetus to reform their systems, as well,” Azeem told the Globe.

In 2014, Cambridge set a goal to decrease car ownership by 15% by 2020 from 1990 rates. However, the city actually saw a 6.5% increase, reported earlier this month. With this new amendment, city officials hope it can start moving closer to that goal.

Nationally, Cambridge joins Minneapolis, San Francisco and Nashville, Tennessee, in fully abolishing parking minimums citywide. The city council has pushed other major zoning efforts like significantly increasing fees on commercial real estate developments to pool into the city's affordable housing fund.