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San Jose Is The Latest City To Nix Parking Requirements

It has been a banner year for the reduction or outright removal of minimum parking requirements, and there is a new city atop the elimination leaderboard.

San Jose, California

San Jose City Council members voted unanimously Tuesday to rid the “tremendously overparked" city of requirements tying parking spaces to all manner of development, according to The Mercury News. California banned parking minimums within a half-mile of public transit in September, but the San Jose measure goes further, eliminating requirements across the board.

The city made the change in an attempt to limit greenhouse gas emissions, change how people travel and eliminate an obstacle to more affordable housing, according to Ed Schreiner, a San Jose planner who said he worked on the change for more than three years. Developers had been telling the city for years that parking requirements presented a barrier to housing development, adding costs ranging from $35K to $75K per space, he told Bisnow.

San Jose’s measure, like other cities’, doesn’t preclude developers from building parking. 

“By removing the minimums, we leave it up to the market to decide how much parking needs to be built,” Schreiner said. “So I think the developers were all fully on board with that.”

With a 2020 census population of more than 1 million, San Jose unseats Bay Area neighbor San Francisco and its 874,000 residents to become the largest city in the U.S. to eliminate parking requirements. Among other populous cities that have made the change are Portland, Oregon; Minneapolis; and Anchorage, Alaska.

“Every time you have another city of a different size or in a different place or a different kind of urban form [eliminate parking requirements], it adds to the ability to show people that it's possible in the city where they live,” Parking Reform Network President Tony Jordan said. “It's encouraging: It's a safer bet.”

San Jose doesn’t enjoy the same reputation San Francisco and New York have for walkability and transit-friendliness. A 2021 Walk Score ranking that had San Francisco at the top with an 88.7 rating for walkability and a 77.1 rating for transit gave San Jose a 50.5 walkability rating and a 40.1 transit access rating, ranking it behind the likes of New Orleans, Cleveland and Detroit.

“For a long time, it's been held up as a reason not to do these reforms, that you're not already there,” Jordan said. “And I think that we're coming to the recognition that you're not going to get to be like one of those cities unless you start, like this is one way to clear the path to become a walkable city.”

Schreiner said housing affordability won’t come overnight, but San Jose’s move marks a significant moment in the city’s direction.

“It's just sort of a paradigm shift in how we do planning work,” he said.

A survey of parking policies in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, San Jose and Sacramento by Bay Area News Group found that San Jose required more parking than any of the state’s other large cities.

San Jose's previous ordinance called for two covered parking spots per single-family home, 1.7 spots per two-bedroom multifamily unit, one spot per 200 SF of plant nursery floor area and eight spots per golf course hole, plus another space per employee.

Instead of minimum vehicle parking spots, the city will require minimum bicycle parking to the tune of one for every four multifamily units, one for every 10 car wash employees, and one for every 10 full-time golf course employees and another for every two holes.

San Jose Mayor-elect Matt Mahan said he supports the parking requirement change but worried about dense neighborhoods already flooded with cars, The Mercury Sun reported.