It’s time to end parking minimums

Sustain Charlotte’s executive director Shannon Binns emailed Charlotte City Council members on April 6th, 2023 to share our perspective on why parking minimums are a barrier to Charlotte’s sustainable and equitable growth:

Dear Council Members,

Our team was pleased to see a master and shorter list of mobility projects shared with you at your meeting on Monday. We will review closely, discuss with CDOT, and share our viewpoint soon. Hats off to the hard-working staff at CDOT who have been working diligently to create these lists.

Our team was also pleased that you also discussed parking minimums. In response to your conversation, below we share four reasons why Charlotte should eliminate parking minimums as swiftly as possible.

1. Small and large cities across the US are eliminating parking minimums, which doesn’t mean eliminating parking.

Last year alone, 15 U.S. citiesincluding Raleigh, eliminated parking minimums. This policy solution isn’t just for large, dense cities like NYC. It’s also a tool that allows smaller cities to realize the many benefits of doing so. And the beauty of eliminating parking minimums is that businesses aren’t barred from providing parking. They are allowed to build the parking they believe they need. This will provide flexibility for more small businesses who are at times are unable to meet the parking requirements in denser areas of our city. It will also help us achieve Goal 1 in the 2040 Comprehensive Plan of 10-minute neighborhoods throughout the city.

Parking Lot

High angle view of a parking lot

2. Parking minimums incentivize driving and move Charlotte further from reaching its mobility and Vision Zero goals.

When CDOT briefed Council on the Strategic Mobility Plan on November 28, 2022, you learned that Charlotte would have to double its current road capacity by 2040 if our current trends of driving alone and population growth continue. Parking minimums will continue incentivizing driving: available parking is cited as the most important factor Charlotteans consider when deciding whether to drive to their destination. They also reduce the urgency for Charlotte to invest in transportation choices, making it nearly impossible to meet our 2040 mode share-shift goal for 50% of trips to be taken by a means other than driving alone. We agree with Mayor Pro Tem Winston that eliminating parking minimums at bars and restaurants will also help the city achieve adopted Vision Zero goals by discouraging drinking and driving.

3. Parking minimums significantly increase the cost of housing.

The car dependency we currently face in Charlotte is affordable housing’s greatest adversary. The land devoted to vehicles in the U.S. costs the average apartment tenant an additional $1,700 per year in rent (Gensler Research). That effect is more significant in places that have required parking minimums.

According to Grubb Properties, providing one parking space for each residential unit reduces the number of housing units per acre by 30 percent. In this example provided by CEO Clay Grubb, “building a 300-unit multifamily community with a structured parking deck in downtown Charlotte, NC, would cost approximately $80 million or more, given the quickly rising construction cost. If that property could be built without parking, it would allow for a 390-unit multifamily community with similar size homes and amenities for approximately the same $80 million cost. That reduction in total cost would allow us to drop rents by over $250 per month or $3,000 per year for each apartment – without relying on any public subsidy and dramatically increasing the amount of available housing.”

4. We can eliminate parking minimums successfully and equitably.

The elimination of parking minimums could be done as a text amendment to the UDO with Council’s support. We understand that there has been some concern within Council about whether eliminating parking minimums would create a nuisance situation for residents in nearby neighborhoods. We can avoid these problems with a comprehensive parking policy that includes residential parking permits, consistent enforcement of parking rules, and parking benefit districts. Eliminating parking minimums is an important first step to making our streets safer and more equitable. While it must be accompanied by an investment in walking, biking, and public transit infrastructure, waiting for that infrastructure is the wrong approach for the above reasons.

Thank you for your service as you help Charlotte solve its mobility challenges.

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