Anchorage rolls back minimum parking space requirements for new construction, remodels

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It was a moment of rare unanimity on the Anchorage Assembly: By a 12-0 vote, the Assembly repealed minimum parking mandates, meaning that new construction in much of Anchorage will not have to provide a specific number of parking places.

The ordinance was sponsored by conservative Kevin Cross, and liberals Daniel Volland and Forrest Dunbar.

The trend is being repeated across the country, as a way to encourage businesses to build, and reduce the large parking lots needed under the old requirements. Even Mayor Dave Bronson approved of the move. The ope is that reducing required parking lots spaces will be an economic stimulus and improve the quality of life.

“There is broad consensus … found around the issue of wanting to support housing in Anchorage to address the housing shortage,” Volland said in the work session before last week’s vote. “I think that we have an Assembly committed to doing that.”

“This is going to be a gradual process as people take advantage of it,” Assemblyman Cross said. More people will be encouraged to revitalize older buildings without being penalized by having to provide a specific — and often excessive — amount of parking.

In much of Anchorage, there is a parking glut, a result of outdated ordinances requiring what appears to be unnecessary parking spaces for new construction. It’s true in multi-family and commercial properties, with one in four city-mandated parking spaces sitting empty, even at peak periods.

The Foundation for Economic Education notes that the trend to eliminate parking requirements is happening all over the country, including San Francisco; Lexington, Ken.; and St. Paul, Minn., which have made parking reforms like Anchorage just did. Sand Point, Idaho, a much smaller community, has also eliminated the requirements for a minimum number of parking places back in 2009.

“Parking minimums are a type of urban regulation that require developers to provide a predetermined number of parking spaces for a certain number of residential units or a given developed square footage. These mandates centralize decision making and impose uniformity, rather than leaving parking decisions to developers or property owners who are likely to understand the needs of residents and appreciate how these needs vary across geography and over time,” the foundation explains in this story.

“As such, parking mandates are a great example of an urban regulation that reduces efficiency and unnecessarily increases costs. Parking mandates also compel vehicle‐​centric transit in what is—or would otherwise be—urban areas. Because land is expensive, especially in urban and development constrained areas, the costs of parking mandates can be substantial,” the story explains.

“For instance, one paper found that the construction cost of a parking space ranged from $17,000 (aboveground, in Phoenix) to $48,000 (underground, in Honolulu). But even these estimates underestimate the true cost of a parking space by ignoring the cost of land for above ground parking as well as the opportunity cost related to foregone, higher utility development, both above and below ground: in places where parking is required, office, retail, or residential space could be developed instead. For example, in suburban Seattle, parking minimums were estimated to reduce the number of residences in buildings by 13 percent,” FEE reports.

But for Anchorage, the passage of what appears to be very a Libertarian ordinance by a unanimous vote by a legislative boy that leans big-government is a notable achievement in itself.

22 COMMENTS

  1. About time! The 2020 plan issued a couple decades ago indicated a need for higher density in Anchorage. Then the powers that be under the Begich administration (consultants, Planning Department, P&Z Commission, Assembly, and Mayor) enacted a new Title 21 that included more parking, more snow storage, and more landscaping – the exact opposite of the supposed plan. Seems some people have finally realized the error of that decision.

  2. Required parking space ordinances in Alaska comes with an additional cost most locales don’t have to address–the need to fill in wetlands. Not only is constructing in wetlands challenging and expensive–think about excavating out 10 or 20 feet of native material and then having to backfill it with proper material (e.g., gravel)–it comes with significant (and expensive) permitting requirements through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Most of the undeveloped land in Anchorage is either government owned (JBER has some fantastic land that will always be off limits) or is comprised in some part of wetlands. Removing this obstacle could significantly reduce the cost of small residential and commercial development. Now we have to hope that developers won’t take this as a free pass to not construct any or severely limited parking capacity knowing it is in conflict with their proposed development. (We saw the mess that was created with the Rustic Goat in west Anchorage when they were allowed to experiment with reduced parking capacity.)

    All and all, it’s nice to see all sides of the political spectrum working together to address a major issue in the Municipality–the hurdles to constructing new housing.

  3. Now.
    Maybe they can lift how many rooms for how many heads allowed to rent an apartment. The two heads:two bedroom apt never made any sense like if you see a single parent with one child and single parent wants to save money to be in a efficency or 1 bedroom leased by a private or alaska housing.

  4. Hopefully now some stores will stripe their lots on the diagonal making parking and leaving SO much easier and FAR less risky.

  5. Now if they would remove the silly parking lot landscaping requirements so people leaving parking areas can actually see traffic and pedestrians we would all be safer and happier (with the possible exceptions of tow companies and body shops).

    • Landscaping and grass lined drainage areas are needed for snow storage, run-off contaminant removal and infiltration.

      • What do you think of anchorage’s twiggy rock or bark mulch landscapes, because the trees and bushes died!? Due to rocks or bark mulch blockage stopping rain water from travelling to the roots.

  6. Good move. Nice to see the Mayor of Anchorage and the Anchorage Assembly working together towards a long overdue measure.

  7. Because the elderly and infirm in Anchorage, an allegedly “winter” city, will require them to ride bikes to stock their pantry and carry their new refrigerators home strapped to their backs. I dreamed Anchorage went back to horse and buggy days. That is so smart. I bow down to you and prostrate myself to your keen leftist “intellect”.

    • With these new requlations, they’re going to have to increase the bus stops in the downtown area, a bus stop stop every 1 to 1-1/2 blocks. I, as one of those elder and infirmed people as mentioned above hate walking especially in the winter…(example bus station at 6th & G to 7th and C street.) If they’d use the old Penny’s bus stop on 6th, it would help. I know they have plans or DID HAVE, a better/newer bus station downtown somehwere else. I remember in the 70’s. they had a bus stop every 2 blocks. I know going out 6th street past C street they have good bus stops. Coming in on 5th, #25 bus has several bus stops, but buses 10, 25, 40, 35, & 85 don’t have a bus stop till C & 7th Street. They just need to build a better bus station SOMEWHERE? I know they had plans, but Covid destroyed all previous plans.

  8. The best ways to encourage business to build are to stop taxing them, get control of the homeless, clean up the city.

    I’m old enough to remember Anchorage in the early 80s. Amazing place to live. Anchorage today? Glad I moved to Juneau.

  9. I’ll agree the requirements needed some change but to throw it completely out was a stupid idea.

    Some of the reasons for doing away with this mandate were adding requirements for bike parking, open up green space, make it easier to walk.

    They said that:
    “Large expanses of pavement push everything further apart, making it more difficult to connect neighborhoods and to create areas of green landscaping,”

    I doubt you will see more green space just more and bigger buildings.

    Kevin Cross said “You’re exchanging the splendor of Alaska for pavement. Plus, it takes more effort to get around without a car. “It’s a longer way to walk.”

    Tell me how with fewer parking spaces it will be easier to get around and make for shorter walks. They said most lots were never filled to capacity most of the time. That can be said about our roads and highways till rush hour comes. So should we only have two lane roads?

    Smaller parking lots will get even smaller in the winter when they plow the snow into piles as the do now.

    Oh you wont need a car anymore you can ride your bike that is what they want. Lets see how riding your bike to get your groceries in the fresh fallen snow works. If you ever lived in a big city where there is a lack of parking you know what Anchorage will be in the years to come.

  10. One of the things the Anchorage did right was to require a serious number of parking spaces and ensure they were large enough you could park an SUV or a pickup. Parking in Anchorage is still limited and often we passed up shopping in Anchorage to shop in Wasilla since the parking was easy despite the local sales tax.

    We are now in Bend, Oregon, where parking is very limited and the required spaces are small making it tough to park an SUV (the most popular vehicle type in the United States) or a pickup. Bend’s businesses complain about a lack of parking, but nothing happens to change parking. The result is UPS and FedEx do a giant business with every sale a loss to Bend merchants.

    The policy change is a serious mistake except for those who own FedEx or USPS stock.

  11. The solution is described in your comment. As demand for parking increases then businesses will develop it for their customers–or suffer the consequences. If parking is difficult for large vehicles then people will switch to more compact ones–or suffer the consequences. The free market always sorts itself out if only government would allow it to do so.

  12. I brag about how good our parking is! It will be even better under free market influence, instead of regulatory influence.
    As for the “homeless” problem, check out a place called CODAC. Our overlords don’t want a solution. They only want more funding!

  13. This is going to create a nightmare in any new developments. The streets in many neighborhoods are already packed on both sides with vehicles due to the lack of parking for the number of units. Good luck getting a mechanic to walk for blocks with a hand truck with his tools to fix your building. What they should have done is get rid of all the shrub/tree mandates in the code for parking lots. This will create a mess for snow removal for sure.

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