It was a moment of rare unanimity on the Anchorage Assembly: By a 12-0 vote, the Assembly repealed minimum parking mandates, meaning that new construction in much of Anchorage will not have to provide a specific number of parking places.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In much of Anchorage, there is a parking glut, a result of outdated ordinances requiring what appears to be unnecessary parking spaces for new construction.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.