What is a Housing Element?

Parking Policy Reform

This information is pulled from the Resilience Playbook. To learn more, go to
One obstacle to building infill and Missing Middle Housing is existing parking policies. By eliminating minimum parking requirements and instituting transportation demand management
Transportation Demand Management (TDM): a program of information, encouragement, and incentives provided by local or regional organizations to help people know about and use all their transportation options to optimize all modes in the system—and to counterbalance the incentives to drive that are so prevalent in subsidies of parking and roads. These are both traditional and innovative technology-based services to help people use transit, ridesharing, walking, biking, and telework. ()
requirements for new development, cities can make strides towards greater environmental sustainability, affordability, and other quality of life goals.
Transit in Sunnyvale. Karl Nielsen/Greenbelt Alliance
Reforming parking policy increases housing affordability. By eliminating parking minimums, developers will be able to decide appropriate parking levels based on tenants, project location, and other factors, thereby avoiding the cost of constructing greater parking supplies than necessary. Parking is expensive for developers to build, with estimates ranging from $34,000-$75,000/parking space. This cost is ultimately passed on to the tenants and accounts for up to approximately 17% of monthly rent .
Reforming parking policies can also increase climate resilience. Currently, zoning codes typically mandate a minimum amount of off-street parking spaces for construction. This leads to underutilized land (up to 30% in the South Bay), a decrease in density, and an increase in the reliance of cars. This means that congestion and air pollution increase while degrading walkability and community environments. An excessive amount of surface parking decreases permeable surfaces, which makes areas more prone to floods and increases the urban heat effect. Right-sizing our parking will play a key role in addressing all of these issues.
This policy is one part of the puzzle to create a more climate SMART, livable Bay Area. By reducing single-occupant trips in new development, greenhouse gases, energy use, and air pollution are also reduced. Other pieces of the puzzle include increased investment in public transportation systems, alternative transportation, and micro-mobility. Additionally, progressive changes to land-use policies, including, but not limited to, the cities adopting the statewide (VMT) policy will further lead us to climate sustainability.
So what does reforming parking policy actually look like? A good parking policy should have two approaches:
By combining robust strategies with the elimination of minimum parking requirements, we can reduce the need for parking spaces (which frees up resources) and increase opportunities for sustainable travel in new development.
By taking this dual approach—reducing parking spaces while reducing the need for parking—cities will be able to build more vibrant, walkable communities that then build our climate resilience.
Benefits of Parking Policy Reform
Increase housing affordability. As the Bay Area’s population increases, we need to find ways to minimize the impacts of new residents, commuters, and visitors on the transportation system to accommodate this growth. The current standards are not enough to accommodate this expected growth.
Eliminating parking minimums enables right-sized parking, such as low-parking or no-parking development where there is a market for them. This can be done by unbundling parking.
Offer more mobility options, prioritizing space for biking, walking, transit, and public space.
It can make infill development
easier and help improve affordability.
Promotes the transition to a more diverse, multimodal transportation system. A citywide transportation demand management.
program provides more sustainable transportation options for a building’s tenants, employees, residents, and visitors, which benefits neighborhoods and the city and region at large.
Improve environmental sustainability and quality of life (better air quality due to fewer cars on the street, less GHG emissions from fossil fuel combustion).
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