The Cincinnati City Council has scrapped mandatory parking minimums in several downtown neighborhoods, City Beat reports. Cincinnati now joins the ranks of Seattle, Buffalo and Cleveland, among others, in pursuing a tactic for densifying neighborhoods and lowering the cost of housing that’s beloved by urbanists — but not always appreciated by the public at large.
Last week, City Council removed requirements that developers build parking facilities or spaces when they develop in the downtown, Over the Rhine (OTR) and Pendleton neighborhoods, as well as parts of Mount Auburn and the West End, according to City Beat. They also passed a parking permit plan for OTR.
A city task force that helped create the plan to remove parking minimums cited similar moves in parts of Cleveland, Nashville and Kansas City, Mo. as examples the city could draw from, the paper reports.
“Parking minimums are well-intended, but they are an unnecessary regulation that violate their own stated goals of reducing traffic, threaten walkability, and lead to blight in our cherished urban fabric in Over-the-Rhine,” the task force report stated.
City Councilman David Mann disagreed that Cincinnati was ready to scrap those minimums, however. He voiced concern that the removal of the requirement will simply encourage developers to forego parking in all cases — even when it might be needed.
“I want to believe that the market will take care of all human needs,” he said, according to City Beat. “With all respect, I don’t believe that.”
As Next City has covered, parking minimums tend to inflate housing costs, especially in places where real estate is already pricey (San Francisco, for example). In April of this year, Seattle passed a bundle of parking reforms aimed at decoupling the price of housing from parking, and lower the city’s greenhouse gas emissions, as Next City covered at the time.
The Seattle bill required commercial and residential buildings to charge residents for parking only if they actually had a car.
“Unbundling makes parking more transparent,” a researcher from Sightline told Next City at the time. “When people realize they’re paying $200 a month for parking they might opt out or get by with one car instead of two, then the market builds less of it which is what we want.”
In Cincinnati’s OTR neighborhood, the construction of just one parking space costs about $15,000, as WCPO recently reported. In Cincinnati, as elsewhere, developers often mix those costs into the monthly rental price tag.
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.