David Baker Architects


Unbundle New Urban Parking + Housing

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Examples of projects with unbundled parking:

Curran House
Hotel Healdsburg
8th & Howard affordable housing
Clocktower Lofts

Why does every new residence in San Francisco need a private parking space? Approximately one third of San Francisco households don't own a car. MUNI provides over 800,000 rides a day. City Carshare is now a viable option to full time car ownership. San Francisco already has many units for sale and rent without attached parking: it's a proven real estate market product. Why not allow new housing to voluntarily share in the more affordable market segment enjoyed by older housing units built before the dominance of automobile driven restrictions?

Parking raises housing costs.

Required parking raises the cost of new housing construction by $20,000 to $40,000 or more per space. The market has put a value on an off street parking space of $75,000. Units without parking are more affordable to moderate income buyers because of this premium. By not paying the cost of garage construction and by having a lower per unit land cost due to greater density, the developer can have equal or greater profitability while producing more affordable units.

Parking reduces housing supply.

Required parking determines the number of units able to be built on a piece of property. Fewer feasible parking spaces typically fit onto a site than the potential number of housing units (without vehicles). Additionally, garages comprise about a quarter of the potential building volume. The result is less housing.

Parking increases congestion for everyone.

The main motive for providing off street parking is to keep the (non-existent) supply of street long-term parking spaces available for San Franciscan residents who don't have garages. However, required parking eliminates street parking, often subtracting one shared street space and replacing it with as little as one private space. The biggest transportation problem for both drivers and public transit users in San Francisco isn't parking, it's congestion caused by vehicles driving around. Providing more car storage produces more traffic and congestion, slowing both drivers and MUNI to frustrating levels.

Parking compromises urban vitality.

Required parking destroys the pedestrian vitality of neighborhood commercial districts by not allowing viable ground level retail, commercial, or residential use. To meet current parking requirements, it is typically necessary to cover the entire grade level of a lot with parking, crowding out pedestrian oriented uses. The intimacy of San Francisco, produced by its pre-automobile planning, is one of the factors that make it desirable. It was laid out before the car and the result is a different, more humane character than newer cities designed to embrace the private automobile, such as Fremont. People value this pedestrian vitality by paying more to live here than virtually all other American communities. Current policies erode this intimacy and vitality, and will ultimately reduce San Francisco's real estate values.

2005 David Baker, FAIA, LEED AP