Scottsdale City Council approved a number of measured changes to the city’s parking code for apartments, hotels and offices.
While the changes could result in more required parking at new apartments and offices downtown, they likely won’t satisfy some local merchants and property owners who have sought beef-up requirements for years over concerns that developments are eating into the public parking supply.
The code changes were approved on a 5-1 vote on May 18 and increase required parking for most new apartment and condo projects.
In downtown Scottsdale, required parking will increase from one space per studio or one-bedroom unit to 1.25 spaces per studio and 1.3 per one-bedroom.
Requirements for units with two or more bedrooms were reduced from two spaces per unit to 1.7 spaces per two-bedroom unit and 1.9 spaces for units with three bedrooms or more.
A new stipulation requires a guest space for every six units for most new multifamily projects.
Council took a slightly different tact with smaller downtown projects, applying those new ratios and guest parking requirements only to those with more than 20 units.
For developments of 20 units or less, the code requires no guest parking and maintains the existing ratios of one space for units with one bedroom or less and two spaces for units with more than one bedroom.
Councilwoman Solange Whitehead said the reduced requirement for those projects will allow smaller property owners to redevelop their properties without facing an insurmountable cost burden.
She said this would address community concerns about height and density increases downtown by bringing in a mixture of unique, smaller projects.
The changes will likely find pushback from many of the downtown merchants and property owners who first sought a review of the parking code years ago.
They turned in a petition 16 months ago with the signatures of 130 stakeholders asking for more substantial parking requirements.
The petition, also supported by the Coalition for Greater Scottsdale, called for one guest parking spot for every four units and increased ratios of 1.5 spaces for one-bedroom units; two spaces for two-bedroom units; and one additional space for each additional room.
“It’s a well-known fact that our downtown area is a major revenue generator and it is an embarrassment that tonight the city council ignore their experience,” COGS Executive Director Sonnie Kirtley told Council.
Before Council even considered the exception for small-property owners, merchants like gallery owner Bob Pejman told the city reduced requirements for larger apartment units negated the impact of increasing requirements for 1-bedroom units and studios.
“This is essentially a wash, and ends up with the same parking space count given an equal mix,” Pejman wrote staff.
Councilman Tom Durham said the city needs to find a balance between adequately parking projects without requiring too much costly parking that would go unused.
“We definitely don’t want to over park because that is money which can go towards beautifying the project and improving the project …but we also want to require that a project adequately parked and that’s a very fine line, which is probably impossible to attain,” Durham said.
According to Durham, Council received a separate petition from other local property owners and businesses in favor of keeping the current code. A week before the vote, Whitehead and Durham met with a handful of them.
Property owners Eric Marvin and David Free said they were both planning smaller multifamily developments on their properties in Craftsman Court but the increased parking requirements, if applied to all downtown projects regardless of size, could pose a financial hurdle.
Even with the changes, small apartment projects downtown could actually end up facing stiffer parking requirements.
That’s because Council also removed an existing exception under the downtown overlay that allowed property owners to add up to four units to a property without adding any additional parking.
Council retained a similar exception for commercial expansions, but reduced the parking exception from 2,000 to 1,000 square feet.
Council also tackled hotel and office requirements.
It lessened the base parking requirements on new hotels from 1.25 spaces per room to 1 space per room.
According to city staff, this brings the city closer to industry standards that suggest 0.84 spaces per room are all that are necessary due to the proliferation of rideshare services.
The city will also continue to allow downtown hotel developers to request lower parking requirements, but decreased the exception that can be approved by staff from 20 to 10 percent.
Under the new code, hotels will also be required to provide adequate parking for additional commercial uses, such as conference centers or restaurants.
Council included an exception for the first 2,000 square feet of commercial uses – down from the 5,000-square-foot exception first recommend by city staff.
On the office front, the city maintained its existing requirement of one space for every 300 square feet, but created a new category specifically for call centers requiring one space for every 200 square feet.
The new rule was designed to address concerns that call center employees are parking in public spots reserved for shoppers and tourists.
But several merchants and property owners who spoke to the Progress said that problem is actually an issue related to a lack of enforcement of existing rules that require all developments – including hotels, offices and apartments – to provide all required parking free of charge.
Some property owners are charging for parking in spite of this rule, causing employees and tenants to opt for public parking, said Randy Grant, the city’s development executive director.
Bryan Cluff, a Scottsdale city planner, said the city is sending notices letter to local hotels, apartments and office buildings informing of the rule and the need to provide parking free of charge.
French Thompson, owner of French Designer Jeweler, said the parking problem issue will only get worse.
“The petition never asked anybody to fix the existing parking issues…It only asked for one thing: an increase of the parking code to have the new developments be self-parked,” Thompson said.
Not all downtown stakeholders agreed with that argument, though.
At the meeting with Durham and Whitehead, property owners said they believe the code is adequate.
Carter Unger, downtown developer and property owner, said he believes the only complaints are coming from areas on in the Arts District and Old Town that do not have their own parking.
“It seems like we’re trying to get multi-families to subsidize buildings that got rid of their parking or didn’t add it,” he said.
Council is likely not done looking at downtown parking.
Councilwoman Tammy Caputi asked that Council review the parking again in six months to see what other targeted solutions it could implement to further address any issues.