A Council study session is scheduled for Feb. 11 to discussing parking in downtown Scottsdale.
Two major issues are in serious need of discussion and direction by Council: The need to build more public parking downtown, and reforming our current parking requirements.
But if the inadequacies of our city’s parking requirements are not addressed, the additional public parking that the city will use taxpayer dollars to build will only serve as overflow spaces for new developments.
It will serve as a form of city concession to new developments.
Here is the root of the issue: our current downtown parking code requires two parking spaces for each two-plus-bedroom apartment, one parking space for each one-bedroom unit and ZERO Guest Parking.
The term ‘guest parking’ does not exist in our Downtown Parking Code for multi-family. And it appears that the City doesn’t care where these extra cars will park.
Contrast our parking code with other cities, such as Laguna Beach or West Hollywood, California, where both cities’ code require two spaces per each two-bedroom (same as ours), but they require 1.5 spaces per each one-bedroom (versus only one space in our code), and one guest space per each four units (versus ZERO space in our code).
In the old days when there was minimal multifamily development in downtown Scottsdale, it didn’t really matter if there was parking overflow from, let’s say, a 30-unit housing development.
But in today’s supercharged downtown development scene, where projects with upwards of 400 units are routinely proposed without requiring extra parking spaces for one-bedrooms and guest parking, there could be 100+ parking overflow per each development to surrounding public parking spaces.
And the overflow is usually to public on-street and public garage spaces that are meant for shoppers or employees.
The proponents of the ‘less parking is better’ ideology argue that car ridership will fade away soon. They also claim that providing more parking “lowers quality of life” and is “bad for the environment.”
I argue the exact opposite: Cars will not be going away anytime soon; providing inadequate parking lowers the quality of life since it adds frustration in finding parking spaces; and it actually harms the environment since it adds to the car traffic going in circles emitting carbon while trying to find parking spaces.
And on a local economic level, it hurts Scottsdale’s small businesses when their customers cannot get to them, because they can’t find a place to park.
Questions for the reader: Are you getting rid of your car anytime soon? And do you expect your guests and service personnel to visit you without cars?
In fact, it can be argued that the only beneficiaries of the “reduced parking requirement” code are developers who don’t have to build parking spaces to address the reality of car ownership and ridership.
Increasing our current inadequate parking requirements may not be popular to the development community since it adds to their construction cost but will better serve our residents, merchants and shoppers.
And it will be great for Scottsdale’s brand. It will also remove one of the major objections to dense development.
And, if not addressed, this issue will remain a “hot” topic moving forward and will be a factor in upcoming mayoral and city council elections in separating the pro-developer candidates from the ones who are resident, visitor and local-business friendly.
Bob Pejman owns Pejman Gallery in downtown Scottsdale.