Outlined in the table below, City staff is recommending that the proposed parking requirement for development around the Allen and Sierra Madre Gold Line stations in Pasadena be increased to reduce further impacts to street parking. Specifically, staff has requested that on-site parking for residential units greater than 650 sq/ft be increased from 1.5-1.75 spaces per unit to 1.75-2.0 spaces per unit, and non-residential construction not be subject to previously mandated 10-25% reductions in parking from the existing code. This increase in parking requirements would directly impact all future residential and commercial development around the two East Pasadena stations, the City's two most suburban light rail stations located in the middle of the 210 freeway.
Why does any of this matter? TOD standards including parking minimums, maximums, and/or requirements play a major role in the cost of residential and non-residential development, average Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT), walkability, architectural design, automobile use and more. Recognizing these impacts, communities across the country are imposing lower parking maximums and in some cases even removing parking minimums in walkable, transit-friendly neighborhoods to reduce the cost of housing for those who are open to a car-lite lifestyle (e.g., students, seniors, transit users), mitigate the impact of further development on air quality and automobile congestion, allow more diversity in architectural design, and encourage the use of active and public transportation. The most progressive cities are even prohibiting new parking altogether in some areas (e.g., Pearl District in the City of Portland) where the focus is on creating housing centered around transportation alternatives.
With average on-site parking spaces ranging from $40,000-$60,000 per space up front, the direct cost of strict mandates such as those currently proposed by the City also are noteworthy, especially in a region with some of the highest housing costs in the nation. Indeed, current parking requirements easily run into the millions for an average mixed use project, even before upkeep and maintenance are factored in. These higher costs are inevitably passed on to buyers and renters in the form of higher mortgage and rental fees.
Downtown Pasadena already has a lot of the elements needed to support less on-site housing. Metro buses run with 10 minute headways on Colorado Blvd. The Metro Gold Line will have service to Azusa, as well as connections to Expo line trains to Santa Monica, in early 2016. Pasadena is slated to be in the second wave of communities in LA County to launch a bike share program, which will be focused in downtown and around transit hubs. Car- and ride-sharing services are growing in popularity locally and across the region, especially among young professionals. In short, local transportation alternatives will soon be more plentiful than ever before, providing the City a golden opportunity to utilize progressive parking policy to attract new residents who embrace more active, public-oriented lifestyles.
Earlier this year the City re-affirmed its leadership in the transportation realm by becoming the first in California to officially phase out the use of the outdated Level-of-Service (LOS) transportation metric, and adopt a more balanced tool that measures impacts on a broad range of road users, including pedestrians, people on bikes and transit users. The significance of this step cannot be understated. Yet the question remains whether it was the first of many steps towards a more sustainable, people-oriented future, or just an isolated leap forward. With many residents fearing the impact of future development on auto congestion, perhaps city officials and leaders should pick up a copy of the High Cost of Free Parking and ask themselves, what would Donald do?