If the city of Sacramento really wants to build communities that encourage walking, bicycling and using mass transit, it must modify parking rules that force businesses to invest so heavily and wastefully in accommodating cars. If the city wants to encourage small business to open downtown, midtown and along commercial corridors, it must make its rules more flexibile.
And that's just what Sacramento is doing. The City Council this month approved new parking rules that allow new businesses to provide fewer spaces for cars.
It is the right adjustment at the right time. The old parking rules hailed from what planners hope is a bygone era when everyone used cars to get from point A to point B. The onerous regulations made development, especially small lot residential and commercial infill, prohibitively expensive. Parking could easily consume 20 percent of a project's cost and deprive a new restaurant of dining tables or apartment residents living space.
This is not a plan designed to punish those who drive. Studies show that the city has plenty of parking downtown and midtown, but it is not used efficiently. The city plans to work with public and private garage operators to make their underutilized spaces available during off-peak evening and weekend hours.
It also plans to convert parallel parking to more efficient angled parking where feasible. In midtown, it proposes to turn the strip of unused land adjacent to the Union Pacific rail right of way into parking lots. Finally, the city proposes to expand parking meter time limits in residential/business transition areas.
The hallmark of the city's new parking rules is flexibility. The rules are tailored based on four different land use designations, but even within these designations, a business or a developer can seek modifications.
It's a good plan all around good for the city, good for businesses and good for those of us looking for a place to park.