California Mayors, City Councilors, Equity Leaders Endorse California AB 1401 to End Costly Parking Mandates

April 06, 2021
an aerial photograph of a parking lot

“Affordable Housing for Humans, Not Unaffordable Parking for Cars” 

Mandates Add Up to $80,000 Per Parking Spot to Cost of Housing, Rent 

“200 Square Mile Parking Crater”

SACRAMENTO – Today Mayors, City Councilors, and equity leaders from across California endorsed AB 1401, a new state law proposed by Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), Sen. Nancy Skinner, Sen. Scott Wiener, and Asm. Alex Lee. The bill seeks to reduce the cost of housing while addressing climate pollution and street safety by eliminating parking requirements for new homes and commercial buildings in areas with good transit, or where jobs, services and amenities can be reached without a car. 

During a press conference on Assembly Bill 1401 today, Asm. Friedman, the lead author of the bill, called on her colleagues in the legislature to prioritize affordable housing for people over parking for cars, and noted that much of the parking that gets built due to local mandates is unused. 

“For decades we have prioritized space to park cars over space to house people,” said Assemblymember Laura Friedman, Chair of the Assembly’s Transportation Committee. “We’re in the midst of a housing crisis, desperately looking for a solution, and we need to consider all options to reduce the overall cost of housing. There are plenty of communities in our state that have access to high-quality transit, or where cars are underutilized, that need housing far more than they need parking.”

AB 1401 is co-sponsored by California YIMBY, the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR), and Abundant Housing LA. 

Parking mandates increase the cost of housing — a single parking space can add as much as $80,000 to the cost of construction — and drive up the pollution that causes climate change. Research by UCLA’s Institute of Transportation Studies has found that “when parking requirements are removed, developers provide more housing and less parking, and different types of housing: housing in older buildings, in previously disinvested areas, and housing marketed toward non-drivers. This latter category of housing tends to sell for less than housing with parking spaces.”

Parking mandates can add tens of thousands of dollars to the cost of a new home — which buyers or renters must pay, even if they don’t drive,” said Brian Hanlon, CEO of California YIMBY. “By ending mandates for unaffordable parking for cars, we can make it easier to build affordable housing for humans — and address pollution, road safety, environmental justice, and climate change at the same time.”

“Housing for people is more important than housing for cars — California’s outdated parking requirements are driving up the costs of affordable housing, and wasting valuable land that could be put to better use,” said Assemblymember Alex Lee (D-San Jose). “This bill will reduce the cost of affordable housing projects by eliminating arbitrary parking requirements that don’t serve people who can’t afford a car, or who choose not to drive.”

“California’s housing crisis is a crisis of supply and affordability. We need to build many more units to get out of this crisis. A parking requirement on housing is just counterproductive. It adds to the cost and takes up space that otherwise could be a housing unit,” said state Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley. “I’m pleased to join my colleagues, Asm. Friedman, Asm. Lee, and Sen. Wiener, in co-authoring this important legislation.”

“Mandating a huge amount of parking in new housing developments makes housing a lot more expensive,” said state Sen. Scott Wiener (San Francisco). “It also reduces the amount of housing that gets built. We should not be requiring lots of parking in new housing projects. It’s not sustainable and is just terrible policy.”

“This winter, as a part of our ongoing efforts to address housing affordability and climate change, the City of Berkeley eliminated minimum parking requirements throughout our city,” said Jesse Arreguin, Mayor of Berkeley and Chair of the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG). “I believe AB 1401 is an important step that will help cities throughout California achieve our pressing housing affordability and pollution reduction goals — and that we must go further, with investments in transit, affordable housing, and walkable communities. I commend Asm. Laura Friedman for her leadership on this issue and look forward to our collaboration on making California more sustainable and affordable for everyone.”

“We need to build cities where people can afford to live and also get around without the expense of owning a vehicle,” said Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg. “Eliminating arbitrary parking requirements reflects our move from an era where we prioritized cars to one where we prioritize people and their ability to live with dignity in California.”

“LA’s climate and homelessness crises are reinforced by a single cause: a shortage of affordable housing near public transit,” said Los Angeles City Councilmember Nithya Raman. “Eliminating parking minimums in transit-rich areas decreases the cost of construction and our dependence on automobiles at the same time, making it a win-win for our city. I am proud to join my Assemblymember Laura Friedman in supporting it.”

“Mandatory parking minimums” are common in cities throughout California. They require that homes and commercial buildings be built with a minimum number of parking spaces, regardless of how many might be needed by potential residents, and are known to increase traffic, air pollution, and carbon emissions by creating an incentive for more driving.

“This bill will finally get rid of arbitrary local parking mandates that generate climate and air pollution, make our cities more vulnerable to heat waves, and more expensive to live in,” said Nick Josefowitz, Chief of Policy, San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR). “It will also help neighborhood businesses that are struggling to survive the pandemic.”

“Car violence is the leading cause of death for children,” said Leonora Camner, Executive Director, Abundant Housing LA. As a mom, I support common-sense reforms that reduce car dependence. By removing excessive parking requirements in transit-first areas, AB 1401 will encourage more transit usage and promote affordable housing growth, addressing California’s severe housing and climate crises.”

Key Facts and Citations:  

  • Los Angeles County has 18.6 million parking spaces, covering 200 square miles — equivalent to the total land area of four San Franciscos, or about 1,700 sq. ft. of parking for every household in LA county. 
  • A study by the City of San Diego of 21 affordable housing developments found that 39 percent of the parking, or over 400 spaces, were unused — at a cost of between $12 and $30 million.
  • The transportation advocacy group TransForm found over 28 percent of parking spaces at 80 multi-family residential buildings around the San Francisco Bay Area were unused — a waste of over 1 million square feet and nearly $200 million in construction costs. 
  • A similar study published by the Transportation Research Board found that 45 percent of spaces in 13 shopping centers near Santa Clara County’s Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) Light Rail stations were unused.
  • Parking mandates also hurt affordable housing developments by reducing the number of affordable units that can be built. Requiring a single parking space per unit can increase costs per unit by 12.5 percent. 

Asm. Friedman’s legislation follows the lead of California cities such as San Francisco, Oakland, San Diego, Sacramento and Berkeley, which have all eliminated parking minimums for much residential development.

AB 1401 is co-sponsored by California YIMBY, the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR), and Abundant Housing LA.

What others are saying:

“Reducing off-street parking requirements will improve cities, protect the environment, and promote social justice.” – Donald Shoup, Distinguished Research Professor – Department of Urban Planning – Luskin School of Public Affairs, University of California, Los Angeles

“This commonsense reform promotes a just and sustainable recovery.” – Darnell Grisby, Executive Director, TransForm

“Parking requirements drive up the cost of housing and undermine efforts to create affordable and equitable communities. AB 1401 addresses California’s housing and climate crises head on to ensure that the State’s investments in transit and affordable housing go as far as possible.” – Carter Rubin, Mobility and Climate Advocate, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

“Boilerplate local parking requirements can add tens of thousands of dollars in unnecessary costs to housing units, driving up rents and mortgages, especially for those households who by necessity or by choice, drive less than others. This common-sense reform prioritizes homes for people over storage for cars and will help address the housing shortage that impacts all Californians.” – Mott Smith, Board Member, Council of Infill Builders

“When so many Californians are struggling under the weight of high housing and transportation costs, and with climate change worsening, it makes no sense to keep mandating excessive parking requirements on new development. This critical reform legislation will lower housing costs and stop the subsidies for automobile storage that undermine our economic, quality-of-life and environmental goals.” – Ethan Elkind, Director, Climate Program at UC Berkeley’s Center for Law, Energy & the Environment

“This bill eliminates an artificial barrier to sustainable growth. Allowing more people to live and work near transit is a win-win-win for greenhouse gas reductions, affordability, and economic growth.” – Colin Parent, Executive Director and General Counsel of Circulate San Diego