Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Pedestrian-Oriented Parking

A new year, a new parking ordinance.

Okay, technically the ordinance became law in November. Still, I hope you’ll forgive me for dawdling on writing this up (and for tooting my own horn), because I couldn’t resist bragging about Ventura County's new parking ordinance.

This isn’t the same old motor-centric set of regulations that linger on in many jurisdictions’ codes; the purpose statement is full of phrases like “reduce the adverse effects of motor vehicle parking areas,” “create pleasant neighborhoods designed at a human-scale for human needs,” and even “encourage reduced driving.” Yes, this is a parking ordinance that wants you to drive less.

The ordinance works towards creating a more walkable environment in many different ways, but rather than subjecting you to all 30+ pages of code (available in legalese for the truly motivated here, Section 8108, --or in layman's terms in the companion Parking and Loading Design Guidelines), here are a few highlights:

Safe Pedestrian Access: the new code mandates that pedestrians have safe and convenient access from the street to building entrances. Among other things this means direct pathways to the front door, including pathways through parking lots where necessary, and no drive-through lanes or vehicles impeding the pedestrian path. This is particularly important because many pedestrian crashes actually happen within parking lots and not out on the roads.

Urban Design: the ordinance encourages sites designed with buildings in front and parking the back to create more pedestrian-friendly streets. When parking lots are located between the sidewalk and the building, extra landscaping is required to soften the impact of parking spaces.

Parking Space Reductions: new regulations allow reduced parking rates for uses that provide sidewalks, crosswalks, and other enhancements to the pedestrian environment. Considering how expensive even a single parking space is ($5,000 to $10,000 for a surface space, not including maintenance), this should motivate developers to substitute cheaper pedestrian amenities for pricey parking spaces.

Landscaping: updated landscaping requirements increase the amount of greenery required in parking lots, lessening the effect of all that asphalt on the streetscape. The code even allows some required parking spaces to be maintained in a landscaping “reserve” (kept as landscaping unless future demand warrants their conversion to parking). Result? More green space for pedestrians.

Since this is a pedestrian blog I won’t go into the new section on bicycle parking, but I assure the bike advocates out there that it’s equally extensive.

Let’s remember that we’re not talking downtown San Francisco here, where high densities and extensive transit systems provide ample opportunities to get creative with parking policy. This is unincorporated Ventura County, where a lot of serious regulatory issues revolve around roosters. If we can adopt (unanimously, I might add) an ordinance like this in Ventura, shouldn’t the rest of the region (yes LA, I’m talking to you) be able to follow suit?

1 comment:

  1. Montgomery County ,MD fairly progressive for a Least Coast jurisdiction, has instituted a ped/parking initiative called "Heads-Up". there are signs of new parking design addressing walker safety blooming in this wealthy suburban jurisdiction. Kudos to them!