A search of newspaper articles about minimum parking requirements found 129 reports of cities that have removed off-street parking requirements in their downtowns since 2005. Although newspaper articles do not represent what all cities are doing, the articles include many comments on why cities are beginning to change their policies. Some of the reasons given for removing parking requirements are “to promote the creation of downtown apartments” (Greenfield, Massachusetts), “to see more affordable housing” (Miami), “to meet the needs of smaller businesses” (Muskegon, Michigan), “to give business owners more flexibility while creating a vibrant downtown” (Sandpoint, Idaho), and “to prevent ugly, auto-oriented townhouses” (Seattle).
[...]Many older downtowns have some wonderful buildings in terrible condition. Minimum parking requirements make restoring these historic buildings difficult or impossible because they rarely have all the parking spaces cities require for new uses. Spring Street in Los Angeles, once known as the Wall Street of the West, is a prime example. It has the nation’s largest collection of intact office buildings built between 1900 and 1930. Starting in the 1960s, the city’s urban renewal program moved most office uses a few blocks west to Bunker Hill and left many splendid Art Deco and Beaux Arts buildings on Spring Street vacant except for retail uses on the ground floor.
In 1999, Los Angeles adopted its Adaptive Reuse Ordinance (ARO), which allows the conversion of economically distressed or historically significant office buildings into new residential units—with no new parking spaces. Before 1999, the city had required two parking spaces per condominium unit in downtown Los Angeles; in effect, the city was assuming that no housing was better than any housing without all the required parking spaces. Michael Manville studied the results of the ARO and found that many good things can happen when a city removes its parking requirements.
Developers used the ARO to convert historic office buildings into at least 7,300 new housing units between 1999 and 2008. All the office buildings had been vacant for at least five years, and many had been vacant much longer. By contrast, only 4,300 housing units were added in downtown between 1970 and 2000.
Skeptics doubted that banks would finance developers who wanted to convert office buildings into residential condominiums without two parking spaces each, but the skeptics were proved wrong. Developers provided, on average, only 1.3 spaces per unit, with 0.9 spaces on-site and 0.4 off-site in nearby lots or garages. Had the ARO not been adopted, the city would have required two on-site spaces for every unit, or more than twice as many as developers did provide.