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San Jose plans to reprioritize people over car parking

If developed, an urban parking lot of this size could accommodate hundreds of homes or jobs — all walkable and accessible to transit

This fall, San Jose lawmakers will re-visit the parking requirements that have not changed since their adoption in 1965. This change promises to bring the city and the region cleaner air, more abundant and affordable housing, and a restoration of the city’s urban spirit.

San Jose and many other cities have much of their land covered in asphalt because it’s required by law. Previous generations of planners hoped that parking requirements would make the city more convenient, but the outcome resulted in places that are less attractive and less pleasant.

What is San Jose doing?

The City – along with non-profit partners such as SPUR and Greenbelt Alliance – will be studying and voting on updates to its parking requirements for new development. Today, any new project in San Jose is required to include large amounts of off-street parking, so that builders are pushed away from – even punished for – making offices, stores, and homes that are more oriented towards pedestrians and transit. By contrast, the changes under consideration, known as the Parking and Transportation Demand Management (TDM) Standards Update, would reverse this paradigm. The new rules would eliminate parking minimums, and instead require developers to supplement any off-street parking with provisions to offset the costs that car-centric infrastructure imposes on the city. For example, a developer could balance the car parking they provide by:

Adding amenities for bike commuters, such as bike parking and showers Allowing employees who take transit to “cash out” their parking spaces Investing in public bike or pedestrian infrastructure nearby 

What are the benefits of parking reform? 

Sensible parking policy recognizes the negative impacts of vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) – air pollution and climate change, expensive maintenance of roadways, traffic violence – and therefore seeks to mitigate car dependence when possible. Even beyond the costs of the VMT it attracts, off-street parking takes up countless acres of land and is materially expensive to build. Parking reform, frees us up to adapt the built environment in many crucial ways:

Housing.Residential parking spaces are estimated to cost $34,000 each in San Jose, and these costs are passed on to renters. When non-profits seek to build affordable housing (such as these projects in Oakland and Milpitas), the entire project is often at risk because of the costs of required off-street parking. By reducing and/or unbundling parking, the TDM updates make housing more plentiful and more affordable. 

Resilience. San Jose’s Al Fresco program demonstrated how powerfully a city can revitalize the urban ecosystem by reclaiming the space reserved for parking. Removing parking minimums, whose high up-front costs favor national chains over local entrepreneurs, can make cities more available to new and creative businesses: flexible land use invites the quirky music venue and the indie plant shop to breathe life into neighborhoods. 

Walkability. By spotting the urban landscape with expansive parking lots, parking minimums physically push businesses and destinations away from one another. With updated standards, the people of San Jose can build more walkable neighborhoods, with all the fun, accessibility, and health that they bring.

Parklets: more fun than parking, and they keep local businesses in business!

How to pitch in

There are plenty of ways to advance environmental leadership, equity, and joy in San Jose through parking reform.

Learn and speak up

The city’s page on the TDM updates has registration info for several public workshops. There are upcoming workshops on:

Thurs 7/22Virtual Public Workshop with Greenbelt Alliance at 5:30pm Sat 8/7In-person workshop with Greenbelt Alliance and Veggielution at 9:00am Tues 8/13Digital Discourse with SPUR, at 12:30pm 

For more info, consult the city’s page, along with resources from the Greenbelt Alliance and SPUR

Write in

We invite you to join us in advocating for progressive parking reform in San Jose.

Contact your council member, or write to and with the planning department. L

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