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Austin City Council votes to move forward with eliminating citywide parking mandates

If approved, Austin will join a long list of U.S. cities that have already eliminated or reduced municipal parking mandates.

AUSTIN, Texas — The Austin City Council voted Thursday to move forward with the process that would remove parking requirements city-wide for all new developments.

“Let me be clear: This in no way will eliminate a single parking space in Austin. It simply lets the market and private property owners decide how much space for storing cars they wish to provide,” said Councilmember Zo Qadri (District 9), who brought forward the resolution to initiate the code amendments. “Our decades-old policy of top-down parking prescriptions has helped make Austin an overparked, sprawling, car-dependent city. Taking them out of our code will help us achieve our goals of being a safer, more accessible, affordable, and sustainable community.”

This isn't the first time the city council has experimented with eliminating parking mandates. In 2013, the council got rid of the parking mandates in the Central Business District. Since then, many of the new tower buildings sit on top of "multi-level parking plinths."

Some council members agree that removing parking requirements will encourage the growth of construction.

"Removing parking requirements will encourage housing construction, reduce development costs, and move us towards a more walkable city,” Councilmember Vanessa Fuentes (District 2), another cosponsor of the resolution, said. “I’m proud to support this initiative and look forward to seeing more connected communities in Austin."

“Eliminating parking minimums will create more housing, while prioritizing transit and the environment. This market-based approach recognizes the current demand for parking will still be met, without superficially building concrete spaces that sit unused and unwanted,” said Councilmember Ryan Alter (District 5), another cosponsor. 

However, others such as Councilmember Alison Alter (District 10) said although she is open to relaxing parking requirements, the City should look into other code amendments first. 

"We do not have the staff at this point in time within our planning department to do all of these amendments in a timely manner, and we do need to prioritize what is going to get us the most bang for our buck in terms of code amendments," Alter said during the council meeting.

Robert Lee, the founder and CEO of Pearlstone Partners in Austin, told KVUE he believes reducing parking requirements will help, but he hopes the City has a plan for transportation. 

"I think the City did a good thing today and will help a lot of businesses and owners of bars and so forth because, you know, sometimes you can't really make things really sit," he said. 

"To get to a point where we're able to really see the vision that the City has in terms of wanting to see reduced parking in within the city and throughout, I think the absolute need is to have a transportation plan," Lee added.

Qadri noted that the City is looking into making investments when it comes to Austin's infrastructure as a whole.

"Whether it be bike lanes, whether it be sidewalks, whether it be crosswalks – I still think a lot of that is missing," Qadri said.

Before drafting up a resolution, Qadri and his cosponsors met with members of the disability rights organization, ADAPT of Texas. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), any new development with parking is required to provide a proportionate amount of accessible parking.

“I’m pleased to be starting this conversation, and I appreciate the opportunity to assure our communities that we are not eliminating a single parking spot with this action,” Councilmember Leslie Pool (District 7), another cosponsor, said. “I’d also like to celebrate the role that advocates at ADAPT played here in Austin, and in cities like ours across the nation, to help us craft the protections needed to guarantee access to parking for people with physical disabilities.”

City staff have until Dec. 31 to bring the resolution back up to city council with a "code amendment that removes parking requirements citywide." If approved, Austin will join a long list of U.S. cities that have already eliminated or reduced municipal parking mandates.

Boomtown is KVUE's series covering the explosive growth in Central Texas. For more Boomtown stories, head to KVUE.com/Boomtown.

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