Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Tale of Two Downtowns: Minimum Parking Requirements

Mixed-use development in Goldstream Village - Downtown Langford. Source:The Metro & The Lotus Condos

This weekend, I found myself in Langford which is one of the Western Communities in Greater Victoria. Langford and the City of Langley share some similarities. Both communities are at the edge of their respective regions, have similar populations, have similar municipal revenue & expenditures (see Langford's and Langley's 2012 Annual Reports), and even get casino revenue. Another important similarity is that both communities are trying to revitalize their downtown cores into people-oriented, accessible centres.

While I was only briefly in Langford, I was impressed with the amount of new pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use projects that have been built in Goldstream Village, Langford's downtown core. While the City of Langley has been successfully getting new condos in its Downtown core, it has not been as successful at attracting pedestrian-friendly commercial and mixed-use projects. As I posted about earlier, my theory is that the City of Langley’s minimum parking requirements are limited the potential of Downtown Langley due to the high cost of providing parking in a form other than surface parking. Right now, the City requires the same amount of parking in Downtown Langley as the Langley Bypass. When I was in Langford —which appears to be more successful at attracting pedestrian-oriented, mixed-use projects— I wondered if the minimum parking requirements for Goldstream Village were less than the minimum parking requirements for Downtown Langley. They are.

The City of Langley and Langford have similar minimum parking requirements for areas outside of their downtown cores, but the similarities end when it comes to their downtowns. For example, while Langley requires 2 parking spaces for apartments with more than one bedroom, in Langford's downtown core, the requirement is reduced to 1 parking space.

When it comes to commercial uses, Langford requires about 4 parking spaces per 1,000 square feet of usable business space and the City of Langley requires about 3 parking spaces per 1,000 square feet for areas outside of their downtowns. In Langford's downtown, the minimum parking requirement is reduced to about 2.5 parking spots per 1,000 square feet of usable business space, and this is just a starting point. Langford allows developers to cash-out of its minimum parking requirements.

Recognizing that shared parking is more efficient and promotes walkability (as less space is used for parking), Langford allows developers to pay $11,000 per parking space not provided under the minimum parking requirements if a project is within 492 feet of a municipal parking facilities. For example, if a project needs 50 parking spaces according to the minimum parking requirements, and the developer only wanted to provide 45, she could pay the city $22,000. If the project is not within 492 feet of a municipal parking facilities, a developer could pay $7,500 per parking space not provided if the parking provided is at least 90% of the minimum parking requirements. A developer could also pay $11,000 per spot not provided if the parking provided is at least 75% of the minimum parking requirements. The city could use this money to fund shared parking, cycling, transit or pedestrians facilities.

Another good thing that Langford does (and the City of Langley does not do) in its downtown core is require that all parking access be provided from a lane. Langford's zoning also prohibits surface parking lots in new projects in its downtown.

With its flexible parking requirements, I’m not surprised that Langford has been successful in attracting new projects. The City of Langley should consider adopting parking policies like Langford's policies considering that the City of Langley's downtown core is along the frequent transit network and easy walking distance from higher-density residential areas.

As I believe Gordon Price said, “I can show you what a city will look like by looking at its parking regulations.” With that in mind, will Downtown Langley be able to become a revitalize pedestrian-friendly core without a change to its parking requirements?

Information on Langford's parking requirement as found in its zoning bylaw.


Anonymous said...

Great post Nathan. I think Langley City definitely needs a parking policy similar to Langfords. How does one lobby for such change though? Is this something you are actively trying to bring to the City of Langley's attention?

Nathan Pachal said...

Well you could let your thoughts known by sending a letter to the editor and to council. Also, voting for a councillor who gets that building a walkable downtown is important for Langey is good too.