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San Jose Looks At Ending Downtown Parking Space Minimums Amid Anticipated Growth, BART Arrival

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – The City of San Jose is in the final months of its nearly three-year long effort to study a proposal to eliminate the parking mandates for new real estate developments in downtown.

Currently, developers of commercial properties and multi-unit residential complexes are required to build a minimum number of parking spaces, dependent on such factors as square footage or number of bedrooms.

At a special meeting of the city's Downtown Parking Board on Tuesday, staffers projected that by 2040, the number of downtown residents would double, and the number of workers in downtown would see a two-and-a-half fold increase. In a report titled "Parking and Transportation Demand Management (TDM) Ordinance Update", staffers are seeking to "rightsize" parking constructed in new developments.

According to the report, 60% of greenhouse gases in San Jose originate from transportation.

"Studies show that too much parking leads to increased driving and greenhouse gas emissions. Too much parking pushes destinations further apart, making transit, walking and biking less effective and unappealing. Studies show that minimum parking requirements significantly increase construction costs and limit the number of units produced," the report said.

Bill Souders, a San Jose Downtown Residents Association boardmember, submitted a proposal to create a Residential Parking Permit zone for downtown residents, seeking relief for current residents who already face daily challenges searching for parking.

"Thousands of residents that live down here in the core, that own automobiles, I'm not sure quite what they're expecting us to do with those automobiles," said Souders.

Souders, who said he walks more than a mile every day to move his vehicle in search of street parking, said the city's efforts to eliminate the parking mandate in order to encourage less driving is "putting the cart before the horse", citing the city's current lack of dense public transportation network.

Souders' proposal also pointed to impending parking woes at the Almaden Corner Hotel Project, a proposed 19-story, 272-room hotel at Almaden Boulevard and West Santa Clara Street.

The project was approved with no parking on site; customers will park at the city-owned San Pedro Market Garage, utilizing 41 permits. Five street parking spaces will be reserved for valet services.

Souders lives at Axis condos, directly adjacent to the proposed hotel site.

"Clearly, they want to reduce or dramatically minimize traffic congestion, which I agree with. The problem is we don't have an alternative for transportation today," said Souders.

Councilmember Raul Peralez, who represents downtown, supports the elimination of the parking mandate, arguing that developers are better positioned to determine their own parking needs.

"And really leaving that open to the market, to the development, housing and business community. To be able to determine what is the right mix of parking for their buildings. And if we as the city are imposing requirements for them to build more parking than they feel they would need to make their building operational, well then it's a lose-lose all across the board," said Peralez.

"Obviously what we're gearing towards, is to really reduce the number of parking spaces that we're putting into the buildings here, transition people into other modes of transportation," the supervisor went on to say.

Peralez pointed to the scheduled completion of BART to downtown San Jose by 2030.

"If we wait 10 years from now until BART comes here, and every single development that we build from now until then, we 'over park' it, well, now we've not planned correctly. So we need to do these things coherently and consecutively, and that's what we're doing," said Peralez.

The parking mandate study could clear various committees by February, and could come to a vote before the full council by Spring 2022.

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