Anchorage Assembly to consider eliminating all parking requirements for new developments ” Alaska

Parking, Downtown Anchorage, Anchorage, Parking

Anchorage could soon join dozens of other U.S. cities that have eliminated or relaxed policies requiring off-street parking for new residential and commercial developments in a bid to increase affordable housing, curb development costs and curb urban sprawl.

On Tuesday, the Anchorage Assembly is expected to vote on a proposed reform of the city’s parking rules – removing citywide parking requirements and adding requirements for bicycle parking.

“Anchorage has a parking problem,” MP Daniel Volland said during a meeting on the issue last week. Volland led the proposal along with members Kevin Cross and Forrest Dunbar, as well as a working group from the city’s planning department and some community members.

“Parking is expensive. It’s a high price to pay for developers, whether private or commercial. And right now we have a housing shortage in Anchorage. Somebody needs to find ways that we can make it easier for developers to build multi-family homes,” Volland said.

Volland drafted the proposed regulation after the planning department proposed a series of changes in December that would have greatly reduced requirements. But the department’s original proposal doesn’t go far enough, Volland said.

Large patches of pavement push everything further apart, making it harder to connect neighborhoods and create green landscapes, say the three members of the assembly.

“As Kevin (Cross) likes to say, ‘You trade the splendor of Alaska for pavement,'” Volland said.

Also, it requires more effort get around without a car. “It’s a longer walk or bike ride from place to place because everything is separated by these big parking lots,” he said.

The three members of the assembly say residents need not fear losing their existing parking spaces. Lifting parking requirements isn’t the same as getting rid of existing parking lots, Volland said.

“I don’t think anyone is going to go out right away and remove their parking space overnight,” Cross said.

Aside from new construction, this would “mainly affect the use of vacant land or excess parking space on large lots,” Cross said. “This would give other commercial contractors who have an absurdly large parking lot that isn’t being used the opportunity to convert it into green space, turn it into a beautiful park, improve the facade of the property and also create those internal connections like.” maybe construct a small office building…and provide additional business opportunities within a community.”

Builders, developers and business owners would not be prohibited from including parking lots in their projects.

“In fact, one could argue that they are already being stimulated by the free market,” Volland told assembly members last week. Several new downtown developments that have no requirements are choosing to include parking.

Minimum parking is required for most residential and commercial areas throughout Anchorage except downtown. How much often varies depending on the size, use and zoning of the building.

However, these numbers are generally fixed at “peak usage” and are not data-driven. Minimum parking spaces create situations where businesses need to consider the maximum possible parking space utilization, although realistically a majority of parking spaces remain unused most of the time.

For example, current city ordinances require bowling alleys in Anchorage to have four parking spaces per bowling alley. That makes no sense, said Volland.

[Anchorage Assembly poised to make some changes to Mayor Bronson’s $584 million city budget proposal]

“So essentially, if you’re a bowling alley, you have to assume that every night is league night and no one is carpooling,” he said.

For Anchorage bars — locations where the city may discourage driving — the current requirement is one parking space for every 350 gross square feet of bar floor space.

Park laws also impede “adaptive reuse,” or repurposing, of vacant buildings, making it harder for businesses and entrepreneurs to convert commercial space into something new.

In a presentation to other members of the Assembly, Volland used an example of the former La Mex restaurant on Spenard Road, which is currently vacant. An entrepreneur might want to convert the space into a food hall, a popular model in the Lower 48 that houses several restaurants and small markets, often with al fresco and rooftop dining, he said. (Moose’s Tooth owners said in 2018 they were planning to do just that with the building, but last year they said the plan was on hold, in part due to high development costs.)

“Based on the current code, the facility would require 146.25 parking spaces — which is far larger than the current parking lot,” he said.

This problem often prevents certain types of businesses from using vacant buildings like this one, he said. “So the question becomes, which is better for Anchorage? A revitalized building that can be serviced, or a vacant building with an empty parking lot?” said Volland.

All of these factors result in “empty space that doesn’t contribute to our tax base,” Volland said. Additionally, meltwater and runoff from parking lots pollute the environment and cost the city’s stormwater supply, he said.

By including additional requirements for bicycle parking in the measure, the group aims to encourage alternative modes of transport and reduce demand for parking spaces. Most new developments would require at least two bicycle parking spaces, e.g. B. a bike rack in a U-shape. This minimum would increase for larger developments

However, this would not affect existing buildings, which according to a planning department memo would already have the two-slot minimum, even if the building does not have one. Parking regulations for bicycles would come into force after a transition period in 2024.

Also in 2024, the city would require major developments to implement a strategy from a list of several ways to reduce demand for parking and encourage alternative transportation and ride-sharing. That could mean things like building more bike parking, sponsoring employee or resident travel tickets, or developing pedestrian facilities, among other things.

The Planning Department is also conducting a right-of-way management study, which the Assembly voted to fund earlier this year. Strategies for on-street parking, snow storage, and parking lot encroachment are examined in this study.

“For us, this has eliminated many of our concerns about removing minimums in Title 21,” said Tom Davis, the city’s senior planner. “Because there are ways to manage parking or on-street parking or on-street parking behavior without having to resort to minimum off-street parking, and I believe this study will really help the community.”

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