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Unrealistic Housing Parking Measure, AB 744, Passes Senate Transportation and Housing Committee

League Opposition Compels Amendments as Bill Moves to Senate Governance and Finance Committee on July 15

July 10, 2015
“One-size-doesn’t fit all” is the often-heard refrain from local officials reflecting the diversity of circumstances throughout 482 cities.
However, AB 744, a measure that attempts to apply unrealistically-low housing parking criteria under state Density Bonus (DB) Law that may barely work for the few, let alone the many, is getting closer to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk. The Senate Transportation and Housing Committee passed the measure on July 7 and it will next be heard by the Senate Governance and Finance Committee on Wednesday, July 15.

Progress was at least made when the author and infill-developer sponsors had to accept amendments to alter the bill’s previous language that allowed developers to avoid complying with any minimum local parking criteria if they were building one of three types of affordable projects. Even with pending amendments, the League argued that such criteria remains too low and will result in parking spillover. Cities should judge this proposed statewide parking criteria for themselves:
  • 100 percent affordable multi-bedroom housing near transit (0.5 parking spaces per unit);
  • Senior housing not near transit (0.5 parking spaces per unit, no guest or service parking); and
  • Special needs housing not near transit (0.3 spaces per unit, no guest or service parking). 
Under a separate provision under DB Law, AB 744 would establish a maximum of 0.5 spaces per bedroom for market-rate projects near transit that have as little as 5 percent affordable housing.
There are two tiers of arguments advanced by the author and sponsor for this measure:
  • Parking Requirements Often Exceed Demand: Cities are requiring too much parking, resulting in developers having to build spaces that are never occupied. Demographics are changing consumer preferences and certain groups either cannot afford cars or opt to go without, and parking costs $25,000-$35,000 per space and increase development costs. 
  • People Should be Paying the True Cost of Parking: Even if less parking than needed is provided, residents will adjust by either getting rid of their cars and using different transportation modes, or paying a market price for nearby parking. 
The League has been AB 744’s leading opponent since its introduction in February, basically making the following arguments:
  • Parking Needs to Match Reality. Developments should be required to have sufficient parking to match the realistic needs of their occupants; otherwise spillover will occur to neighboring properties and residential neighborhoods.
  • Security, Flexibility and Choice Remain Important: While nearby transit may reduce some automotive use, most transit systems are inadequate and additional safety, flexibility and employment concerns will cause people to hold onto their cars.
  • Forcing Those With Fewer Options to Get Rid of Cars? Policies that attempt to compel seniors, those with special needs and affordable housing residents to give up their cars raise broader equity issues because the affluent will always retain their options.
  • Careful What is Wished For. If the state gets this wrong and inappropriately handcuffs local agencies in their ability to ensure new development is balanced and appropriately planned, then community opposition to such projects will only increase and work against broader state policy objectives which seek to encourage infill and greater densities. Don’t forget, local residents can also resort to the ballot box. 
One provision of AB 744 would allow local governments to commission an area-wide or jurisdiction-wide parking study, and based upon that study impose a higher parking requirement on these projects. While such language at least provides options, many local agencies may feel compelled to hire consultants immediately to complete these costly studies rather than face development projects with insufficient parking levels.
Next Steps
AB 744 will next be heard on Wednesday, July 15 in the Senate Governance and Finance Committee. The League encourages cities to review the legislation immediately and weigh in with concerns. To date, only a handful of cities have communicated their opposition. The League’s letter and a sample letter that cities can use to tailor to their own communities are available on the League website at www.cacities.org/billsearch by typing AB 744 into the search box.
If AB 744 is passed by the Senate Governance and Finance Committee, the measure will then move to the Senate Appropriations Committee. Only a handful of cities have taken oppose positions on this measure. Since it could move to the Governor by late August, if a city has concerns, then it is time to weigh in with legislators.

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