06 Mar 2022
February was . . . nice. I have a flex schedule which lets me get off work early one day a week and I’ve started playing board games with my kid when he gets home from school on that day, which has been fantastic. On the holiday we ended up playing my favorite game of all time, Panamax (his choice, I swear), which was a blast. I also did my first group ride, the Chilly Hilly, which wasn’t particularly chilly but delivered on the hilly part and was pretty fun. I’m honestly not sure if group road rides are my thing, but I’m going to try doing a big gravel ride of some sort this year. We also celebrated Lunar New Year (remotely) with some friends, and it was really good, I will eat bao and red curry dumplings until my body gives out.
Anyway, enough recap, here’s what I’ve been reading and thinking about recently. The format is a bit different this month, since a few of the links I saved ended up coalescing into a bigger topic, so I broke that out rather than try to fit it in bullet points. Without further ado:
The city of Lacey (which directly abuts Olympia) just decided to increase parking minimums. The rationale, apparently, is that owners of apartment complexes are complaining that they didn’t build enough parking spots for their units and so they need the government to force them to build adequate parking? I must be missing something. I mean, if it were residents complaining that apartment complexes needed more regulation I could see the argument, but apartment operators, not so much.
The counter-argument (which the article didn’t go into) is that parking minimums reduce density and act as a barrier to walkable development (that would reduce car dependency). In light of the report released by the IPCC in February, the car-dependent development pattern will need to change, and soon (even if all cars were switched over to electric, it wouldn’t be enough for us to hit our climate targets, we need to reduce the amount of driving we do). I get it, we’re in the middle of a housing crisis. I’m not arguing against large apartment complexes. In my view, the problem isn’t that there aren’t enough parking spots at Britton Place Apartments (one of the complexes cited in the article), but rather that it’s surrounded by industrial parks so its need to go 3 miles and cross a freeway to get to the nearest grocery store. Maybe a better approach would be to encourage the development of amenities closer to where people live so that they don’t need to drive so much (and own so many cars).
Of course, getting developers and business owners to locate amenities near where people live is a pretty heavy lift. But there are things that the government can do to take some of the load. For example, California is doing some really interesting stuff to get fresh produce into corner stores. Every time I see a convenience store in my area, I wish that it were a Spuds (small neighborhood grocery stores). I had always assumed that the margins just weren’t there to carry produce for most convenience stores, but the article makes some interesting points about how things like minimum orders from distributors probably create an even bigger hurdle. Creating this sort of system can help reduce car dependency, and would help to make it so that not every family needs two cars.
On the subject of parking minimums, this month Sightline had an article about how Fayetteville, Arkansas eliminated parking minimums in 2015. Notably, the city did not turn into a dystopian nightmare. Also, historic buildings that had long sat vacant were able to be redeveloped or reused as a result. The article talks mostly about commercial space, not apartment complexes, but it’s all tied together. If your parking minimums make it hard to build housing near businesses, then that means that your community needs more cars, and so you need more parking for your housing. With this decision, it seems that the Lacey city council is going in the wrong direction, locking themselves into a self-fulfilling prophecy of needing more parking for more cars because nothing is accessible any other way because the parking precludes density.