Friday, September 24, 2010

Article 10 for Fall Town Meeting

Article 10 would lower the amount of off-street parking required for multi-family residential development.  Below is some general background information on the Article, and you can follow the link below to download the full text and explanation.  Please feel free to write to me with any questions or comments.  I will be using this blog to post information and updates about the article as we approach Town Meeting, which begins Tuesday, November 16.

Passage of any zoning change requires a 2/3 majority vote in Town Meeting, which is a difficult threshold to meet. Therefore, it is important for anyone in favor of this measure to call or write your Town Meeting representatives.  Download a full listing of Town Meeting Member's contact information by clicking Town Meeting Members A-Z on the right. You can determine your Precinct here, if you don't know it by typing in your address.

It is also very important that supporters voice their support in person at the various review meetings that occur prior to Town Meeting.  This is the public's chance to express their thoughts.  Direct input from the public is very influential to those Committee members considering Town policy.  Please show your support for lower parking requirements by attending these upcoming meetings.

Upcoming meetings:

Zoning By-Law Committee
Monday, September 27, 2010
6:30 pm  Room 103  Brookline Town Hall

Notes:  The meeting begins at 6:30, but there are four other articles that will be discussed prior to Article 10, interested parties should arrive by 7:30, although it is possible the order may be changed.

Planning Board
Thursday, September 30, 2010
7:30 pm 6th Floor Selectman's Hearing Room Brookline Town Hall
Send Comments to Polly Selkoe.  Make sure you put Article 10 Comments for Planning Board in Subject line and ask her to distribute your comments.
Notes: The meeting begins at 7:30, but there are four other articles that will be presented prior to Article 10, interested parties should arrive by 8:30.

Advisory Committee/ Planning and Regulatory Sub-Committee
Monday, October 4, 2010
7:30 pm  Rm 103 Brookline Town Hall
Send Comments to Neil Wishinsky. Make sure you put Article 10 Comments in your Subject Line and ask him to distribute your comments to the Committee.

I'm proposing Article 10 for Fall Town Meeting.  My proposal would lower the off-street parking requirements for multi-family residential parking. Right now, Brookline's Zoning By-law requires 2 or 2.3 parking spaces for every multi-family dwelling unit built, even studio and one-bedroom units near transit. Each parking space requires 330 sq. ft. of space, so in the case of small units, the amount of space devoted to parking is close to the size of the unit!

My proposal would lower the minimum parking required to between 0.8 to 1.4 spaces per unit, depending on the size of the unit.  These rates are very similar to the parking requirements in Brookline's By-law from 1962 to 1986, namely 0.8 to 1.3. Prior to 1962, the only parking requirement was the one space per multi-family unit that has been required since 1922.

It was only recently that two substantial increases, one in 1987 and then another in 2000 brought our requirements to their current peak of 2 and 2.3 spaces per unit.  The new proposed rates have been crafted to reflect Brookline-specific auto-ownership and travel behavior for each dwelling unit type.

A full text of the Article and a detailed explanation (two separate files) can be downloaded from the Town of Brookline website here:

Town Meeting Warrant Articles and Explanations

Our existing requirements exceed those common in suburban locations, where the only way to get anywhere is to drive a car. Brookline is not like this, which is one of the reasons so many of us find it such a desirable place to live. We have options. We can walk or bike to our neighborhood stores, schools and parks and we can take public transit to employment, culture and recreation.

Our history as a streetcar suburb created the land use pattern we find so pleasingly human scaled.  Blocks are small, houses are close together, concentrated pedestrian commercial areas surrounded by leafy neighborhoods. Denser housing nearest the T lines. It all happened before the automobile became ubiquitous.  An auto-oriented development pattern would look quite different.  This is for one simple fact: automobiles take up a great deal of space.  They spend 95% of their time parked and for each car there exists approximately 4 parking spaces.

The negatives of requiring too much parking have become apparent, we:

1) Lose more of our limited green and open space to pavement for excess parking we don't need.

2) Threaten Historic Structures.  Re-use or expansion of existing buildings becomes impossible with the high parking requirements, thereby incentivizing the tearing down of historic buildings.

3) Degrade building design. First floors become parking. Facades become garage fronts and side yards are driveways.  Buildings become taller and bigger to recoup the cost of the parking and to accommodate the sq. footage desired on the same lot.

4) Decrease Housing Diversity.  The extra costs of the parking are added onto the cost of housing, smaller units are not built and the continuing maintenance costs are born by residents.  Occupants are not given the opportunity to save household transportation expenditures from opting out of purchasing excess parking.

5) Incentivize Auto Use and Degrade Pedestrian Environment.  Mandating excess parking encourages excess auto ownership, shifting individuals away from other modes.  More autos, driveways, curb cuts and garages makes it harder  and less pleasant to walk.

No comments: