Controversy over parking on the knees of the city council | City News
EEfforts to overhaul the downtown Scottsdale parking code hit another roadblock last month after the city’s planning commission recommended city council suspend most of the proposed changes.
The committee’s vote is a non-binding recommendation only, so Council will have the final say when considering changes to the parking code on Tuesday, May 4.
The code has been under review for nearly two years after Council first asked staff to look into the matter at the behest of local traders and landowners.
They argue that the new developments are eating away at public parking lots that should be reserved for shoppers and tourists.
Staff introduced a host of code changes that would impact new developments of multi-family apartments and condos, office projects and hotels. Among the changes would be new parking ratios required for downtown apartment and condo complexes.
These changes would include increasing parking requirements for new multi-family dwellings and would require one parking space for eight dwellings for all apartments in the city. The proposal would also reduce the requirements for units with two or more bedrooms.
The Planning Commission voted 5-1 on April 14 to recommend that Council deny most of these changes until the city can order and review a new study on downtown parking. The last one was carried out in 2015.
Scottsdale town planner Bryan Cluff said the recommendations were based on several different sources, including industry standards and information available on existing downtown developments.
Although the commissioners recognized the parking problem, they did not feel comfortable making a recommendation without a new study.
Commission Vice-Chairman Joe Young said he did not want to throw the can out on the road, but felt the data was not available to make an informed decision.
“I’m just worried that our data is not up to date; that it is not always relevant; it’s just not always reliable, ”he said.
Commission President Paul Alessio said the study would tell the city whether its current supply of around 9,000 public spaces downtown is sufficient.
Commissioner Barry Graham, the only one without a vote, said he did not necessarily support all of the proposed amendments to the text, but also disagreed with the reasoning included in the motion to reject them. changes.
But the commission’s vote is still a blow to local entrepreneurs.
“Let me tell you that there is a huge problem with parking and it is time for this commission and city council to stop kicking the streets and find solutions,” downtown business owner Don Edwards told the panel.
But even supporters have challenged several proposed changes, arguing they don’t go far enough to address what they see as a looming parking crisis.
Traders were particularly concerned about the changes to parking requirements for multi-family developments.
They said the increased parking requirements for small units would be offset by the decrease in those for larger units.
Cluff said a staff analysis of 12 existing multi-family projects downtown showed that complexes tend to have more studio and one-bedroom units and that the changes would increase parking by 15% for similar projects.
He said the analysis showed an average mix of 63% studio / 1 bedroom and 37% larger units.
Still, Cluff acknowledged that there is no guarantee that future projects would feature the same combination of units.
Downtown gallery owners Bob Pejman and French Thompson said the new apartment rules were essentially a wash.
“These things that come to you here are what I would consider (for) a mediocre or tier two town in the state of Arizona … I don’t think Scottsdale is a mediocre or second tier city,” Thompson said.
Pejman and Thompson were two of more than 130 signatories to a petition first sent to city council in fall 2019 that called for more aggressive parking changes.
The petition, also supported by the Coalition for Greater Scottsdale, called for guest parking for four units and an increase in ratios of 1.5 spaces for one-bedroom units; two spaces for two bedroom units; and extra space for each additional room.
Cluff said staff didn’t feel comfortable supporting such aggressive changes without a parking study.
“Many of the changes included in this text amendment were intended to address concerns that have been presented with this petition,” Cluff said.
But, he noted, “it really resulted in substantial increases in parking requirements … that staff didn’t feel comfortable making such a substantial change to the code without having this information.” additional that would be available through a study. ”
Council first asked staff for a new parking study over a year ago, but the process was delayed by the pandemic, which disrupted normal downtown operations and allegedly affected reliability of the city center. any study.
“We’re probably months away from being able to get a fair parking analysis,” said Tim Curtis, Scottsdale’s senior planner.
The continued delays in the study have frustrated business owners and they are asking the board to challenge the commission’s recommendation.
Thompson wrote to Council: “You can make these changes now for the future and if, by chance, an honest study of parking shows that a development is over-parked, you can adjust it then.”
The new bylaw would also respond to criticism that downtown call center workers use available public parking.
They would create a new category requiring call centers to provide one parking space per 200 square feet, compared to the space per 300 square feet currently required.
It would also reduce parking requirements at hotels across the city, which Cluff said would bring the ratio in line with industry standards.
Cluff said downtown developers can always request an additional discount. City staff can approve reductions of up to 20 percent at 0.8 space per room, while larger ones require council approval.
Hotels are also required to provide parking for all other on-site uses, such as restaurants or conference rooms. But the new regulation would be an exception for the first 5,000 square feet of retail space.
Graham disputed this exception, arguing that it sends the wrong message about what the city is trying to accomplish.
“It sounds like something you would do when you want to drive development… I think most people here will say we want to make sure Scottsdale gets Scottsdale quality development,” he said.
Randy Grant, city planning director, said determining adequate parking is “inexact science” and new rules are about finding a balance without creating overly onerous rules forcing developers to build a parking lot that can cost up to ‘to $ 50,000 per space.
“So for the sake of redevelopment and revitalization, we don’t really want people to provide a lot of additional parking,” he said.