Parking is one of the most precious resources in an urban setting such as downtown Phoenix, and on Wednesday the Downtown, Aviation, Economy and Innovation Subcommittee will hear out a zoning ordinance text amendment that could have a radical impact on neighborhoods surrounding local businesses.
Zoning ordinance text amendment Z-TA-6-14 encompasses several changes, but perhaps most controversially will allow businesses in the infill district to utilize more on-street parking, up to 300 feet on the same side of the street as the business with several restrictions and a use permit.
This amendment, while admittedly having potential risks, should be supported by those who want a denser, less car-reliant city, as it would give downtown Phoenix as it is a step toward a vibrant, sustainable urban core.
The 300 feet of on-street parking would go into the required parking for the businesses and would essentially allow businesses to provide less parking spaces for their customers should they choose. For urban advocates, this could be a great way to further encourage other modes of transportation such as public transit, biking or walking.
A near constant refrain in neighborhood meetings is the vetting of new development projects for a lower ratio of parking spaces to units and demands to ensure that parking does not create disconnects between the business and the streets that would be less appealing to pedestrians and in contrast to the spirit of the walkable urban code. Adopting this amendment could be a step forward in the direction of reducing the appeal of using a car in our corner of the city as well as others should they choose to pursue denser growth.
However, this all assumes that people don’t just take their car and park wherever they can find a spot near their favorite businesses.
Demand for parking from the Arizona State University’s Downtown Phoenix Campus typically far exceeds the supply in nearby parking garages, and many students choose to park wherever they can find free spots throughout the Evans Churchill and Roosevelt neighborhoods.
While parking meters are being installed at the request of the Roosevelt Row Merchants Association and the Evans Churchill Community Association in the area north of the campus, there are also numerous stories of students and other customers and workers in the downtown area parking in residential neighborhoods and even blocking some people in their own driveways.
While this objection is a very relevant one, we must take some risks to move toward a truly multimodal society and not hide our heads from the trade-offs that come with designing a city for all people instead of just those who operate cars.
In fact, these trade-offs should be addressed and it is very likely that downtown Phoenix will have to confront the systematic issues of parking soon, as businesses are pushing back against demands for less parking spots on the grounds that a car is still necessary in Phoenix today.
District parking is one such potential solution that should be considered, especially as more high rises are proposed with layers of parking (that should hopefully be blended well with the walkable streets) in the near future around some of the remaining vacant lots in downtown Phoenix.
But for now, the best action to take would be to support Z-TA-6-14 at the Downtown, Aviation, Economy and Innovation Subcommittee at 1:00 p.m. Wednesday in the first floor assembly rooms of City Hall at 200 W. Washington Street.