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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Cambridge eliminates minimum parking requirements

Cars+sit+in+a+residential+area+parking+lot.
Josh Kotler
Cars sit in a residential area parking lot. Photo by Josh Kotler / Mass Media Staff

With an overwhelming majority, the Cambridge City Council voted to eliminate the minimum parking requirements for new buildings in the zoning code. This measure will lead to more affordable housing in the area and will promote sustainable transportation. The 8–1 vote amended the city’s ordinance that previously required new residential developments to have one off-street parking space per unit. The new regulation won’t mandate the developers to allocate space for parking. (1)
The city conducted a study earlier this year in April to understand community mobility, present parking regulations, and how future amendments to parking regulations could affect the residents. The goal of the study was to check whether the new parking regulations fulfill specific criteria, such as traffic congestion, climate resiliency, housing and economic development of the area. (2)
Burhan Azeem, Cambridge City Councilor, tweeted, “Today Cambridge has become the first city in Massachusetts to remove parking minimums for all use cases, everywhere—almost unanimously to boot too! This is a huge victory for housing affordability in our city!”
In an interview with GBH News, Azeem added that one-third of the city’s residents don’t own cars, and in other neighborhoods like Central Square, two-thirds of the residents don’t own cars. The amendment will also impact the city’s housing affordability and construction costs over the next decade. (1)
The City Councilor, Dennis Carlone, was the sole member opposing the council’s decision. Carlone said that he does not support the excess parking, but the parking requirements should meet the parking demands.
“Cars are mostly anti-city. They overwhelm streets, even local streets in some cases, so I am not pro-car,” he said. “On the other hand, if statistics say in housing, that one-third to one-half of the garages are used, that’s what the zoning should be. Not zero,” he further added. (3)
Alongside Carlone, the city’s planning board also raised some objections to the new ordinance. According to the board, new buildings with less or no off-street parking will potentially cause a shortage and increase demand for the limited number of on-street parking spots. (3)
Recent updates posted on the website of A Better Cambridge highlight that this historic step will lower housing costs, as the residents will no longer be coerced to pay for off-street parking. Data suggests that parking spaces increase housing prices by $50 thousand to $150 thousand per unit. (4)
This is the second major amendment done by the city of Cambridge council. The first amendment ordained the city’s linkage fee—a fee that commercial building owners must contribute to the city’s Affordable Housing Trust in order to partially offset the effects of new jobs on the affordability of housing in the city. The fee was $20 per square foot, but has now increased to $33 per square foot. Cambridge being one of the most competitive areas for commercial development, it was crucial to increase the linkage fee to eliminate the effects of developments on housing.
With this ordainment, Cambridge joined Somerville, who had already eliminated the minimum requirements in most areas in 2019. In December 2021, Mayor Michelle Wu also signed an amendment that eliminated off-street parking minimums. “This action will help take down barriers to the creation of new affordable housing across the city,” said Mayor Wu. Boston Zoning Commission and Boston Planning and Development Agency supported the decision. (6)
BPDA Director Brian Golden said that eliminating minimum requirements for parking is a pivotal step towards making housing affordable for Bostonians, and contributing to the city’s climate and sustainability goals. (6)
Sources:
1. https://www.wgbh.org/news/local-news/2022/10/25/cambridge-drops-zoning-parking-requirements-paving-way-for-more-affordable-housing
2. https://www.cambridgema.gov/Departments/communitydevelopment/parkingstudy
3. https://www.bostonglobe.com/2022/10/25/business/no-more-parking-mandates-new-buildings-cambridge/
4. https://www.abettercambridge.org/oct22_parking_victory_alert
5. https://www.abettercambridge.org/oct22_linkage_partial_victory
6. https://www.bostonplans.org/news-calendar/news-updates/2021/12/22/mayor-wu-eliminates-parking-minimums-for-affordabl

About the Contributors
Kaushar Barejiya, News Editor
Josh Kotler, Photographer