A new ordinance proposed by Metro Councilmember Colby Sledge aims to eliminate minimum parking requirements in much of Nashville. The current zoning code requires new developments to allot funding and space to a certain number of parking spaces based on the type of structure.
The ordinance, co-sponsored by Councilmembers Brett Withers and Freddie O’Connell, would amend section 17.20.040 of the Metropolitan Code of Laws. Its passing would mean businesses would decide on their own how much money and space to put toward parking.
Sledge estimates, based on conversations with developers, that project costs can increase by $30,000 to $35,000 per parking space. He explains that the brunt of this cost falls on the residents or tenants, who must pay increased rent due to the cost of development. He hopes the proposed ordinance will open the city up to more affordable developments.
“Let's give the opportunity to create housing at a lower cost to developers, and thereby a lower cost to the residents, because they're not being required to subsidize a parking space that they may or may not use,” says Sledge.
Withers’ District 6 includes East Nashville’s Five Points neighborhood, which would be one of the neighborhoods most affected by this bill.
“In the urban areas, particularly along Woodland Street … there are lots of places where right now we’re having to negotiate between a lot of arduous processes to get buildings permitted,” says Withers. “And the parking should not be driving it, at least in those locations.”
San Diego joined a handful of other major cities in eliminating minimum parking requirements in 2019. Following the move, according to data published by UCLA professor Michael Manville, there was a sixfold increase in the development of affordable housing in the city. “Parking reform helped make 100-percent-affordable projects more economically viable,” writes Manville, “and removed a major arrow in the NIMBY quiver: objecting to affordable housing on the grounds of insufficient parking.”
Nashville’s parking requirements have never applied to the downtown area, and a bill proposed by Sledge a few years back eliminated the requirement from “multimodal corridors” — areas of the city along which bus routes and other forms of transportation run. Should this new bill pass, it would eliminate the requirement from the rest of the Urban Zoning Overlay.
“Times have changed,” says Bill Herbert, who ran the Metro Codes Department before joining law firm Thompson Burton earlier this year. “We’ve got Uber and Lyft; we’ve got elaborate public transportation. We’ve got bicycle lanes. We’ve got lots of things that weren’t there in 1998, and I think probably everyone would agree that the partial requirements that were established then are clearly outdated.”
The Metro Council will discuss the bill on Tuesday, and a public hearing is set for Nov. 1. Sledge tells the Scene that following its public hearing, the bill could be passed by the end of November.