Planning Commission to Review Parking Space Rules

Article originally posted on HERE on July 8, 2019

Following complaints by gallery owners in Scottsdale’s Arts District, the City Planning Commission will review parking requirements for new multifamily developments downtown.

The existing parking code in downtown Scottsdale requires new apartment and condo developments to provide one parking space for every one-bedroom unit and two parking spaces for every unit with two bedrooms or more.

The code does not require developments to provide extra guest parking.

Outside downtown, Scottsdale requires developers to provide 1.25 parking spaces per studio; 1.3 parking spaces per one-bedroom unit; 1.7 parking spaces per two bedroom unit; and 1.9 parking spaces for each unit with three bedrooms or more.

The downtown parking code has long been a sore point for some business owners, especially in the Arts District, who fear new apartments and condo dwellers will cannibalize existing public parking in the area that is currently utilized by their clients.

French Thompson and Bob Pejman, who both own galleries along Main Street in the Arts District, have given public comment on the topic at multiple City Council meetings in recent months.

“We’re going to have density in the downtown; I’m aware this is going to happen…,” Thompson told the Council on June 25. “This is a great place to be and people are going to want to be here, but if you don’t increase the amount of parking required by the developers its going to impact everybody in the future.”

Pejman has called the city’s downtown parking code “deficient” and compared it against California cities, such as Malibu and Laguna Beach, that have guest parking requirements for residential developments.

Thompson and Pejman found themselves an unlikely ally in Planning Commissioner Larry Kush, a former developer, who said “the policy as it now stands lacks common sense.”

“One thing I know for a fact is you have to mandate guest parking,” Kush said.

The parking issue came to head at the most recent Planning Commission meeting on June 26 when the commission was to consider a proposed residential project at First Street and Goldwater Boulevard that would have only 31 parking spaces for its 31 units.

The Planning Commission hearing on the project was postponed until August 14 at the request of the applicant.

Kush said that project is a perfect example of why the code needs to change, because overflow from new residential developments — either from guests or residents with multiple vehicles — is going to eat into existing street parking utilized primarily by businesses.

”No wonder everybody’s upset,” Kush said. “It’s almost like you’re taking a sharp stick and poking it in their eye.”

Kush said he blames the ordinance for causing the issues, not developers who are following the rules laid out by the city.

“He did everything by the book,” Kush said of the developer behind the 31-unit development. “The code only required what he’s giving.”

At the June 26 meeting, Commissioner Christian Serena asked city staff to prepare a presentation for a later date comparing downtown Scottsdale’s parking code to the codes in other similar communities.

Serena said he wanted to look at “how we judge our parking versus how other communities do it, and how we got to this.”

Kush said “we’re requesting that staff post that the Planning Commissions is going to be talking about parking, and we’re going to open it for public comment.”

Kush told the Progress that he would like to see the Planning Commission address parking downtown sooner rather than later so that it can make a recommendation to the City Council before the end of the summer.

Kush’s timeline would fly in the face of the City Council’s plans to discuss the parking issue.

On June 5, Councilman Guy Phillips made a motion, supported by the rest of the Council, to discuss the city’s downtown parking strategy after November — following the upcoming bond election.

“I also said to council that it’s not council’s job to do this,” Kush said. “It’s planning commission’s job to do this and then send to council a plan.”

Kush said he does not believe the council should wait until after November to take up the issue.

“This is an issue that has nothing to do with the bond,” Kush said.

Scottsdale used to different downtown parking guidelines that required developers to provide 1.5 parking spaces per one-bedroom unit and 1.7 spaces per unit with two bedrooms or more.

However, the City Council passed an ordinance change in February 2006 that increased the two-bedroom requirement to two parking spaces per unit with two bedrooms or more and decreased the one bedroom requirement to one parking space per unit.

The goal of the change was to combat the very issue brought up by gallery owners today.

“The proposed changes to the residential parking requirements are designed to ensure that larger downtown residential developments are fully parked on site. This approach will ensure that residential units are not under parked, and will minimize spillover from residential development into surrounding residential or business public parking spaces,” according to a City Council memo from the time.

At the time, the change was not controversial and was passed 7-0 by Council on the consent agenda.