FILE - California apartments

Apartment building in the San Francisco Bay area.

(The Center Square) – California lawmakers sent a bill to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk Tuesday that will cut back on minimum parking requirements for new development near public transit, a measure supporters say will reduce the cost of housing production by tens of thousands of dollars.

Assembly Bill 2097 would prohibit local governments in many scenarios from enforcing minimum parking requirements on residential or commercial development if it is located within half a mile of a major transit stop. The bill would not prevent property owners from building parking but rather limit mandates on minimums.

Legislators sent the bill to Newsom’s desk Tuesday before Wednesday’s legislative deadline.

Backed by housing advocates and opposed by a handful of city governments, the bill aims to address California’s housing crisis by removing costly parking mandates in transit-rich areas. According to California YIMBY, Parking requirements can add $40,000 or more per parking spot to a project, which drives up the cost of development and increases rents by hundreds of dollars per month for tenants.

Parking requirements also take up space that could be used for additional housing units, the bill’s author, Assemblymember Laura Friedman, told The Center Square in a statement.

“Mandatory parking requirements worsen California’s severe housing shortage by raising the cost of housing production,” Friedman said. “On average, a garage costs $24,000 -$34,000 per space to build, and an underground parking space costs $50,000-$65,000 to build. This cost is passed on to households regardless of whether they own a car or not.

The bill received strong support from housing advocacy groups, who say this bill is key to addressing the state’s housing and climate goals by increasing the state’s housing stock near public transit and reducing car use.

Matthew Lewis, the communications director for California YIMBY, told The Center Square that the bill would result in savings for renters who will pay hundreds of dollars less each month because they won’t be paying for a parking space. Lewis also noted that the bill will result in some savings for taxpayers because “parking doesn’t generate the kind of tax revenues for a city that a residence does.”

“The city ends up having more sound budgets when there’s a house instead of a parking spot, and when you reduce the number of cars over time, you reduce the cost of maintaining the infrastructure,” Lewis said. “So there are savings to the taxpayer that accrue – most taxpayers won’t notice it because it’s just a very small reduction in your tax bill because there’s more revenue and less cost.”

Senators amended the bill last week to include exceptions to the law if the unit of local government can prove the bill would have a substantial “negative impact” on meeting low-income housing goals or for disabled residents. 

Other amended carve-outs in the bill do not allow a city or county to impose parking requirements when the property is at least 20% for very-low-income housing, elderly, students, disabled, exempted under another law, or is small than 20 units.

The bill is one of several housing measures headed to Newsom’s desk after passing the Legislature this week. On Monday, the Legislature passed Assembly Bill 2011 and Senate Bill 6, two housing measures that were part of a legislative agreement to make it easier for developers to build homes on commercial-zoned properties.

Friedman said she is “cautiously optimistic” that the governor will sign AB 2097 into law.

Some cities in California have already moved forward with prohibiting minimum parking mandates. San Diego eliminated parking mandates for new apartments near public transit in 2019 and slashed parking mandates for many businesses in 2021, as previously reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Staff Reporter

Madison Hirneisen is a staff reporter covering California for The Center Square. Madison has experience covering both local and national news. She currently resides in Southern California.