In Gilroy, we have many examples of properties where we used to not require vehicle parking many decades ago, before a majority of zoning codes have been adopted that require more land to be developed for parking. With the recent implementation of Vehicles Mile Traveled we look toward increasing alternative options to the single occupant vehicle and creative solutions like those mentioned in our General Plan 2040 to continue to push us all forward.
In response to the pandemic and the closure of restaurants and small shops, local governments allowed businesses to expand into on-site and street parking spaces to allow for safe outdoor dining and shopping. These new and more productive uses of parking spaces have shown us the way forward to create more inviting and sustainable neighborhoods, and allow small businesses to survive and in some cases thrive.
With the recent adoption of Gilroy’s General Plan 2040, we called for bold actions that included continuing to promote cleaner modes of transportation. We encourage existing and proposed developments to incorporate Transportation Demand Management measures such as car-sharing, transit passes and unbundling of parking. We have planned for projects and have the resources in 2022 to make them successful, but it’s “political will” that keeps getting in the way. Recently, the City of Gilroy, Valley Transportation Authority and Transportation Agency for Monterey County signed an MOU for rail improvements of the Monterey County Rail Extension Project to include Bay Area CalTrain service connection to Salinas. Gilroy, like Salinas, is building future public transportation options within our downtown.
The goals and policies of our General Plan 2040 address a variety of topics, including multimodal transportation, complete streets, pedestrian facilities, bikeways, public transit, vehicular transportation, parking, and goods movement. Our entire Zoning Code is currently being updated to reflect the values of our General Plan 2040 and should be coming to the City Council for adoption soon.
By eliminating arbitrary parking minimums and allowing in-lieu fees we can prevent the wasteful overproduction of parking spaces, reduce car dependency, and carbon emissions. It will encourage greater transit usage and more housing and business growth near transit, helping to create revitalized and pedestrian-friendly commercial corridors and our downtown. This would not prohibit property owners from building on-site parking. Rather, it gives them the flexibility to decide on their own how much on-site parking to provide, instead of requiring compliance with a one-size-fits-all mandate.
Parking lots, especially empty ones, do nothing for us at the local level to be able to maximize our collection of property taxes. A mixed-use project will generate significant property and sales tax. When transit riders shift their modes in getting to transit by walk/bike/ride-share/carpool, they will visit and spend money locally. We are creating more walkable/bikeable places to live that don’t require you to own a car while providing much-needed housing for our graduating high school seniors, teachers, city employees, and college grads to come home to.
On-site parking reduces the housing supply by taking up space that could otherwise be used for additional apartments. On-site parking is also very expensive, costing $30,000 to $75,000 per space to build. This cost is passed on to renters and home buyers, regardless of whether they own a car. In fact, in a recent study by Santa Clara University, researchers found that the cost of garage parking to renter households is approximately $1,700 per year, or an additional 17% of a housing unit’s rent.
Lastly, we are actively embracing, advancing ideas, and projects that promote the concept of free-range people in the City of Gilroy. We advocate for building and planning that considers future generations as well as current residents who don’t own cars. We are a Recreation Destination and Complete Streets community by resolution. Advancing mobility options reflects what we are teaching the youth in our community through Safe Routes to School and why we are nationally recognized as a Bicycle Friendly Community from the League of American Bicyclists, as well as recognized by the World Health Organization as an Age-Friendly Community.
Zach Hilton is a Gilroy City Councilmember.