Businesses need customers, customers (especially in TX) need vehicles, and vehicles need parking spaces, which is why cities have minimum parking requirements. However, one question that frequently comes up early in the development process is, “How can I reduce the required parking on my site?” More space for building and less for parking, generally translates to more revenue for developers.
Most cities have some sort of parking requirements built into their development code. These are often governed by zoning, building occupancy, and other planning metrics. They can cover anything from the number and geometry of spaces to the drainage and lighting of the parking facility. While they generally seem straightforward, all too often they are anything but that, especially in the City of Dallas (See the City’s 75 page Off-street Parking Handbook). Sifting through City handbooks, codes, and regulations, you’ll find that there are four options for meeting required number of spaces in the City of Dallas (in order from easiest to get approved to most difficult):
- Actually provide the parking required by zoning on your lot. While this may seem obvious, it is the simplest way to meet your site’s parking requirements.
- Parking agreement with adjacent land owner to use their parking. Depending on the location of your site and whether or not it is considered infill, surrounding properties may be over parked. In such instances, you can essentially borrow an adjacent owner’s parking spaces to use for your property, as long as both still meet the applicable parking requirements. Parking agreements for over 50% of your required parking must be within 300′ of your property, while those less than 50% can be within 600′.
- Administrative Parking Reduction. This only applies for a specific type of development (See Sec 51A-4.313 and memo for more info). Depending on your proposed use, a percent reduction can be applied to the general requirement. For instance, an Office Use that wants to get a 20% reduction must be within 1200′ walking distance of a platform of a rail station (e.g. a Transit-Oriented Development) and have a 6′ sidewalk. An “administrative” approval is quick, but has a narrow scope.
- Parking Reduction through the Board of Adjustments. Up to 25% parking reduction can be achieved via this route and can be accomplished in one of two ways:
- Variance: Your property must demonstrate hardship in lot area (i.e. size), shape, or slope when compared with other properties of the same zoning. Things that are NOT considered a hardships are those that are self-created, personal and/or financial.
- Special Exemption: For this reduction, you must make a case why your site should get a reduction. For example, a coffee shop that primarily uses a drive through and only a couple of employees, may fall in the same category as a dine in restaurant but probably doesn’t need the same parking. However, you will need to clearly demonstrate that it will not negatively impact the surrounding area either with a TIA or by showing that a similar coffee shop did not need the parking.