Planning Commission approves plan to get rid of parking minimums in Richmond

A plan that could change the future of parking in Richmond moves forward to city council.
Published: Apr. 17, 2023 at 8:14 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The future of parking in the city of Richmond is currently up in the air with several city leaders leaning toward getting rid of parking minimums.

City Council is set to take up talks April 24 to potentially scratch a 1970s parking minimums policy, which got the green light from the Richmond Planning Commission meeting Monday.

The meeting was hours of back and forth as many in the room were divided on the issue. In the end, the committee voted unanimously to send it to City Council.

A host of proposed revisions in a 59-page document could significantly change how Richmond deals with parking.

While several voiced their support for doing away with parking minimums to put space to better use, while others disagreed saying parking is already too scarce.

“You can’t park, so where do we park?” one meeting attendee said during public comment. “I’m not making it up, it’s the reality for us. There’s just no place to park.”

Director of the Department of Planning Kevin Vonck says that eliminating these parking requirements would only improve overall economic development and environmental outcomes.

“It’s very rare that you see developers and environmentalists agree on an issue but parking minimums is one of those things,” Joh Gehlbach of the Richmond Association of Realtors said. “Parking minimums are not usually based on usage, it’s based on a standard that was developed back in the 1970s ... it’s really an outdated measure.”

Right now, the city is trying to hone in on affordable housing, and some argue parking minimums are restricting where and how they can build.

Those in opposition say more parking is needed in certain pockets of the city and this change should not apply to every neighborhood of Richmond.

“I wonder how many of you would be affected by this proposal. My neighborhood would. I invite you to come to Manchester any Saturday and I can show you what’s happened over the last few years in our neighborhood,” another meeting attendee said to the Planning Commission.

The change wouldn’t take away current, hourly parking across the city or impact residential parking zones. Instead, it could pave the way for developers to come in and repurpose unused lots and areas.

“Right now, I see a lot of vacant parking spots at night, even spots during the day,” City Councilor Andreas Addison said. “If you want to go into those hot neighborhoods like Scotts Addition, Manchester, and Downtown, you should be able to park in those areas just like everybody else does and this creates that conversation.”

Several other cities such as Raleigh, San Jose and Buffalo have gotten rid of their parking minimums.

“It’s not about eliminating parking, it’s about making parking available for better uses,” Addison said.

City Council is set to vote on the plan by the end of April.