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Reform Residential Minimum Parking Requirements to Reduce VMT by Allowing More People to Live in Sunnyvale Near Jobs

Update Municipal Code to relax reqs. for dwellings to provide min. number of parking spaces, to support car-light lifestyles & reduce VMT

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Written by

Douglas Kunz

How are you connected to Sunnyvale?

  • I live in Sunnyvale.

What type of applicant are you?

  • Community member

Stage of Development.

  • Early concept or idea (<few months of work)

What problem are you aiming to solve? (100 words)

Allow +people to live in SV = reduce city's VMT/GHG emissions. How to increase housing potential in neighborhoods while preserving character & addressing concerns abt. traffic & avail. parking?

Tell us more about your climate strategy or solution (500 words)

1) On-road transp. currently largest source of GHG emissions in SV. 2) Increasing local housing supply = easier to reduce emissions by allowing more people to live close to jobs. 3) City policy currently presents barriers to allowing property owners in existing sf housing to create more living space on their properties, by imposing parking reqs. that decrease flexibility. 4) Policies force existing homeowners to dedicate space to parking they may not need/want & cause over-provision of parking in new development. As existing "car-light" options (biking) & new transp. alts. (ride hailing, autonomous vehicles) become more prevalent & feasible, these policies seem increasingly outmoded & in conflict w/ current city priorities re: housing afforability & GHG emissions. 5) Potential reductions in res. parking min. reqs. can trigger concerns abt traffic & impacts to avail. on-street parking in neighborhood. Policy change should study/devise measures that clearly address these concerns & ensure we avoid adding addtnl cars while we add housing. Ex, some cities like Santa Cruz have rolled out permit programs to control use of on-street parking in neighborhoods. Another approach could be to make property owners subject to additional reqs. in order to qualify for an exception to the current parking mins. One such method for instituting reqs. on property owners may be deed restrictions, which already play a similar role in SV's ADU permitting process (e.g. property owners must sign a deed restriction to remain living on the property in order to be permitted to build an ADU). Property owners requesting exception from min. parking reqs. could be req’d to sign deed restriction certifying that they will restrict their parking use to remaining parking on the property rather than shifting their parking onto nearby streets.

Describe how your solution could be a game-changer for your selected Opportunity Area (100 words)

Allow existing prop. owners more flexibility abt adding living space while still ensuring they do not create parking/traffic nuisance for neighbors, thus creating constituency of existing prop. owners/voters who have stake in supporting change. Address well-publicized concerns abt local housing affordability by: 1) increasing cap. of existing local housing stock; 2) givehomeowners opt. to obtain addtnl income by renting space. Make more amenable to housing multi-generational families per trends.

Explain how your idea would be implemented in Sunnyvale (700 words)

Study how to reform residential minimum parking requirements in SMC Sections 19.46.050 and 19.68.040. Solicit community input to identify potential unintended consequences of new policy and design mitigation strategies; ensure that they are included in any reform package that adjusts residential minimum parking requirements.

What kind of impact will your idea have? (250 words)

Impact: as noted above, housing more people locally makes it easier to reduce on-road transportation emissions by shortening commuting trips. It also enables alternatives to fossil fuel-powered private auto use: "A critical mass of potential riders in an area improves the business case for systems such as mass transit, shared vehicles, and electric vehicle charging networks." Cost: minimal (but non-zero) up-front costs, anticipated long-term positive impacts on City revenues (see "feasibility"). Transformational: small change that gradually adds up over time Technical Feasibility: does not require new technology to implement Time Needed to Implement: ~1 year (prepare and pass policy change) Community Buy-In: this proposal explicitly includes community outreach as an intended component

Scale: Describe how your idea could reach a significant number of people affected. (250 words)

This policy change has the potential to affect a large amount of the city's existing housing stock. Single-family detached housing constitutes 39% of Sunnyvale's existing housing stock (about 21,500 households) per 2011 General Plan (see graph). If single-family attached housing is also subject to SMC 19.46.050 (needs clarification) that constitutes an additional 10% of Sunnyvale's existing housing stock (about another 5,500 households). Finally, duplexes that are also subject to SMC 19.46.050 constitute an unknown additional share of the existing "Multi-Family" housing stock (not specifically broken out in 2011 General Plan). This proposal requires further study to determine how many additional households are likely to undertake construction projects over time in order to take advantage of the new flexibility that this measure would introduce.

Feasibility: Where are you with understanding the feasibility of your idea? Describe what you’ve done so far and your plans. (500 words)

I've performed the high-level research needed to create this proposal and identified potential next steps to quantify its impact (see answer for "help required"). No anticipated direct cost to city to implement (just change the policy); city would bear indirect costs such as staff time to analyze/craft proposal for Council and perform implementation of policy change such as updating training materials and approval processes for building permits. Costs potentially offset by incremental tax revenue (e.g. sales tax receipts) due to both increased local population, and increased economic activity (e.g. local jobs supported in building trades by performing garage conversions).

As you consider your next steps, what kinds of help could you use? Is there a type of expertise that would be most helpful? (300 words)

Needs: Sunnyvale staff analysis and feedback regarding exact number of existing housing units that would be subject to policy change, potential costs to the city for analyzing and preparing for this change, and estimated of number of additional residents this policy would add to Sunnyvale. Transportation modeling support to estimate impact of this policy change on Vehicle Miles Traveled and GHG emissions. Estimate of positive impact on city revenues due to increased sales/other taxes due to added population and increased economic activity.

Are you willing to share your email contact information submitted on OpenIDEO with our partners?

  • Yes, share my contact information

[Optional] Attachments: Please upload relevant attachments or graphics or show us how you came up with your idea.

While long-range planning w/ wife, discussed if in-laws (who live outside area) would ever be able to move in w/ us if/when they are not able to live independently. Checked into existing city policy & concluded that they could not b/c difficult to meet city's existing permitting requirements for ADU. Seems counter-productive; population adding to Sunnyvale (my in-laws) would be "car-light" & depend on carpooling rather than private personal auto. Proposing change for broad applicable to SV Res.

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There's no street parking in my medium density neighborhood. So I am against loosening the building required parking. Instead this initiative increases available parking spaces.