A significant roadblock to achieving more affordable housing is a city's mandated parking requirements

Parking Minimums

"We know a walkable place when we see it, we feel comfortable in a park when we sit in it; and equally important, we know an unwelcoming place when we want to leave it. So when I found out that parking was a problem, the dots began to align perfectly. To make more places we love, we need less parking." - Thomas Carpenito

Santa Barbara is facing a severe housing crisis. One of the most significant roadblocks to solving the crisis is the city's mandated parking requirements, which often prevent the construction of multifamily housing. Removing those requirements will enable the creation of more affordable housing.

Parking requirements increase the cost of development, limit the amount of available land for other uses, increase rents, and encourage car use rather than public transit, walking, or cycling. The solution is to let developers and consumers decide how much parking they need rather than imposing arbitrary mandates.

More than 42% of Santa Barbara County residents spend greater than 30% of their income on housing. In 2021 the City of Santa Barbara had 72 affordable housing properties totaling almost 1,400 units. However, this is not enough as the city’s affordable housing waiting list is currently over 9,000 households long. 

This is a map of how much valuable land is used by parking lots alone in downtown.
Parking Lot which will become housing (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk)

Santa Barbara's current Average Unit-Size Density (AUD) Incentive Program promotes the construction of rental and workforce units in proximity to transit, local businesses, and recreation. It has enabled the development of over 1,100 net new units, with 500 more waiting on approval. 

The success of this program can be partially attributed to the elimination or reduction of minimum parking requirements for these developments. The substantial decrease in mandated parking is crucial for the economic viability of multi-family housing projects. The City of Santa Barbara's 2022 AUD report confirms that the city's standard (non-AUD) parking requirements have significantly limited development

Out of the 77 AUD developments approved, 86% provided fewer parking spaces than would have been required by Santa Barbara's standard parking requirements. This is conservatively estimated to have reduced the cost of development by over $4 million. The AUD program is set to expire in 2024. Given the success and advantages of the program, the city of Santa Barbara should expand the program by completely removing parking minimums.