California’s newest housing law will eliminate parking mandates near transit

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law Thursday that will remove minimum parking requirements for new housing developments and businesses near transit hubs like the Metro A Line (formerly the Blue Line), increasing the possibility for developers to create housing and decreasing the need for cars in traffic-dense cities like Long Beach.

Assembly Bill 2097, authored by Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, D-Glendale, will eliminate parking requirements for new developments located within a half-mile of a major transit stop, making housing cheaper and easier to build in areas with easy access to daily destinations like jobs, grocery stores and schools, which would make a city more walkable and less car-dependent.

The law aims to tackle both the housing crisis and climate change.

“Reducing housing costs for everyday Californians and eliminating emissions from cars: That’s what we call a win-win,” said Newson in an announcement Thursday.

AB 2097 does not prohibit developers from building on-site parking but it will allow them to create their own parking arrangements, giving them more room to build affordable housing units by cutting the extra costs that typically come with parking mandates.

Supporters of AB 2097 also say that removing parking mandates will cut back on the use of concrete used to build parking structures.

According to Max Dubler, communications manager for the advocacy group Abundant Housing LA, concrete manufacturing is responsible for about 8% of total carbon emissions and much of that concrete is used for buildings. For mid- and high-rise buildingsup to 50% of the concrete is used for parking alone. 

“By getting rid of mandatory minimum parking requirements, AB 2097 makes it possible to build housing with less embodied carbon,” said Dubler.

An exception to the law would allow for local agencies to impose parking minimums if they could prove that removing them would have a “negative impact” on their ability to meet housing goals.

Long Beach previously supported an increase in affordable housing near transit areas when it adopted the Enhanced Density Bonus Ordinance in September 2021. The ordinance gave developers more incentives to build moderate-, low- and very-low-income housing by reducing parking mandates mostly in the Downtown and Central Long Beach areas. Parts of West, North and Southeast Long Beach along main transit corridors were also affected and it’s likely that the same will be the case with the adoption of AB 2097.

The Long Beach Developmental Services Department could not immediately respond to questions about how the law would directly affect the city or how much affordable housing has been created since the incentive program began last year.

Some opponents of the law in cities that adopted similar incentive programs, like Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, said that it could be counterintuitive and deter developers from building affordable housing now that those incentives are removed.

In a signing message Thursday, Newsom wrote that the bill is not intended to undermine the efficacy of the programs but the state will closely monitor “unintended outcomes.”

“The bill will undoubtedly have a positive impact in reaching our state’s climate and housing goals,” Newsom wrote.

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