Comment of the Day: Gardens or Parking Spots?

COMMENT OF THE DAY: GARDENS OR PARKING SPOTS? Illustration of Oversized Parking Lot“I wonder if the city would consider a change in the parking ordinance where you need x spots per unit (or SF of commercial space) or the equivalent in green space. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but we’re about to build a new set of apartments and I wanted to have a big garden where all tenants get their own ‘spot.’ Nothing huge. Maybe 10 feet by 5 feet. We were going to do this by not putting in much parking. But I found out we need a TON more parking than I thought. We were told we had to pave paradise, and put in a parking lot (oooh, bop bop bop bop . . .).” [Cody, commenting on Midtown Community Garden Sold; Fruits and Vegetables Ordered Out, Immediately] Illustration: Lulu

16 Comment

  • Wonder what would happen if we put in grass parking to appease the building code folk, then simply turned those “parking spots” into garden spots.
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    Eventually the city would run out of red tags — right?

  • Question: Im sure it’s more expensive, but could you put in a parking garage? If so, maybe a parking garage with a roof top garden terrace? Then it’s two in one, in the same space.

    There is a parking garage in Fort worth that is built into a hill, and the top of the garage is a garden with green space, with an open bridge across to another parking garage across the street. While there are no hills here, the same concept could be applied…just a thought. :)

  • Cody, they would start cutting down trees on your property to make into paper to print more red tags.

    Not that I care for greenspace myself, but I’m always interested in providing what clients want….
    What if you make parking spaces ASSIGNED with removable permeable pavers and the tenant has a choice of parking on it or turning it into a small garden (unofficially of course).

  • Yeah, I’m guessing ponying up for a parking garage structure would way over shoot Cody’s profit margin–as for this parking idea of yours, go for it Cody, see if the city will let you do it. Yeah, and let’s have no parking on the grass, that’s old school 3rd Ward, let’s aim a wee bit higher;)

  • commonsense: That’s not a bad idea to be honest.
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    Shannon: It’s so much a parking garage has profit margin issues, but rather it’s outside the scope of what I’d be able to do. I’m not looking at a big enough project to make a parking garage feasible. I’ll be starting on a 5-20k piece of dirt and 8-20 units. And I didn’t mean straight-up grass parking… what I’d like to do is what that one DUI guy is doing (who I know you don’t like, so that aside). If I have to have parking, do it with those concrete latices things so at least it’s not so dreary looking.
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    Another option we have is to put the property on stilts with parking under, so that on the second floor of living, half that space was a off-ground garden area. We’ll see.

  • I’d be interested in a study that showed the % of Swamplot posts that commonsense and Shannon post on. What % they both post on and what the average response rate is for both users. I really only come here so that I can get both of their opinions on every single thing that comes through here.

  • Allowing developers to replace parking spaces with green space sounds like a great idea, but it would cause problems in high-demand areas. It’s already such a nightmare to park in some neighborhoods, I just don’t see it happening. That said, I absolutely think there should be flexibility in our parking ordinance. Some ideas:
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    Allow developers to cut the number of parking spaces on a site by a certain percentage if they are within 1/4 mile of a bus line or 1/2 mile of light rail. (Encourages development along transit routes)
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    Allow office developments and residential developments to share parking. The idea being that the office workers are there during the day, and the residential tenants are there at night.
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    Establish parking districts, where a centralized parking garage meets all the parking requirements for the area – so individual developers don’t have to put it on-site. (sort of like the centralized detention facilities that they already do for drainage.)

  • ZAW has some thought provoking ideas, not sure id care to park 10 blocks from my office or apartment in a car detention faculty, but this may be the best plan for the future with land at a premium etc, who knows, still nice thinking outside of the box.

  • I’ll also note that we could use parking regulations to help get the hot-sheet motel situation under control here in Houston. In order to get a permit to rent rooms hourly, a motel could have to either: a) be near one of the airports, and operate shuttles during airport operating hours, or b) have a driveway that feeds directly off a highway feeder road, and provide parking for 18 wheelers in addition to the normal motel parking.
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    This would stamp out the prostitution-havens while allowing for legitimate hourly motels to serve the airports and interstate truck drivers.

  • Never underpark a property even if the City says its okay. Its one of those things that, when you sell the property, can get flagged in a buyer’s due diligence (who, remember will be paying a much lower cap rate and has no appetite for risk).

    If your unparked tenants surreptitiously acquire cars and start parking them on the street then you may encounter other problems. If I’m correct and this is your 3rd Ward site, then the neighborhood probably wouldn’t mind cars on the streets; but they’ll probably burglarize them with impunity. And although I’m sure that you’ll make reasonable efforts to ensure your tenants’ safety on the property, if somebody gets raped because they parked their car that they aren’t supposed to have where they aren’t supposed to park it, but that you were supposed to provide parking for anyway pursuant to City ordinance, then yeah you might wind up with sort of a big lawsuit. Even if the tenant was unlikely to win, you’d probably face the headache, legal fees, and a substantial settlement. (If it were me, I’d want more than a variance; I’d want some sort of exculpation of legal liabilities that may arise from underparking the property. That’s not gonna happen.)

  • not to say any of these are bad, but i’m not sure adding in tons of regulations to our parking ordinance won’t create massive headaches somewhere down the line.

    let’s just keep it simple. congestion pricing on the freeways and expanded permitted parking could drive the market to create novel solutions to many of these problems on its own.

  • You might look into ‘vertical gardening’ – other types of gardening for small spaces

  • I like the idea of leaving it up to the market – ie no regulations. Developers at a certain point may decide to create little to no parking, using congestion pricing as a rationale (or – green space is cheaper to offer than parking). If available parking ends up being far away from really dense areas it’s easy to imagine retailers banding together to offer a shuttle bus service.

  • You don’t need a full blown parking garage but you could build some partial car cover out of pine that doubles as a decked, roof top garden. You’d only need clearance of about 7’9″ -7’11″ above grade. If you’re willing to ditch the garden plot idea and just “green” the parking lot with grass pavers, that works too (See for a juicy example the FED reserve bank branch bldg off Allen parkway, used for firetrucks to park on the lawn in case of emergency fire access). You could also change the tradition garden plot plan to incorporate them into the parking lot as raised planters doubling as barriers/curbs/bollards. Amenities are a tricky business to do right inside and out.

  • Cody, before you try to do something different and figure out a way to provide space for small garden plots, you should look at the demographics of your renters first. I work in the ornamental horticulture industry, and trust me, this has been a subject of deep interest in my business the last 5 years. To summarize dozens of surveys, fruit and vegetable gardening appeals to people in 2 age groups, the first is the 20-30 demo, and the other is 60+. There is a great big hole in the younger boomers and the Gen X folks who are middle aged, who basically don’t garden at all. If your apartments primarily have tenants in the under 30 crowd, they would probably pay extra for that amenity.
    One last point is that edible gardening picked up substantially in the 2008 recession, and has not slowed down at all. Most other categories of ornamental horticulture sales are flat or down.

  • There are so many options for growing food and other productive plants on a property. Entire south facing walls can often be converted into growing spaces, as well as rooftops. Even the city is “interested” (we all know what that means) in more rooftop gardens on their buildings if grant money is awarded.
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    Using parking lot islands for vegetable gardens could be a great idea. I’m sure the installation would be limited by the Tree and Shrub Ordinance to a degree. Maybe it is time for COH to offer an exception to this ordinance?
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    Does anyone have experience with the ordinance being enforced in parking lot construction?