Committee endorses plan to eliminate Edmonton's minimum parking requirements

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City councillors endorsed a new plan to eliminate minimum parking requirements for new developments after a packed hearing before the city’s urban planning committee Tuesday.

Final details will return to committee for review before rules officially change this fall, but it means a major shift in the way Edmonton ensures adequate parking availability.

Since the 1960s, Edmonton has required developers to provide a minimum number of parking stalls for each specific land use through its zoning bylaw, said Anne Stevenson, a senior city planner. A new mall, for example, would be required to build enough parking to accommodate peak demand the week before Christmas — spaces which sit unused the rest of the year.

Stevenson said just one section of the city’s current bylaw has over 150 parking regulations for different types of homes and businesses.

The city began revising its parking rules a decade ago, removing and reducing some minimum parking requirements. This new option would remove minimums completely, allowing homeowners and businesses to “choose the amount of parking that meets their needs,” Stevenson said.


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“Open option parking means most likely, parking will be provided, but it won’t be the city dictating how much that is,” she said.

Sixteen speakers at the committee were largely supportive of the move toward open parking and, in some cases, maximum parking limitations. But some councillors are skeptical about the change.

Opponents of minimum parking requirements say they increase development costs and create urban sprawl.

Mick Graham, an infill developer with the Infill Development in Edmonton Association (IDEA), said the market does a good job dictating parking requirements for specific developments.

“We pay pretty close attention to providing adequate parking for the developments we build,” he said. “We want to make sure they sell.”

He added the city should be mindful of broader trends in transportation.

“There’s tons of money being spent on autonomous vehicles and I think they’re going to be upon us a lot quicker than we realize,” he said. “That’s going to have an impact on the utility of parking.”

Kirsten Goa, also with IDEA, said the move to open parking would be an “evolution, not a revolution” that most people won’t immediately notice. But over time, it would have positive impacts on housing affordability and densification, and generally make neighbourhoods more appealing. She cited one transit-oriented development near downtown where residents actually fought to lower parking requirements.

Ashley Salvador, a speaker with the laneway housing organization YEGarden Suites, said Edmonton has four parking stalls for every resident. She said the city’s decision to maintain “excessive” parking minimums from the 1970s incentivizes car use, which is a major driver of climate change.


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“We can’t do what we did for the last 100 years for the next 100 years, or even the next 30,” she said.

‘Are we providing better ways to get around?’

Coun. Aaron Paquette, who represents Ward 4 in northeast Edmonton, said his constituents aren’t opposed to changes to the city’s parking rules.

“But they want to know that there’s a plan,” he said. “If we’re going to reduce their mobility and options in one area, are we increasing their mobility and options in another? Are we providing better transit, are we providing better ways to get around?”

“At the end of the day, there are folks who need to drive,” he said. “They have medical appointments … they just want to know we’re not actually taking away their ability to get where they need to go.”

Paquette added he’s concerned that if developers don’t build sufficient parking on their properties, the excess could end up spilling out onto city streets.

“We will have some responsible developers, but will every one of them be responsible to provide the amount of parking that’s actually required?” he asked.

“(The way) things are is unsustainable,” Paquette added. “But we do have to have a new plan. What that plan looks like is what we’re debating right now.”

The committee voted unanimously move forward on the open parking option. The next step for city officials will be to study what effect that will have for on-street parking and how best to mitigate it.