Kamloops councillor proposes massive reduction in parking spaces for new builds
A Kamloops city councillor suggested a reduction in parking spaces could incentivize both builders and commuters to get away from vehicles.
Arjun Singh is proposing a change to building requirements so apartments, condos and some commercial buildings will need drastically fewer parking spaces than they currently do to be approved.
Current developments can include a range of parking space requirements, generally from 0.7 parking spaces per unit to two spaces, depending on bedrooms in each unit and the style of the suite.
Singh's motion, however, suggests a reduction to 0.25 parking spaces per unit for new multi-family builds, but he said he looks forward to hearing thoughts from the public before the City makes any changes.
"The... motion is framed in a way that we want to do this, but we also want to explore this and do a meaningful consultation and review," Singh said. "I have a sense of where I think it could go, but I think it needs to be a community-led discussion. I don't want to be pig-headed or stubborn about any position I have."
He introduced the motion at the May 31 council meeting, but it won't be debated until June 28. Singh, who's been an advocate for active transportation in Kamloops, said he would like to see less car-centric commuting in the city.
"I feel entitled when I drive, but sometimes I take my bike," he said, while speaking to iNFOnews.ca through Bluetooth in his vehicle. "I make sure I'm thinking about it. Once you're on the bike or on the bus, it's much more pleasant than driving."
But the motion couples with a total removal of parking spaces that are required for new commercial builds on the North Shore.
"The idea essentially is there are a lot of lots that are underdeveloped and the reason why is it's very hard to make things work financially with the parking requirements we have right now," he said.
This comes not from Singh, but was inspired by local restaurateur Mitch Forgie, who blames parking requirements for a lack of investment on the North Shore.
Forgie's philosophy is that parking requirements have hindered meaningful development on the North Shore for years. In an urban neighbourhood that is relatively flat, compared to most of Kamloops, he has invested himself in making the North Shore a walkable urban centre.
"When I moved to Kamloops in 2008, everyone was saying the North Shore was going to be the next up-and-coming neighbourhood. They created tax exemptions (for developers) and none of them are making a difference, and it's because of the parking minimums. My pitch is to let developers build as much parking as they need," he said to iNFOnews.ca.
Forgie said he's "obsessed" with parking and how it boosts costs for developers, which then get passed along to customers or tenants. The cost for adding enough parking to appease city requirements comes by way of setting aside a portion of a property for a parking lot, or a massive constructed parking lot. City Gardens, for example, is set to include two three-storey underground parking lots after Kelson Group brought up an entire downtown block for the project. If those requirements were dropped, Forgie said it would incentivize more small developers to build on smaller lots instead.
"We have to make it viable to redevelop single lots," Forgie said. "The neighbourhoods poised to be successful in a car-light Kamloops are the North Shore and downtown."
He pointed to small lots downtown and on the North Shore, like The Loop's triangle-shaped property and the old Pool Mart along Tranquille Road, which he said could not be redeveloped because they would not fit parking spaces.
While developers would be free to make their own decisions whether to build more or fewer parking spaces, it's also caused challenges in other cities, like Kelowna.
A newer build in Kelowna's Lower Mission neighbourhood left residents frustrated and friends unwilling to visit the building. A resident of Sole on KLO was given her own parking space when she moved in, but soon learned the building's complete lack of visitor space even left Canada Post unable to deliver mail on some days.
The zone required 40 parking stalls for residents, six for visitors and one commercial. The developer – Edgecombe Builders Group – asked that the residential parking stalls be cut to 28 because many of the small suites would likely be sold to people who would not have cars. The street Sole is on, KLO Road, does not have street parking and to find it requires travelling a few city blocks.
The city agreed, but, in the process, the requirement for six visitor stalls was also cut to three spots that were not actually designated for visitors.
Whether Kamloops would experience the same challenges is yet to be seen, but a new residential build at 501 Tranquille Road was approved last year which should have required 41 parking spaces.
Instead, it's getting just 16 parking spots.
When debating whether to allow the build to go through, councillors were hesitant because some were concerned tenant parking would spill over onto nearby streets.
Singh, however, would like to see Kamloops shift to a point where fewer households need a vehicle. While the change could provide a helping hand to developers who get to reduce costs for parking spaces, it's not clear how it would incentivize a resident to use something other than a vehicle to commute or get around Kamloops.
Kamloops has plenty to improve on in order to give those incentives to commuters, which could come in the way of public transit or bike lanes.
"There's no doubt we have to make things safer, better, and build out bike paths," he said, adding that he believes some areas have robust but underused cycling paths, and that the bus system in Kamloops is already effective.
"It's very hard for folks to not get in their car," he said.
He also said he was "shocked" when council on Monday approved around $9 million in construction for Tranquille Road toward Southill Street which will include a new active transport path.
"Kamloops took a great step yesterday in approving that," he said.
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