Parking? That’s So Last Century

Paul Bass PhotoIf you want us to build in New Haven, don’t ask us to make room for everyone to drive.

Three out-of-town developers offered that advice at a panel discussion—as debates sprang up around town about whether the city should plan for fewer car owners in OK’ing new development projects.

The three developers at the panel discussion Tuesday evening weren’t asked to build in New Haven. They were asked for advice about how cities can attract developers.

New Haven’s Economic Development Corporation invited them to the panel to offer big-picture guidance as the city explores how to build on lots in the Hill and downtown within a half-mile of Union Station. The city got a $1 million federal grant (administered through the state) to engage in such planning for “transit-oriented development,” aka “T.O.D.,” a hot concept in cities nowadays. The idea is to take advantage of trains and bus lines and walkable streets to build a lot of stores and offices and apartments close together (aka “urban density”).

At the panel discussion, which drew about 20 people Tuesday evening to the lower level of the main public library branch, moderator Reese Fayde asked the three developers to list their biggest “turn-offs” when they consider whether to build in a city. (Click on the play arrow at the top of the story for a sample of the discussion.)

Demands for lots of parking ranked high on the turn-off list.

“You asked what is an automatic turn-off. ... Market research shows [the amount of parking] needed is X. We flip open the zoning code and we find out the requirement in the zoning code is two times that,” replied Patrick Lee, co-founder of a Boston firm called Trinity Financial. “It is a lightning rod ... Oftentimes we often just say, ‘That one is too, too hard.’ ... When the zoning catches up with the market or gets close to it, we’ll come on back and have the conversation [about building]. Even if you’re doing surface parking, it eats up so much land it ends up being a cost-driver in your pro forma.”

Other panelists spoke of how investment dollars have begun flowing in the past few years for apartment complexes in the region aimed at “echo boomers,” young adult children of the Baby Boom generation. These echo boomers look for smaller apartments in busy urban places with public transportation, said panelist Kim Morque of Spinnaker Real Estate Partners. They often don’t own cars.

The panelists agreed cities should re-examine zoning codes that require a parking space for every apartment. That eats up valuable space in development projects, running up the cost.

“It’s the way of the future,” Lee said in a conversation after the panel discussion. “The youngsters that are the future of cities ... rely less on their cars than we older folks.”

Lee (whose firm rebuilt the Quinnipiac Terrace projects and the Rowe apartment tower in New Haven) cited a “T.O.D.” luxury apartment complex his company recently completed in Boston called Avenir. It has 243 apartments. They filled up fast, he said. The city allowed the developers to include just 120 parking spaces in the project—and those spaces, not the apartments, are “going begging.”

The panelists also spoke of the need for cities to “streamline” the approval process for major projects by revising zoning codes to include less parking, rather than requiring developers to seek variances for each project in lengthy regulatory processes.

Hot Topic Citywide

Much of what the developers said at the panel echoed arguments city development officials have been making recently, including at a Development Commission meeting that very morning. Officials have sought to change the zoning rules for “mixed-use” projects (including combinations of stores, offices, and/or apartments) to allow less parking and greater density both downtown and in neighborhoods on the fringes of downtown.

Some “new urbanists” have applauded that idea. Others have argued that the changes risk damaging the historic residential character of neighborhoods like Dwight. The city itself has decided against an “echo boomer” proposal to fill in some Wooster Square lots near downtown in favor of a traditional, less-dense proposal.

Meanwhile, the argument has extended well past downtown to the edges of the Goatville section of East Rock. The same night as the developer panel in the library, Goatvillers offered passionate testimony at a zoning hearing at 200 Orange St. in opposition to a developer’s request for parking relief in order to turn the abandoned Star Supply factory building into 268 apartments. (Read about that here.) The opponents argued that in their neighborhood people still need cars to get around, and allowing less than one space per apartment in the new complex will cause new tenants to grab cherished street spots. Part of the debate hinges on how much New Haven can resemble denser big cities like Boston and New York—whether it can be quite as bikeable and walkable and reliant on buses.

The developers’ pitch Tuesday night was music to the ears of city economic development chief Kelly Murphy. Murphy said the panel discussion was part of the early stages of the $1 million T.O.D. planning process for Hill and downtown development near the train station. She’d like to see the kind of dense development in the area that the developers were describing, she said afterward, including at the former Coliseum site at State, Chapel and Orange streets.

She said her office has also been looking at zoning changes to lessen the one-parking-space-per-apartment required at large, long-empty office buildings that could be transformed into apartment complexes to serve downtown’s growing housing market.

She offered as a prime example the former bank building on the northwest corner of Chapel and Orange streets. Like similar buildings, it’s connected to other buildings beside it, so it doesn’t have room for a parking space for every apartment that could go in there in a potential renovation, she noted. “People,” she said, “are not coming to New Haven with cars.”

Tags: , , , , ,

Post a Comment

Commenting has closed for this entry


posted by: robn on March 13, 2013  4:31pm

Required reading for everyone in Goatville. New Haven needs that project and 50 more like it.

posted by: urban ed on March 13, 2013  4:46pm

‘“People,” she said, “are not coming to New Haven with cars.”’

OK….I’m going to ask some questions because as a NH resident and educator, who cares about the future of my community, and who also (let’s face it) is well past the twenty-something demographic and well set in my ways, I am essentially ignorant of such things…

Who are these people who are coming to New Haven without cars and what do they expect to do when they get here? Do they know the limitations of our mass transit systems? Do they have a plan for getting to an affordable grocery store whenever they need to or is affordability not a concern for them? And if it’s not, Why not? Are there THAT many bigtime professional high-paying jobs available here? If their kid starts puking blood at midnight, how do they plan to get to the ER? Will their health insurance cover the ambulance?

Meanwhile, we have a majority, I think, of the city population who classify as working poor or underclass. They’re warehoused in decaying multi-families or public housing (or straight-up homeless). DCF requires that they have one bedroom per kid. If they want a job (most of them do) they need to go where those jobs are. Which means having a car. Are we really OK with their status quo? If there’s housing to be built, why aren’t they part of the plan?

All you need to do is read the numerous NHI articles on the Apple real estate debacle to realize how badly quality housing for working families is needed in this berg. Who’s speaking up for that?

I mean, yes, RE: The star supply thing….a vibrant living quarters is better than a vacant building. But are we really going to trade the real needs we have as a comunity away to gain…what? A highly theoretical block of twenty-somethings with unlimited cash and an intense desire to eschew cars and live in tiny apartments….in New Haven?

Sorry, I’ve lived here 25 years and I just dont see it. Can somebody point me to market research that indicates this need? Can someone tell me where our working families and poor are supposed to live, and how? We seem to be responding to a need that does not exist and ignoring a need that does. And the population that needs housing also needs cars.

posted by: streever on March 13, 2013  5:14pm

Exactly, Robn.

The thinking in fighting anything on parking is shockingly archaic and counter-productive.

If it isn’t a NIMBY response, I don’t know what is. People just don’t want to be inconvenienced as they enjoy a free service provided by the government.

Parking on the street by your house at no cost is not a right, nor is it protected in the Consitution. It is simply a mistake that cities made in accomodating the automobile.

None of us pays the true market value of convenient street-side parking in our taxes—none of us—so to ask everyone else to accept that it should be protected to the extent of denying reasonable developments is to equate it with an important human right.

The government does not provide health care to all. It does not provide a base minimum salary. It does not provide a roof over our heads. It does not provide many things. That it needs to provide you with a place to put your 2 tons of metal, to the detriment of other essential human services, is a bias which needs to be removed.

I would welcome New Haven putting in a fee for all parking—city-wide—and mandate some type of annual pass for automobile parking on residential streets.

The money should go toward transit equity so everyone can be conveyed from here to there. Expanded and improved bus service, rail, etc.

There are probably 150,000+ personal cars parked in New Haven. If we got rid of the automobile tax and charged a $250 annual parking fee, with all proceeds going to improve bus service and transit for folks city-wide, it would be an enormous improvement.

50 million to build a better bus service would be an amazing start.

posted by: Proud New Havener on March 13, 2013  5:21pm

Robn, not if we do not have adequate alternative transit to support it. The developers should start lobbying, not for zoning changes, but for better transit in New Haven, so we can responsibly make those zoning changes.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on March 13, 2013  5:50pm

There needs to be a parking space for every car that city residents own, in addition to every car that comes into the city for work, shopping, entertainment, etc. - that’s indisputable. The issue is that we currently have an immensely inefficient system where parking availability fluctuates enormously depending on where you are and at what time, which results in a massive net surplus of parking spaces that aren’t useful at certain times. If we want to effectively address parking issues we need to reduce these extremes on either end of the spectrum so that there is a much narrower fluctuation of parking availability depending on where you are and at what time.
Anytime there you see a nearly empty parking lot, garage or street, that is an opportunity for development. Empty parking lots at night near the medical campus means an opportunity to develop residences and a nightlife. Empty streets in a neighborhood during the day means an opportunity to develop offices and other daytime uses. Zoning should regulate materials, scale, form, and typology. As long as places maintain their apparent character, building use should be essentially irrelevant.
For example, Trumbull Street is lined by buildings that are domestic in character but are commercial office in use. This principle can and should be applied across the city. Zoning can be tailored to the character of each and every neighborhood and district in the city, while not worrying too much about use.

And when parking is a premium regardless of time, then that is a place begging for transit, cycling, and pedestrian improvements.

posted by: Stephen Harris on March 13, 2013  6:00pm

In the abstract New Haven’s residential parking requirement outside the BD’s (1/unit in the RM’s and RH’s) is actually less than what suburbia requires. And, much has already been done regarding the BD’s.

Having said that, the City should think seriously about parking maximums, not minimums; this is something Donald Shoup advocates.

It’s a good idea to start a conversation about how to reform New Haven’s zoning. There is much more to the problem than just parking.

posted by: Nathan on March 13, 2013  6:04pm

Developer placation? That’s so last administration.

posted by: New Haven Taxpayer on March 13, 2013  10:01pm

@J Hopkins -very wise, you should be on city plan.
@Nathan -I Love It!
@ Streever -word has it you are moving south, what will New Haven do with out your expert commentary on virtually EVERY subject? I hope you continue posting from your new home, I, for one, really really really love your posts.

posted by: HhE on March 13, 2013  10:31pm

Promise CCNE $1,00,000, and I bet this problem goes away.

posted by: Cove'd on March 14, 2013  12:10am

Everyone should realize that parking, especially the overabundance of parking, essentially kills urbanism.  It has to start somewhere in terms of the lack of transit argument; transit won’t really get better (the CT bus system - newer routes, increased frequency) unless there is more demand for it.  Well this demand won’t materialize as quickly if there is an overabundance of available parking making it easy for people to drive.  The city should institute parking maximums and flaunt itself as progressive.  From a developer’s standpoint, why would they want to build more parking than they think they need.  Every single parking space costs a lot of money.  Set good (low) parking maximums, let developers in the city build what they need for parking, and watch how much less parking they build than the current regs require.

posted by: jim1 on March 14, 2013  10:18am

If they are short 150 parking spots, they can put in the lease you can’t have a car…...just have a box to check of if you have a car and when they hit the end of the spots that’s it.  a lot of the people might not have a car then no problem.

posted by: New Haven Taxpayer on March 14, 2013  11:13am

We are not talking about an “overabundance” we are talking about a shortage already and adding housing for affluent people, who WILL have cars, will intensify the shortage. 
I don’t think that letting the developers build what ever is best for their bottom line is best for the city.

posted by: The Miz on March 14, 2013  11:26am

To echo Robn’s points, I would like to see some statistics regarding these people coming into New Haven without cars. I’ve seen no evidence that supports this claim. Unless they are referring to people who live outside of downtown coming into the green, which would make more sense but be unrelated.

posted by: streever on March 14, 2013  11:51am will tell you who the people who don’t have cars are. They are your neighbors.

41,000 cars in New Haven
129,000 residents

“Who are these people who don’t have cars”? Miz, Steve,  urban ed, Proud New Havener, meet 80,000 of your neighbors.

You’re welcome.

posted by: Susan Bradford on March 14, 2013  12:04pm

What strikes me here is the absence of community voice.  That the New Haven Economic Development Corporation wants to form a panel is a good thing.  That their consideration is completely one-sided is not. 

To the NHEDC – Parking is just one part of the equation.  You are changing the face of the City.  Don’t work in a vacuum.  Make the dialog inclusive.  City residents and property owners want their voices heard and respected in these redevelopment matters.  They want their concerns given due consideration and made part of these plans.  They do not want to be dismissed in a public hearing where the commission’s decision was already carved in stone, by behind the scenes deal making.

I encourage the NHEDC to reach out for community based planning and advocate for well-formed Neighborhood Planning Agencies equipped with objective professional consultants, to create a panel made from resident and property owner voices you are prepared to listen to on all related redevelopment issues, including parking.

posted by: anonymous on March 14, 2013  12:36pm

Streever, the City of New Haven has just under 50,000 households and families, of which around 15,000 have no car. There are an additional 15,000 or so car-free families in the New Haven suburbs.

Of the latter group, I’m sure that many would be delighted to live somewhere walkable like State Street (if the developer didn’t have to build so many parking spaces they don’t need and as a result charge them too much rent).

Perhaps these folks need to get out of East Rock once in a while.  Maybe there is a course at SCSU in social justice/social work that they should consider enrolling in?

posted by: anonymous on March 14, 2013  12:40pm

P.S.: Those 15,000 car free families overwhelmingly live in Dwight, Dixwell, Fair Haven, Hill, and West Rock—not in the fancy neighborhoods, not in Downtown, and not in the places where Yale students live.  That’s the real reason why the grandstanders & NIMBYs are trying to keep out more housing.

posted by: Proud New Havener on March 14, 2013  12:42pm

Streever, how many of those 129,000 are kids?

posted by: Proud New Havener on March 14, 2013  12:50pm

I’d like to add, like Anonymous said, most of those car-free households are in Dwight, Dixwell, Fair Haven, Hill, and West Rock—not in East Rock, where the effect of Star Supply development will be felt.

I agree that we need better transit—I completely agree. It is just irresponsible to start putting in high density residential developments when we do not have the infrastructure to support it.

If the mayor and others could promise us better transit (and deliver), then I would get on board with zoning changes and higher density developments. Until then, no dice.

posted by: anonymous on March 14, 2013  12:57pm

Proud New Havener: It’s always easy to find another person who is willing to take a stand against the poor. “No dice” is the root of global injustice.

posted by: anonymous on March 14, 2013  12:59pm

“Incumbent property owners who seek to limit development and additional housing in their neighborhoods are supporting the de-facto eviction of the poor from the city.” 

“They are the “haves” excluding the “have-nots” once again.”

“Though their intentions are not evil, the consequences of their actions are. And opportunistic politicians who position themselves as populist defenders of “neighborhood character” must be defeated.”

posted by: streever on March 14, 2013  1:19pm

@Proud New Havener
What do you mean by children? The census site lists by age, so you can easily check.

In terms of simple effectiveness, I have to say, leaning on a private developer who has other options is probably not the best way to accomplish things, so I’m not following you to your conclusion.

We can actually control the transit options. We can’t control someone building a factory here or a shipping depot with two dozen 18 wheelers rolling in and out of it all day.

We also can’t control the judge if the developer appeals a “No” from the BZA, who would absolutely find in the developers favor—hypothetical parking spaces and the poor decisions of people who live on neighborhing streets to not live with the real costs of their automobiles would absolutely not hold up if the decision was appealed.

So, it is hard for me to follow your conclusion on this. I see a way to add to the tax roll and increase density while REDUCING the negative consequence of potential (legal!) uses for the spot, which benefits the entire city.

We are speaking about a neighborhood with an incredibly high rate of transiency. There is no reason why the CURRENT neighbors should dictate the parking requirements to hypothetical new neighbors—it is likely that many of the current neighbors will move before this project is even completed—so it seems counter-intuitive to really demand that the developer build in this way.

It is not that hard to live in New Haven without a car: I know people in their 70s who do it. I know men and women who do it.

There are grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants, and jobs all within a short walk of this location, and people will absolutely move here because they like living car-free if it is built.

I really encourage you and other citizens who care about these issues to start agitating for increased transit and better infrastructure. There is no reason why New Haven has to be the way it is when the fixes are cheap, fast, and well modeled elsewhere.

It is a failure of imagination that we are having this debate at all, and while the failure can be traced well beyond this current issue and the participants, it is time that everyone get involved in fixing that failure.

posted by: Proud New Havener on March 14, 2013  2:03pm

Anonymous, accusing me of taking a stand against the poor is ridiculous—especially in light of the nature of this development and the impact it will have on the community.

Streever, I think you have good intentions, but I think some of what you have said is misleading. It can be very difficult living in New Haven without a car. It is true, in East Rock, we do have grocery stores, a pharmacy and other services available within walking distance, but in other parts of the city, that is simply not the case. I know this through my own experience living in this city, and through the experiences of my colleagues, students and friends.

We need better transit—that we both can absolutely agree on. It just does not make sense to put the cart before the horse. We need to agitate for better transit, before we agitate for changes to our zoning.

Also, on a side note, I don’t see how you can make the claim that a judge would overturn the BZA’s decision not to grant an exception for parking to the developer if he made an appeal. I don’t understand how that makes any sense.

posted by: Curious on March 14, 2013  2:31pm

Put a ten-story parking garage where the Coliseum used to be with a rooftop restaurant and hotel and retail on the ground floor.  Then do the tram.  People park in one spot, and take the tram around New Haven.  Parking fees help pay for the tram.

posted by: Curious on March 14, 2013  2:36pm

Anon, can you link the source to these stats on which households have cars and which don’t, by neighborhood?  Thanks.

posted by: anonymous on March 14, 2013  3:08pm

Curious, for New Haven, try this.
You can then click on “advanced search” and “geographies” to select the individual Census Tracts that correspond closely to each neighborhood and/or NHPD Police District.

posted by: anonymous on March 14, 2013  3:21pm

P.S. for Curious - the 2011 figure for the City of New Haven is 15,372, which is a sign that the number of car-free householders/families in New Haven is much higher now than it was even just a few years ago.

posted by: streever on March 14, 2013  6:30pm

Proud New Havener
and yet, the number of car free households has grown dramatically in just a few years—look at the census data! it absolutely shows this.

In the scenario that opponents are sketching, the cart fell off and got lost 3 miles down the road.

Car-free people live here—right now—and in substantial numbers.

We can not hold back that future because we love the ease of our government subsidized free parking.

AS to why a court would strike it down:
Because, as I’ve been saying, this is an *industrial* lot that has sat vacant for a *VERY* long time, abutting a residential neighborhood where *most* of the homes are dramatically below the parking minimum.

The use proposed by the developer would be more in conformance on parking than most of the homes in the neighborhood.

In zoning, a move that brings a property more into conformance is granted.

That the area is currently zoned industrial would be considered irrelevant, as the city absolutely can not maintain that this location is good for industry, because the building has sat vacant despite all good intentions to do something with it.

There is strict law around how these decisions are made, and often, the State gets to over-rule the city. I can’t imagine City Hall will want to send Victor Bolden to court with a developer who has 10 million at stake over one alder’s pet interest in parking spaces in their neighborhood.

The rates of transiency alone in this neighborhood almost guarantee that no one at City Hall is going to be worried about long-term impacts from ignoring this *specious* and selfish demand that the developer compensate for the *failures* of literally hundreds of others who converted single and double family homes into 4+ units with no parking.

I’m sorry, but it is not this developers fault that development proceeded without proper planning in this neighborhood for the last *50 years*, and it is absolutely unreasonable to expect the developer to compensate for that.

I can’t imagine that your typical upper-income judge who owns a nice garage is going to have much sympathy for grad students who own cars they can’t properly maintain who expect the municipality to provide them with free parking for.

posted by: fk on March 14, 2013  9:44pm

Do you have a car?  If you do, where do you park it?

posted by: Proud New Havener on March 15, 2013  2:14pm

It is a shame we cannot fold this thread in with the other threads on Goatville. FK and Stephen Harris have made some good points. I don’t think anybody has a problem with having a residential development in an area zoned for industry—in fact, we welcome it. We are only talking about the parking exception. It doesn’t make sense and it won’t be overturned in court.

posted by: Fair and Honest on March 15, 2013  2:17pm

I think Streever is right.

If the owners of the houses in Goatville had to comply with a “1 parking space per bedroom” rule, how many of them would be able to?

Parking spots are expensive. It’s not right or fair to demand that new development has to pay for parking spots while current residents park for free.

Parking your car for free on a city street is not a right.

posted by: streever on March 15, 2013  3:49pm

Thanks, Fair and Honest!

Proud New Havener:
Please see the other thread to understand why a judge would *absolutely* over-turn the city if they reject this based on parking minimum.

A parking minimum is not set “because we want it”—that would be arbitrary and specious and be over-turned.

A parking minimum has to be demonstrated as actually using sound judgement and analysis.

Because New Haven has far fewer cars per people, and because the parking problem is only caused by the abutting properties being *wildly* out of compliance and grand-fathered in, I can not imagine a scenario in which a judge could agree with the cities decision as other than specious.

I also can not fathom a situation in which the city will hire lawyers and researchers to fight an appeal. If the BZA turns this down, it is because it is a non-professional board with members who do not understand how the parking minimums are determined. I imagine a developer with 10 million at stake will hire a traffic engineer who will explain to the judge that the parking minimum, in this case, is simply a means to allow neighbors to be out of compliance with zoning & completely specious in being used against this developer.

I would encourage you to look into how land-use laws work in municipalities, and in particular, how the BZA renders decisions: there is a comprehensive manual which City Plan has which you can review!

These issues are important, and everyone involved should know the limitations of the law and the way in which it can be applied.

I’d also recommend looking up the zone in question, and seeing what is permitted *by right* there. It isn’t cheerful.

If you want to have a hand in shaping this development, I’d recommend approaching the developer outside of a gun-barrel negotiation process, sitting down and actually trying to work with him. Your legal options are limited, although I suppose you could entangle him long enough in proceedings to cut into his profit margin and sink the project, but that seems rather selfish to me.

posted by: Curious on March 15, 2013  3:49pm

Very cool site anon, thanks for that link!

posted by: HewNaven on March 16, 2013  12:06pm

“ will tell you who the people who don’t have cars are. They are your neighbors.

41,000 cars in New Haven
129,000 residents

If this is correct, these are the most important numbers that have ever been brought to light. I can’t imagine a better argument for alternative transportation options than to point out that 2/3 of our residents don’t even own cars, much less drive them within the city limits. Many politicians, businessmen, and developers, and many residents too, have been led to believe that car owners are a majority faction who deserve precedence in planning. The above numbers make it clear that car-owners should be an AFTERTHOUGHT in planning, and the needs of those who don’t own cars should always come first since they far outnumber those who do own cars. The distortion of these numbers must come from the fact that the very politicians, businessmen, developers, and residents who frame the conversation, are themselves car owners and drivers, and in the case of some businessmen and developers, they may not even live in the city at all! Yet they want to tell us how to build and live.

All this is a long way of saying, can’t we do a better job of “crowd-sourcing” urban planning and development to prevent the top-down decision making process that has led us down this path of dumb growth?

posted by: Proud New Havener on March 16, 2013  2:12pm

Hi Streever, you are vastly overstating your case. A court would not “absolutely” overturn a decision by the bza not to grant an exception to zoning regulations in the case of parking. In this case, it would seem highly unlikely that a court would do that, especially seeing that there is no compelling reason for the exception and the residents and their representatives are against it. If you doubt my opinion on this, look at what the other commenters have said, including Stephen Harris, or go research zoning as you recommended.

Regardless, that issue is besides the point to the decision-making process right now (and I would add, if the bza made the decision to the allow the developer to build less parking, residents could appeal to the courts and have it overturned—and probably have a much higher chance of success).

posted by: streever on March 16, 2013  5:25pm

Proud New Havener:
Perhaps you’d like to respond to the actual rationale for why a judge would definitely overturn a denial?

I believe your point re: Harris got it backwards: I think he said a court would uphold an approval.

posted by: Stephen Harris on March 16, 2013  8:54pm

Generally courts give wide latitude to the decisions of zoning boards. If the record shows the decision was based on the evidence presented at the hearing, it will stand. Decisions are only overturned when the court finds the board acted illegally or in an arbitrary fashion such as making something up out of whole cloth that is completely disconnected with the testimony at the hearing.

The Goatville item (not this thread but they seem to have merged) has two components, a Use Variance and a Special Exception to reduce parking. A Use Variance was granted for a very similar project a few years ago. Given that history, this Use Variance should be an easy get.

The Special Exception to reduce parking is, in my opinion, an oddity of New Haven’s ordinance. Special Exceptions, along with Special Permits, are associated with permitted uses, but have special characteristics that warrant extra scrutiny, such as a hospital in a residential zone. A change from a standard, such as a parking formula should go the Variance route, which is, in theory, much harder to get. But since an SE is required for parking reduction, it is assumed that it’s a permitted thing to do if the conditions are favorable.

If the BZA denies the Use Variance, the developer should have pretty good grounds to appeal it since a very similar one was granted not too long ago. If they grant the Use Variance, it most likely would stand because, again, they previously granted very similar relief for the same site.

If they deny the SE for parking reduction based on the effect such a reduction would have on area traffic, it should stand because it would be based on a standard of review. Likewise, if the Board grants the SE and bases the approval on any one of the five criteria, it would also most likely stand.

I think the whole thing rests on the SE and I think it’ll be approved and will withstand an appeal. But if it does get denied or lose on appeal the developers must surely know they can use the prior approvals to resurrect that project (assuming the approvals were filed on the land records).

So the only real question is this: Do they have a buyer for the approvals?

posted by: Proud New Havener on March 17, 2013  11:16am

Hi Streever,

I think Stephen Harris has provided a good response above.

“If they deny the SE [special exception] for parking reduction based on the effect such a reduction would have on area traffic, it should stand because it would be based on a standard of review.”

In other words, the court would not “definitely” overturn the BZA’s denial for the parking exception.

posted by: streever on March 17, 2013  1:52pm

Harris and I disagree on this: I think that he has too small of a sample size personally, and is thinking more like an urban planner than a suburbanite judge.

I also think if the developer with 10 million at stake took this to court, it is unlikely the city would fight it, and the developer would get his way.

You are looking at two different opinions: While you may think Harris is right, I don’t think either of you are considering the practical reality of this.

As Harris points out, the city has nothing invested in forcing this developer to build more parking, and every reason to prefer the current development to some which the developer is allowed by right to do.

I don’t think the city would fight an appeal in court, so I would guarantee the developer would get his way in the end.

I suspect Harris would agree with me on that, but I may be wrong.

posted by: Walt on March 17, 2013  4:26pm

Isn’t it odd that Streever and the other bikists,  who pay not a penny in taxes or fees on their bikes after purchases,  gripe if part of the taxes collected from car owners is used for car parking   or related expenses   and can justify spending such   taxes for bike racks or painting of useless (to me)  bike pictures, lines etc. on area streets

( Useless to me as I can’t find definitions and requirements explained even in the usually excellent “Share the Road”  info from Elm City Cyclists)

Continued below as it keeps getting erased as I type

posted by: Walt on March 17, 2013  4:35pm


Isn’t it even more confusing when the bikists rant against requirements that developers provide a minimum number of car parking spaces, and yet demand that those same developers install bike racks and a minimum number of slots for bikes?

posted by: streever on March 17, 2013  6:51pm

St Patrick is trying to reach you through that accidental deletion :)

Car taxes do not actually pay for the impact that cars have on our city. I’m sorry to have to remind you of this again, but those funds do not actually subsidize driving. Everyone who pays taxes does, out of payroll taxes primarily, when we look at how much State and Federal money is invested in our transportation infrastructure at rates of 10 to 1 for cars in New Haven.

posted by: TheMadcap on March 17, 2013  10:10pm

Maybe most cyclists also own a car. Maybe cars are taxed because they’re expensive pieces of machinery that require huge amounts of resources/space to use. Maybe these taxes exist specifically to maintain because cars cost society a lot of money and in turn are taxed as such. Maybe cyclists you know, pay every other tax there is. You’re free to be part of the 1/2 of the city who doesn’t own a car, either willingly or by financial circumstances. You can also replace cyclist in all of that with pedestrian or bus rider.

Why are some people so threatened by bicycles when the vast majority of people still solely use a car. Is it having so much of your life/personality invested in your car that people not wanting to use a car unless they really need to actually threatens you? Are you made cyclists actually force you to step on the brake pedal for a few seconds?

posted by: Martha Smith on March 17, 2013  10:17pm

This would not be popular, but street parking might improve if the City enforced payment of the car tax for vehicles registered out of state.  Between student cars and those registered at out of state relatives’ addresses, it would be a source of income and force some to consider whether keeping a car is necessary.
But I also believe that non-car transportation options need significant improvements.  It is difficult to live in New Haven without access to a car.

posted by: Stephen Harris on March 18, 2013  8:09am


If the decision (which ever way it goes) is based on the testimony and the standards of review it should withstand a challenge. If the reason is willy nilly with no connection to the facts or review standards it can be over turned. The scope of the project or how deep the developers pockets are don’t matter.

Although I’d like to see fewer units I still expect an approval.

posted by: robn on March 18, 2013  8:51am

FWIW I just checked the city’s parking zone map and Goatville has about the cosiest deal in the city for limiting outsiders from parking on their blocks (their zone excludes the Star Supply block). Still the discussion of future parking regs is well worth having.

posted by: streever on March 18, 2013  8:55am

Precisely, but you don’t think that the developers could establish that, indeed, the parking requirement is willy-nilly? I think that is where our opinion on this differs… it seems to me that the parking requirement, which is never uniformly enforced and often times used as a political tool (I was told multiple times while on BZA to vote against something—outside of the meeting room—not because it was breaking parking rules, but because the “word” came down to deny and parking was our excuse)

In my experience, the parking requirement is used to punish developers who aren’t doing things the way the City wants, and I don’t honestly think it would be hard for developers to come forward on that and show that New Haven has a history of abusing the zoning process.

posted by: streever on March 18, 2013  11:41am

Berkowitz clearly stated what is really happening in the neighborhood on the DeLegna story. I think it bears sharing with people here.

“The same goes for the Starr Supply redevelopment. Mechanic Street could only improve from more people being encouraged to walk it yet there are folks leading the charge to make sure we comply with **zoning laws of years past when the automobile was king.**

I live on Upper State between these two properties in a condo complex where 26 people live in 11 Units. Each unit was given two spots and 5 of the units currently use one or less.  4 years ago only 1 unit had less than 2 cars.  I have turned one of my spots into a garden.

Da Legna is a nice place with good food. I walk there. Christopher Martins is a nice place with good food. I walk there.  The folks who occupy Starr Supply will also walk there because that’s what people do in areas of similar density around the world.

Let’s get with the times Upper State.”

69% of the residents in his condo complex own a car. I see no reason why we can’t assume that Starr Supply will be the same, or lower, because Berkowitz lives in a condo complex that caters to car owners by providing nearly a 1 to 1 ratio of spots to renters: and a 2 to 1 ratio of spots to units.

There is no data from New Haven that shows any area where parking needs are 1 to 1.

posted by: Stephen Harris on March 18, 2013  1:07pm


The court doesn’t have the authority to say the parking ratio should be something different. As long as the board shows it used the approval criteria for Special Exceptions in a reasonable way the decision should stand.

posted by: streever on March 18, 2013  2:14pm

I understand that: I am stating that they would not be using it reasonably if they denied this project.

After that, I think it is conjecture if the court would agree with me or not. I think it would, and I also think it is unlikely that the City would even fight an appeal, because it makes no sense for the city to spend time or money fighting an appeal on this.

(I keep saying the same thing, and I don’t think that it has been invalidated, so I think we must be misunderstanding each other.)

posted by: Stephen Harris on March 18, 2013  4:16pm


Well, we’ll find out. I hope it all passes and we get some much needed development. Communicating without the benefit of body language can be a bit frustrating.

posted by: streever on March 18, 2013  4:31pm

Tell me about it :)!

I hope this goes through too, and people can finally get on track with creating a zoning process that serves everyone better.

posted by: Mister Jones on March 18, 2013  4:43pm

I’ve heard that the parking log at 360 State is overbuilt, that there’s lots of spaces there, which supports the developers’ arguments. Yet, there is often not enough parking downtown nights—folks won’t walk three blocks to dinner or a club, sorry—and you do still need a car to navigate most parts of the city efficiently, and to come in from the neighboring communities. Until transit improves, adequate parking is necessary for residents and merchants. I don’t have the answers, nor do I know the right ratios, but I do know that we still need our cars and places to drive and park them.

posted by: Proud New Havener on March 18, 2013  7:42pm

Hi Streever, you’re not off the hook for your ideas about the overturning of the denial of the parking exception or ‘suburbanite’ judges, but it’s a red herring and not worth pursuing.

Incidentally, one of the other commenters brought up a good point about out-of-town cars. You presented the number 40,000 as the amount of cars registered in New Haven, and 129,000 as the population from the census. I have not been able to find the 40,000 number (please reference), but I presume it is either from the city of New Haven or the DMV.

If you compare those two numbers, 40,000 to 129,000, you are going to get a lop-sided idea about how many cars we have to accommodate in New Haven. You will undercount the amount of cars owned by people who reside within New Haven.

The census population counts all people who usually reside here—that includes students, illegal immigrants, everybody. When you move to New Haven, in-state residents are given two days to change registration of their vehicles and out-of-state residents are given 60 days.

People are not diligent about this. If you drive through East Rock you will see out-of-state license plates everywhere, and the same cars, month after month, even year after year. We can’t tell the difference between in-state plates that have had their registration changed and ones that haven’t, but I personally know several people who have not changed their registration, so we know they ar out there.

In addition, there is a large amount of cars that drive into New Haven from outside the city every day for work that we have to accommodate. I’m not going to argue whether this is right and good, but you can’t ignore that reality.

I’m not bringing this up to be nit-picky, but I just want to point out that you are undercounting and minimizing the reality of cars in this city. I understand that you do not like them, but many of your neighbors rely upon them and simply could not support themselves without them.

posted by: Proud New Havener on March 18, 2013  7:44pm

An overwhelming majority of New Haven residents rely on cars to get to work. According to the 2011 American Community Survey, there are 104,044 residents over the age of 16, of which 54,728 are employed (the remainder are either not in the labor force, currently unemployed or in the armed forces). The majority of those employed, 30,219, drive to work alone, while 6,196 carpool to work. Of the remainder, 6,939 use public transportation, 7,186 walk, 1,903 use other means and 1,185 work at home.

Whether or not you care about parking, it is important for our daily lives. It would be absolutely irresponsible for us and our representatives to give up over a 1/4 mile of parking to this developer when we don’t have to.

posted by: streever on March 18, 2013  8:44pm

The real red herring is parking. The BZA is not and will not deny this application over parking.

Census counts are different from registrations and taxed cars. I thought the same thing: 2 hours of looking at data sets convinced me otherwise.

I’m sorry that you think I’m “on the hook” for anything. I think you should look at Berkowitz’s post in the other thread—in a condo complex on State street with a 2 spot to 1 unit ratio, 30% of the spots are not used.

There is no reason to think that this development will be any different.

While the majority of citizens do currently drive to work, we have to think about the future, and build toward a better one.

posted by: Proud New Havener on March 18, 2013  10:39pm

Hi Streever,

I’m not sure what you mean by

“Census counts are different from registrations and taxed cars. I thought the same thing: 2 hours of looking at data sets convinced me otherwise,”

but as long as you agree that 40,000 is below the actual number of cars that are owned by residents, then that is fine (I am still curious where you got that number).

I agree with your comment that “[w]hile the majority of citizens do currently drive to work, we have to think about the future, and build toward a better one.” We share the same sentiment. We just disagree about the particulars of this project.

The supporters of this project are advocating a piecemeal rezoning of the area through the parking exception. I am not necessarily against rezoning, but if we are going to do it piecemeal, then we at least need a piecemeal solution to the problems it will cause.

That is why I have advocated for the developer and the supporters of this project to insure that it succeeds. If there is going to be bike storage, and they are depending upon people to bike, then we better have a situation that allows for it.

That means proper bike lanes and safe intersections. Before the Mill River bridge was closed, Upper State Street was a dangerous place to bike, especially where it connects to the highway off-ramp. Once the bridge is reopened, it will become a dangerous place to bike again. This is in the exact spot where the Star Supply site is located.

It confuses me as to why supporters of the development are focused on bad-mouthing car-owners and disregarding the realities on the street, instead of advocating for biking and alternative transit. If residents saw a viable plan, where their lives would not be disrupted just so this one developer can make a profit, then I think they would be willing to get on board.

posted by: anonymous on March 18, 2013  11:43pm

Proud New Havener:

The totals for New Haven include suburban sections such as East Shore and Amity. East Rock is different. As of 2010, it had has about 5,500 workers over the age of 16. Roughly 43% drive alone to work, and another 5% carpool with someone else.

Translation: Over half of workers in East Rock walk, bike, take transit, take a taxi to work, or work from home.

And remember, not everyone is a commuter, in the work force, and over the age of 16. East Rock has a total population of 8,500 of whom fewer than 2,500 drive alone to a job each day. And as someone pointed out elsewhere, the non-car use is rapidly climbing each year.

The city has other priorities than whether you might have to walk an extra block to find street parking a few times per year. People are desperate for more affordable housing - the only way to provide that, short of finding tens of millions of dollars in grants from the Obama administration, is to eliminate parking.

posted by: Proud New Havener on March 19, 2013  10:11am

Hi Anonymous,

First off, please give the sources for your numbers. People have been not attributing or misattributing data, so it is important to have references.

Secondly, we are not talking about “whether you might have to walk an extra block to find street parking a few times per year.” If you have that view, then you are minimizing the issues and mistaking the nature of this community, this project and the precedent it will set.

We are effectively talking about rezoning. Right now supporters of this project are just advocating for a parking exception and rezoning piecemeal, but that will set a precedent. We are not just talking about the expropriation of over 1/4 mile of on-street parking to this development, we are talking about the loss of on-street parking to all future developments that demand the same treatment.

I don’t necessarily disagree with rezoning, but if we are going to do it, we need to address it, and all the issues it will cause, as a community. It is not okay to just slip it in under the radar.

This could precipitate a very big change in our community. Maybe that should happen, but it does not make sense to do it recklessly. If you want to do a piecemeal rezoning, then at least you need a piecemeal solution to the problems it will cause.

posted by: TheMadcap on March 19, 2013  12:53pm

Someone asked before how many of New Haven’s 129,000 residents are children. The census says 25.6% are 18 and under. That leaves just under 100,000 adults. Also, people not changing their registration is a red herring, because it goes both ways, people leaving New Haven for somewhere else are also lazy about updating their registration, not to mention, the number of arrivals/departures of residents of the city is a fractional part of the overall population. As for downtown, office complexes and such that have large amounts of drivers coming in from the suburbs and aren’t retail businesses that rely on foot traffic can of course have different parking regulations put on them. Even downtown though, parking isn’t bad, unless one wants to park right next to the green, which is just being greedy. People portray the issue of parking as if New Haven has reached some kind of critical limit of parking, and people are on the verge of just parking their cars on the sidewalk. Unless there’s some big event going on, there’s always parking, you just may have to walk two or three blocks to your destination, which is the entire point of being in a city core. It’s not meant for cars, it can never be meant for cars unless you want us to look like Tulsa.(seriously, look up downtown Tulsa on google maps, it’s terrifying, asphalt as far as the eye can see) people are supposed to find a place to park their car and then leave it.

posted by: TheMadcap on March 19, 2013  1:03pm

Also, I wouldn’t consider 60 something percent to be an overwhelming majority. If it as 85% or so, which is the case in most cities, it would be, it’s not. In fact all the number shows is New Haven has one of the highest rates of public transport, carpool, cycling and pedestrian in the nation, and that’s a number every developer and urban engineer wants to go further up, not down. We can’t have our cake and eat it too. Our urban design policies will either foster car use, or discourage it. No matter how much you try to balance it, inevitably it will benefit one side more than the other. But hey, everything is still better than in the 1950’s/60’s when the city’s chief engineer purposely tried to make stop lights as annoying as possible in hopes it would make people leave their cars(which is super crazy given this went on simultaneously with urban renewal projects). Thankfully, they’re now trying to streamline lights to keep a steady flow of traffic at a moderate pace like other cities.