The Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously Friday to eliminate minimum parking requirements on new developments citywide.
The move is a significant switch from practices in most cities requiring developers to include a certain minimum number of parking spaces depending on the size of a new commercial or residential structure.
Before the 13-0 vote, City Council President Lisa Bender said that the change aligns with the city's climate and greenhouse gas emission goals outlined in the Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan.
"Parking drives so much about the design of buildings and the cost of housing in our city. … This opens up so much possibility, especially to develop the smaller-scale projects that so many of our constituents point to as they tell us the kind of projects and housing they want to see in their communities," Bender said.
The change, which will take effect next week, makes Minneapolis the largest Midwest city to abandon parking requirements and one of just a handful in the United States, according to a city statement.
By no longer requiring expensive parking, the cost of housing can decrease and other forms of transit use will be encouraged, Bender said.
Bender noted that parking can be controversial, but she thanked staff members who have spent years working on parking issues that now have broad support.
Council Members Bender, Cam Gordon and Steve Fletcher held a celebratory Friday afternoon news conference with neighbors, supporters and city planners at the Minneapolis Public Service Building, which was built without parking.
"We have spent decades and decades subsidizing and building and supporting and encouraging automobile traffic," Gordon said. "More and more people are figuring out how to live without an automobile, how to survive sharing an automobile, and [are] wanting to have more opportunities to live a car-free life."
The ordinance also includes an increase in bicycle parking requirements and will add new travel demand management (TDM) strategy requirements to more buildings, including every residential building with 50 or more units.
TDM options serve as incentives for developers who can offer residents free or discounted transit passes, improvements to pedestrian activity or shared vehicles for tenants. Electric vehicle chargers will be required, Fletcher said.
Still, developers will not be barred from building parking. It will allow for more flexibility and choices for everyone in Minneapolis, Bender said.
Minneapolis Planning Commissioner Chris Meyer has been pushing for the elimination of parking requirements since he was a student at the University of Minnesota in 2011. In 2015, he bought 13 copies of "The High Cost of Free Parking" by Donald Shoup for each council member. Later that year, minimums near transit were eliminated.
"I'm really proud to see Minneapolis take that final step. With the action the council took today, they are establishing the principle that we should not force people to build auto infrastructure against their will, because it goes against everything we stand for as a city," Meyer said.
Lyndale resident Damien Lindquist said his neighborhood has seen a recent increase in demand for parking, as restaurant or bar visitors compete with residents for street parking. He does not support parking elimination.
"I really feel like the way Minneapolis is doing all of this during COVID, when it's really difficult for the public to comment when nobody's meeting in person … it's not really giving the community a fair voice in the process," Lindquist said.
South Uptown resident Matt Lewis wrote in support of parking elimination, especially as the city works to meet housing and climate goals.
"Car infrastructure serves predominantly white and wealthier residents and workers from the suburbs at the expense of people who live in the city and may not own a car. As the city focuses on equity, we must also look at how we prioritize cars," Lewis said.
The city of St. Paul is considering a similar proposal that would reduce or eliminate its parking requirements.
Zoë Jackson covers St. Paul for the Star Tribune. She previously covered young voters through the Report For America program, supported by the Minneapolis Foundation.
612-673-7112 • @zoemjack