The Re: Zoning meeting tonight, September 10th, was exciting to me. The overview of the process presented the possibility of removing parking minimums from some parts of the city. All of the comments about parking supported removing the minimums, and even went so far as to call the city's preliminary proposal tepid (which it is).
I was one of the commenters about parking policy, and my comment was that removing minimums from the entire city should be the bare minimum of what is done, which at present is what is proposed for a few, specific, transit-oriented development (TOD) corridors. I think that parking maximums should be proposed for this TOD areas.
Removing a parking minimum doesn't mean that a business or residence can't have parking. It just means they don't have to have parking. We should strive for that to be the basic starting point of the conversation.
Bike parking requirements will be part of the conversation for larger new developments, following the example of many other cities.
The preliminary presentation said that the city will work with residents and businesses to come up with a plan to maintain and promote mixed-use development, like those that already exist in many neighborhoods.
One problem I saw with the proposal was that it tended to talk about preserving whatever arrangements already exist. I entered the process not understanding the zoning does not necessarily affect whether or not a developer can demolish a building. I would say, knowing that this is the case, that I can't foresee a reason why we would want to zone in such a way that a building that is now residential can't become commercial, or a commercial building can't become industrial, etc. The plan seemed to talk about mixed-use as something to be allowed only on certain corridors, and I think that is somewhat of a mistake.
"This is a City. Get Rid of the Vacant Lots"
One commenter, a resident who identified himself as being from Wayland Square, drew applause when he said that the city needs to understand itself in urban terms. He cited the existence of large parking lots in the Jewelry District and elsewhere that should be "forty story buildings". The man said that "If you want to move to Portsmouth, you're free to do that. But this is Providence. It's a city, and we need to be strong. Go Providence!"
Although not one of the three people who specifically talked about parking reform, I think that guy can count as a fourth informal yea for change, yes?
A note of caution from our friends at Streetsblog. Rhode Island native and Streetsblog writer Stephen Miller cautions on Twitter that we shouldn't count our zoning changes until they've hatched:
Let's cross our fingers, but not forget to keep on top of things.