While local, state and federal officials are still working to prepare for driverless vehicles on the road, Chandler City Council also is addressing a relatively new concern – how to prepare for their impact on parking.
In fact, chief city planner David de la Torre told the Chandler Chamber of Commerce public affairs committee, the ordinance that council preliminarily approved on April 26 may be the first of its kind in the country and even the world.
It would allow developers to devote less space to parking – and more space to more profitable building space – if they meet certain accommodations for autonomous vehicles.
In his presentation, de la Torre cited several authorities on autonomous vehicles who have examined their impact on future zoning regulations, since autonomous vehicles likely will reduce the need for parking spaces and increase the demand for drop-off zones.
One is Bloomberg Philanthropies, which stated in a study, “Autonomous vehicles have the potential to profoundly reshape cities in ways that we’re just beginning to understand. This disruptive technology will not only affect urban policies around transportation, but it will also have major implications for land use, economic growth and community development.”
Also cited by de la Torre was Donald Elliott, a Denver zoning specialist, who notes there are currently 263 million non-autonomous cars on the road and roughly 2 billion parking spaces in the United States.
He sees a reduced need for parking that would be welcome by developers of high-value urban property who currently must factor a certain number of parking spaces into construction costs and rent.
Elliot in the past has noted as an example a 300-square-foot studio in a dense downtown area could be required to have two parking spots – meaning the vehicles may end up with more space (324 square feet) than the tenant.
The proposed changes to Chandler’s zoning code – likely to be finalized when it meets May 10 – gives the city flexibility in adjusting parking requirements.
“These zoning code amendments have many positive implications from increasing the amount of property available for revenue generating activity, demonstrating to the autonomous vehicle industry that Chandler is ‘open for business’ and further reinforcing Chandler’s brand recognition as the Innovation and Technology Hub of the Southwest,” said Mayor Jay Tibshraeny in a release.
Under one change, a zoning administrator could reduce by as much as 40 percent of required parking area if a developer can show that ride-sharing and autonomous vehicles will be in high use by the building tenants.
The second change would allow a 10 percent parking reduction – up to 40 percent – for each loading zone space.
If the reductions were to cause a parking problem, the City’s zoning administrator will have the discretion to deny the request.
The ordinance also poses standards for loading zones: They must be at least 50 feet from the main entrance, kept separate from fire zones, provide shade, benches and other amenities and be handicap-accessible.
If approved, the new regulations would take effect June 9.
During his presentation, de la Torre was asked whether bus stops also could be used as loading zones, giving a wider latitude to driverless vehicles for passengers to board and debark. He said that will be up to Valley Metro.
He also said it’s unclear how soon autonomous vehicles will have an even bigger impact on cities like Chandler.
“We’re in this transition period and we don’t know long it will be,” de la Torre said. “Some say it’s going to happen fast and others say it’s going to be gradual. Some say 10 years and others say 50 because people are not going to want to give up driving their vehicle. There are a lot of predictions out there.”