Michael Skelly recently wrote a Letter to the Editor in the Houston Chronicle. It was about the government forcing landowners of privately held properties to build parking lots. His point was the government needs to stay out of situations with its heavy hand and let the marketplace work this out on its own.
His comments are priceless. To tell the truth, I don't know if he is talking about parking lots in Houston or eminent domain and powerlines across the Midwest. There is so much to be said about the letter. Perhaps the best thing to do is to just quote Michael Skelly and let you decide for yourself.
This is perhaps the most hypicritially absord and arrogant letters I have read coming from a man who wants to use eminent domain to take over 60,000 acres of land from thousands of private landowners.
Again, I get confused. Is Michael talking about parking or powerlines here?
The verdict is in. Rice University
sociologist Steven Klineberg recently documented that most Houstonians
prefer walkable urbanity over suburban development. In November, Houston
voters approved a parks and green space initiative by a lopsided 68-32
But how do we get to this more dense, greener, walkable urban city? The answer is not more parking spaces.
Recent proposals to tighten Houston’s parking ordinance are a step in
the wrong direction. While the proposal offers some relief to certain
businesses, the revisions miss the point. The New York Times recently
reported that Houston leads the country in parking. Many of these
countless acres of pavement are required by law. Our city mandates
parking for every class of business - from offices to veterinary clinics
to art galleries to barber shops to car washes. Implicit in every one
of these rules is the presumption that government knows customers’ needs
better than the businesses that serve them. Why don’t we let businesses
decide parking for themselves?
Government regulation inevitably leads to too much parking, since
one-size-fits-all rules mandate the same requirements for FM 1960 as for
Montrose, regardless of walkability, transit or on-street parking.
If a business believes its customers need more parking, it will have
every incentive to figure this out. On the other hand, a business that
is forced by law to provide more parking spaces than it needs will pay a
significant cost. A surface parking spot costs many thousands to
acquire and build, and a space in a parking garage costs tens of
thousands. The space that is occupied by that parking spot can’t be used
for money-making purposes such as more retail space, offices or
It’s not just the business that pays the cost for providing
unnecessary parking - we all do. Every space means all of us will have
to swallow the incremental visual blight; our heat island effect will
get a bit more fuel and our city will become a bit less walkable. And if
a lot stays vacant because parking requirements make development
economically infeasible, we all pay the cost in a loss of vitality.
The proper role for government is the competent management of
government-provided parking - otherwise known as on-street parking.
Most, if not all of the parking conflicts in places such as Montrose
arise because residents, not unreasonably, lay claim to on-street
parking in their neighborhoods and resent “outsiders” taking their
spots. Other cities around the country have found that the best
resolution is a combination of residential permits, metered parking,
strict enforcement and often the development of public/private garages -
not mandating acres and acres of private free parking.
We don’t need more planning or zoning-like ordinances to build the
denser, walkable city Houstonians want. A better Houston answer is for
city government to provide the basic drivable and walkable
infrastructure through measures like Complete Streets and from there
unleash our entrepreneurial energy.
As the Museum District expands our cultural assets, let them figure
out the right mix of money spent on parking vs. art acquisitions. As
Midtown matures, let the entrepreneurs decide if they want to give a
free beer to a Metro riding customer (instead of a free parking space).
As buildings find new uses, let’s not gum up the works and instead allow
new tenants to figure out what their customers want. And as Houston
urbanizes, and we think strategically about how to keep ours a low-cost
city, let’s help our businesses keep their costs down, and let’s not tax
pedestrians by forcing cross-subsidization of parking by pedestrians.
A more urban Houston is in our future. Most residents embrace this
new world. As this reality comes about, we should take measure of our
strengths. Higher density development will provoke strong reactions
along the way.
But you can’t get to high density if you mandate paving every other
square foot in the city - which is roughly what Houston requires of its