Indy Parking Policies Fail its Citizens

2010.02.24

Many people are now familiar with the MDC hearing examiner’s recent denial of a variance.  Current coverage on IBJ’s Property Lines, Huston St Racing (w/photos), and Urban Indy.  This variance would have allowed a renovation of an old urban property consistent with its original and proposed use.  Basically, the developers wanted to eliminate the requirement for off-street parking.

The neighboring property owners were worried this would force the tenants to park illegally in nearby surface lots.  After review of the case and a private meeting with the interested parties, the Hearing Examiner concluded that no compromise was forthcoming and denied the petition for a variance.

I think the Indianapolis planning staff summarized the issue quite well in their analysis, which recommended *approval* of the petition.  Here is the planning staff’s opinion:

Urban sites should be developed to the highest intensity possible. To require this site to meet the required off-street parking standards, would require the demolition of a portion of the building or acquisition of adjacent sites. A practical difficulty is met by this request since the site is fully developed. Additionally, there are several IndyGo bus routes that travel along Meridian Street and nearby streets that substantially reduce the need for parking. Finally, it is a common and preferred planning method that little or no off-street parking be added to a reuse of an inner city site. If residents require off-street parking, there are three off-street parking sites directly adjacent to the site to the north, northeast and east that could meet that need.

MDC documents are here (p. 85), results from the hearing are here (p. 3).

I think it is time that Indianapolis accepts that off-street parking requirements are the bane of true urban renewal.  The minimum parking requirements are a senseless way to devalue our CBD.  They are an existential threat to urban life, and therefore the core identity of Indianapolis.

Someone raised an interesting question on the IBJ website:  What are the requirements for becoming a hearing examiner in Indianapolis?  I suggest we remake the qualifications process, and that it only have 1 component:  survive in Indy for one month without a car, and then we’ll take you.  A human’s eye view of the city might do some of these people some good.

One of the commenters on Huston Street Racing offered an apology of the Examiners actions, stating:

He is a thoughtful and even-handed person, and a thorough lawyer. He is not a dolt or hack, as portrayed on the IBJ comments thread. …  It appears to be his belief that someone will part with some parking spaces if offered enough money to do so. 

All of this may be true, I won’t dispute it.  But off-street parking should *never* have become an issue with this property.  I am not sure the examiner even read the planner’s report, because it pretty clearly laid down the rationale against parking requirements and why they wouldn’t apply in this case anyways.  Just in case anyone didn’t want to read the full report, or even my summary, just read the part in bold above.  One sentence is all you need to know.

This situation is yet another lost opportunity for a representative of the City of Indianapolis to address the real infrastructural problems that have ruined the city.  Indianapolis I love you, but you’re bringing me down.