Growing push to scrap parking requirements on new construction in parts of Atlanta

Atlanta’s zoning review board plans to consider a proposal to eliminate off-street parking requirements for certain new construction projects – both residential and commercial -- in parts of town near the BeltLine.

Some urban planning and transportation advocates argue fewer parking spots will encourage more people to find alternative ways to get around, reducing congestion.

But people either like the idea or hate it.

"That’s stupid," said Casey Ahlers, who lives near the BeltLine. "I mean, why would you move somewhere if you don’t have a place to put your car? 

However, Eric Phillips, also a BeltLine resident and advocate for public transportation and land use, noted that as Atlanta has grown, its streets have not.

"We don’t have a God-given right to park wherever we want," Phillips said. "A lot of vehicular parking is effectively inefficient. It does present external costs that are passed on to neighborhoods, our neighbors themselves."

The proposed rule change would eliminate the off-street parking requirement for new commercial and residential projects in the BeltLine Overlay District, with the exception of restaurants and bars.

Phillips believes there are already many largely empty parking lots and street parking spaces throughout the city. He argues that these rules have placed an undue burden on individuals trying to open small businesses. 

"They don’t want to have to put 20 parking spaces related to it and pass that additional cost to their customers or their tenants," he said.

However, Ahlers insists that Atlanta is a city made for driving, and having a car is essential.

"You need a car in Atlanta," she said. "Unless you want to take a lift everywhere like I do."

Phillips also argues that with the city growing at its current rate, congestion will eventually reach a breaking point.

"As our population continues to increase, you are either going to have continued gridlock or there’s other ways that you can move people around."

Already, some members of the city’s neighborhood planning units (NPUs) have expressed opposition to the idea. The NPUs plan to vote on it and pass a recommendation to the Zoning Review Board.

The NPUs are planning a public hearing on the matter before the Zoning Review Board on either Dec. 7 or Dec. 14.

Council member Jason Dozier, who spearheaded the proposal, was not immediately available for comment on Wednesday because his family welcomed a new baby girl earlier in the day.