How much parking is enough?
That was the big question last week when the affordable housing project at 20269 Broadway came before the Planning Commission on Feb. 9, for the latest in a series of hearings on its potential impact on Sonoma. But several members of the public, both in comment before the commission and in remarks among themselves, were clearly dissatisfied with two primary aspects of the current proposal – the number of parking places, and impact on traffic that the development could have.
Planning Commission chair James Cribb made the point that the study session was to review the direction and scope of the CEQA environmental review, under the California Environmental Quality Act, and pointed out that parking was not a consideration in CEQA, but would be discussed at a later date during the “use permit” process. That frustrated several in the audience who nonetheless attempted to raise the issue during the public comment section of the hearing, concerned that too few parking spaces on the 2-acre property would spill over onto street parking in the neighborhood.
The proposal from Satellite Affordable Housing Associates (SAHA) of Berkeley has been amended since the previous hearing to add another 11 parking spaces, bringing the total to 72 for the 49-unit complex (with seven for staff and visitors, that leaves 65 for the residents). The number and ratio of one-, two- and three-bedroom units has also been adjusted somewhat. The current plan is for a total of 89 bedrooms, with a preponderance of one-bedroom units (22) that SAHA predicts will be occupied by singles.
According to City Planner David Goodison, who read the staff report on the development to kick off the discussion, “Based on the parking standards for multi-family set forth in the Development Code, the normal requirement for a 49-unit development would be 92 off-street parking spaces, including 49 covered spaces.” He went on to note that “as an affordable housing development, the project qualifies for concessions and incentives with respect to normal zoning standards, including parking requirements.”
A total of 14 units would be two-bedroom units, and 13 would be three-bedroom units. Their estimate of parking needs for the projected population included comparisons with SAHA’s other developments, and their finding that low-income residents generally have fewer vehicles and use them less than the average. Across their portfolio of 60 properties, SAHA noted in the report, parking demand averages .95 vehicles per unit. Their plan for 72 parking spaces for 49 units – and 89 total bedrooms – comes out to 1.469 parking spaces per designated unit.
“The number of spaces we have proposed at this development are more on a per-unit basis than we have at any of our other properties,” said Eve Stewart, SAHA’s director of housing development, “and on an absolute basis, more than we have at our other properties even though some are much larger developments.”
Observers at the study session were skeptical of those figures, however. The change.org petition project critics are circulating online projects as many as 237 expected residents, for which 62 or 72 parking spaces would clearly be inadequate. However, there’s a significant gap between those 237 expected residents and 89 designated units, or bedrooms, in the current SAHA proposal. That would come to 2.66 people per bedroom, an uncomfortable figure.