Here’s what happened when Buffalo changed its zoning rules
For urban planners, parking rules established decades ago have become a contentious 21st-century challenge. Parking takes up about one-third of land area in U.S. cities; nationwide, there are an estimated eight parking spaces for every car.
In 2017 Buffalo, New York, became the first U.S. city to stop requiring development projects to include at least a minimum amount of parking. Other cities followed, including Hartford, Connecticut, and Santa Monica, California. Many cities are now considering reforms, and a bill pending before the California Legislature would remove minimums for new buildings near public transportation across the Golden State.
But despite growing support for parking reform, there is little data showing how such changes affect urban development. As part of our work on urban planning, we quantified changes in construction during the first two years after Buffalo adopted its new “Green Code,” repealing minimum parking requirements citywide.
We found that the Green Code is changing Buffalo’s urban form in ways that had been difficult, if not impossible, under former zoning rules. As local leaders seek to reenergize the urban core and spark a post-industrial renaissance, public transit is now a priority. Inactive storefronts, underutilized historic structures and former industrial buildings are being rehabilitated, and vacant parcels are being developed in fragmented neighborhoods.