Following the lead of U.S. cities such as Austin, San Jose, Gainesville, Fla., and dozens of others, the Atlanta City Council approved legislation Monday that will remove parking minimums for new projects located in a vast loop near the city-altering BeltLine project.
Widely applauded (and long lobbied for) by Atlanta urbanists, the legislation is being called by its backers a progressive step toward smarter urban planning, safer streets, and inclusivity.
Introduced last month by District 4 Councilmember Jason Dozier, the approved legislation will modify zoning around the BeltLine Overlay District—a zone of roughly ½ mile on either side of the 22-mile loop’s corridor.
The rules will ban new gas stations and drive-thrus in that area, while removing Atlanta’s requirement to build a minimum amount of parking with both residential and commercial projects. (The rules will exclude some restaurants and bars, which rely on parking for delivery and customer service.)
Parking minimums imposed by cities dictate the amount of off-street parking—oftentimes a costly component of new projects—that developers must build, based on certain formulas, such as one parking space per bedroom. The theory goes that less space (and less upfront money from builders) devoted to parking will allow more room for less expensive housing, restaurants, shops, offices, and other vibrant uses, while encouraging neighborhood planning focused on pedestrians, not drivers.
“By eliminating parking minimums, we’re embracing a more progressive approach to urban planning and prioritizing the needs of our communities,” Dozier wrote on Twitter/X, following Monday’s vote. “This move aligns with our vision of a more walkable, bikeable, and transit-friendly Atlanta… [It’s] a monumental victory for mobility and sustainability.”
Dozier argues that Atlanta’s former “excessive parking requirements” have held back development potential near the BeltLine corridor and spawned worse traffic congestion.
The ordinance passed this week includes grim statistics. Since 2015, 14 pedestrians have been killed in collisions with cars within the BeltLine overlay zone—and eight of those incidents happened within the past two years. In the same time period, 47 pedestrians were seriously injured, and more than half of those instances also happened within the past two years. (Is it a coincidence the City of Atlanta's population has swelled in post-pandemic times, packing on an additional 14,300 people over the year ending last April alone—a growth rate the Atlanta Regional Commission called "surprising"?)
Across Georgia, according to the ordinance, the number of pedestrian fatalities has reached a 40-year high, earning the Peach State the dubious distinction of being one of the 10 deadliest for pedestrian deaths.
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