Cities around the country are reducing or eliminating requirements for off-street parking in new developments, saving developers and residents money while reducing vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and emissions within their jurisdictions. Cities are achieving these goals by changing zoning requirements for new developments that are near areas with established public transit systems or other desirable urban amenities that residents want and need.
Reduced use of cars for personal transport helps relieve vehicular congestion and creates safer conditions for walking, cycling, and other alternative modes of transportation. Car-free neighborhoods also provide additional benefits including improved air quality, reduced noise, lower ambient temperatures, and an increased sense of community for residents. California, the eight largest metro areas in Oregon, and numerous other cities throughout the country have embraced policy changes that reduce or eliminate zoning requirements for off-street parking.
A notable example of this practice is the City of Tempe, Arizona, which modified its zoning requirements to eliminate the need for off-street residential parking near transit. This allowed a developer to construct a new car-free mixed use project adjacent to a light rail line that provides convenient, car-free access to downtown Tempe, Arizona State University, downtown Phoenix, and the Sky Harbour International airport.
The new Tempe project was developed on a site about 15 miles from downtown Phoenix by a team of developers called Culdesac. The project includes several apartment buildings with designated parking areas for deliveries, mobility partners and visitors. However, as allowed by Tempe’s zoning map amendment, the project does not provide off-street parking for residents’ personal vehicles. Instead of creating a space dedicated to cars, Culdesac designed the rental community to optimize walkability and access to public and alternate modes of transit; it is considered the first car-free community built from scratch in the United States. In addition to the apartment buildings with their minimal parking for visitors and deliveries, the development includes numerous community amenities, including a plaza and a small grocery store, a coffee shop, restaurants, a co-working space, a park, a dog park, a fitness center, a central plaza event center, and a community garden.
The founders of Culdesac, Ryan Johnson and Jeff Berens of Phoenix, Arizona, decided to form the company because of their frustration with America’s intense dependence on cars for personal transport and the amount of land that is covered in pavement as a consequence. In contrast, residents at Culdesac Tempe get to enjoy usable public courtyards, landscaping, and pleasant greenery instead of paved drives and parking garages to accommodate hundreds of cars. The $170 million development spans 17 acres and provides 700 apartments, parking for over 1000 bicycles, numerous courtyards, and up to $3000 in mobility benefits including use of e-bikes provided by a shop within the community. Residents also receive a complimentary pass to ride Valley Metro’s light rail system, a 15% discount for Lyft riders, or an electric car-sharing option for $5 per hour, all in the interest of reducing dependence on personal vehicles, and all made possible by zoning legislation that does not demand a certain quota of off-street parking areas.
Culdesac proposed the car-free development idea to Tempe, and the city expressed interest in the concept of a car-free community. After soliciting public input and analyzing the proposed project the city’s Community Development staff recommended that the project be approved along with concurrent changes to zoning requirements. In October of 2019 the City Council approved a Zoning Map Amendment and an Amended Planned Area Development Overlay, along with a development agreement that allowed Culdesac to proceed with the project.
Reduce Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) by zoning to facilitate car-free residential development near transit.
- Demand for rental units within the car-free development.
Time to Implement:
- Approximately 1 year.
City of Tempe AZ, Development Review Commission Agenda Item 8: Eastline Zoning Amendment Proposal (without Development Project file)
City of Tempe AZ, Development Review Commission Agenda Item 8: Eastline Zoning Amendment Proposal and Development Project File (large file size)
Developers Offer Mobility Services to Lure Car-Free Renters
What is Parking Reform?
Five Cities that Repealed Parking Minimums in 2022
Berkeley overhauls off-street parking with an eye toward a greener future
California bans mandated parking near transit to fight high housing prices, climate change
People are happier in a walkable neighborhood’: the US community that banned cars
Tempe’s Car-Free Developers Headed to Atlanta
Inside Culdesac CEO Ryan Johnson’s Apartment in a Car-Free Neighborhood
City of Tempe Planning Division
Suparna Dasgupta, Principal Planner
Karen Stovall, Senior Planner
31 East Fifth Street
Tempe, Arizona 85281