Last week FPH published an article on the new parking ordinance amendment being proposed by the City of Houston Planning & Development Department. This amendment has some Houstonians worried because it is requiring a 20% increase in parking for restaurants and a 40% increase for bars. The table above is a recently released budget analysis for small bars and restaurants incorporating the cost of the proposed parking amendment requirements. The model concludes that small restaurants and bars would not have enough money for rent if they complied with the new parking requirements. Bobby Heugel , President of An Organized Kooperative on Restaurant Affairs, based the analysis on a traditional business model taught in his restaurant business class. The model also gives a conservative estimate by using optimistic average monthly sales numbers that many small business, especially new ones, would not able to produce. To further underline that the amendment in no outlined form will work for small businesses, the analysis also shows that even with the amendment modified to OKRA’s recommendations, rent would still become financially impossible for small businesses.
FPH contacted Brian Crimmins from the City of Houston Planning & Development Department to find reason behind this potentially small-business-crushing amendment. Crimmins explained that this amendment to the original 1989 parking ordinance is in response to two types of complaints. The city received complaints from citizens who reported that their neighborhoods drastically changed after the introduction of a new establishment. There are also reported tensions between bars or restaurants and their neighboring businesses, with the neighboring businesses complaining that the bar or restaurant patrons are parking in their spots. For these reasons, the city drafted this new amendment to require more parking for every bar and restaurant.
FPH learned of an important clarification that needs to be made to the previous parking amendment article. The parking amendment will only affect businesses established after the amendment is passed by city council. This means that none of the current establishments will see any change to their parking requirements. While the amendment will not redraw the city immediately, Heugel’s analysis highlights how requiring additional parking spots will make rent too expensive for small businesses. It will also require a larger percentage of existing land in Houston to be turned into parking lots versus something more sustainable and useful to our communities.
Crimmins had three points in response to the concerns for small businesses and the proliferation of large parking lots. Section 26-510 of the amendment enables establishments to reduce one car parking space for each four bicycle parking spaces, for a reduction up to 10% of the total required parking spots. The amendment also rewrites the shared parking rules in Sec.26-500 to allow neighboring businesses to share their parking spots when they have opposite operating hours. Lastly, city areas will have the ability to apply to create their own parking requirements if they can prove that the area has other adequate transportation options. People, groups, or entities that show a perpetual commitment to an area can apply for a special parking area and bring their suggestions for their area in front of the city council. While this last option provides the greatest potential flexibility for a neighborhood, it is far from perfect. It could leave less organized communities without protection for their small businesses and empower non-residents, such as developers, to greatly influence communities. The application process puts more power into the hands of the few people on city council to decide the fate of Houston and increases the amount of bureaucratic red tape for small businesses.
The window to stop or change this amendment will close when the mayor brings it in front of city council for a vote. Crimmins was sure to clarify that the amendment is not in its final form, and he encourages Houstonians to reach him personally with their feedback. Brian Crimmins direct number is (713)837-7701, and his email is firstname.lastname@example.org. The current amendment can be read at this link, and feedback can also be sent to the Houston City Council on their website. To learn more about OKRA’s stance, you can find Heugel’s latest letter to the city council at this link.