At the regular meeting on March 6, and after weeks of debate and public comment in past sessions, and 15 minutes of discussion in today's otherwise short meeting, the Houston City Council enacted a comprehensive new parking ordinance. The measure was on last week's agenda and tagged by Council Members Bradford, Noriega, Adams, and Pennington. The ordinance amends Article VIII of Chapter 26 of the Code of Ordinances, which establishes certain minimum parking requirements for businesses. The new measure and provides incentives credits for businesses near public transportation and options for reducing required parking places when bicycle racks are installed.
In addition, the new law allows neighborhoods to develop special permit zones tailored to neighborhood needs.
The ordinance does not provide for systematic inspections or fines. Rather, it provides a procedure for residents to complain if a particular business regularly operates in such a way that parking requirements are not met on a regular basis. For example, a restaurant or bar that regularly sponsored volley ball tournaments might draw enough spectators to become burdensome to the neighborhood. Neighbors could then request hearings to determine if new restrictions are needed. However, if the tournaments can be held without eliminating the minimum required parking spaces, the law will not require a change.
Councilman Davis expressed concerns about a possible chilling effect on efforts to develop community activities such as farmers' markets fairs, or local promotions. However, Mayor Parker and others explained that issues can be raised on a case-by-case basis. After the ordinance is in effect, each neighborhood and business will be free to raise any issues, and prompt action was promised if problems arise.
The measure passed with only Council Members Davis and Brown voting “no.”
In other matters, prior to the meeting, the council heard the monthly financial reports from the City Comptroller and Finance Director.
The Council also held a public hearing on impact fees. No members of the public signed up to address the hearing. The City Engineer reviewed the requirements of state law and the criteria for calculating the fees.