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C. Briem

There have been some programs in the past that let actual downtown residents lease PPA spots at fairly low rates... $100-150 per month I think. but the construction costs for indoor/multilevel or underground parking spaces is a fair bit more than a few thousand per spot if you are looking at what a purchase price would be vice annual leasing.


The Carlyle doesn't have onsite parking; neither does much of the development on Penn & Liberty Avenues.

Mark Rauterkus

You are right again!

The requirement for parking spaces for housing is one way to insure that we don't have affordable housing. That link should be broken.


How do you figure, Mark, if what I said above holds?

Sam M

SO I guess the question becomes: Is Pittsburgh just ahead of the curve in getting rid of parking requirements? Did it ever have them? (I think it did.) Or did these developers get exemptions? How did they do do that?

John Morris

The cities with the high minimum parking requirements pretty much are the cities with the dead downtowns. Underlying this stuff is a deep level of self loathing. Pittsburgh is deeply convinced that people just want to get out as soon as they can.

I can see the reasoning behind having maximum limits on parking since this is a destructive and wastefull use of land, but the reasoning behind forced minimums is pretty crazy.

Sam M

But if the Carlyle and other places have not included parking, does that mean that Pittsburgh has gotten rid of its requirement? Or does it mean the requirement is not being enforced? Or does it mean that you can get exemptions?

I might also wonder after the link between affordability and parking. The Carlyle is an expensive place to live, no?

I could be way off base on that one. Imagine that. Still...

If Pittsburgh requires developers to include parking, how come some of the developments don't have parking?

I am going to putz around on my own. Do a little research and such. I was just wondering if anyone was already in the know...

Sam M

Well it appears that there is at least SOME parking at the Carlyle. It just isn't automatically bundled into the price:

"Take The Carlyle, for instance, an upscale condo development in the old Union National Bank building at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Wood Street. A two-bedroom, 1,170-square-foot unit starts at about $196,000, while the 6,000-square-foot penthouse on the 21st floor goes for a cool $1.2 million. And that doesn't take into account maintenance fees and parking. Residents must pay at least $147 per month for parking along with a monthly condo fee of 21 cents per square foot, or an additional $245 to $986 per month, depending on the size of the unit."


So perhaps this parking is not mandatory. And perhaps it is not "on-site." But did the city still require the developer to include a certain number of spots?

John Morris

Well the fact that knowing what the rules are might give one a little clue as to Pittsburgh's regulatory environment. I asked this question on this blog a while back but it doesn't seem like any reporters have.

The costs and effects of this issue have to be huge and are fundamental to the development of downtown.

sean mcdaniel

ah, the circle game is back in season...round and round it goes. parking = self-loathing. you know, i think it was freud who said, sometimes a parking space is just a parking space.

and for all you city dwellers, i heard this last week at a mexican war street coffee shop when a guy who lives on the war streets said that he drives to the pirates games.

and i thought all those pricey lots were for us suburbanites.

the absolutely hilarious part of that guy driving to PNC Park, to park, is that I park on North Avenue...which is the border, of course, of the Mexican War Streets. Maybe next year I can hitch a ride.

Oh the reason he doesn't walk? He doesn't feel safe in the park near the Aviary at night.

Now that's a a ringing endorsement of the success of the organic Mexican War Streets.

Sam M

I am certainbly not trying to make the connection that "parking = self-loathing."

I just noticed that the idea of "unbundling" parking from residential space appears to be a trend. In at least some places. And I wondered where we fit into the mix. Some of the articles I see about people moving downtown mention the whole affordability issue. And one of the measures of that is that space is cheap here. AND SO IS PARKING. Nothing at all like the $40,000 going rate for a spot in San Fran.

So I am wondering what people are making of that advantage. On way to capitalize on it would be to build a condo with parking and say, "See how affordable it is? You can have everything here."

Another would be to build the same condo without the parking and offer it for EVEN LESS. Saying, "Wow. It's REALLY cheap."

All I am saying is that I hope it is at least possible to do the latter.

As a matter of principal, I think I would likely oppose regulations putting a parking maximum or a parking minimum. I would hope developers would be able to cater to whatever segbment of the market they want.

Presuming, of course, that I am not paying for the parking space.

John Morris

This, conversation goes on and on but we just don't know what the rules are. The papers do stuff like interview a developer that say's it costs such and such to have housing downtown. Someone has to dig into those costs-- What are the parking regulations, what about the window sizes, number of bathrooms etc. We just can't swallow some number as a fact.

However you want to state it, adding lots of parking to a place like downtown Pittsburgh does require a lot of self loathing. Two basic assumptions underly it-- that everyone wants to drive all the time and that the land in the downtown or near it isn't worth much and has no alternative uses. the true cost of parking in the downtown has to be looked at in relation to other uses for that space and also for the money used to build the garages. That is what is happening in places in NY and San Francisco, now. As the city gets more popular, people see what a waste of space that parking is and the true finacial cost is evident. The Giant's stadium racket for the west side of Manhattan ran into the fact that it is so obvious that the land had so many other uses.

Sean to be honest, you just don't have a dog in this fight. Parking for non residents is basicly an unlimited good. It's Pittsburgh's city residents that will have to live near the ugly lots and garages, dead space annd the like. They will also have to suffer the effects of less taxable land.

Hopefully, we don't have to hear again about how much you spend in Pittsburgh. That may be true for you, but all the evidence shows that you are the exception. The financial position of the city, it's lack of retail and it's fragile tax base reflect the current parking mania.

sean mcdaniel

and john m. maybe you should cruise through the mexican war streets or beech street to see just how many SUVs you'll find there...you'd think it was suburbia. And parking on the war streets is impossible because so many households have two or more cars.

as for not having a dog in this fight, your bitch about suburbanites is ridiculous. then again, i guess you'd say that the big steel companies that located their HQs in pittsburgh but put mills in homestead and braddock were just smart businessmen and not carpetbaggers who exploited those towns and their people to make their millions and billions. Seriously, the US Steel Building isn't in Braddock, is it? And if you look at the entire city of Braddock and all of Pittsburgh, which would you say better survived the demise of Big Steel?

Then again, you're the type of guy who invests in India but doesn't actually live there. How are you any different than the suburbanite who works and spends money in the city?

I'm willing to listen to your take on that last question...and anyone else who thinks that the city doesn't need the suburbs and vice versa.

remember, no man is an island. some cities are geographically, but not economically. Not even New York.

John Morris

Sean, given Pittsburgh's rather poor finacial position and all evidence supporting other models, I think it is up to you to prove that you are right.

I believe the textbook definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. That is the history of Pittsburgh since the 1940's.

John Morris

As far as the India comment, I don't have much to say. I put my money on the line and invested in India and have held that position for more than 8 years now. Perhaps when you decide to invest in Pittsburgh, you can talk. An owner of land in Pittsburgh, and a taxpayer in the city does have to face issues of alternative use that a visitor/ worker does not. That is just a fact.

John Morris

So far, I have found the Indian investment to have been very wise, which I cannot say about Pittsburgh.

sean mcdaniel

goodbye Lawrenceville, hello Bangalore. Let's see what kind of favor you can curry in India.

But my man, you don't live in India, and never will.
When was the last time you spent a dime or time in Bombay? And hey, I own stock in US Steel, Heinz and Alcoa, which left me for NYC. My parents bought it for me (and my brothers) because they thought it was important to invest in local companies that gave jobs to people in this region. They didn't care if their few measly dollars made some fat-ass CEO richer. They thought they were keeping the mills and factories running. Do you really care if someone in India has a job? Or do you just want to see a good return on your investment — even if it's a shaky real estate venture or a sweatshop? Do you?

So, now that you know I'm a shareholder of companies that call Pittsburgh home, are we on even moral/philosophical footing? You know, guys making money from companies based in places we don't live?

John Morris

Sean, please stay on the subject. The subject here is which type of land use and lifestyle is financially viable for the city of Pittsburgh.The situation in NY and San francisco represents a feedback loop that benefit's the city and the owners of property and businesses in the city. Higher densities leading to greater convenience, leading to more people wanting to live there leading to more density. This feedback loop is reflected in high property values. Pittsburgh has developed the opposite feedback loop- low densities and lots of parking, create low convenience, leading to more sprawl and low land values.

A non business owner, non property owner, non tax payer in the city is not adversly affected by that in the same way that city residents are.

Please answer the questions raised in the posts and stop the personal attacks. ( for the record, the majority of my life savings has been dumped into my gallery in Pittsburgh )

sean mcdaniel

john as for staying on the subject...please keep in mind that this isn't NYC or SF. Even in Pittsburgh's glory days, it wasn't the equal of those places. And keep in mind that if people are going to live in Downtown, parking just be a necessary evil There aren't enough of the services there to make it possible for Downtown residents to walk to the dentist, family physician, dry cleaner, etc.

as for staying on subject, again, you're the guy who told me not to mention how much money I spend in the city, as if my discretionary income isn't as worth as much as your tax dollars.

and for staying on the subject, it's just a way for you to avoid that you're a modern carpetbagger with your investments in India.

Jonathan Potts

If parking=self-loathing, than a lot of American cities are full of self-loathing. The fact is, and you and I may not like it, most American cities are far less dense than they were 50 or 60 years ago, and the same holds true with most European cities as well. I would argue that a portion of this decentralization has been spurred in the U.S.--or its costs mitigated, put it that way--by government policies, but it is a fact. And it is also a fact that public transportation is widely used in only a handful of major cities. There's a chicken-and-egg argument to be had there, and Lord knows we have it here all the time.

But here's the thing--all the New Urbanists in the world can move into a city, and it is still not going to restore the densities that cities had in the early part of the 20th century. We may lament that, but sometimes we have work with the world as it is instead of how we want it to be. People use cars. I'd like to see them use them less. I'd like government policies that are at best neutral when it comes to private vs. mass transit. But as much as I hate having to get into my car to go to the grocery store (which I have to do in Brookline when I need more than just a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk) I do not equate the use of private automobiles with hatred of cities.

That said, I think it's time we experimented with the free market Downtown. If there are parking requirements, drop them. The people who move there would be the ones willing to get by without a car, or those willing to pay a premium for what would be scarce parking spots. It would definitely make Downtown a unique residential district in comparison to the rest of the city. In honor of John, we could dub it "Little Manhattan."

sean mcdaniel

Hell, in honor John I think we could dub that district Little Madhattertan. And we could build a big wall around...to keep out suburbanites and their SUVs...and to keep him in.

The man's an elitist isolationist who thinks that only city dwellers deserve to exist (unless you're the farmer growing his food, I guess. Or the vietnamese kid making his shoes. Or the Bangladeshi woman sewing his shirt)

Seriously, John Morris, do you think the rest of the world should work to provide food, shelter and other necessities to city residents? Or you propose giant urban farms (imagine plowing the back 40 in Central Park) and turning less desirable parts of the city into industrial centers (think of the Point 100 years ago). Is the best high density use for city property?

JM do you think that cities can survive without the communities around them...whether they be Bellevue or Monroeville or Zelienople? If so, how? Is it okay to use trucks to ship goods to the city? Honestly, I think you come very close to suggesting that city dwellers are the ruling classes and the rest of the world exists to serve those urban masters.

Talk about density.

Sam M

I am still casting about for some specific requirements for Pittsburgh. In the meantime, the answer to the first question here:


Offers an interesting brief discussion of minimum requirements.

To be honest, I can see the point. Not to state the obvious, but let's say I decide to bring 1,000 jobs to Pittsburgh in the form of a 24-hour call center or some such. And I build it right next to the theater district. Well, the theaters aren't going to be so happy if all the parking garages are filled with my workers' cars every night.

That might be pretty far-fetched in a lot of ways, but i think the point is pretty clear.

But even if that example does barely manage to hold water, I see no reason I shouldn't be allowed to build an apartment building for people who don't drive. Or people who are willing to go on the market for a parking spot in a local garage removed from the apartment building. Let's say a lot of developers do this. I suppose that would raise the price of a parking spot downtown. Well, so be it. I guess.

But all this is neither here nor there. I am track down the actual regulations, even if I have to (gulp) make a call.

More soon.



I am in NY today woooooo!!! Back to the subject at hand.

1) your personal spending patterns are not relevant and here is why. In order to show that they are relevant you would have to show that they are typical. Without doing any research at all one can see that they are not, because if they were, there would be a vibrant lively retail district downtown.The relative lack of retail in the city and the large malls around it indicate what the average non resident does with thier money, as does the finacial position of the city.

The question that you have to answer is not whether Pittsburgh is NY or San Francisco or Chicago. The question is what ideas are viable and what ideas are not. Pittsburgh, has done the hollow donut concept since the mills closed (with the partial exception of a few areas- like the Southside, which is one of the most viable areas in town) The blatant failure of the model is there for all to see.

Now, I want to define my terms here. I am talking about the finacial condition of the city itself and it's tax base, job base and quality of life. The city is a distict municipality and I am talking about what has and has not worked for it. Perhaps an argument could be made that the current situation has worked on some regional level, but the fact that the region is losing residents doesn't help that case. From what I can see there are only two solutions to the current problem. One is some form of regional consolidation or a high commuter tax and the other is my solution.

Pittsburgh is a city with a small city with big geographic limits so looking at how other cities have dealt with that is smart. The recent fad towards density is strongly supported by the obvious success of so many dense cities and the now obvious failures of the other model.

As to your other comment about the need for parking because of the lack of services downtown- this is a chicken and egg problem which is best solved by moving towards density. The large emtpty buildings in the downtown and strip are will easily be filled with stores and dry cleaners and doctors offices as residents arrive. This is about feedback loops and direction. Pittsburgh has been headed in the wrong direction and one that is almost guaranteed to fail.

Sam M

So I actually tracked down the codes. God, it's complex stuff.


The relavant parts, I think, are in Chapter 914. (Yikes.) 912.02.A Schedule A (I am not kidding here) presents a pretty straightforward list of minimium and maximum requirements for everything from residential units to welding shops. And as for multi-unit residential?

The minimum is one parking spot per unit. Maximum of two.

Of course, this means very little. Why? Because of the next section. which states that:

"Uses requiring parking demand analysis have widely varying parking demands, making it difficult to specify a single requirement. The off-street parking requirement for such uses shall be established by the Zoning Administrator based on estimates of parking demand, which may include recommendations of the Institute of Traffic Engineers (ITE), data collected from uses that are the same or comparable to the proposed use, or other relevant information. The Zoning Administrator may require that an applicant submit a parking study that provides analysis and justification for the proposed number of spaces to be provided. Parking studies shall document the source of data used to develop the recommendations. The Zoning Administrator will review the submitted study along with any other traffic engineering and planning data that are appropriate and establish the minimum and maximum off-street parking requirement (including bicycle parking) for the use proposed."

So there are requirments. Except when there aren't.

For instance, 914.04 lists exemptions to the requirements for certain sections of the city for certain uses. One of those areas is downtown. And downtown, for any use, the permissable decrease is listed as "100 percent." That is, i think this means that for any use downtown, there is no minimum parking requirement.

Can that be correct? man, this is complex stuff. Take a look for yourself. I could be WAY off base. And i am still digging. But it looks like that's what it says.

And if that is the case, I think that makes Pittbsurgh pretty "progressive" with regard to parking issues.

Anyone care to help me out here?

sean mcdaniel


what aren't the 350,000 city residents enough to keep Downtown vital?

Do you know that the Macy's store in Ross Park Mall is a class A store? That means it carries more product than the Downtown store, including new merchandise that only select locations receive. Why is that?

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