December 8, 2014 Housing Action Coalition

Less Parking = More Benefits and Reduced Costs

Cities and innovation are often considered synonymous. But for a variety of reasons, the two fields most responsible for building the cities we live in – urban planning and real estate development – are often late adopters of technological innovation.

So what happens when you apply evolving technology tools to the planning and development of our built environment? Recently, several new technology tools have emerged that could potentially answer that question. They could also potentially have a profound impact on traditional planning and development, decision making, investment, and community engagement practices for new development projects in our cities. One tool is profiled below.

GreenTRIP Parking Database: Reducing unnecessary project costs by right-sizing your parking. The GreenTRIP Parking Database is regional database of multi-family buildings throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, created by the Oakland-based planning and policy non-profit, TransForm. This free database can be a powerful tool to help developers understand actual parking demand for similar project types they’re building; make the case for variances from off-street parking requirements based on actual built projects in the same or similar contexts; and potentially allow empty parking spaces nearby to be leased by the project (rather than build duplicative on-site parking). Interestingly for planners, this database also shows the relative opportunity costs of Bay Area cities’ off-street parking requirements: of 68 projects in the database to date, over $139M (or an average of about $2M per project) has been expended to build parking that sits empty and unused. That’s pure economic waste, and money that could have been better spent on improved project amenities, expanded community benefits, or accommodating more housing affordability.

Key Benefit: Reducing construction costs, environmental impacts, and tiresome political debates around parking by helping planners and developers right-size a project’s parking supply. Urban planning and real estate development will always be based on face-to-face interactions and personal relationships.  For this reason, we don’t believe that the technology tools highlighted above will entirely replace traditional practices. Rather, we believe that these tools can supplement existing practices to leverage the efficiency of established developers and reduce the barriers to entry for new developers.

How do you think this tool could impact the future of urban planning and development?  We welcome your ideas and questions in the comments section.

(Note: This post is the third in a six-part series. Three more emerging tech tools that have the potential to impact planning and real estate development practices will be profiled next month.)

About the Authors

Will Heywood is a Senior Associate at the San Francisco District Council of the Urban Land Institute. He can be reached at

Jeremy Nelson is a SFHAC member and President of REgeneration Strategies, where he advises public and private clients on community revitalization plans and real estate redevelopment projects. He can be reached at

Image credit: @aGuyOnClematus

Housing Action Coalition

The Housing Action Coalition is a member-supported non-profit that advocates for the creation of well designed, well-located housing at all levels of affordability. We believe more housing means more choices and better solutions.

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