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  • Clara Fishel

Fine Locations: JEA Development Site

The Jewish Educational Alliance (JEA) has approximately 3.72 acres of extra land that they are selling. This land is located west of the JEA building and swimming pool, east of Bull Street, north of DeRenne Ave, south of 67th Street. You've driven by it thousands of times and never noticed it. Here is an aerial view, with the part that is for sale outlined in red...

I showed this property to several developers when it came on the market because it's a great infill development site. None of my people went for it, but the property is now under contract to a developer from Atlanta who recently submitted their general development plan to the City. The plan is for a 93-unit apartment complex with 123 parking spaces. See below...

Full disclosure: I live in this neighborhood and am for this housing getting built. I am for it even though adding 123 more cars to an already overly congested, car-accident-prone stretch of Bull Street that is also getting a Chick-Fil-A and Starbucks right up the road is going to create even more traffic problems such as speeding, road rage, and garbage for me and my neighbors. Savannah needs the housing.

The worst part of this proposed development plan is not that they have all of those 123 cars dumping onto Bull Street (which is really a bad idea) or that they chose to build 30 extra parking spaces than they needed to (why?) - it's that there is as much land dedicated to the parking lot as their is land dedicated to the housing.

Except in limited areas of the Landmark Historic District, our zoning code requires one parking space per unit of housing. Again, except in limited areas of the LHD, the Victorian and Thomas Square Streetcar Districts, there are also off-street parking requirements based on square footage or capacity for commercial developments.

Parking requirements make apartment developments like this one less dense than they could be otherwise which generally speaking means they are less appealing for developers to build and we end up with less housing supply. The less housing supply we have, the higher rents and home prices are across the board. These higher costs disproportionately affect lower income residents, many of whom do not even own cars to begin with. Parking requirements serve to keep people in their cars and away from walking, biking, public transportation or other alternative modes. I recognize that this goes hand-in-hand with having good infrastructure for walking and biking and having a public transportation system that is functional, convenient and affordable. The focus should be on building these alternative modes of transportation rather than building more parking spaces.

Parking requirements degrade urban design. Think about all of your favorite streets. Are any of them lined with parking lots? The proposed development mentioned above will thankfully not be able to cut down any of the live oaks present but they are still allowed to dump a parking lot in front of the building, onto an area that has been all trees and wild growth.

Getting rid of off-street parking requirements would go a long way towards solving many social, economic and environmental issues while making our developments more sustainable, and our City a lot more people friendly.


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