Less Parking, More Healthy Food

The other day, we looked at a supermarket in a densely populated part of New Haven that is unwelcoming to pedestrians. Today, courtesy of member blog The City Fix, we’re taking another look at urban supermarket planning — specifically, the issue of how to get quality food markets built in underserved neighborhoods (so-called food deserts) where people often walk or take transit to the store. They write about how cities like New York and Washington, DC, can encourage supermarket construction by relaxing onerous zoning requirements for parking spaces:

2698531404_a3dcb8f508_m.jpgShe doesn’t need a parking space. Photo by Ed Yourdon via Flickr.

The New York Times…mentioned that one of the strategies New York City is using to attract more supermarkets into food deserts is to change the city’s zoning laws that would “free smaller supermarkets from having to supply parking spaces.” Reducing or eliminating parking minimums for new development is good urbanism.
But if it can help provide affordable, accessible, and nutritious food to low-income residents of the District — which is already a District goal — the planning commission has one more very good reason to wean us off of cars.

The District is taking steps to achieve this. Anita Hairston, the Chief of Staff of the Office of Planning, assures me by e-mail that:

–Any commercial building (this would include supermarkets) located in the central employment area of the city and is connected to a Metrorail station can have their parking requirements reduced or eliminated.

–Any commercial buildings that are less than 800 feet from a Metrorail station can have their parking requirements reduced by one-quarter.

–Any planned unit development project (regardless of location) can work with staff in our office to propose potential reduction or elimination of parking requirements.

Elsewhere around the network: The Complete Streets Blog shares its view on the Oberstar bill. We hear about a meaningful cash for clunkers program north of the border, via Sustainable Montréal (this one offers transit credit or money toward a new bike). And Active Transportation Alliance has the scoop on an iPhone bike app.

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