This Wednesday, the NYC Planning Commission held a hearing on the City Planning Department’s proposed car sharing zoning text amendment. The text amendment would officially recognize and regulate car sharing services such as Zipcar. Currently, Zipcar and other car sharing services are in somewhat of a gray area when it comes to zoning, in that they are not mentioned in the zoning resolution at all. The proposed text amendment would allow car sharing vehicles in both accessory and public parking garages throughout the city.
Generally, the text amendment would permit car-sharing in almost all zoning districts, city-wide. In public parking garages, car sharing vehicles would be allowed to occupy up to 40 percent of parking spaces. In accessory residential parking facilities in medium- and high-density residential zoning districts, car sharing vehicles would be allowed to occupy up to 20 percent of parking spaces or a total of five spaces, whichever is greater. In lower density residential districts and accessory parking facilities for commercial, manufacturing, and community facility uses, car sharing vehicles could occupy up to 10 percent of spaces. Finally, car sharing vehicles would not be allowed in residential zoning districts that permit only one and two family homes, except in accessory parking garages and lots for colleges.
Prior to the City Planning Commission hearing, the proposal was vetted by each of the city’s 59 community districts. According to City Planning staff at their pre-hearing session, the community boards’ response has been generally positive, possibly because car-sharing is already so pervasive throughout NYC. There have been some concerns, though, including a fear that allowing car-sharing vehicles in accessory (private) parking garages could pose a risk to the security of the residential building to which such facilities are attached, as well as concerns that car owners will lose parking spaces to car sharing vehicles. However, City Planning cites one of the benefits of car sharing as membership in a car sharing program leading people to own fewer cars – in which case car owners wouldn’t have to worry about being booted from their monthly parking space to make way for a car sharing vehicle, since the overall number of cars would be decreasing.
Once the City Planning Commission votes on this text amendment, it will make its way to the City Council, who will have the final say as to whether New Yorkers’ desire to share their cars will finally be legitimized by the zoning resolution.