Recognizing that current municipal codes specifying the number of parking spaces required of new multi-family residential developments are inadequate, the Orange City Council approved a revised ordinance that slightly increases the parking requirements for future projects and redefines the parameters of a “bedroom.”

City staff were directed to conduct a parking study in 2016, after the council had approved three development projects that were compliant with the existing parking code, but were, in today’s reality, underparked.  The study concluded that Orange’s parking requirements were lower than comparable OC cities, but higher than industry standards. The consultant recommended the city adopt a sliding scale approach to parking based on development size, bedroom count and type of parking provided; accept tandem and mechanical parking scenarios; and clarify “bedroom” to include dens or similar rooms.

Because dens, libraries, or large alcoves are often used as bedrooms, they are now counted as such, unless they have only three enclosing walls.  Therefore, a mixed-use room with a large unobstructed opening is now, for parking purposes, considered a bedroom.

The space race
In reviewing the various parking standards suggested by the consultant and city staff at its Dec. 12 meeting, the council sought to balance “quality of life” with “competitiveness.”  Numbers presented by staff at the October council meeting were deemed “too low,” but the more stringent requirements offered at the December meeting were thought, by some, to be too high.

“We came to this topic due to the lack of parking for multi-family residences,” Mayor Tita Smith observed. “Parking is a significant problem.  People have cars.  There is simply no more parking on streets in some neighborhoods.  I’m looking ahead to the convenience of our residents and safety factors.”  Smith was satisfied with the higher requirements.

“Almost all new projects are infill,” Fred Whitaker noted. “The problem is not with new projects, it’s in older areas.  The higher numbers are outside the median in many instances.  You want to stay close to median.”

“It doesn’t make sense to go with less,” Kim Nichols said.  “This new recommendation is just slightly over median. These adjustments don’t put us too out of whack with the median.” Nichols was, however, willing to agree to lower requirements for projects with fewer bedrooms.

Meet in the middle
Mike Alvarez also agreed with staff’s December recommendations.  Mark Murphy mediated, suggesting the council adopt the lower number for small units, the higher number for large.

The council subsequently agreed to require 1.3 to 1.4 parking spaces each for studios; 1.8 to 1.9 each for one-bedroom units; 2.0 to 2.3 each for two bedrooms; and 2.4 – 2.6 for three bedrooms.  Each additional bedroom requires another 0.3 to 0.5 parking spaces. The variation depends on the size of the development and the type of parking (enclosed, assigned, shared) provided. Tandem and mechanical double-deck parking is acceptable. Guest parking will remain unchanged.

The City of Orange’s new parking standards will not take effect until February, at the earliest.  Builders who get their plans in and fees paid before then will be privy to the old requirements. Despite one developer’s public complaint that additional parking spaces will cost “millions of dollars,” and a building industry representative’s suggestion that Orange is penalizing developers, Orange’s new code is still more tractable that other neighboring municipalities. Tustin, Santa Ana, Garden Grove and Newport Beach all have tougher parking standards. 

Parking standards for new developments increased