South Boston doesn’t have a parking problem — at least not in the way that neighborhood officials think it does. Southie politicians are blaming waves of new residential buildings for area gridlock, but neighborhood street wars over coveted parking spaces don’t have anything to do with new buildings on Broadway or D Street. If anything, new development in South Boston, and across the city, is too generous toward cars. If parking is a problem, the answer is to build apartments that have no parking at all.
Boston’s obsession with parking is legendary. A developer’s ability to score a development permit is often directly tied to his willingness to buy into Boston’s parking orthodoxy, which views the creation of new on-street parkers as a cardinal sin. But this fever over parking doesn’t have anything to do with the way people actually live. Zoning around Boston routinely requires developers to build more parking than residents actually use. Ducking a fight over development and parking now means over-building parking.
Last week was a big one for hyperventilating over parking, even by Boston’s own standards. West Roxbury residents beat back a developer who was looking to build 62 apartments and 52 parking spots across the street from a commuter rail stop; one attendee suggested turning the entire property into a parking lot. Savin Hill neighbors fretted over a scarcity of parking at a 13-unit condo development that’s slated to rise across the street from a Red Line station — a location that shouldn’t need any parking at all. And a pair of South Boston politicians accused City Hall of flooding the neighborhood with new cars. They demanded that neighborhood developers build at least one off-street parking spot for every new housing unit.