RTA Rapid Transit at West 25th in Ohio City
RTA Rapid Transit at West 25th in Ohio City Credit: Jeff Haynes / Signal Cleveland

Cleveland will exempt new developments from city requirements to provide off-street parking for residents, employees and customers in areas with frequent public transit. 

City Council on Wednesday night approved the plan, which Mayor Justin Bibb’s administration believes will encourage denser development and alternatives to driving cars. 

Currently, owners of new projects must build off-street parking or obtain a zoning variance, city planner Matt Moss told Signal Cleveland. City code requires one parking space per new housing unit. Businesses’ parking mandates are tied to square footage and the number of employees. 

“Dedicating land, especially land near transit, to surface parking pushes land uses further from each other,” Moss told council. “This is a vicious cycle that cities like Cleveland have been stuck in for decades.”

Planning Director Joyce Pan Huang told council that her office is questioning those requirements, which she said encourage demolitions and spread out land use to make room for parking spaces. 

Under the new scheme, developers would skip the parking requirement and instead invest in other forms of transportation – such as bike parking, transit passes for tenants or pro-pedestrian streetscape improvements. Cleveland’s City Planning Commission would review developers’ proposals. 

The policy will apply in parts of the city within a quarter mile – or five-minute walk – of a high-frequency transit stop, in which a bus or train makes an appearance every 15 minutes. The zones generally cover Cleveland’s major east-west commercial corridors, plus north-south roads like West 25th Street, East 93rd Street and East 105th Street, according to a map shared with council. 

Bibb has embraced a planning philosophy – known as the “15-minute city” – that residents should be able to find daily amenities within a short walk, bike ride or transit trip from their homes. Austin Davis, a senior policy advisor to the mayor, told Signal Cleveland that the new parking policy forms the “backbone” of Bibb’s 15-minute city proposal. 

The new plan wouldn’t prevent developers from building off-street parking if they wanted it, Moss said. A grocery store, for instance, could add a parking lot while still receiving points for limiting the lot’s size, he said. If the store built a full-size parking lot, it would still need to invest in other forms of transportation, he said. 

“It’s a build-what-you-need policy, not the arbitrary parking requirements that we put out there, which is way overbuilt,” Huang said. 

Council signed off on the legislation without dissent, although Ward 15 Council Member Jenny Spencer said residents in her West Side ward were struggling with the idea. 

Many residents say they need cars to travel to their jobs, she said, or to take their children from place to place. The city will need to make the case to the public that the new policy is a plus for their neighborhoods, she said. 

“I know that planning is an aspirational and theoretical exercise in a lot of ways,” Spencer said. “The pushback I get from my residents is, ‘That’s theory. Here’s my reality.’”

The new policy will take effect six months after the legislation’s passage, giving city officials time to design the program, Moss said. 

Government Reporter (he/him)
Nick joins us from the world of public radio. He has more than a decade experience covering politics and government in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County. In 2021, he produced and hosted "After Jackson: Cleveland's Next Mayor," an Ideastream Public Media podcast on the Cleveland mayoral race. He has also covered breaking news, opioid lawsuits and elections nationally for NPR.