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Council committee approves a ban on new surface parking lots Downtown

A surface parking lot on Main Street in Over-the-Rhine
Google Maps
A surface parking lot on Main Street in Over-the-Rhine

Cincinnati City Council's Equitable Growth and Housing Committee voted Tuesday to approve a ban on new surface parking lots Downtown. The ordinance will be up for a final vote of full council Wednesday.

Council Member Mark Jeffreys introduced the idea over a year ago.

"We have 40,000 parking spaces and garages Downtown — 20% of them are vacant at any given moment. We have 2,000 on-street parking [spaces], half of which is vacant at any given moment," Jeffreys said. "The data is clear: We have adequate parking."

The new rules would apply to the downtown development zoning district, which includes parts of Over-the-Rhine, Mount Adams, East End, West End, Pendleton and Mount Auburn.

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The Department of Planning and Engagement spent the past year studying the issue, looking at how much parking is needed and available already, and the negative effects of surface parking lots.

"There are clear negative environmental and pedestrian impacts," City Planner Maria Dienger told council Tuesday. "Including increased urban heat islands, stormwater runoff, lower air quality, enabling an automobile-oriented lifestyle choice, and it creates dead zones for activity."

New surface lots are already prohibited in Subdistrict W (pictured below) which makes up the downtown business district.

A map of surface parking lots downtown
City of Cincinnati
A map of surface parking lots downtown

If approved, new permanent surface lots would be prohibited in the rest of the zone.

The ordinance allows new surface lots to be built and operated for up to two years, with the option for an extension: two-year extension in subdistricts W and X, and a possible five-year extension in subdistricts Y and Z.

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The idea is to allow a lot to generate income while a development is still being planned. The initial two-year operation is allowed "by right," meaning without special permission from the city. An extension would require city approval.

Temporary lots would have to follow stricter guidelines like using heat reflective material or permeable pavers instead of traditional asphalt or concrete, and observe rules related to setbacks and planting trees.

If the ordinance gets final council approval Wednesday, it will go into effect immediately.

Local Government Reporter with a particular focus on Cincinnati; experienced journalist in public radio and television throughout the Midwest. Enthusiastic about: civic engagement, public libraries, and urban planning.