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Pittsburgh officials amenable to 'significant' parking requirements changes

Allyson Ruggieri
90.5 WESA
Under a limited proposal approved Tuesday by the Pittsburgh Planning Commission, the city aims to reduce reliance on cars, and make it less expensive for smaller businesses to open.

On Tuesday, the Pittsburgh Planning Commission approved a rule change that could limit the location of drive-thrus, and allow restaurants to build fewer parking spaces. It also streamlines the city’s definition of a restaurant.

Representatives of several Pittsburgh neighborhood groups spoke in support of Tuesday’s amendment -- and many expressed hope that the proposal would be the first step in a larger review of the city’s parking requirements.

“This and future amendments decreasing reliance on single-occupancy vehicles are necessary to ensure sustainable and equitable development,” said Emily Persico, community development manager for the Lawrenceville Corporation.

She said that waiving such requirements for restaurants along Butler Street has kept the district vibrant. Other supporters say Tuesday’s amendment could make it less expensive, and less difficult, to open a food business.

City officials say they hope the change could also give people more incentive to ride a bus, bike, and walk.

The Department of City Planning does intend to review all of the existing parking regulations, said Corey Layman, the city’s zoning administrator.

“We really want to address it holistically,” he said. A thorough review, he added, would help officials “to be able to defend those changes, which I would expect would be significant.”

Layman noted that Pittsburgh currently requires far more parking spaces than other cities.

Under current Pittsburgh regulations, restaurants over 2,400 square feet are required to provide a minimum of one off-street parking space for every additional 125 square feet. Now, they’d have to add one space for every additional 500 square feet, instead. Similarly, fast food restaurants currently must provide one off-street space for every 75 square feet, and that requirement would change to one space for every 500 square feet.

But fast food establishments might find their options curtailed by another rule change which would limit drive-throughs to areas zoned as Highway Commercial and General Industrial. The new rules would also require drive-through owners to conduct a transportation impact study.

The change will now go before city council for a vote.