Zoning to Promote Garage Apartments

Zoning Practice — May 2018

By Anne Brown, Vinit Mukhija, Donald Shoup, FAICP


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American cities have a large supply of garages that could be converted into affordable apartments, but off-street parking requirements often stand in the way. If a home owner wants to convert a two-car garage into an accessory dwelling unit (ADU), she typically must replace the garage parking spaces with two new off-street parking spaces, plus an additional off-street parking space for the new unit. While some cities have eliminated off-street parking requirements for ADUs, this is often not enough to remove the barrier or address the concerns of neighbors.

This issue of Zoning Practice details a proposal for zoning reforms to facilitate garage-to-apartment conversions. It acknowledges the potential neighborhood impacts of eliminating parking minimums and posits a market-based solution.


Page Count
Date Published
May 1, 2018
Adobe PDF
American Planning Association

About the Authors

Anne Brown
Anne Brown is an Assistant Professor in the School of Planning, Public Policy, and Management at the University of Oregon. Her research examines the intersection of equity, innovative mobility, travel behavior, and transportation finance.

Vinit Mukhija
Vinit Mukhija is a Professor and Department Chair of Urban Planning in the Luskin School of Public Affairs at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). His research focuses on informal housing and slums in developing countries and “Third World-like” housing conditions (including colonias, unpermitted trailer parks, and illegal garage apartments) in the United States.

Donald Shoup, FAICP
Donald Shoup, FAICP, is Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Urban Planning at the University of California, Los Angeles. His research has focused on transportation, public finance, and land economics, with emphasis on how parking policies affect cities, the economy, and the environment. In his landmark 2005 book, The High Cost of Free Parking, Shoup recommended that cities should (1) charge fair market prices for on-street parking, (2) spend the revenue to improve public services in the metered neighborhoods, and (3) remove off-street parking requirements. In his 2018 book, Parking and the City, Shoup and his co-authors examined the results where cities have adopted these policies. The successful outcomes show this trio of reforms may be the simplest, cheapest, and fastest way to improve cities, protect the environment, and promote social justice. Shoup is a Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners and an Honorary Professor at the Beijing Transportation Research Center. The American Planning Association gave Shoup its National Excellence Award for a Planning Pioneer, and the American Collegiate Schools of Planning gave him its Distinguished Educator Award.