It was a packed house at Houston's City Hall annex, with owners of restaurants and bars, discussing proposed changes to off-street parking rules and regulations. The Planning Commission's Suzy Hartgrove says they deal with how many parking spaces businesses are required to provide for their customers.
"In some cases, we are increasing the number of spaces that businesses will have to provide, and in some cases we're loosening those restrictions, depending on what it is. Restaurants used to have to provide 8 spaces per 1,000 square feet of gross floor area, I know it's complicated, and bars, 10 spaces. We're making our definition of a bar, meet with the Texas Alcohol Board says is a bar, and so the number of spaces are gonna go up."
She says some of the changes will include the addition of parking for bicycles, and:
"In some cases we're lessening parking requirements. For instance, back when this ordinance was first adopted, we hadn't heard of a 'Cupcake Shop' before and, people don't need to stay long at cupcake shops. So the parking, right now they're having to meet 8 spaces per 1,000. Well. we're gonna take that down to 4 spaces per 1,000, because you don't need as much parking."
Planning Commissioners heard from many business owners. Some applauded the changes to the ordinance, while some thought it was an assault on small independent restaurants, or that the changes lacked lacked clarity.
Owner 1: "The identity of what the restaurant and the bar is in the city of Houston is changing dramatically. It is no longer a large space, attempting to fill people from the suburbs. It is a localized restaurant movement."
Owner 2: "We'd like to have the bike rack be no more than 50-feet from the entrance of the business, as well as being a well-traveled, well lit area."
Owner 3: "The issues raised dealing with the difference between the inner and outer loop and different types of businesses, are very, very important, and for some many of our inner city neighborhoods and our small business owners, the introduction of even more concrete is adding to the problem not the solution."
Comments from the business owners will be studied and forwarded to the Committee on Regulatory Affairs before the Planning Commission takes any changes to the parking ordinance for council approval in December.