Zoning Administration Division

CONTACT INFORMATION: Our offices are open 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.
703-324-1314 TTY 711
12055 Government Center Pkwy.
Fairfax, VA 22035
Leslie Johnson
Zoning Administrator

Parking Reimagined Project FAQs

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While some targeted amendments occurred within the past 30 years, Fairfax County has not fully reviewed our parking requirements since the 1980’s. Since then, development and transportation patterns in the County have changed significantly. Communities have become more densely developed and transportation methods have evolved in response to technological and societal changes. We need to imagine how these changes can be reflected in our ordinance and think about what regulations should be adjusted for future use and development.

Our project is looking at off-street parking which is regulated by the Zoning Ordinance. This is parking you would find at a grocery store, shopping center, at workplaces, located in a parking garage or an open lot. Another agency, the Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT), is studying on-street parking. FCDOT also manages programs such as Residential Permit Parking, commercial vehicle parking, and other on-street programs. For more information regarding on-street parking, residential permit parking, residential permit parking and commercial vehicle parking, please visit FCDOT’s parking webpage

  • For base rates in the proposed tiered framework, which apply to most of the County’s land area, staff used information from the 5th Edition of Parking Generation, published by the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE).  This publication provides national average parking demand data for common uses, including multifamily residential, retail, and restaurants.  For some uses, like multifamily, the data is stratified by location, transit availability, and affordability, among other factors.
  • Parking demand surveys for selected local uses were conducted by County staff.  Stand alone retail and drive-through restaurant uses in suburban areas were surveyed during peak periods over multiple months.  These surveys were completed prior to the pandemic with supplemental surveys in 2022.  The gathered data was consistent with Parking Generation data.
  • In 2016, the County commissioned a study by Nelson\Nygaard of selected multifamily developments in Fairfax County in transit and non-transit areas within the County.  Also, the County receives existing site data for TDM effectiveness and parking reductions, some of which have comparative survey data of existing multi-family development and associated parking demand.  The data from these analyses informed the baseline and tiered recommendations for multifamily development in Parking Reimagined.
  • The work done by our Parking Reimagined consultant, also Nelson\Nygaard, and municipality surveys of jurisdictions similar to Fairfax County, supports the tiered framework and rates proposed with the project.  WMATA also conducted a study of rail-related development in 2006 that supports the trends and assumptions associated with our recommendations.
  • The County’s proposal was informed by discussions with other similar communities, such as Montgomery County, MD, and Charlotte, NC, who had recently updated their parking requirements to address their diversely developed communities. Our recommendations on the tiered framework are based on their approaches. Further, staff has continuously looked at national trends and best practices for parking. The June 16, 2022 presentation to the Planning Commission provides support for our approach. Also, many cities and towns across the nation have re-examined and lowered or eliminated off-street parking requirements (https://parkingreform.org/ ) which sets precedents that we can consider.

Off-street parking is currently regulated by the provisions of Article 6 of the Zoning Ordinance. Article 6 regulates how many parking spaces are required for different land uses and how parking is laid out or designed.  

Parking doesn’t just affect the driver of a car who wants to park at a shopping center.  Parking can also affect the price you pay for goods and services, the affordability of a home, or the livability of a community.  The decisions we make to require and build parking impact the quality of life in our community.  These decisions must be balanced between providing space for automobiles and supporting County goals related to equity, affordability, environment stewardship, community design, and economics.

When the term ‘rightsizing parking’ is used, it means that we are looking for ways to require that new development builds parking that fits current demand and evolving trends. If many times there’s too little parking, this creates a clear problem.  However, too much parking also creates problems including wasting land area, discouraging walking and biking, creating heat islands and storm runoff, and increasing the cost of housing and other development.

Loading spaces are provided for vehicles delivering and picking up goods from commercial, office or residential property. The number of loading spaces are based on the type of land use, size of the use, and the uses demand for loading spaces. As an example, a warehousing use requires more loading spaces than a bank or financial use. As noted above, on-street loading spaces are regulated by VDOT and not part of this project.  

Stacking spaces provide for vehicles waiting in line at a drive-through use. The requirement differs based on the use and it is intended to have enough stacking spaces to avoid cars backed up onto public streets, impacting traffic. 

Fairfax County is geographically and demographically diverse. Certain areas of the County resemble large cities such as Tysons, while other areas of the County remain rural, such as Clifton. As such a “one size fits all” approach is not always appropriate. In response, parking in certain areas of the County is regulated differently. Required parking in the Planned Tysons Corner (PTC) District and Transit Station Areas (TSAs) varies based on proximity to Metro stations. Areas of the county located in Commercial Revitalization Districts (CRDs), are permitted to reduce required parking to support economic development activities in these older commercial areas of the County. The comprehensive review of Article 6 will include research on appropriate parking rates for differing areas of the County, as well as flexibility to allow for reduced parking when deemed necessary.   

The parking amendment website will have an updated list of future public meetings, information from past meetings, and other resources related to the Parking Reimagined project. 

Through discussions at town halls and other community meetings, the more critical revisions include shrinking the originally defined limits of the tiers in that framework, developing a parking requirement for townhouses that can provide more parking for this use, adding flexibility to allow tree preservation and planting to supersede parking requirements, strengthening allowances for electric vehicle parking, ensuring the number of accessible parking spaces are not lowered when lowering parking minimums, and developing requirements for separate pedestrian access in parking lots.

Maximum density and floor area ratio requirements are regulated by other sections of the Zoning Ordinance. Parking Reimagined does not allow for a property to exceed the maximum density or floor area ratio requirements for the zoning district where they are located.  

In Fairfax County, 4% of residents own no vehicle and 30% own one vehicle. Among renters, 12% own no vehicle and 47% own one vehicle.

Source: "2019 American Community Survey of the US Census".

In national surveys, multi-family affordable housing has less parking demand than market-rate housing.  As an example, a 300-bedroom market-rate multi-family development has an average parking demand of 225 spaces.  A 300-bedroom affordable multi-family development has an average parking demand of 162 spaces. The practice of providing abundant free parking actually makes rental and affordable housing more expensive. For every additional parking space required, additional capital is needed to finance affordable housing. This translates to a higher price paid by purchasers of housing, goods, and services. Encouraging more parking encourages more car ownership creating further financial burdens. 

Sources: “Parking Generation, 5th Edition; Institute of Transportation Engineers; 2019.”  This data is based on residential units surveyed during weekdays in general urban/suburban locations with no rail availability.
"Parking Requirement Impacts on Housing Affordability"; 5 March 2020; Todd Litman; Victoria Transport Policy Institute.

National surveys from the Institute of Transportation Engineers, show that multi-family affordable housing has less parking demand than market-rate housing.  As an example, a 300-bedroom market-rate multi-family development has an average parking demand of 225 spaces.  A 300-bedroom affordable multi-family development has an average parking demand of 162 spaces.

Source: “Parking Generation, 5th Edition; Institute of Transportation Engineers; 2019.”  This data is based on residential units surveyed during weekdays in general urban/suburban locations with no rail availability.

Low-income households, first-time home buyers, persons with disabilities, young adults, single parents, and older people.  These groups tend to own less vehicles and are more likely to pay for parking they don’t need through higher rents and purchase costs.

Source: "Parking Requirement Impacts on Housing Affordability"; 5 March 2020; Todd Litman; Victoria Transport Policy Institute.

A lack of affordable housing options creates overcrowding within available affordable residences contributing to spillover parking. 

Parking and the Environment

Parking Reimagined is evaluating off-street parking and requirements and proposing “right sized” parking requirements where changes are appropriate. The Zoning Ordinance requires minimum amounts of parking and loading spaces. Lowering required minimum parking levels allows less parking to be built during land development, yielding various environmental benefits.

Direct environmental benefits or impacts from building less parking include:     

  • Opportunities to reduce heat island effects by converting surface parking to natural planting areas or areas with lower heat retention properties; 
  • Reduction of pollution which enters our ecosystem through storm water runoff;
  • Opportunities to provide for better storm water management and mitigation;
  • Implementation of bicycle parking minimum requirements and safer pedestrian route standards supports non-vehicular travel alternatives which help to reduce emissions related pollution. 
  • Reducing the influence of parking in high density areas creates opportunities to build compact developments that allow people to travel by non-vehicular modes to access goods, services, and employment.

A goal of this project was to create regulatory flexibility pertaining to the administration of parking regulations during the development process. Below are some examples of draft ordinance provisions that promote environmental stewardship, during new development or redevelopment. 

  • Parking requirements may be adjusted to conserve existing trees, with review and approval of the Director of Land Development Services (Draft Subsection 6100.6.G);
  • Electric vehicle charging spaces may be included in the calculation of required parking spaces (Draft Subsection 6100.3.E);
  • Alternative surfaces such as semi-porous grid paving systems may be utilized as surface material in parking areas (Draft Subsection 6100.2.C(3));   
  • Converting parking into electric vehicle charging spaces or infrastructure, installation of bicycle parking, or the installation of solar canopies will no longer require parking redesignation plan submission (Draft Subsection 6100.2.C(4)).

No, solar panels are not required. However, Parking Reimagined removes a permitting process for solar retrofits in existing parking areas by eliminating the Parking Designation Plan process for solar and Electric Vehicle installations.

Parking Reimagined contains provisions to allow parking requirement reductions to both preserve existing trees and to construct landscape areas. Reduced parking requirements may result in more green space, particularly where surface parking lots are prevalent.

Please see the below resources which explore the relationship between environmental impact and parking:  

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