Roundtable Discussion with Developers
Mumbai | February 20, 2014 By Lubaina Rangwala and Vinaya Bansal
Rapid urbanization in most developing countries of the world has come with its share of problems. While cities continue to grow and income levels are on the rise, so are individual aspirations for certain kinds of lifestyles that the city may or may not be able to sustain. The city of Mumbai presents one such extreme scenario. As the city is growing in its population and income levels, car ownership is on the rise. Data from 2005 reveals that over a decade (1991-2005) the city saw a rise in vehicle ownership from 52 cars / 1000 people to 82 cars/1000 people and an increase in vehicular traffic by 137%. This is a cause for tremendous concern for the city as it moves into its last year of master planning and review of the Development Plan (DP) 2014-34. EMBARQ India has been deeply engaged in providing technical inputs towards off-street parking regulations within Transit Oriented Development (TOD) zones for the Mumbai DP 2014-34. Possible strategies to manage off-street parking have been discussed and deliberated by means of working sessions and inputs from experts such as Dr. Paul Barter.
On February 11th, 2014, EMBARQ India initiated a first ever roundtable discussion with developers and real-estate professionals to engage them into the conversation around parking regulations, and test how these regulations may be received by the private sector. The event took place at the EMBARQ India Mumbai office. It was attended by over 15 professionals representing organizations such as Hiranandani Group, Godrej Properties, Mahindra Lifespace, Studio X, Edifice Consultants, TATA Housing, MCGM, Kumar Builders and MCHI-Credai.
Why do we care about parking? The discussion was initiated by illustrating the context of the city, establishing a common ground for all participants. Mumbai city is nearing a grid-lock, more vehicles seem to be entering already congested roads, vehicle ownership is on a rise, the demand for parking is increasingly high, and thus new developments comply to meet this demand; where does this end? Automobile-oriented planning is becoming a norm in the city. Conventional methods such as widening the roads and providing more parkings are fuelling a larger crisis instead of reducing the traffic congestion. This vicious cycle of planning has drastically affected ones desirability of the city, in turn impacting real estate values.
Comparing Mumbai with other Asian cities with similar population densities, it is observed that even though Mumbai has much lower vehicular ownership, its parking supply norms are extremely high! There is therefore a need to question and shift the current mind-set of meeting parking demand with even more parking supply, and consider a completely new lifestyle. Founder and Managing Director of the House of Hiranandani and Hiranandani Group of Companies, Mr. Surendra Hiranandani, emphatically stated that Mumbai must shift its mind-set towards the concept of people-oriented ‘sustainable’ city. For this to happen, we have to fight this battle through intelligent regulations. He continued to describe some of the woes of developers, who are required to meet unrealistic parking supply regulations. This ends up increasing the cost of property thereby rendering most of them unaffordable for even the upper middle classes. Highlighting the fact that we, as a City, must move away from providing liberal parking supply, he cited examples of buildings in western cities such as New York where the buildings for rich are also not provided with parking and affluent class also uses public transportation.
Post the opening presentation and remarks by participants, three key questions were put up to participants on parking norms. The idea was to discuss and debate the applicability of different parking management strategies in the Indian context and especially for a city as complex as Mumbai. 1. What if on-plot parking provisions in close proximity to mass transit stations are reduced to Zero? How would it impact saleability? 2. What if minimum parking requirements are abolished and maximum parking provisions are introduced in areas surrounding mass transit stations? 3. What if parking is included as part of Floor Space Index (FSI) in areas surrounding mass transit stations?
Concerns towards more sustainable ways of re-imagining the city were felt across the board. Most developers emphatically agreed that reducing existing norms must be considered as part of the new master plan. However, the need to create regulations that do not drastically reduce parking supply in some areas of the city, while privileging others, was a common concern; a fear of these properties having a ‘cartelizing’ effect creating pockets of premium property while disadvantaging new developments. There was also a need felt to ensure that the changes in parking norms should also be reflected in the National Building Code. This is essential for uniform and smooth execution of new regulations both at regional and national level.
Maximum parking provisions and reduced norms are a requirement. However, zero parking was a point of much debate; while some developers thought it was a necessary evil to endear this at least within station areas, others felt it was amateur and did not fully address the complexity of the problem. Including parking within FSI was seen as a fairly harmless strategy considering station areas may be pumped in with increased FSI incentives to catalyse a trend of urban renewal. This may not necessarily reduce the overall parking provision unless strict maximums are applied. As the session came to a close there was a unanimous agreement that more such discussions must be carried out towards developing creative strategies that not only reverses the trend of auto-oriented planning but also enable an active real estate market. As an offshoot to this session a google group (firstname.lastname@example.org) has been created for the developer fraternity to discuss these issues on a continuous basis and share ideas in this field.