Do you have a potential project within the East Downtown (EaDo) or Midtown Management Districts that you just can’t get to pencil out on paper due to the number of parking spaces the City requires you to build? The City of Houston Planning Commission and City Council will be considering a vote in the next three months to expand the off-street parking exemption area from Downtown into EaDo and Midtown to remove off-street parking requirements.

Off-Street Parking Ordinances

The original Off-Street Parking ordinance was passed in 1989 to regulate Houston’s parking requirements based on proposed building and land use. It was later amended in 2013 and 2017 to expand its flexibility and introduce variance and administrative processes as Houston’s multi-modal transportation infrastructure began to grow. These requirements can be found in Chapter 26 of the City of Houston Code of Ordinances.

The Central Business District (CBD) was originally provided an exemption from off-street parking requirements due to having a transit ridership of more than 20% and significant parking availability. This boundary was delineated around the inner highways of Downtown and extended a handful of blocks east and south into EaDo and Midtown.

Now, East Downtown and Midtown have evolved dramatically in recent history and have begun to reflect many of the same characteristics of the CBD:
• Strong grid patterns – block lengths are similar in all three market areas
• Growth of high-density urban mixed-use developments
• Multi-modal transportation systems have matured
• Land availability encourages small scale retail and high density residential

What are the new proposed exemption area boundaries?

The City of Houston Planning & Development Department has researched the areas that exhibited the above characteristics and have drawn new boundaries along natural features to include in this exemption area.

Source: City of Houston Planning Department – @HoustonPlanning

The new boundaries roughly incorporate the existing East Downtown and Midtown Management District boundaries. In EaDo it will extend east to the Union Pacific Railroad to where it intersects with Interstate 45 to the south. In Midtown, it will extend south along Bagby Street to where Spur 527 intersects with Highway 59.

What’s Next?

It is important to note that this is strictly affecting the definition of the “Central Business District” as it applies to the Chapter 26, or Parking, section of ordinances. It is not presently clear if the City will eventually follow this definition of the CBD as it is defined within the Chapter 42, or Subdivision and Platting, section of ordinances that govern building setbacks and other planning requirements. To differentiate the two, this proposal includes a new term to define this area within Chapter 26: “Market Based Parking Area”.

Additionally, this exemption area does not apply to other sections of Chapter 26, such as loading berth requirements, parking enforcement, and parking permits.

The City of Houston will be holding a 30-day public comment period followed by a presentation to the City of Houston Planning Commission and a vote by the City Council by the end of this year.

Do you have a potential development within East Downtown or Midtown that would benefit from this new parking requirement? If you need guidance, I or one of our consultants at LJA Engineering would love to walk you through your current property and development. I encourage you to call me at 713-580-4149 or email me at