Samuel Deetz

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m originally from beautiful La Crosse, Wisconsin. In La Crosse, the downtown and uptown areas have been exempt from parking mandates for a number of years now, but we recently expanded exemptions to most commercial and industrial uses too. I’m currently a student at the University of Minnesota, working toward becoming a teacher. I already have a degree in Urban Studies and have had a couple stints of working for the Planning Department in La Crosse and helping out on our local Bike/Ped committee. 

How did you discover parking reform?

I discovered the Parking Reform Network a couple years ago through Strong Towns, and I took interest in looking at the reforms of other cities and how they could be applied to La Crosse, but I never submitted any reports until recently. 

What motivated you to submit so many reports to the PRN Parking Mandates Map?

Last year, I began filling out a spreadsheet of parking requirements by use for the cities in southwestern Wisconsin and northwestern Illinois as a way to show the difference in requirements in various cities and how cities with lower requirements were doing just fine and therefore minimums could be reduced to match the cities with lower requirements. But that fizzled out due to the effort of listing all the uses and deciding it would make more sense to look for complete exemptions. That led me to PRN early this year, where I started out submitting some cities I’d already had in my spreadsheet. Seeing the cities on the map really got me excited about PRN and things just snowballed from there. I’m gradually working my way through the Midwest and looking forward to covering the entire map with cities that have parking exemptions or maximums. Almost every spare moment I have, I’m looking at zoning codes, whether I have a few minutes before class or I’m on the bus.

What’s the strangest or funniest thing you found while reading zoning on parking?

The strangest occurrences that I have come across are the zoning codes of Goodhue, Minnesota and Pekin, Illinois. In Goodhue, the zoning code linked on the city website is a scan of a 1970 newspaper clipping with the published zoning code. In Pekin, the ED-1 district is exempt from requirements, but if you search the code, this one instance is the only place in the code where the ED-1 district is mentioned (I still included the city on our map). It’s also interesting to see how many codes are a simple copy-paste. Many cities in Minnesota have adopted the “Minnesota Basic Code,” where the PDF doesn’t even mention the city name, but just has a link to this “Minnesota Basic Code.” Other times, a city will copy another city’s code and forget to change the header on the PDF, such as how the zoning code for Monroe, South Dakota has the header “Harrisburg Zoning Regulations.”

What is the most important issue to you that parking has an impact on?

Climate change and biodiversity loss are important issues to me and parking mandates play a large role in fueling both of those crises. General reform of the transportation sector is needed and parking mandates are a good place to start. In addition, I love traveling around the Midwest and visiting all the small to midsize cities, and it’s always painful to see the “missing teeth” where surface parking rips apart the urban fabric of otherwise intact historic downtowns. It’s difficult to repair the damage already done, but the historic fabric of many downtowns can still be preserved with reform.

What’s a parking question you wish there was a study or research paper about? 

I would like to see more study and reform when it comes to loading requirements. I’ve only been looking for the parking requirements, but many cities also require loading spaces for trucks, which is good in theory, but likely comes at a cost. Based on the location, a business could potentially get by without any loading spaces if they get shipments by rail, and so I think it would be worthwhile to look into the cost of these requirements and how they impact the amount of freight being moved by truck compared to rail or inland waterway.