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Worst cities for enabling drunk driving in Northeast Ohio

Marc Lefkowitz  |  06/11/15 @ 1:00pm  |  Posted in Driving

When you pass a bar with a huge parking lot in front has the thought occured that one of those cars might not get home unscathed? When you and some friends get together for a few drinks, how do you get to—and more importantly—home from the bar?

<br />A bar in Lyndhurst, OH where zoning encourages drink driving. Images: Google.<br />A bar in Lakewood where zoning encourages walking to the pub.

Every city has the power to discourage drink driving. It happens right in its zoning code. In the section governing off-street parking, cities specify a number for how many off-street parking spaces they require bars and restaurants to supply. The larger the number of spaces per seat, the more you could say that city is enabling some pretty shoddy behavior.

We looked at the zoning code for off-street parking for a sampling of cities in Northeast Ohio to see who are building safer places to enjoy a drink and who are the worst enablers of drink-driving.

Solon— The far-eastern suburb uses zoning to curb parking and keep it tucked behind buildings in its historic district. But it doesn’t have a minimum lot area required for parking at shopping centers and stores, which is startling considering the amount of development on its main streets. Avoiding the appearance of large, ugly parking lots is considered, but not written into code.

Beachwood— At 1 parking space for every two seats at its Eating and Drinking Places, Beachwood is doing its best to encourage drinking and driving to its Integrated Business Districts. With bars and restaurants located in districts that aren’t zoned for residential and are near highways and major arterials like I-271 and Chagrin Boulevard, Beachwood zoning will produce a lot of bars with big lots. It leaves no option but to always behave responsibly and always have a designated driver.

Mayfield Heights— At 1 space per 5,000 - 10,000 sq. ft. of retail stores of all types, Mayfield Heights’ zoning isn’t the worst offender when it comes to parking. It might do more to encourage walking to its bars and restaurants on Mayfield Road by zoning like Solon—restricting parking lots to the rear of buildings.

Westlake and Lyndhurst— At 1 space per 50 square feet (or 1 space per two seats whichever is greater) at places serving drinks, Westlake and Lyndhurst are representative of places going the extra mile to green light drink-driving.

A better way

Euclid— At 1 spot per 50 sq. ft. at bars and restaurants, Euclid’s zoning defined the drive to the bar culture of the last century. To its great credit, Euclid updated its zoning last year—the city will count shared use facilities, bike parking, transit stops and even on-street spaces toward reducing off-street parking for drinking and eating places.

Cleveland— At 1 parking space per 100 square feet (or 1 spot for every 4 seats - whichever is greater) in a bar or restaurant, the city requires a striking amount of parking. Cleveland could probably address the connection between parking and encouraging drink-driving. 

The bad: Cleveland also requires one parking space per employee of a bar or restaurant. This little add on is probably producing larger than needed parking lots at Cleveland watering holes. Also, it’s a good thing Cleveland isn’t the bowling capital it used to be—the city requires 7 parking spots per lane.

The good: Cleveland allows apartments above retail to share the same off-street parking. The city also does not apply the off-street parking rule to its central business district.

Cleveland Heights— At 1 space per 300 sq. ft. at bars and restaurants, Cleveland Heights’ parking requirements seem middle of the road -- except when you consider the exceptions. The city gets kudos for a major overhaul in 2014 of its parking and zoning. It requires bike parking, showers and lockers at new buildings over 25,000 sq. ft. The city also made provision for bars and restaurants to share parking with daytime uses; it capped parking at commercial districts, and it lets up to 30% of a lot to be landscaped in a “land bank” arrangement.

Lakewood— At 1 space per 1,000 feet of retail space, Lakewood is doing a lot to encourage walking to the pub. On top of that, Lakewood earns points for allowing shared parking, and for letting bars and restaurants provide fewer car parking if they add bike parking (which is still a vehicle, and should come with its own set of caveats on drink-biking).

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3 years ago

Ron - Glad to hear that you "usually enjoy the articles of GCBL..."

Let me try to explain my methodology a little bit, since maybe I wasn't being clear. There are parking ordinances in every city's zoning code, and they specify how many spaces get paved based on uses that are very specific, like eating and drinking places. Zoning codes vary in how many parking spots are required per square foot of retail, commercial, mixed use, etc. space. My assumption was, the zoning codes that require 1 parking space per 50 sq. ft. (Lyndhurst) will result in larger parking lots at eating and drinking places than those cities that require 1 parking space per 1,000 square feet (Lakewood). In other words, when you see a giant parking lot in front of the B Dubs on Mayfield and not in front of Deagan's in downtown Lakewood, it's by design, not by accident. I admit, I may have confused the question by including the *placement of parking in this blog post. Some cities require in their zoning to keep parking behind the building (Solon) and others do not. Does having parking in front of buildings encourage more driving? I think so, but reasonable people may disagree on this question.

Ron Werman
3 years ago

While I usually enjoy the articles on GCBL, I don't understand this correlation at all. People that drive to a bar will park on a street if there isn't enough "parking lot" parking. I don't see how parking lots at the rear of the building will discourage driving there. People will know that the lot is in the rear and park there. There is no mention of establishing what percentage of people walk to a bar to drink in these communities. That would be a better indication of the point trying to be made. I live in Cleveland Heights and most people at the bars drive there from other communities. I'm sorry but this entire argument seem very contrived.

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