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Home » Archives » January 2010 » Fifty Years of Stupid Parking Tricks....

01/14/2010: "Fifty Years of Stupid Parking Tricks...."
Saw a posting by my friend and colleague Josef Bray-Ali on parking, cycling, and driving in LA, and he has graciously let us post it here on The New Colonist.
...The City of LA already allows properties with over 10,000 active square feet of Commercial or Manufacturing uses to substitute 2% of their required car parking with bike parking (and has published an okay set of standards for bike parking facilities too). This is from Los Angeles Municipal Code Section 12.21 A.4(c) and 12.21 A.16.

If you're building a shopping center, 98% of your required parking will have to be for cars only--which is a lot of land (and money) to dedicate to free car parking.

When I worked for a developer, the costs of providing enough legally mandated car parking were enormous, and killed a great many infill projects we wanted to do within the urban core. I'm not talking about 8 story condo projects either. Two and three story conversions of a building into ground floor commercial with upstairs residential (just what most community and specific plans call for) were impossible to build due to stringent requirements to provide lots of car parking for both uses.

So, bicycle access issues aside, mandated car parking is keeping prices high at your local market and keeping quality development (and affordable units) out of the inner city. There is a reason most developments are so big--the only people who can pony up the cash and the connections to build are the big boys. Small, community-based developers are shut out due to the high capital costs of providing car parking for any new development.

We need to amend the municipal code to alllow a smaller square foot requirement (say, 500 square feet of active use) and to any and all zones (C, M, A, O, R, and others) to take part in this bike swap. We also need to allow the car parking to be reduced by a larger percentage--say, 70% or 90%, or why not 100%?
Specifically, the Los Angeles Municipal Code (and most of the US uses similar language) states that "there shall be at least one automobile parking space for each 500 square feet of combined floor area contained within all the office, business, commercial, research and development buildings, and manufacturing or industrial buildings on any lot."

A 500 square foot area is just 20 x 25 feet...no wonder so much valuable land is wasted on parking! And this "free" parking also induces driving that might not otherwise have occurred. Half a century of specious lobbying and halfwitted planning have resulted in building a culture in which people are pretty much forced to drive, for lack of any feasible alternative.

Seems to me that what was "good for GM" didn't turn out to be too good for America after all....

As Walter Lippmann noted way back in 1939, "G.M. has spent a small fortune to convince the American public that if it wishes to enjoy the full benefit of private enterprise in motor manufacturing, it will have to rebuild its cities and highways by public enterprise." Nearly fifty years later, UCLA's Donald Shoup wrote, in The High Cost of Free Parking, that "parking requirements cause great harm: they subsidize cars, distort transportation choices, warp urban form, increase housing costs, burden low-income households, debase urban design, damage the economy, and degrade the environment."

Bray-Ali, for his part, has put his money where his mouth is, and opened a shop in Los Angeles that sells only commuting and cargo bikes...and people are flocking to it.

Time to take back America's streets...and garages!