L.A. Finally Embraces Sanity on Parking Policy

Parking minimums have led to parking lots that aren't always the best use of private space. Photo:##http://www.flickr.com/photos/garyseven/3950102540/sizes/z/in/photostream/##Gary Kavanagh##

Yesterday, the Los Angeles City Council embraced looser parking standards that will allow communities some flexibility in creating parking standards for new development. The full motion can be read here.

For decades, Los Angeles has labored under a “one size fits all” approach to parking.  This has led to businesses that are forced to put parking lots over urban design and has stopped the city from looking, and being all that it could be. It’s led to “transit oriented developments” with two deeded parking spaces per unit.

There are some parts of the city already blessed with relaxed parking requirements such including the area near the Red Line Station in Hollywood and Western and the Atwater Village, where shops were able to buy their way out of parking minimums.

There are seven tools that can be employed in a  Modified Parking Requirement Districts.

First, the city can exempt businesses that change the existing use of a building from needing to change the buildings parking. The popular example is a restaurant that moves into a space that was once used as a book store. Restaurants require more parking than bookstores under existing code.

Second, the developer could move parking off-site, within 1,500 feet of the entrance. This allows for mixed-use parking lots or shared lots.

Commercial parking credits similar to what was done to create the Atwater Commercial District are now on the table for any district that wants one.

Most obviously, developers can just request a relaxation of the city’s parking requirements.  Districts can also ask for either decreased or increased parking minimums.

Despite the apocalyptical warnings of “community advocates” who fear businesses with inadequate parking will lead to a flood of traffic on local streets, getting the designation of a special parking district is still a lengthy and difficult process.

First, 3/4 of business owners and residents within the district have to support the program. Next the application is prepared by city staff before a public hearing in front of the City Planning Commission. If the Commission passes the proposal, it’s on to the City Council Planning and Land Use Committee (PLUM) for another public hearing. If the PLUM committee passes the district, it moves on to the full City Council. After the Council vote, it requires the signature of the Mayor.

For more on the new rule, visit the Los Angeles Times and Curbed.

10 thoughts on L.A. Finally Embraces Sanity on Parking Policy

  1. I think it’s also worth noting for the those imagining some sudden parkpocalypse without high minimum zoning, how difficult it has been for the developer at Broadway & 4th in Santa Monica to find bank financing without parking. There are two constraints on reducing parking in developments, the city, and the financiers who are afraid to try anything they haven’t done before.

  2. I have a friend who works for an engineering firm that does case studies for parking lot development. One of their recommendations they released to the city of Santa Monica was that they didn’t need to create more parking lots — they needed to create a “park and ride” scenario for employees who work for businesses in the mall, on 3rd Street, and the surrounding areas. It would save them millions, and actually make them money if they allowed it to the general public, all in keeping with the city’s primary goal: keep traffic down and shopping up!

  3. it’s nice to have tools to locally reduce the damage of minimum parking requirements.

    But it seems semi-feudal to give property owners & those leasing buildings the power to carve out micro districts with different rules. We should set policy by voting city wide, and give wide latitude to property owners on their own land.  Don’t empower owners to tell their neighbors how to live. We’ve tried that for a hundred years- it leads to trying to impose a suburban ideal as the only way to manage space.

    Rant aside, it will be interesting to see if any of these zones are created.

    Hopefully when the city rewrites its zoning code, they will eliminate mandatory minimums rather than carving up the city into sub districts.

  4. A proposal to update downtown Santa Monica’s parking policy would provide funds to form a Transportation Management Association (which can group carpoolers from multiple businesses in an area).  Downtown Santa Monica is a great TMA candidate, but doesn’t have one yet.

  5. Do I understand this right? 3/4 of business owners and 3/4 of residents all have to agree. Only then does the project face four layers of city review, any one of which could kill the project.

    If that’s a correct understanding, I’d be very, very, very surprised if a single reduced-parking district ever passed that gauntlet.

  6. A business should be free to choose any amount of parking it thinks it needs and that it can afford, including choosing to offer zero parking. This is a good thing. Customers can decide for themselves whether or not a business has enough parking. Free-market at work. 

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