Metro Saddles NoHo Station Redevelopment With $48M Parking Expansion

Metro's North Hollywood parcels, now up for possible redevelopment. Image via Metro
Metro’s North Hollywood parcels, now up for possible redevelopment. Image via Metro

In a recent post at The Source, Metro announced a new call for joint development at four large parcels of land at and adjacent to its North Hollywood Red and Orange Line Stations. Curbed L.A. reports that the NoHo parcels could include an estimated 750 to 1,500 units of housing, up to 12 stories tall. Hopefully, plenty of that housing will be affordable, based on Metro’s recently adopted joint development policies.

Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) will be a good thing for North Hollywood, for Metro, for Los Angeles. But is this truly TOD?

The issue here is parking.

Lots and lots and lots of parking.

The Source article completely misuses the term “replacement parking.”

The current NoHo lot has 957 spaces and another 194 spaces are in the process of being added on the north side of Chandler Avenue east of the current lot. Parking at NoHo Station is heavily used with most sites taken each morning and many NoHo riders say the parking makes it possible for them to take transit. If the current lots are developed, Metro plans to ask for 2,000 replacement spaces for transit riders in parking lots and/or garages to be constructed in addition to parking needed for residents and retail. That would almost double the current parking available at the station for Red Line and Orange Line riders.

What is “replacement parking”? When a development takes away existing parking, the developer may be required to replace parking spaces that have been taken away. Is asking for 2,000 spaces to replace 1,151 spaces credibly “replacement parking”? No. It’s a massive expansion. Cities and transit agencies (for example, BART [PDF]) generally require 1 to 1 replacement parking. Even 1 to 1 replacement hurts walkability, livability, and affordability.

Metro isn’t asking for replacement parking. It is asking for a massive parking expansion. A massively expensive parking expansion.

At an estimated cost of $24,000 per parking space in an elevated structure (amount from Don Shoup – and it will likely be upwards of $34,000 per space for any underground parking) then Metro is saddling this redevelopment with an up-front cost of $48 million, just for parking for Metro. As The Source mentions, that’s not counting additional parking for people who will live or shop there. 

Past Metro attempts at redevelopment at North Hollywood and Universal City stations failed, in part due to onerous parking requirements required by Metro – and in part due to an economic downturn.

Metro sees some ridership benefits from park-and-ride lots. They enable far-flung commuters to drive a little less, and to take Metro for a portion of a multi-modal trip. Unfortunately, according to the recent American Public Transit Association (APTA) review, park-and-ride minimizes the environmental benefits of transit as well as subsidizing higher income transit riders at the expense of others less fortunate.

If Metro is really committed to fostering great place – or “Transit Oriented Communities” as Phil Washington urges – then the agency will need to show a greater commitment to great first-last mile connections, to housing, to great public spaces. In recent years, North Hollywood has become a great walkable neighborhood. Metro’s joint development should build on that walkability.

If Metro is going to require about $50 million worth of improvements from developers, it’s better to invest that money in housing, and first/last mile connectivity for walking, bicycling, bike-share, etc. Better to build great places that Metro riders will want to go to… not just a massive ocean of parking.

Some parking is probably needed, but, if it’s a popular destination (and it already is) then why the “free” parking? If Metro continues to give away hundreds of free NoHo parking spaces, the agency will never know how much parking is really  needed. As long as parking is free, there will never be enough to meet demand.

What do you think, readers? Give Metro your input at upcoming meetings:

The Community Workshop is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 24, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the North Hollywood Amelia Earhart Regional Library at 5211 Tujunga Avenue in NoHo.

A Development Guidelines Open House is scheduled for Tuesday, October 13, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the El Portal Theatre at 5269 Lankershim Boulevard in NoHo.

  • 1976boy

    Why not decouple parking from development? Build one or more dedicated parking garages for commuters and charge for their use. The market will determine the appropriate cost. Then, build the rest of the development with NO parking except for a few spots that can be used for handicapped, delivery, and car share set-asides. There is this mentality that it can’t be done, but where it has been done, it works. There are almost NO options for truly car-free living in most of LA except downtown. Give it a try. We might be surprised.

  • jennix

    We need less parking period, but less free parking especially. Too much money and too many resources are wasted so that drivers have some place to dump their hunks FOR FREE.

  • Asher Of LA

    Based on sheer greed alone, parking ought to satisfy two criteria:

    1. The net parking revenue should exceed the net costs of building and maintaining that parking.
    2. The net revenue from parking should be greater than the net revenue from other uses, such as housing and retail. (This criterion is even more restrictive, I imagine)

    This parking will not meet either criteria – it won’t pull in more money as parking than it would for other uses, nor even cover its own costs. To build the parking without meeting those criteria is to pay people to drive out of Metro’s own budget.

    Metro could test out #1 by calculating the cost of the proposed parking, identifying the per-spot prices that would put revenue over costs, and charge those prices now, and see if they still have empty spots. If it can’t clear that hurdle now, it definitely won’t with twice as many spots to fill.

  • Alex Brideau III

    I suspect Metro is fearful of charging for parking, but surely a buck or two per day(!) per space is not too much to ask. And with all these extra spaces there’s surely more than enough capacity to charge a premium rate for those who want reserved or premium-location parking spots.

  • Dennis_Hindman

    If there are going to be 750 to 1,500 housing units built then its reasonable to expect each housing unit to have an assigned parking space like new housing units all over Los Angeles get. The additional parking spaces would therefore be for those living there and not Metro customers. People who live there will have cars, like it or not. The question is where they are going to park their cars. Denying them parking spaces in a garage means that they will park in the street.

  • Chewie

    I could see a parking garage with ground-floor commercial space being a constructive part of this area, but the parking should not be free. LA has lots of good examples of this kind of building, like the “Broadway Spring Center” building on the west side of Spring between 3rd and 4th Streets Downtown. The ground floor still prioritizes the pedestrian, and parking is provided in a way that doesn’t consume very much land. Any kind of surface parking lot would waste too much land in a location that should be walkable and urban. Metro is a transit agency that still has a lot of unmet transit needs. For example:

    – Bus lines with infrequent service
    – Bus stops without adequate shade or seating
    – Rising fares

    For Metro to dedicate its scarce resources to free parking is a slap in the face to the majority of system users who don’t have access to cars and who need better transit. When people say “I need parking to get to North Hollywood” why is that? Because there needs to be better transit service and better opportunities to bike and walk to and from North Hollywood. The best way to start to do that is to focus on building an urban place around the station. Every dollar spent on parking is a dollar you can’t spend on your core mission of providing transit service. If developers are paying for the parking, they have to make the rents in their buildings that much more expensive, thus working against the goal of affordable housing near transit, and making transit-adjacent living more exclusive. The richest users of the transit system, those who drive to train stations, should directly bear the costs of parking their cars. When we pay the full cost of driving we find ways to drive less. Unfortunately Metro still doesn’t get what makes a city conducive to transit.

  • LAifer

    Metro’s existing parking lots don’t even remotely cover the costs of maintenance and security, let alone the capitalized costs of construction. Parking is a money loser over and over and over for Metro, but they keep building it because they think it’ll attract more riders. Never mind that they already know that something like 90+% of their riders walk, bike, or take the bus to connect to their rail network.
    Just plain dumb.

  • Azunyan

    I say they should just develop the land to something more useful. The people who complain about their entitlement of free parking aren’t the majority make up of Metro riders anyway. Whatever riders Metro loses will be very small and can be made up by the residents that’ll live in this newly redeveloped area.

  • B McMorran

    Joe I can’t make it to either of those meetings. Any chance I can provide input via email/comment submission? How does that work with Metro. Thanks

  • Steven White

    The Source pretty plainly stated that Metro is asking for 2000 spots for Metro customers, in addition to whatever parking will be dedicated to retail and residential.

    Assume 1000 units (one spot each, for sake of discussion), plus 2000 for Metro riders, plus whatever is required for retail, and we’re looking at possible 4000 or more parking spots!

  • Dennis_Hindman

    Your right. That request for additional parking at the North Hollywood subway seems to come from LA city councilmember Paul Krekorian who sits on the Metro Board and in whose council district the North Hollywood subway station is located. A few months ago he had asked that Metro look into doubling the amount of car parking at both the North Hollywood and Universal subway stations.

  • Salts

    The saddest part I see is that some of the sidewalks in the immediate area are in very poor condition or non-existent yet we’re asking developers to add parking before ADA-compliant sidewalks. A sad reflection of our values, or our politicians’ values anyway.

  • Salts

    Even when drivers aren’t the majority they are still heard the loudest because of the space they take up. Politicians see hundreds of cars parked but they don’t see the majority, the thousands of people who show up by foot, transit, and bicycle

  • Azunyan

    Paul Krekorian – Democrat. Wait weren’t Democrats supposed to be for public transit and transit oriented development?

  • ubrayj02

    How about something better than a single public toilet on the curb outside the station AND THEN we can build the parking lot.

    Bike lane projects cost what 10 of these parking spots cost, but nobody blinks an eye about more parking – when these parking lots will do more to make traffic worse than all the bike lanes in the 2010 bike plan ever could.

  • ubrayj02

    Bike theft at Metro stations is rampant; paring for bikes is unguarded; and even when video cameras catch the crime nobody in law enforcement moves to act on that footage. But let’s spend the fortune of the Medici’s in renaissance Florence on car parking instead of making bike parking even marginally better.

    For the cost of 3 to 4 parking spots per year Metro could fund a single around the clock private security guard to keep an eye on everyone’s bikes and maybe even establish a protected bike parking area.

    At the risk of possibly making money, Metro could let a small business park a 24-hour bike repair van with a protected bike parking area as part of its business.

    Metro could offer to fund the construction of the Lankershim bike lanes at the cost of ~10 parking spots.

    At this point, I’d rather Metro did none of it and instead fired the team behind this decision and plan.

  • Asher Of LA

    ” People who live there will have cars, like it or not.”

    Nope. Nearly 25% of renters in LA don’t have cars.[1]

    You don’t build housing for the average LA resident. You build it for the people who will live there. And the type of housing you build will influence how much demand there is for parking. If you build big expensive units far from transit, jobs and people, then you get a lot of parking demand. If you build smaller units with cheap rents near transit and people, you get less demand. [2]

    Solution: Build the kind of housing that attracts people less likely to own and park cars. They’ll use transit more, and won’t demand a parking space everywhere they go, making the local area more lively and look less like a patchwork of parking lots.

    [1] http://hcidapp.lacity.org/lahdinternet/Portals/0/Policy/curriculum/gettingfacts/mobility/parking.html

    [2] http://www.rightsizeparking.org/background.php

  • Asher Of LA

    Why do you think they’re doing it then?

    My guess is that they’re pressured by the local council members representing local homeowner-drivers.

  • davistrain

    Some years ago, a transit-observer website published an item reporting that of all the Metro employees, only about 5% “used the sponsor’s product”, i.e. rode a bus or train to work. Even cutting some slack for the drivers to have to be at the division (bus or train yard) at O-dark-30 to get the first runs moving, that’s still a poor utilization percentage. Add to this the fact that Metro employees get free transit passes, but are still willing to pay the costs of motoring and it’s no wonder that transit systems (not just Metro) have shortcomings.

  • Samuel

    A few years ago Metro’s main TOD guy told me point-blank over coffee that Metro will fight to preserve whatever parking currently exists, and if anything will look to get more parking. This was the same guy who in official presentations was promoting Metro’s official policy that calls for “reduced auto use” on TOD sites.

    In that light, this story is unsurprising.

  • John Hanson

    See Blue Dog Democrat.

    There are also a lot of old white homeowners remaining in North Hollywood who do nothing but complain loudly about the lack of street parking. I’d imagine constant harassment from the constituents might play a contributing factor.

  • Joseph E

    The existing 1000 parking spaces take up 50% of the land! This will increase the parking to at least 4000 spaces: 2000 for Metro, and 2000 or more for the apartments and retail in the new development, based on Los Angeles city minimum parking requirements of 2 spaces per unit and lots of parking for retail. That means there will have to be 4 floors of parking on half of the developable land, or 2 stories of parking over 100% of the development. 1/3rd of the developable space will be parking! That’s by no means affordable, and it’s a huge waste of space that could provide more housing near transit.
    How about we start charging $5 a day for the existing parking, and find out how many people are willing to pay a fair cost? If multi-floor garages are built, they will have to charge $10 a day to pay back the financing and construction costs of $24,000 per parking space.

  • Jeff Jacobberger

    If the people who will park at the NoHo station would otherwise be driving through the Cahuenga Pass and clogging up freeways and streets, and requiring large parking structures, in Downtown, Hollywood, and K’town, then the parking does not seem that objectionable. But if it costs as much to park at the NoHo station as it does to park in those places–for monthly passes that could be as little as $4-5 per day if you are willing to walk a few blocks–what incentive is there for those people to ride the Red Line instead of drive?

  • Jason Grant

    Many who park and ride are choice riders anyway. Remember when people said they will go back to driving cars if Metro ended the honor system? Empty threats is all it is. They’ll be using the Red Line regardless whether there’s parking or not, and given a choice of dealing with the stress of the traffic on the 101, they’ll rather pay the parking fee. People will be willing to pay extra than the stress of dealing with traffic. Look at Uber, people are paying lots of money for having someone else do the driving for them. It’s exactly like that.

  • Jason Grant

    Democrat politicians are still politicians; they go what their constituents want. Democrats in oil producing states will be pro big oil just as Republicans.

    Besides, if Democrats really cared about the being pro-transit, they’d be looking at the statistics that the majorty of LA County residents are renters, 80-85% of the Metro riders are poor, the average bus trip is only 3 or 4 miles, the average Metro Rail trip is only 12 miles, and will come to the conclusion that flat rate fares hurt most of the Metro riders than help them, while a distance based fare where it costs cheaper to ride shorter distances would, and would take measures to move to such a fare system without giving BS excuses that it can’t be done when it’s already been used in many places throughout the world.

  • Asher Of LA

    “that the majorty of LA County residents are renters”

    I’m sure the demographics of voters differs greatly from that of adult residents – voters are older, wealthier, and more white, less Hispanic, less inclined to use transit. So playing to the average voter is different from catering to the average resident.

  • Asher Of LA

    Ahhh so here’s the answer to why Metro is doing this boneheaded move – the local councilman asking on behalf of entitled local drivers, as I suspected.

  • Asher Of LA

    You say it like every valley resident deserves a medal of honor every time they board a train instead of drive. Why are the people who would drive otherwise the only people that matter?

    By building housing instead of parking lots, Metro can get more money and increase ridership more than by building a bunch of surface parking lots. Plus local landowners will see their property values increase more with the bigger customer base next door. Property taxes will go up. The only reason to build a bunch of parking is to placate entitled locals who’ve got their councilman’s ear.

  • Dennis_Hindman

    That would leave 75% of renters who do have cars.

    Believing that everyone who lives near transit will not use a car or that you do not have to include parking for cars to get enough people to live there is not based on the reality of how most people in the San Fernando Valley move around in Los Angeles. Probably most developers would not be interested in building housing at these locations if it doesn’t include parking for cars. If there is not an adequate amount of off-street parking, then tenants will park in the street.

  • Asher Of LA

    So, 1.7 million carless renters in LA . For a thousand units. Maybe you lost a few zeros there in doing your subtraction.

    I didn’t say build zero parking anyhow, you did, in misrepresenting me. If it were my money on the line, I’d look at local apartments with rents similar to the rents I’d be charging, and see how much parking they use, and use that as a starting point. Unbundle the price of parking from the rent. Offer car-sharing, transit passes, and bike amenities, and then offer less than the survey results.

    If it’s not too costly, design the parking for residents in such a way that it can be converted to other uses later on.

    Developers in LA don’t even need to think about parking, generally, because the minimum parking requirement is more than they’d ever need, so they just build to the legal minimum. Give them time and the freedom to offer less built in parking, and they’ll find out how little they can build, and pass the savings on to renters. That’s what happened with old buildings in downtown LA, and well, that place has really gone down the drain in recent years :) [1]

    [1] http://www.accessmagazine.org/articles/spring-2014/parking-requirements-housing-development-regulation-reform-los-angeles/

  • Joe Linton

    email Metro boardmembers – especially Krekorian and Garcetti – emails here: http://www.metro.net/about/board/executives/

  • Azunyan

    In due time, the voter base will shift to the Millennials.

  • But you dont need to build for that 75%. You dont need to build for “most people in San Fernando Valley”. You need to build 1,000 apartments for 1,000 people who dont want a car.

    With a straight face, youre suggesting there arent 1,000 people in LA who want an apartment near the subway and dont have a car?

  • calwatch

    The irony is that just a few miles to the west, the Sepulveda and Van Nuys Orange Line stations have plenty of parking. There is a time penalty involved in the transfer but it seems dubious to spend millions of dollars all so a few people can avoid a 5 minute transfer.

  • Marcotico

    Man, I miss Brown Molyeaux, anyone know where she is?

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