State Senate Passes Parking Reform Legislation. Times Readers Flip Out.

2_1_10_wal_mart.jpgSB 518 would allow fewer parking lots such as this to sprout up in California. Photo: Brave New Films/Flickr

Last week, the California State Senate passed S.B. 518,
by Long Beach Democrat Alan Lowenthal, that would limit the amount of
free parking that new developments could offer by incentivizing smart
growth strategies in local planning ordinances and requiring that
developers itemize the cost of each parking space.  The legislation
will be referred to the Assembly, where it will go through at least one
committee before qualifying for a floor vote.  At the time of
publication, the bill had not been assigned to an Assembly committee.

As we’ve come to expect, when a well-reasoned piece of legislation moves forward that dares challenge the Car Culture status quo, the reaction is hysteria.  The
legislation passed the Senate Appropriations Committee by a nearly
party-line 7-5 vote with a similar result, 21-12 in the Senate. 
Suburban newspapers are already taking aim at the legislation in their editorial pages, and when the Los Angeles Times covered the bill’s passage,
the first two paragraphs of the article sounded extremely skeptical of
the legislation’s basic premise: that free parking is a problem for
urban planners to overcome, not something that should be worked for.

Yesterday, the Times re-posted the story in its LA Now blog, emphasizing some of the crazier comments from the entitled Car Culture Warriors.  Lowenthal’s legislation is one of the most progressive pieces of parking reform legislation in the country, and instead of celebrating this accomplishment, our entitled car-driving friends and neighbors lose their minds.  Here’s a sampling of some of the comments the Times chose to highlight:

We need to vote these job killers out of office — starting from the
top! CA has the highest taxes on earth and they want (STEAL!!) more and
more from the citizens.


This guy probably came out of a meeting specifically called to think of
new ideas for non-tax, revenue generating schemes that can be put in
place without voter feedback. As usual, the big picture is not taken
into account.

and, my personal favorite,

Over the past 3 years living in downtown LA I’ve paid over $1,000 in
tickets towing and meter fees. This state is starting to feel

So, what does Lowenthal‘s legislation actually do?  As Los Angeles Streetsblog first noted back in March,
legislation requires that all municipalities in California enact
policies that would gain "points".  Each community must earn 20
points by January 1, 2012.  The March article, breaks down the
different ways that a municipality can earn points.  For example, any municipality that establishes or already has an ordinance that
"Establish commercial parking maximums of 2 or fewer spaces per 1,000
sq. feet citywide or within the unincorporated county" earns ten
points.  Municipalities that don’t meet the "20 point" requirement won’t be able to apply for certain state development or transit grants and could face sanctions from the local Air Resources Board.

Locally, such a change in parking ordinances could have some big impacts.  The concept of Transit Oriented Development in Los Angeles is stunted by parking requirements that force the few developers interested in reduced parking to have over one parking space per residential unit.  However, neither the City of Los Angeles or Metro have taken a position on the proposed law.

  • Erik G.

    But,but, but…we’ve got to have enough parking all the year ’round for the crowds on the day after Thanksgiving (aka Black Friday)!!

    But where California ought to look is to Washington State and its Commute Trip Reduction Act:

    Remove the reasons to use the parking in the first place!

  • Online comments always follow the same pattern on newspaper websites.

    Mention the following points for maximum success:
    -The man (or fat cats)
    -Tax increases (even if the proposal is to lower taxes)
    -How the proposal will hurt the working class
    -Cyclists always run red lights (even if the article is about a cat in a tree)
    -Mention how you’re moving out of the state, know 50 friends that are also leaving, and never coming back. Then re-post comment in a year.
    -Threaten to take your business to another state. “I will drive to nevada, where the parking is free!”

  • Chewie

    I think the lesson is there’s a lot of work to do to educate the public on this issue. The timing isn’t great, politically speaking, considering the recession.

    People are asking “what’s in it for me?” There are good answers to that question. Unfortunately, they require reading books most people have never heard of.

    The case against free parking is basically that:
    It is an unfair subsidy to drivers
    It adds to traffic and pollution
    It spreads out the city, wasting land and adding more car trips
    It can cause people to cruise around for parking

    The case for priced parking is basically that:
    It avoids the problems mentioned above
    The revenue can be used to fund local improvements

  • What’s the next thing they want to tax? Maybe they will measure how much air we breathe. They should tax each package we hold. Perhaps each word we speak. These guys are the biggest loones. Now if you live in California and drive a car you’re a fat cat, right? Another leftist, socialist progressive agenda that will force people to buy on line. Malls will be empty, they will be forced to close, no rents, equals no taxes. Gee what a great idea. And we pay these guys to run our government.

  • Momlee, that was perfect. You just forgot to add “I guess they only care about cyclists who run lights and terrify pedestrians” after “California and drive a car you’re a fat cat, right?”

  • Do I understand parking lots like Walmart will have meters? how outrageous. With the economy the way it is, we are expected to pay for parking? I hope I have read this incorrectly. If not I pray this bill will not pass.

  • JW

    BETTYB — If that’s what the market will bear (so probably not, considering where Walmart builds stores and their target customers). But, Walmarts won’t be forced to build enormous lots to satisfy the peak demand 2 days a year.

    Why not read the bill yourself?

  • “With the economy the way it is, we are expected to pay for parking?”

    With the economy the way it is, we are expected to pay for food?

    With the economy the way it is, we are expected to pay for rent?

    With the economy the way it is, we are expected to pay for utilities?

    With the economy the way it is, we are expected to pay for gas?

  • When is Alan Rosenthal’s term over? He’s going to cost California’s millions of dollars. I suggest we start a recall action. Betcha Walmart and Cosco and every shopping mall will contribute. I suspect if you have a garage attached to your home, Alan will find a way to charge for parking.

  • Erik G.

    Is it the readers of Time Magazine who are flipping out or the readers of the Los Angeles TimeS, Damien?

    And Momlee, I hope you will read the bill because it does not force Wal-Mart or CosTco to charge for parking. It forces them to stop hiding it in their accounting so that all are able to see the costs involved.

    It might also mean that the next Big Box built in your neighborhood does not have to also build a gargantuan parking lot if it is not truly needed. So you might benefit from this after all.

    From the bill:

    Moreover, when parking is
    provided free to the user, these costs are hidden elsewhere in the
    cost of doing business. Free parking at stores is paid for by all
    customers in higher prices for goods, including those customers who
    do not drive. Free parking in housing developments is paid for by all
    residents, even those who do not drive. Free employer-provided
    parking is paid for by lower wages for all workers, including those
    who do not drive. Free onstreet parking is paid for by the entire
    community in the form of taxes.

    I don’t like higher taxes, lower wages, or higher prices. Do you?

  • Joseph E

    I wish my landlord would charge for parking. Right now, there are 21 parking spots and 7 storage garages (big enough for a motorcycle, a few bikes or a Smart car but not a full-size car) in our 14 unit building. But each apartment is assigned to two spaces or one garage/one parking space, for the same price.

    I only have one car, but have to pay for 2 spaces, which adds $100 to my rent each month (If you don’t believe me, search for parking spaces for rent in Alamitos Beach). In a real, capitalist society I would be able to pay $50 less AND get a storage spot instead. Or perhaps the building would have been constructed with only 14 parking spots and 4 extra apartments, further lowering average rents… or with 21 apartments and only bike and motorcycle parking. Imagine, 1/4 lower rents.

    That’s why we need to reform the parking law. In my neighborhood, until zoning laws went into effect, many beautiful Spanish colonial and Craftsman rental buildings were constructed. There are 2 stories high and have about 8 units on the space of one single-family home, and have room for a few cars in the former back yard. Since the 70’s, everything has been built to 3 stories, with the first floor entirely devoted to parking. It looks ugly and was more expensive to build. But the laws required 1.5 parking spaces per 2 bedroom unit.

    Let people pay for parking at home and at work, and we will see how many keep that 2nd or 3rd car. Some may even choose to go car-free to save $100 a month, and then realize they are saving hundreds more a month by going car-free. If I could cash out the parking value in my apartment and in my free parking spot at work ($10 a day…), I might give up our one car.

  • You know, I sort of feel the outrage too on a bill like this. Post Proposition 13, most local governments have come to rely on big-box retail and auto dealerships to pay their bills. CalTrans is till the freeway paving machine it was created to be, and the state’s Bicycle Transportation Account is still only a couple of hundred thousand dollars.

    Why not allow developers, local governments, and others to make decisions regarding parking? Or rather, instead of cutting off options, why not allow other options – like the ability to “under park” a big box if there is ample bike parking or wide, safe, sidewalks connected directly to a local street car, light rail or 24-hour bus line? A state law allowing parking to be swapped for these amenities would be a boon to urban infill developers, and would look like a smart OPTION to use when building in the city.

    To presuppose that the auto-dependent parts of our state should operate like the older, historic, business districts is absurd. I say, let these areas fail on their own, no need to mandate that they turn away customers during Christmas for lack of parking. Allow a parking swap for urban development and it’s not the parking lots these big boxes will be worried about, but their commercial relevance!

  • Darian

    We already pay for free parking. We especially pay a lot for all the parking we never use. Donald Shoup wrote a wonderful, big, brick of a book about it. Wait, there’s this wonderful site that covers his ideas all the time. It’s called Streestblog…oh wait.

  • jay

    This is disgusting. These people don’t care about the environment, they want your money. And you HAVE to have a car in LA if not California, so they know they have us. Next, it will be sidewalks, soon the CO2 we breath out will be taxed (we’ll have to pay for the air we breathe in). There is no end to the carte blanche mentality of these leeches. Vote them out!

  • thats a terrible idea! NO to limited amount of parkings!

  • Chewie

    “[Y]ou HAVE to have a car in LA”

    According to the 2006-08 American Community Survey 12.7% of households in the city of LA have no vehicle available.

    “You have to have a car in LA” is an urban legend. It’s an idea that has power because it’s often repeated, and rarely questioned.

  • “It’s an idea that has power because it’s often repeated, and rarely questioned.”

    I agree. I have long said the greatest challenge are assumptions, conventional wisdom that results in phrases like “everyone knows…” which often aren’t actually based on facts, just impressions etc.


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