What Mandatory Parking Requirements Cost L.A. Renters

L.A.'s parking requirements cost renters about $1700 a year, whether the renter drives or not. Photo via WIkipedia/Rachmaninoff
L.A.'s parking requirements cost renters about $1700 a year, whether the renter drives or not. Photo via WIkipedia/Rachmaninoff
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There is a new article making the rounds that sheds light on the true cost of providing parking in Los Angeles. The article is “If you’re renting a US city apartment without a car, 16% of your rent pays for parking you don’t need” by Michael J. Coren.

Most Streetsblog readers may be aware that one-size-fits-all parking requirements end up creating excessive parking, especially in urban centers. Though there are exceptions, the city of L.A. typically requires 2 to 2.5 parking spaces per housing unit. Generally, whether or not they own a car, renters typically pay the cost of building and maintaining that parking.

Coren cites a couple of studies that quantify parking costs. A 2016 study by C.J. Gabbe and Gregory Pierce found that garage parking costs renter households “approximately $1,700 per year, or an additional 17% of a housing unit’s rent.” The study estimates that overall in the United States carless renters pay $440 million annually for parking that they do not use. Coren, Gabbe, and Pierce point to the equity implications of  “this transport cost burden being effectively hidden in housing prices” stressing that required parking “imposes a steep cost on carless renters—commonly the lowest income households—who may be paying for parking that they do not need or want.”

Coren also cites a 2013 study by Michael Manville which found that Los Angeles City “parking minimums raised apartment prices by about $200 per month and price of a condo by about $43,000.”

Note that these are just direct costs to renters and owners. Parking requirements also drive up the cost of building new housing, resulting in fewer units actually getting built. The reduced supply also indirectly drives up the cost of renting or owning.

What is the solution?  Gabbe and Pierce suggest two policy changes that would help:

  • Cities should reduce or eliminate minimum parking requirements. This is already happening in a number of places, including central L.A, Lancaster, Buffalo, and Mexico City.
  • Cities should allow and encourage landlords to unbundle parking costs from housing costs – ie: instead of just charging a lump sum for renting both housing and parking, renters should pay separately for housing and for each parking space needed.
  • D G Spencer Ludgate

    There is a simple solution for this. Chances are in that same apartment building there is a tenant that could use another space. Maybe he uses a van/truck for his business, but also owns a car for personal use. Maybe she rents a one-bedroom, but her live-in boyfriend also owns a car.

    The management company could easily reduce the rent for the carless tenant by $100.00 a month and then rent that space to another tenant for $150.00 a month. Everybody wins.

    All you have to do is go to neighborhoods with older, pre-parking minimum buildings to see the results. Cars parked in yards, driveway aprons, “Parkways”, etc. Streetsblog has posted articles regarding “Sidewalk Parking”. Parking minimums reduce urban blight.

  • Richard

    It’s so easy; except what you described is illegal in most of LA. Each parking space built in a new building is bundled into a specific unit. It is rented with the unit and separating the two is not allowed.

    Hence why the article recommends ‘unbunding’ the parking requirements so a landlord/management company is allowed to rent a space from a carless or car lite apartment to someone with 3-4 cars.

    The blight problem on the other hand is entirely caused by the City Council’s recent regulations that made it entirely legal to park on the sidewalk. Rather than solve the problem, they have chosen to blight the neighborhood.

  • Richard

    The article talks about national costs rather than local ones.

    The costs in LA are likely much higher, as almost all units come with multiple parking spaces and due to LA’s density almost all of those spaces are above or below grade in expensive structures.

  • 1976boy

    Lots of the people who are blighting the neighborhood with their cars have off street parking but use it for storage.

  • Fieron Santos

    Here is the part that I don’t see many people talk about. Let’s say we unbundle/ reduce the parking requirement. Today a 1 bedroom rents for 2400. In five years it still keeps going up in rent. Lets say 150.00 a year so five years later it 3150. How did changing the parking requirement keep the rent from rising and there’s less parking?

  • LA City requires 1-2 car parking spaces per multifamily home. In Downtown the requirement is lower. They should really get rid of minimums at least downtown and close to rail. Still, there are stricter minimums out there in other cities, so it could be worse.

    LADBS publishes a two-page “Summary of Parking Regulations.” I would link to it but the link is annoyingly long, so Google it :)

  • Richard

    Reducing parking minimums will reduce costs, enable more construction flooding the market with more units, so rents do not rise as much over time.

    Unbundling parking minimums from units will allow people to pay less for their home if they choose not to make use of parking. It will provide available parking for people who have different lifestyles are require 4-5 parking spaces to pay a little more to rent them.

  • Joe Linton

    In addition to what Richard wrote, unbundling would save money for renters that have one-car or no-car households. Using your $3150 number – 17% of that would be for parking – $536 for two spaces. So, with unbundling, assuming everything else holds steady, a no-car household could pay just $2,614 monthly, or a one-car household could pay $2881 monthly.

  • patch

    There needs to be a minimum number of spaces for each unit. If they did not do this, then as a new unit goes up, street parking in that area becomes extremely difficult.


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