News
08.04.2011
The Art Of Parking
Los Angeles City Planning Commission approves modified parking requirement district.
Los Angeles skyline behind a parking lot.
Ben+Sam / Flickr

In a sprawling city like Los Angeles, cars are of course still the primary means of transportation. More cars mean more parking. Sometimes too much, other times not nearly enough.

In an effort to remedy the situation, LA’s City Planning Commission on July 14 recommended the creation of a Modified Parking Requirement (MPR) District aimed at solving the city’s varied parking needs.

“Generally, we have a one-size fits all parking code for all land uses in the city. Sometimes, that doesn’t work,” summed up Tom Rothmann, the Los Angeles city planner in charge of shepherding the proposed policy through the public process.

The MPR allows modifications to the city’s existing parking requirements depending on a particular neighborhood’s needs. Seven optional parking requirement modifications have been introduced, including the option to decrease parking requirements in developments near transit districts or to increase parking in continually clogged areas like the beach.

Other innovations include parking maximums (instead of the current minimums), off-site parking within 1,500 feet, allowing a building to change its use without requiring its parking to adapt to current code standards and the possibility of commercial parking credit systems, where excess parking in the city could be surveyed and rented out to smaller businesses to help fulfill their parking requirements.

Diagram shows how building masses need to be changed as a result of new parking requirements. (courtesy johnson favaro)
Courtesy LA Department of City Planning
 

With a case file that dates back to 2007, the proposed ordinance has gone through major changes. One important modification was lowering parking standards for density bonus projects, which would prevent MPR districts from undercutting affordable housing development in the city.

The proposed ordinance has gained favor especially with those looking to build a more transit-oriented city and those working in construction and development. The creation of MPR districts relieves much of the pressure to over-provide for parking, making it easier for businesses to set up shop on a property.  In a letter to LA City Planning Commission president William Roschen, AIA/LA Executive Director Nicci Solomons supported the move, writing, “With a city as vast and as diverse as Los Angeles, parking policy cannot be regulated in a one-size fits all approach because, unfortunately, excessive or misaligned parking requirements often impair our ability to have a vibrant, sustainable and healthy city.”

MPR still has its detractors, however, primarily coming from parking-starved neighborhoods that have already seen commuters take up parking spots in their areas.

“We find this to be a dream for the growth machine and a nightmare for the neighborhoods surrounding one of these districts,” said Jack Allen, President of the Palisades Preservation Association. According to Allen, parking spillage would cause residential area homeowners to fight for parking with shoppers from nearby commercial districts.

The Del Mar Station Village in Pasadena would have had lessened parking requirements under the new plan.
 

Barbara Broide, President at Westwood South of Santa Monica Boulevard Homeowners Association, agrees. She is asking for more research before proceeding. “We don’t have data and facts to back this up,” said Broide.

Despite their concerns, an ever-growing demand for a more transit-friendly, walkable city carried the day. Should the ordinance be signed by the mayor in the near future it could mean less parking in exchange for more small business, development and even green space. Speaking in favor of the ordinance, Mott Smith, Principal of Civic Enterprise Associates said, “If indeed Los Angeles stays the capital of cars, we should at least be the capital of smart management of cars.”

The proposed ordinance is scheduled for discussion at an as yet undetermined meeting of City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee. Once it gains PLUM approval, the measure will be up for vote by City Council and then finally approved by the Mayor. According to Tanner Blackman, a planner at the Department of City Planning, the process can take as little as a few months or can stretch out longer, depending on the amount of feedback or traction the ordinance receives.

Carren Jao