Los Angeles: With a Lack of Affordable Housing and Parking, We Have ... Zip!

ALPERN AT LARGE--Fighting for both mobility and affordable housing (to say nothing of quality of life) means having to find realistic goals and innovative ideas that WORK. Pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking isn't to be decried, and neither is sticking to the tried-and-true, but as things change the need to be FOR something is both difficult AND essential.

Enter the Zip Car.

As with the Expo Line, Uber, Lyft, Bird, and Lime, these options provide something that Americans (and pretty much most people) want more than anything:


1) Mass transit is, in large part, designed as an alternative to the traffic that is mind-numbing and time-inefficient--hence the Expo Line, which is essentially a "widening" and "car-alternative" to the traffic of the I-10 freeway, has enjoyed such high ridership. 

Ditto for the Orange Line Busway, which is an alternative to the 101 freeway.

Buses (and even trains) have issues with frequency of trains (headways) and the number of riders per day (capacity) and safety/security which, if not handled right, gives mass transit a bad name which will be avoided by those who have other options.

So, if our cars don't give us enough freedom, and if mass transit doesn't give us enough freedom, then one can be clearly pro-car, and pro-mass transit, but still seek something ... else. 

2) Did just about ANYONE predict the explosive expansion (or even the existence!) of Uber or Lyft 10-15 years ago? How about Bird, Lime, or any other dockless scooter company.

Can ANYONE imagine life without them now?

It's not hard to figure out why they're so successful--they work! They're cost-effective! And they give a person freedom, as much as did the stagecoach and train in the nineteenth century, and as much as did the personal/family car in the twentieth century.

Issues still exist with respect to safety/security and operations, but the underlying principles are the same as with the car and mass transit--if they're cost-effective, convenient, and give a person FREEDOM, then these new sources of mobility will be pursued.

3) Cost-effective and available housing, in an era of decreased space and increased cost of parking for new developments, is highly desired by those wishing to live in an affordable and independent manner.

Many a development will suggest all sorts of nonsense about "transit-friendly" living, but it's no secret that the developers/owners don't give a damn about reasonable mitigation and want to save a buck or three. 

If the neighbors don't like the newbies parking in front of their house and blocking their driveway, then let the neighbors bribe the City Council as much as the developers must get their unsustainable, environmentally-unfriendly projects approved. 

Because breaking the law doesn't come cheap, and it takes quite a bit of coin to both trash environmental laws and the laws of physics, and to hire someone to blame those complaining about it as racist and "NIMBY".

Community advocates want MORE mass transit AND parking, and individuals of all ethnicities, immigration status, and socioeconomic status are buying cars MORE...but also willing to pay more at either the gas pump or anywhere else for BOTH roads and better and newer mass transit.

4) Enter the Zip Car and the ability of developers to create larger (but not too high and large to screw up and trash/uglify the neighborhood!) projects for housing that doesn't impact the neighbors because these projects have their own fleets of Zip Cars for residents to use.

Access to mass transit (or anywhere else) via Uber/Lyft turnouts, and stations for dockless scooters...check.

Having well-lit mobility pickup/drop-off locations with safety call buttons to minimize crime and homeless accumulation by these newer developments (credit to my MVCC Planning Co-Chair Stacy Shure for this) ... check.

But now let's add a Zip Car fleet for use by its residents, who may not WANT the expense and hassle of a car, and with UNBUNDLED parking for residents who will have to pay extra for a parking space, and NOW you've got a project that ...

... strives to NOT impose on its neighbors without having to crazy-make and lie about how the residents just won't need or use cars.

It also means that the "road diets" pushed by those without much sensitivity to safety or the laws of physics, will hurt not only individual motorists but buses, Uber/Lyft, and those who wish to live a lifestyle that is space-effective and pro-environment. 

Again, it comes to COST-EFFECTIVE FREEDOM, which is consistent with human nature and without having to gaslight/crazy-making the community into being told one thing but really doing another.

Another form of greater housing supply is small-lot sub developments, where one large housing lot is broken into several smaller but viable single-family residences. But I digress.

If a new developer doesn't unbundle parking from rent/condo mortgage and have their own Zip Car fleet, then they'll impose on their neighbors. Period. End of story.

And that is another way to distinguish between an honest developer who wants to "elegantly densify" and preserve a neighborhood...versus a creepy slumlord who only worships the love of money.


(CityWatch Columnist, Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D, is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties, and is a proud husband and father to two cherished children and a wonderful wife. He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Outreach Committee, and currently is Co-Chair of both its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure and Planning Committees. He was co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chaired the nonprofit Transit Coalition and can be reached at alpern@marvista.org. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.)