Getting Parking Demand Studies Out of "Park" and into "Drive"

ALPERN AT LARGE--Rarely have I seen greater consensus for Parking Demand Studies from stakeholders (of all socioeconomic, ethnic, and apartment/homeowners status), and rarely have I seen a greater collective "let them eat cake" response from City governmental leaders and bureaucrats who are responsible to their constituents. 

For many years, the debate of whether more parking is getting people too reliant on their cars, but as the rise in Uber and Lyft shows there are many who like NOT having to use their car all the time. Ditto with the successful Expo and other rail lines being extended and planned.

So Angelenos want out of their cars, or at least a reduction in daily reliance in their cars...but the "disconnect" between the need for "green" approaches to transportation, and the desire for greater car-free mobility, flies in the face of parking being more desired than ever.

Hence the fury that some will have learning that the City is trying to get out of parking requirements for some developers because of a few reasons--some that will have greater sympathy with those reading this than others.

At this juncture, the urban planners appear to be rather aloof and tone-deaf in their ivory towers as the rest of the commuting Angelenos are miserable finding a place to park when they shop, go to work, or even just park in front of their residence.

Again, this is true for both renters and homeowners. The desire for parking appears prevalent throughout all strata of our citizenry and appears guaranteed only for those assigned to City workers.

There is too much parking, and yet also too little parking...right? So, which is it?

At the MVCC meeting at the Board of Directors, CD11 Transportation Deputy and Policymaker Eric Bruins raised the important issue of how extra costs of parking make housing even less affordable than it now is.

But while Mr. Bruins' point is entirely valid, the conclusion of how to proceed with parking shouldn't be "get the developers off the hook". 

Because some developers we've worked with are quite aware of parking needs, and others are just manipulative weasels trying to play off the "affordable housing" and "green" mantras...which is a shame, because there are valid affordable housing and environmental issues that remain unaddressed.

That includes, of course, the environmental issue of all the exhaust fumes being thrown into the air by cars swirling around their homes looking for parking.

But there are answers:

1) As with Grub hub and Uber/Lyft, the universities and restaurants and businesses can do all sorts of things to allow people the convenience of accessing services without having to either use their cars and parking. This is especially important for seniors.

2) Ditto for UCLA and other colleges, who really don't do enough to encourage alternatives for their students and faculty/staff to access the universities without their own personal automobiles (which, of course, require parking spaces).

3) The LADOT has shuttle services like LANow for much of West L.A., and which can transport older middle school and high school students which can provide the opportunity for fewer school trips and related parking issues. These need to be considered for strategic alternatives to address traffic and access for older students.

4) Unbundling parking from rental units is necessary to make sure that parking is only reserved for those willing to pay for it. We all have to make a choice.

5) Get the City back into parking structure construction and formation. No free parking, but affordable parking for the residents who live in the area (both renters or homeowners) is a vital service that ABSOLUTELY is part of what City taxpayers wanted with Measures M and R.

Kind of like fixing the roads. 

It should also be mentioned that Mr. Bruins from the CD11 office was interested in creating an affordable Parking Demand Study that could be done to estimate parking needs with available resources. Which is helpful and reassuring to hear...

...but speaking of resources and responsibility, it should be considered that all Community Plan Update and related Planning staff/officials shouldn't be allowed to shirk the responsibility of Parking Demand Studies any more than they should be allowed to get out of focusing on water, sewage, electricity and other infrastructure needs.

Whether it's the LADOT, the individual council districts, or any other part of City government, it's pretty obvious where the funding and organization belongs...with Planning. So, pay up, "man up", and grow up to any City workers who aren't doing their jobs to both:

1) Meet parking demands.

2) Find alternative locations friendly to businesses and residents to minimize the need for streetside parking and free up a lane for buses, bikes, etc.

Because the same people paying big time for alternatives to the automobile still know they need their automobiles. They're not selfish, and they live in the real world.

And it is entirely appropriate for the City of the Angels, and its governmental departments, to act and perform in the same manner.


(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 was (termed out) 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 its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee and Vice-Chair of its Planning Committee. He was co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chaired the nonprofit Transit Coalition and can be reached at Ken.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.)