Planners, Politicians, Public: Leave Parking Out of LA’s Future at Your Own Risk

ALPERN AT LARGE--Time for us to admit the truth: if we're having to rely on preferred parking districts to access our homes or businesses, then somebody probably screwed up. 

Also time to admit this truth: most of us understand that 2 + 2 = 4, no matter how much we wish it be stretched out to 5 or even 6.  Crying and emoting about how we need to have enough of an electrical, water, sewage or other grid, but then overdeveloping (or crying and emoting about not having enough affordable housing so we build without infrastructure) is like ... 

... is like legislating that 2 + 2 should equal 6.  And if we believe it hard enough, we can make it happen, right? 

Well, I keep believing for my hair to grow back, and I keep believing for my height to grow another foot, and I keep believing that my bank account will grow without having to do three jobs ... but it just ain't happening! 

And I keep believing that people will get out of their stupid cars, and stop clogging the streets with their stupid cars, and start parking in their own stupid parking lots: 

1) But yet ... young people (you know, even college students who probably are all about the Uber/Lyft, all about the car-sharing and bicycle-sharing, and all about yanking people out of their cars) keep buying cars and being forced into parking in front of people's houses because they've nowhere else to park! 

2) But yet ... old people (you know, even retirees who might no longer be able to safely drive, and who have access to food, medicine, and groceries delivered to their residence) keep buying cars and preventing mobility to/from their homes and apartment complexes! 

3) But yet ... folks from the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum (you know, those who want to live near where they work, and may not be able to easily afford cars) keep buying cars despite greater than ever opportunities and incentives to use mass transit in LA?  

Well, these folks are NOT stupid, they're NOT mean, and they're NOT bad.   

They're driving to work (and when transit requires an extra hour each way, and gas prices are down, people will consider a car), they're driving to drop off/pick up their kids, and otherwise just trying to live their honest lives. 

Parking is stupid, but it's a need that is as vital and fundamental as taxes and toilet paper.  Ditto for plumbing, electricity, and (nowadays) the Internet. 


It's not hard to conclude that streetside parking is a very cost-ineffective way to handle our streets.  Our commercial corridors need lanes not only for cars, but for buses and Uber/Lyft/DASH services--to say nothing of first-responders--to access and utilize these lanes  

(So think twice, now, about the critical role that freeway carpool lanes serve to the general public.) 

But when we don't create parking lots and structures (for which we have (!) dedicated City funds to create) to put our cars out of harm's way, and to keep out of others' way/property, we end up with the "mean streets" of preferred parking districts. 

And some very stupid streets at that, which encourages and virtually forces people to park all over the place (what are they supposed to do, drive onto their neighbors' lawns?). 

There are answers, though, for those who choose to do that "growing up thing" and confront the problem, instead of dancing around it: 

1) Clearly, homeowners and property owners and business owners need to have access to their place of residence and business, and studies to determine where lots can be publicly or privately purchased are in order. 

2) Clearly, parking should not be "free" but should be affordable, as well.  Preferred parking districts will be needed if both free and for-cost parking exists, because people will always go for free first, but signage and affordable parking will allow this problem to be fixed. 

3) Clearly, encouraging work-at-home opportunities is a good thing for the City's environmental, economic, and emotional health for its residents...but it's not always an option.  Everybody knows that. 

So ... we have a choice.  Presuming that promoting and incentivizing mass transit, and recognizing that cars/parking are still necessary, and that both are not mutually exclusive of the other, is an excellent way to go which will probably get the support of the citizenry. 

Kind of like food or water, toothpaste and toilet paper, men and women, etc.  This "either/or" isn't just stupid but it flies in the face of safety issues, common sense, and quality of life. 

And the next time somebody shrieks about how parking (no matter how stupid it is) should be ignored to "get people out of their cars", it should be quickly asked as to whether or not they have a car.

Because if that person has a car, then he/she should be summarily ignored. 

Because to do otherwise WOULD be stupid. 

And if those decrying parking choose to be stupid, that is their right ... but the rest of us don't have to be.


(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties, and is a proud father and husband 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 Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He was co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chaired the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.)