Parking requirements cause traffic and drive up rents. Let’s get rid of them.

Everybody in LA can agree on one thing - traffic blows hard. Harder, even, than these guys:

Donald Trump Blowhard
Whale Blowhard

Hate traffic? Blame parking.

But here’s a secret: people don’t cause traffic. Cars do. And you know what makes people get cars? Parking. If you’ve got nowhere to put your car when you arrive, you aren’t going to drive, and you aren’t going to contribute to traffic. Research has shown that for every 10% increase in parking, 7.7% more people commute with a car.

Hate high rent? Blame parking.

That’s a bad start. But it gets worse. Parking is also driving up your rent. Building parking spaces is incredibly expensive - each underground parking spot in LA costs about $35,000. Even if your unit includes “free” parking, you’re paying for the cost of that parking in your rent check every month, whether you want to or not. Parking is cheaper to build above ground (if you can call $27,000 cheap), but then it takes up valuable space for apartments. All those dollar signs have an impact - Donald Shoup, a legendary UCLA professor who hates parking even more than we do, has calculated that requiring parking reduces the number of units in new apartment buildings by 13%.

But parking is even more insidious than that. Often, when a new housing project is proposed, one of the first things that angry neighbors (NIMBYs) yell about is traffic. Sometimes, those angry neighbors successfully stop housing from being built on those grounds, and we desperately need all the housing we can get to contain our skyrocketing rents.

Then why the hell do we require all new buildings to include huge amounts of parking?

You’d think, then, that developers might stop providing parking. But they can’t, because we did something really, really dumb. We’ve created a system that requires parking to be provided with all new projects. For an apartment building, you need a minimum of 1 space for every studio, 1.5 spaces for every one bedroom, and 2 spaces for every two bedroom unit. For restaurants it’s even crazier - 1 space for every 100 square feet of restaurant area. That means even a small restaurant, about the size of your average Chipotle, requires 25 parking spots. That’s more parking area than restaurant area.

We can do better. transit and ridesharing are transforming LA. Let’s stop requiring parking.

“But LA was built for cars, people will never give them up!” cry haters everywhere. You’re right, LA has been built for cars so far. That doesn’t mean it has to stay that way forever. If we want the city to be different, we’re going to have to do things differently. Besides, a couple of modern miracles have made it much easier to get around LA without a car - public transit and ridesharing.

Over the past 25 years, LA has transformed itself into a city with respectable public transit. It’s not the best in the country, but we’ve come a hell of a long way. And if ⅔ of us vote for the new transit measure in November, Metro will be able to build even more lines in the years to come. 

Then there is ride sharing. If you drive less than 10,000 miles a year, using Lyft or Uber to get around is more affordable than owning your own car. Not everyone has to drive everywhere. These days, we’ve got options.

Let’s ditch those parking requirements and make LA into a less stop-and-go town.

So let’s make the change. Let’s get rid of parking minimums and allow new apartmentments to be built without parking. People without parking are much less likely to drive, and less driving means less traffic. Plus, if new housing doesn’t bring new cars along with it, angry NIMBYs are much less likely to oppose new projects, and we’ll be one step closer to building the housing we need to keep our rents from rising right on into the stratosphere.

PS: Hate ugly strip malls? Guess who you should blame? Parking requirements, that’s who.

Ugly LA Stripmall