Wednesday, July 28, 2010

New Apartments Without Parking: Illegal in LA

There are few better ways to encourage driving, traffic and pollution than to build parking. After all, parking is necessary for driving. Without a place to park, having a car would be a sick joke, like it is in much of New York City.

It seems that the desire to go green in LA hasn't percolated down to the city's esoteric off-street parking requirements. You can look at them here (p. 2).

The zones that allow the construction of apartments (like R1.5, and R2-R5) all require 1 space per unit for apartments with fewer than 3 bedrooms, 1.5 spaces each for 3 bedroom units, and 2 spaces each for units with 4 or more habitable rooms.

Building off-street parking is massively expensive. It can easily exceed $20,000 per space in a structure, which adds to our city's woeful lack of affordable housing. Usually, the spaces are bundled in with the rent, sticking people with the cost whether they use them or not. This encourages people to own and use cars, adding to traffic and sapping transit ridership.

It could also be contributing to a lack of larger apartments, the kind that could get families to seriously consider city life. Consider the rule above. To build an apartment building with 30 two-bedroom units, you need to provide 30 off-street spaces. To build an apartment building with 30 three-bedroom units, you need to provide 45 off-street spaces.

What would you do? I hate to sound like a Republican, but these big government regulations are a serious problem.


  1. These requirements are, of course, reprehensible, but are they consistent throughout the city? For example, in Riverside we have several "specific plan zones" where normal zoning laws don't apply- the University area is one, Downtown another. We also have a few "mixed-use" zones, where parking requirements are cut nearly in half.

    Also, variances to these requirements can be granted.

    Obviously, we ought to be able to build car-free living spaces by right, but manoeuvres such as Riverside's are a start.

  2. There are overlay zones. You get reductions in Enterprise Zones and in mixed-use overlays in close proximity to major transit stations (which I agree is at least a step in the right direction). Applying for a variance is possible, but it's expensive and there's no guarantee of success.

    As far as I know, nothing gets you to zero by right for new construction.

  3. Yah, getting to zero by right is going to be a hard sell for a long time, no matter where you are. Even in enlightened San Francisco, most new development has .5 spaces per apartment or so.

  4. Maybe so, but it's still bullshit. Getting rid of minimums isn't even the same as banning parking.

    The only thing that keeps them in place is people complaining about not being able to park for free in front of their own house.

  5. Parking minimums were eliminated in downtown Los Angeles recently. However, there are no proposed projects that choose to take advantage it. Builders still believe that projects without parking would not be occupied.

  6. @ bgfa

    Looks like I stand corrected (can you point me to where this rule is explained?). I think what you say illustrates why removing the minimums shouldn't be perceived as a huge threat. Not all developers will be willing to risk building without parking.

    However, they are incorrect to suppose that it is impossible to occupy structures in Los Angeles without parking. I've lived in one. It's probably just less profitable for them.

  7. I think the problem is that developers believe that NEW projects would not be occupied without parking, or that the income level of those who would choose to live there would be lower than the target market. Existing buildings usually do not have to justify their existence to lenders.