I've recently had occasion to think about how the City of Los Angeles regulates off-street parking. While I don't think that minimum off-street parking requirements are a good idea, generally speaking, it is interesting to see how different cities approach the issue.
First of all, this document summarizes LA's parking requirements for cars. This ordinance contains LA's parking requirements for bikes (more on that below).
There are some things that I do appreciate in LA's approach to off-street parking. For one thing, there is some sense of context. While much of the City is under one set of parking requirements, Downtown LA, for example, has a different, much less burdensome set of requirements. This makes sense, since Downtown LA is much denser and transit-filled than most other parts of the city. Some of the regular parking requirements are lower than what I'm used to. I'm used to one space per 250 square feet of floor area as a parking requirement for retail and non-medical office space. In LA, the general retail requirement is also one per 250, but some types of retail and regular office space only require one space per 500 square feet. The multifamily residential parking requirements are good in the sense that some types of units only require one or 1.5 spaces, instead of two spaces. LA classifies multifamily housing on the number of habitable rooms, but essentially a typical studio only requires one space and a typical one-bedroom only requires 1.5 spaces. Many codes require at least two spaces per unit, which can make it very difficult and expensive to build multifamily housing. Two spaces per unit also ignores that fact that there are many one and zero-car households out there, particularly seniors and lower-income folks.
Los Angeles has a very innovative bicycle parking ordinance that requires short and long term bicycle parking and allows developers to reduce their automobile parking by different percentages in different circumstances for providing it, as long as each car space reduced is replaced by one bicycle space. Many zoning codes completely ignore bicycles, treat automobile parking as necessary and treat all other modes of transportation as optional, which is a mistake. Although I don't like off-street parking requirements generally, I think this approach is a good incremental step because it allows a reduction in car parking requirements. The net effect should be to reduce the cost and space required to comply with parking requirements, while encouraging cycling. My ideal is to have no parking requirements, but as long as we have car parking requirements, this approach makes sense.
On the negative side, LA requires a lot of parking (one space per 100 square feet) for restaurants in tenant spaces larger than 1,000 square feet. If the tenant space is 1,000 square feet or smaller, the requirement gets cut in half to one space per 200 square feet. Restaurants with take out only get to use the general retail requirement of one space per 250 square feet. Gyms also face the burdensome one per 100 square feet requirement. This is a serious issue because, as internet retailing erodes traditional brick and mortar stores, we are increasingly seeing restaurants, cafes and service-oriented businesses like gyms filling the void. Yet these businesses face some of LA's toughest parking requirements. LA also picked up the practice of requiring significantly more parking for medical offices (one space per 200 square feet) than for general offices.
If I could wave a magic wand that only got me half of what I wanted, I'd simplify and lessen the non-Downtown automobile parking requirements. Maybe something like this:
- 1 space per 300 square feet of floor area: general retail, restaurants/cafes/bars/nightclubs, medical offices and hospitals, gyms and other commercial recreation, commercial schools, theaters
- 1 space per 500 square feet of floor area: general offices, houses of worship, retailers selling primarily large items (e.g. furniture or appliances), other commercial uses, manufacturing
- 1 space per 5,000 square feet of floor area: warehouses or self-storage (storage portion only)
- 1 space per housing unit: studio and one-bedroom units
- 2 spaces per housing unit: units with two or more bedrooms
- 0.5 space per guest room: hotels
Add up the parking requirements based on the above requirements to create a subtotal, then apply any or all of the following reductions to that subtotal, as applicable.
Bicycle parking reduction: 10-20% reduction in car parking requirements where each car parking space reduced is replaced by one bicycle parking space. The bicycle parking which replaces required car parking is required parking. At least a 10% bicycle parking reduction must be taken (i.e. an amount of bicycle parking must be provided which is equal to at least 10% of the subtotal of parking required for cars).
Mixed-use parking reduction: 20% reduction in parking requirements for all uses in a building with a mixture of residential and commercial spaces as long as the commercial space is at least 1,000 square feet or at least 5% of the total floor area of the building. For other buildings, a 10% reduction in parking requirements for commercial and residential space when residential space is within one kilometer of at least 1,000 square feet of commercial space or when a commercial space is within one kilometer of any housing unit.
Transit parking reduction: 20% reduction in parking requirements for being located within one kilometer of a major transit stop, as defined by California law, or a 10% reduction may be taken for being located within one kilometer of any transit stop.
Affordable housing parking reduction: 20% reduction in parking requirements for housing units that are restricted to low-income households, as defined by California law, for at least 50 years at the time they are built. This reduction only applies to the parking required for the affordable units but persists even after the units revert to market rate.
Senior housing parking reduction: 50% reduction in parking requirements for housing units that are permanently age-restricted to senior citizens. This reduction only applies to the parking required for the senior units and expires if the units cease to be age-restricted.
Urban parking district: There are no minimum off-street parking requirements in an urban parking district. This would apply to places like Downtown LA, Koreatown, and Hollywood that are already dense and well served by transit, or other places which the city intends to make that way.
Parking Fantasy Example
Let's say we are proposing a mixed-use apartment building that is within 1 km a major transit stop and is not in an urban parking district. The building will have 5 studio apartments, 15 one-bedroom apartments, 10 two-bedroom apartments 10 three-bedroom apartments (five of which will be affordable to low-income households), and 6,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial space intended for restaurants or general retail.
Studio apartments: 5 * one space per unit = 5 spaces
One-bedroom apartments: 15 * one space per unit = 15 spaces
Two-bedrooms apartments: 10 * two spaces per unit = 20 spaces
Three-bedroom apartments: 10 * two spaces per unit = 20 spaces
Commercial Space: 6,000 square feet / one space per 300 square feet = 20 spaces
Subtotal: 80 spaces required
Parking reduction for affordable units: 10 spaces * 0.2 = 2 spaces
Parking reduction for mixed use building: 80 spaces * 0.2 = 16 spaces
Parking reduction for proximity to a major transit stop: 80 spaces * 0.2 = 16 spaces
Parking reduction for bicycle spaces: 80 spaces * 0.2 = 16 spaces
Total Reduction: 50 automobile spaces
Total Parking Required: 30 automobile spaces and 16 bicycle spaces