Nonprofit Research Finds Excessive Parking Hinders Housing (and Increases Costs) in LA County
Photo by Brian Addison.
We’ve long discussed the issues with parking. Over and over. (Even one former NIMBY councilmember wanted to subsidize student parking because students were overflowing into their precious East Long Beach streets.)
And on top of the evidence we’ve already provided—essentially that parking minimums, surface lots, and large structures hinder housing development, drive the affordability gap to even further distances, and increase pollution—it seems that the nonprofit Council of Infill Builders and their research team have arrived at the same conclusion.
In a scathing report entitled Wasted Spaces: Options to Reform Parking Policy in Los Angeles County, the report conducted by a group of group of builders, public officials, nonprofit advocates, and land use experts noted exactly this: excessive parking requirements and poor parking management can undermine a community’s economy and environment by wasting space and increasing pollution.
“There is a general public perception that there is not enough parking—and that isn’t true,” said Ashley Atkinson of American Planning Association (LA).
The benefits of implementing the policies put forth by the report are astounding: reduced traffic, lower costs and prices for housing and businesses, improved social equity for low-income and next-generation residents, revitalized downtowns with more safe, convenient, and walkable neighborhoods.
Disturbingly, nearly a fifth of incorporated land—some 200 square miles, nearly 40% more than the square miles dedicated to actual roadways—throughout the County is dedicated to parking, making land available for housing to become extremely low. Add onto this parking requirements for housing developments that unfairly pass along much of those costs onto renters and lower income families, and the County is set for failing on keeping its most marginalized populations housed.
“The more land devoted to parking, the less available space for housing and other types of construction, parks, roads, and alternative uses,” the report read. “Parking is particularly costly for developers because land values are one the biggest drivers of development costs, aside from construction and financing. In residential settings, buyers or renters therefore have to pay for the cost of the parking spaces, regardless of whether or not they use them. Based on typical affordable development costs, one study found that one parking space per unit increases costs by approximately 12.5%, while two parking spaces can increase costs by up to 25%. Since parking costs constitute a higher percentage of the total rent for lower priced housing, and since low-income households tend to own fewer vehicles, many observers consider minimum parking requirements to be regressive and unfair.”
So what is causing these barriers? Per the report, NIMBYs via public opposition due to concerns about parking availability, paired with a lack of available data on actual parking needs and excessive parking requirements used as leverage for achieving other objectives. (Sound familiar, Long Beach?)
“If a lot of parking is available, transit won’t perform as well,” said Rick Willson, a professor at CalPoly Pomona. “If we’re saying we shouldn’t reduce parking until alternatives are available, then we’ll never get there.”
This results in the nonprofit offering key suggestions:
- Eliminate, reduce, or right-size parking minimums, while letting the market determine actual parking needs
- Charge optimal prices for parking based on demand, such as through dynamic pricing on metered spots and better enforcement of existing policies, and spend any increased parking revenue on community-oriented goals of more efficient land use, improved equity, and reduced traffic
- Improve parking management, including transportation demand management options that promote multimodal options and access to destinations
The benefits of implementing these policies are astounding: reduced traffic, lower costs and prices for housing and businesses, improved social equity for low-income and next-generation residents, revitalized downtowns with more safe, convenient, and walkable neighborhoods… Even improved fiscal revenues for funding community investment priorities and improved overall transportation networks and mobility are possible outcomes of implementing the nonprofit’s suggestion.
‘While parking reform can be controversial in many communities, it represents one of the most impactful local land use policies that determines how livable, convenient, and sustainable a community can be,” the report concluded. “Parking reform advocates should therefore harness available framing, data, and partnerships to further the cause of reform throughout the region, in service of a more convenient, thriving and environmentally sustainable future for Los Angeles and beyond.”