One way to make LA more pedestrian friendly?

Last Saturday’s LA Times has an interesting piece about “Phantom Parking”:

Aggrieved locals say restaurant owners who are eager to expand are lining up phantom parking spaces to satisfy city requirements, routinely claiming spots that belong to or have been leased by other eateries, print shops or clothing boutiques. The practice leaves customers and valet vigilantes, particularly on weekends, jockeying on crowded streets for an inadequate number of spaces.

The issue of problematic valets is an item I’ve wanted to touch on for some time – especially the valet setups on Hollywood Blvd. that create blocks of jammed traffic at peak times – however, the Times article brings up an interesting point of view that warrants consideration:

Instead of Los Angeles businesses being required to accomodate incoming traffic, shouldn’t they instead be appealing more to local clientelle?

Some cities are trying to encourage neighborhoods to become more pedestrian-friendly and less car-centric. Under proposed rules in Seattle, Shoup said, the city would stop requiring businesses to supply off-street parking in several districts.

“We’ve got expensive housing but free parking,” Shoup said of Los Angeles.

“We’ve got our priorities the wrong way around.”

With this in mind, maybe parking is actually too cheap.

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11 Replies to “One way to make LA more pedestrian friendly?”

  1. Whoops, you accidentally posted this on the Los Angeles blog instead of some car-hating city’s blog. :)

    I think it’s a fantastic idea to require businesses to provide off-street parking in order to expand. It shouldn’t have to be free, but it should be required that businesses address the problem they create by expanding. Why should the city try to micromanage it beyond that?

    When I lived in Chicago I always wondered why they allowed huge real estate developments (either residential or commercial) without requiring that they provide parking. It made getting around Chicago a nightmare.

    Now, if business is cheating, then that’s an enforcement problem, not a policy problem.

    But, one last thing, if I accept your premise that making businesses provide parking makes it too easy and eliminates a natural disincentive to driv ing, then why is your trip down Hollywood Blvd more important than someone’s parking there? Can’t we just as easily say the current situation should be making you take public transit or walk?

    The problem is that it doesn’t. You still drive and wish those parking clowns would get off your road. :) Same situation would occur if parking became more scarce. People would just complain more, but they’d still drive to the restaurant.

  2. One of the reasons people don’t have cars in SF and NY is simply because parking is so much. Although I don’t think that thats the answer.

    On another note, I hijacked a yellow loading zone from some valet parkers on La Cieniga on Friday night just as they were pulling out of the spot. I could tell they wanted to say something, but they knew they had no right to. It really irks me when valet parkers take up metered parking, or even try and say the spots are reserved for valet, when they are not. In this case they put a red cone in front of the parking spot, but I just drive around it.

  3. Thanks, Rob. Good points. I’m not sold on the argument that I mentioned, but I do appreciate that its thinking “outside of the box”… or at the very least, an angle I’ve never thought of before.

    Indeed, places like Hollywood Blvd, Melrose, etc., are tourist destinations, so they don’t entirely qualify. But what about Larchmont, or the mentioned 3rd street, that are surrounded by residential areas that get impacted by the traffic and lack of parking, but receive none of the benefits?

  4. Matt:
    City Nerd wrote a great piece about valets last year, and he mentions that the city of LA doesn’t have “valet zones”. However, I believe valets CAN buyout parking spots, but I’m not sure of the process, and if it can be semi-permanent, if they have to give notice, or if they need to have proper signage up. But my guess is more valets than people realize lie to the public about owning spots, while the businesses that benefit look the other way.

  5. David: Over the last couple of years I’ve seen meters sprout up that turn into passenger loading zones after 6pm. These seems to be located in front of restaurants, and valet use these meters to operate out of. I would consider that a “valet zone.”

  6. But, don’t they get tons of benefit from being in that area? Their housing values are higher because they are in a hip, trendy area and their quality of life is higher because there are more restaurants and shops they can walk to than could just be supported by neighborhood foot traffic.

    Surely, the Times doesn’t think that the Third Street Promenade would survive if only locals within walking distance were their customers!

    I live in Los Feliz, and I get a lot of benefit from having the restaurants and shops up and down Hillhurst and Vermont. Friends come visit and we walk over to a great dinner–the jealousy is palpable! :) The parking situation isn’t Third Street bad, by any means, but I certainly have to deal with extra traffic.

    But, yes, the businesses benefit the most, so by all means require that they provide a reasonable means to accommodate the traffic.

    The only reason I would vote for not requiring this is that I’d rather some entrepreneur will build a big parking garage (or some creative solution) to deal with the problem than for the city to mandate a specific solution.

  7. Rob: I think the piece refers to Third Street near the Beverly Center, not the Promenade.

    Your solution, though, to build a parking garage might only encourage more traffic into your area, which might help businesses, but not residents.

  8. What ever happened to the shuttle that was supposed to run from the grove to the beverly center? I thought I heard a rumor of this when they were building the grove.

    The shuttle would make stops along the way between the grove and beverly center. That would not only encourage people to park either at the beverly center or grove’s parking lot, will bring more shoppers to their respective “mall”, aleviate some of the traffic up and down third st, and provide shoppers with additional dining options down third st.

  9. Yeah, as soon as I posted, I realized it was the other Third Street. :)

    But either way…

    Economic activity is good for everyone. More traffic means more business, more jobs, and higher property values. How is that bad for the residents again?

  10. Robb:

    I think the problem is that there is too much of a good thing. More traffic doesn’t necessarily mean higher property values, because at a point it adversely effects living conditions. Noise, lack of parking, and an inability to get in and out of your home aren’t ideal situations.

    BTW, the line that pissed me off a bit in the article is this from a business woman:

    “We’re talking about one-of-a-kind shops that are growing to survive,” Hastings said. “We have more customers than we have room for.”

    She’s complaining about having TOO MUCH business, than in order to survive, she needs her restaurant to expand because theres a line out the door. She argues that its up to the city to find parking for all these people, and not her responsibility if it means less parking for residents when they arrive home.

    Which bring the question: should the city consider parking availability when it approves new businesses?

  11. There is technically no “Valet Zone.” If car is left unattended in a white passenger loading zone, it is subject to a ticket. So, if that valet is very busy and leave a car while they run to get a another one, a ticket could be issued.

    the problem with “considering parking availability when it approves new businesses” is that the new rule apply when there is new construction or a change of use. BUT… if a restaurant changes owners or even changes types of food served, it’s still a restaurant and not subject to any change of use. SO, if it only had 3 parking spaces in the rear on the alley, that’s all that’s required.

    So, the parking problem is caused, really, by the grandfathering of older, high vehicular uses AND the issuance of variances when required parking cannot be provided due to the construction of the structure (again, before current zoning laws).

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