L.A. Reimagines Parking for New Uses

In famously car-centric Los Angeles, developers and city officials are changing the way they view parking space, opting instead to allocate the space to more effective uses.

2 minute read

February 3, 2022, 9:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Los Angeles

IM_photo / Shutterstock

With the pandemic forcing cities and businesses to repurpose parking for uses like outdoor dining and seating, writes Mark Hallum, policymakers and developers are rethinking the value of parking spaces and potential alternate uses for surface parking and parking structures. Meanwhile, "emerging business models and technology, from electric vehicle charging stations to ghost kitchens, have made the humble parking stall, a mere 300 square feet, more useful, and more contested, space."

In a quote in the article, Michael Manville, an associate professor of urban planning at the University of California, Los Angeles, says, "The pandemic gave everyone this very vivid illustration of how much space, even in very vibrant parts of their area, is devoted to surface parking." Hallum mentions some high-profile garage redevelopments that illustrate the possibilities for adapting parking to other uses.

"In downtown L.A., where adaptive reuse and residential construction has boomed in recent years — a city ordinance allows builders to get properties to market quicker, and does not require them to add net new parking — Markwood’s 9th & Hill turned the historic May Company Garage into a high-end office building with a location of the ultra-high-end grocery chain Erehwon. In Santa Monica, the city is pushing to transform a downtown parking structure into up to 150 units of affordable housing, a plan that has drawn unexpectedly fierce local sentiment in favor of protecting the outdated concrete structure."

Hallum calls parking "a long-term infill opportunity" that could change the car-centric character of Los Angeles, writing that, while the built environment of L.A. and its relationship with cars and parking won't change overnight, "the last few years did provide brief glimpses of a future where car-centric infrastructure is reimagined and redeveloped, which may be enough to catalyze a significant real estate shift."

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