Parking: Los Angeles’s Unsung Hero

October 8th, 2013 by Tatyana Levin

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Parking is not glamorous by anyone’s standards.  To park, or rather to find parking is a chore, a necessary evil, and sometimes a very difficult (and expensive) to find, much to the dismay of basically every driver in the city.

 

And the actual act of parking, fitting into sometimes ill-fitting spots next to fellow parkers who often aren’t very good at parking, is no picnic either.

 

But parking is often the catalyst for the development and success of business, especially brick and mortar stores and the service industry, which depends on flesh and bone visitors for a stream of revenue.

 

Loosely overseen by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, parking is sighted as one of the biggest problems with living in Los Angeles.

 

A lack of parking also greatly hurts businesses that lose potential and existing customers because of the sense of frustration the search for parking overwhelms people with.

 

But isn’t there always the option of street parking?

 

Yes and no.

 

Not only is street parking naturally limited (there is a limited number of streets, ergo there is a limited amount of street parking), it is also highly regulated, so much so that it can be confusing, allowing for only a fifteen minute slot to park in.  Violation of parking rules often results in large fines.

 

Street parking is often considered to be needlessly complicated and overly regulated to the point that many consider the Department of Transportation to misuse their power.

 

All in all, parking is no good.  Or rather no parking or limited parking is no good.  There must be a solution to this mess.

 

There is, and the solution is parking garages.

 

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Parking garages might be some of the most overlooked members of the Los Angeles building community.  Rarely is money set aside for the beautification of parking garages and seldom do notable architects get recruited for high end parking developments. Parking garages are hardly ever mentioned in architectural tours (not counting tour guides suggesting where you should park).

 

Parking garages (and lots for that manner) are not loved; they are tolerated by the general public.  But commercial real estate investors have an entirely different opinion of parking lots.

 

The very fact that the parking problem exists proves the importance of parking lots and parking garages.

 

And because of the number of disgruntled people who don’t want to park seven blocks away, a lack of parking really hurts a business’s bottom line.

 

According to Carter Rubin, a writer for the L.A. Streets Blog, Santa Monica was basically a wasteland where few businesses prospered and few non-residents visited until the parking structures on 4th and 5th street were built and visitors had a place to park.

 

All of a sudden business was booming for the stores and restaurants.  Santa Monica went from being just a city to a destination where people actually wanted to visit.  Parking, combined with Santa Monica’s natural beauty, made property values soar, both for residential and commercial properties.

 

When a business requires foot traffic to be profitable, parking, which is akin to accessibility, is a crucial factor to the success of a business.  Your business has to be pretty special for people work extra hard to visit.  But for the rest of the shops and restaurants, there’s practically no way to create following without parking.

 

As a commercial real estate owner, specifically the owner of a retail space, you would have to be very mindful of parking.  Even if you don’t run the retail space yourself, parking must be a priority.  If the tenants renting from you aren’t making any money, you certainly won’t either.

 

But keep in mind that parking garages themselves are options for investment as well and can be very profitable.

 

Depending on the location and the amount of available parking nearby (both street parking and parking garages) as well how popular the area is for visitors, can make a parking garage the ideal investment, especially when you have the ability to charge rates that are higher than your competitors while retaining a strong customer base.

 

Tatyana Levin

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