How much did West Hollywood cut commercial parking requirements?
West Hollywood, like many cities, requires new businesses and new developments with commercial space to provide a minimum amount of commercial off-street parking. The business or developer can provide more than the minimum if they want. The parking can be on-site, in a nearby lot, or in City-owned parking. The minimum is based on the type of business and its physical size. A bar needs more parking spaces than a retail shop of the same square footage.
West Hollywood recently decided to cut the minimums. It was an important decision. If the minimums are too high, they may hurt economic development and keep storefronts empty. If they’re too low, more visitors and workers may park in residential neighborhoods (especially during the day) and some visitors might avoid West Hollywood. The City is trying to find the right balance.
Cuts by type of business
Parking requirements are being reduced in two ways. First, the minimum number of spaces is being cut up to 70% for most types of businesses. For example, the City is cutting the minimum from 15 spaces per 1,000 square feet for bars to 5, 10 to 3 for gyms, 9 to 3.5 for restaurants, 4 to 2 for personal training facilities, and 3.5 to 2 for general retail (including grocery stores). The requirement for hotels is going from 1 to 0.5 per room.
That’s a 70% cut for gyms, 67% for bars, 61% for restaurants, 50% for hotels and personal training facilities, and 43% for general retail. The minimums aren’t being reduced for schools, childcare and adult care facilities, and service stations.
Cut by size of business
There is a second cut for some businesses that move into smaller, previously-occupied spaces of less than 6,000 square feet. Those businesses won’t have to provide any more parking than the prior business did. That’s true even if the new business is more parking-intensive or if the prior business didn’t provide any parking. It’s a reduction of up to 100%. It covers three-quarters of the city’s smaller commercial spaces (those under 10,000 square feet).
Grocery store example
We’ll use a grocery store to illustrate the size of the cuts. When the current Pavilions was built, it was required to have 284 parking spaces for the store and adjacent commercial building. Today, we estimate a similarly-sized project would require roughly 152 spaces, about half as many. Whether to build more would be up to the developer.
The City expects multiple economic development and other benefits. We’ve put them in five categories:
- Jobs and tax revenue from new businesses: The City believes the old parking requirements were “commonly a deal breaker for would-be businesses” thinking of entering the city.
- Fewer vacant commercial spaces: More businesses starting in (or moving to) the city means fewer vacant commercial spaces. Vacant storefronts, in particular, are considered undesirable.
- Help for existing businesses: While the changes have been described as “prospective,” existing businesses will be able to apply for a reduction in their parking requirements. It might save money for businesses that pay a private parking operator or the City for spaces. It could also allow a business with substantial unused parking to free it up for other businesses.
- Lower development costs: “Given the significant cost of constructing parking facilities [tens of thousands of dollars per space], particularly structured and subterranean parking, the…amendments have the potential to reduce the cost of new development in West Hollywood.” The staff report doesn’t say who will capture the benefit of lower development costs.
- Increased sustainability and preservation: By encouraging re-use of existing buildings, the changes may reduce demolitions and new construction, which are environmentally less desirable than re-use.
On the flip side, the City staff believes that any potential impact on residential neighborhoods can be handled through existing procedures for residents to request parking restrictions on their streets.
Justifications for lower minimums
In addition to the expected benefits, the City argues that lower minimums are appropriate on technical grounds. We can summarize their arguments as:
- The old minimums were too high because they were meant to provide ample parking in suburban areas, not the right amount of parking for an urban area like West Hollywood
- Commercial parking demand in general has declined in West Hollywood
- West Hollywood’s old minimums were higher than “most cities in our region”
- Recent studies of specific West Hollywood businesses show parking demand below the old minimums for some business types
We’ll focus on the third and fourth arguments below.
Minimums versus other cities
We compare West Hollywood’s minimums for selected business types to Beverly Hills, Culver City, Pasadena, and Santa Monica in the table below. We think the best comparisons are of West Hollywood’s standard requirements to the standard requirements in the other cities. Some of those cities have lower requirements for special areas (e.g., Downtown Santa Monica). Our perspective is that those special areas differ from West Hollywood’s situation in important ways, such as better transit service (rail) and greater separation from residential neighborhoods. That’s why we prefer the standard-to-standard comparisons.
The numbers suggest that:
- West Hollywood’s new minimums are lower than the other cities for all of the business types we examined. They are even lower than Pasadena’s special Old Town minimums.
- West Hollywood’s old minimums for bars, restaurants, grocery stores, and hotels weren’t the highest.
- West Hollywood’s old minimums for retail stores and non-medical offices were the highest (6% higher than the second highest).
The City’s consultant put together a similar table (see below). However, they chose to compare West Hollywood to special areas and to a number of cities outside the region. We assume their table was the basis for the argument that the City’s minimums are higher than “most cities in our region.”
Parking demand for specific West Hollywood businesses
The City’s consultant collected parking use data for a number of West Hollywood businesses. For example, the counts for restaurants ranged from 2.5 occupied spaces per 1,000 square feet at Tenmasa on the weekend to 6.3 for restaurants at 9200 Sunset on weeknights. The one grocery store studied, Trader Joe’s, used 3.2 spaces on weekdays and 4 on weekends.
The consultant also reported a range for three types of businesses, based on West Hollywood parking studies. The ranges were 2 to 6.3 spaces per 1,000 square feet for restaurants, 2 to 4.4 for retail (including grocery stores), and 0.4 to 1.5 per guest room for hotels.
Based on their work, the consultant recommended a “data-driven/right-size” range for at least five business types. They were 5 to 10 for bars, 3.5 to 6.5 for restaurants, 3 to 5 for gyms, 2 to 3.5 for retail, and 0.5 to 0.85 for hotels. The top ends of the retail and hotel ranges were lower than the study results. The restaurant range was higher than the study results.
The City chose the low end of each range for its new parking minimums: 5 for bars, 3.5 for restaurants, 3 for gyms, 2 for retail, and 0.5 for hotels.
Revised on December 15, 2018.
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