Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The public is duped by delicious cupcakes and phantom parking

The LA Times highlights the trouble with people trying to sell delicious cupcakes in Los Angeles: there isn't anywhere to park. Magnolia Bakery will open on Orlando and 3rd, which is a really busy area filled with shops and restaurants. There isn't much parking. This is how the author explains minimum parking requirements:
To meet city requirements, restaurant owners seeking to open or expand must line up parking spaces, even when there aren't enough to go around for the scores of businesses needing them. The city often grants exceptions, reducing the required number of spaces or increasing the distance the parking can be from a business.

Parking requirements are bad, though they were once well-intentioned. Sharing parking is also bad, however:
Beleaguered owners sometimes claim spots that belong to other cafes, clothing shops or dry cleaners. Critics of the practice call it double dipping. Although the problem is widespread throughout the city, residents say it is particularly pronounced along Melrose and Fairfax avenues, Beverly Boulevard and 3rd Street.

"Several restaurants are using identical spaces," said Robert Cherno, an activist who met Wednesday with the city's chief zoning administrator to air his gripes. After analyzing a number of cases, Cherno said he concluded that the city is hundreds of parking spaces short, particularly on weekends.

So parking is a problem because businesses are required to supply it and there isn't enough of it. The author oddly calls this "phantom parking."

So every business has to secure their own parking. This leads to high demand for free parking. And that demand--let's call it "phantom demand"--has to be accommodated through increased supply according to Michael LoGrande, the city's chief zoning administrator:
"There's definitely a problem," said Michael LoGrande, chief zoning administrator in the city's Planning Department. "We have some old commercial buildings with very successful businesses in them, and behind them you have … apartments. They were built under old parking standards, and the amount of parking is lacking compared to what we need today."

The attitude that high demand for free parking (that's why it's "phantom demand" as it wouldn't exist if parking were costly) is why we have a destructive cycle of auto-mobility. The city should not be telling businesses how their customers have to travel to their stores. By requiring parking the city is doing exactly that. In any event, since the city has required parking for businesses for the past 50 years or so you'd think it would know how many parking spaces existed. After all, if you require more than there are now you must know how many are currently available. But Los Angeles--just like every other city--has no idea how many parking spaces there are. But they keep on requiring more:
After years of fielding complaints from residents, the city is slowly taking steps to ease the problem. Councilman Paul Koretz said his office has begun compiling a database to keep track of where spaces are and who has the rights to them.

To date, no such tracking system has existed.

So according to the city, everybody has to drive to go to the bakery, the bakery has to supply parking and they can't share it, there isn't enough parking, but no one knows how much parking there is. In any event, the public has been duped by free parking, not delicious cupcakes.

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