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From ‘Shoe-ista’ to ‘Shoupista’:

Unbundling Cost of Residential Parking as Translated in Shoes

By Astrid Ambroziak

Fall arrived and with it our first rain of the season. Los Angeles sun doesn’t like to go away for long. Perhaps, because just like most of us, the sun doesn’t want to pay for parking.
Morning started with the rain. Then throughout the day, the rain and sun were switching places. In the final analysis, the sun must have needed some rest. It must had found some free parking spot in the clouds, while the rain continued to soak us till late evening.
Rain or sunshine, being an avid runner, I am always out there pounding the pavement. Today, I combined my jogging with running some errands. I ran on a busy street and saw many people hunting for a metered parking spaces. Everyday, but especially on that rare rainy day, people want to park as close as possible to their destination.
It always astounds me that in a city as fitness-oriented as Los Angeles, people don’t like to walk that extra block. They could save on their expensive gym memberships and that expensive valet. Yet, they always choose to drive and park. Preferably for free if free parking is available.
It seems to be human nature to expect free and convenient parking. One place where people believe parking is free is at their places of residence. We think that because we own a house or rent an apartment, and each comes with two parking spaces, those are free. In actuality, they are quite expensive. They are most likely more pricey than permit or even metered parking.
In my neighborhood, a yearly street parking permit is $35. However, the two spaces downstairs in the garage of my building cost me at least $3,600 a year in additional rent. With a Christmas season so overtly announced on billboards and TV commercials, I could use that money to gift my loved ones with fancier presents than my current budget allows. Or I could get a great pair of stilettos. However, I do have a car and I do drive it on occasion.
Obviously I don’t drive very much since my 2004 Explorer has less than 13,000 miles on it. What would happen if I were to give up my car? After all, I live in an area where I can walk to stores, shops, restaurants, museums and churches. My doctor, my optometrist, my chicken guy and my fish guy are only a few blocks away. On top of it, I work from home. Perhaps giving up my car in these tough economic times would be a great idea.
Cutbacks are commonplace these days. I know I could save plenty on parking when I do drive my car because parking in the City of Angels can be costly. City parking is the wife of driving. They are a til’-death-do-us-part married couple. You drive, you must park. And everyone knows that a good wife is not only hard to find, but quite expensive be it in time or money.
Getting rid of my car and calculating in the cost of my car insurance, gasoline and on-street parking show me that I can come up with a new pair of Manolo Blahniks every four months. However, if I would also be able to start saving some money on parking in my garage, I could get a new pair of Mr. Blahnik’s shoes basically every other month. I am talking about a low-price pair at around $700. If I were able to do that, I would give up my truck immediately.
Nevertheless, these savings on my home garage parking are impossible. Because a car or not, my landlord charges me for a package deal: The roof over my head and the roof over my existing car or a phantom car.
Although my landlord is rather greedy, I am sure that he, being a good businessman, would like the option of developing some of his rental properties without the obligatory parking space or two per unit. My landlord doesn’t have that choice. He must observe the rules, the rules that cover parking minimums and other parking requirements. And those significantly add to the cost of any development, which down the line is reflected in the higher housing prices and rents.
For some reason, the City Gods have decided that Planning and Zoning spell out how much parking must be provided by each building, each house and each establishment. The minimums seem to be one size fits all. It doesn’t matter that much in my area because many people choose to walk.
When a branch of the “Sex in the City”-made-famous NYC bakery opened on 3rd Street in LA, the main hurdle preventing it from opening a few months sooner was parking. The owners had to show they could provide so many parking spaces per customer. What saved them was a combined valet parking station that services many shops and restaurants on that couple of blocks of 3rd Street.
LA is religious about minimum parking requirements. Be it a pizza place where the locals can stroll for their favorite slice or a bar where people actually should walk or take a taxi to get their happy hour fix, they all have parking minimums.
My local yoga studio had a challenging time opening, mainly because of these parking requirements. It doesn’t matter that most of us walk to yoga practice or ride bikes. Those rules seem to have been written by Moses, and don’t take into consideration the area’s urban nature.
So today, being an avid runner and tempted by the possibility of increasing my Manolo collection or at least getting a new iPad, I decide to go for another rainy run. After all, it’s not everyday that a clumsy girl can feel like a dancing in the rain with Gene Kelly.
I must go running and ponder the option of getting rid of my car. I am a “Shoe-ista” and “Shoupista,” after all. If I get rid of my car and have no choice but to pay full rent for both my living quarters and those of my car, perhaps I can somehow sub-lease my garage spaces to a nearby office/retail worker? There has to be some Christmas/shoe money in it.
And if not, I will be a follower of Professor Shoup’s theories not just in thought but in practice also. I will be preventing air pollution and getting even fitter by walking and cycling.
And perhaps down the line – because a future nondriver like me, who loves shoes more than parking minimums – those parking requirements that Shoup calls “fertility drugs for cars” will finally be abolished or at least reduced. Especially in the urban areas where land and parking prices are higher and where transportation alternatives exist.
Also, perhaps in the future, because of my choice not to own a car, the cost of my housing will be unbundled from the cost of my residential parking. After all, only one set of rules was written in stone.
Astrid Ambroziak is a part-time trainer, writer, philosopher and guru. She lives in Los Angeles and can be reached at astrid@parkingtoday.com.

Article Abstract from December, 2011




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