Automated Parking Systems Receiving City Approvals
By Robert R. “Bud” Ovrom
Editor’s note: Although automated parking systems have been marketed in the U.S. for nearly a decade, there have been a number of stumbling blocks for manufacturers. One of the major issues has been in receiving approvals from local fire and building departments. This issue has lessened substantially in the past couple of years. Having systems installed in major metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, and Boston is extremely important to this segment of the parking industry. This article is taken from Build LA, the monthly newsletter of the LA Department of Building and Safety.
The UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate hosted a workshop in mid-October on automated parking structures as a possible solution for high-density parking. [Ovrom was a participant in a panel discussion moderated by Donald Shoup, UCLA Professor of Urban Planning.]
Although Los Angeles had approved two- and three-car “lifts” for many years, fully automated systems had not achieved our high level of safety standards, until recently, when the city approved two automated parking structures – a 15-car fully automated lift in the Valley and a 17-car facility in Chinatown.
Although these two units are small, they are still very significant, because they are the first of a new generation of automated parking structures to be constructed in Los Angeles.
A 708-car parking complex for a proposed 283-unit apartment project in Century City is going through the entitlement process. The EIR [environmental impact report] is being done with and without automated parking. The developer’s preference is automated.
Although automated parking is now fairly common in Asia and Europe, it has been slower to catch on, and to get approved by regulatory agencies, in the U.S., particularly in Los Angeles.
By working closely with the LA Fire and Building and Safety departments, manufacturers of different automated technologies are now addressing the city’s structural and life-safety concerns.
Under the right circumstances for design and economic considerations, an automated parking structure can have many advantages for developers – less land consumed; less space constructed; more environmentally sensitive; safer, greater handicap accessibility; and less building density/visual bulk, just to name a few.
For the city, the bottom line, of course, is safety. On a case-by-case review, the city will be looking at the fire-life safety of the overall building (exiting, fire sprinklers, fire-rated partitions, fire rating); access for fire suppression; method of water application; venting of smoke and heat; safety of personnel while fighting a fire; and early warning notification system.
Although the city has studied a variety of parking systems (tower crane, rack-and-rail and automated guided vehicles), we have not, and will not, give a blanket endorsement to any specific technologies. There is never likely to ever be a “one size fits all” approach. Instead, we are open-minded about looking at different solutions for different situations.
Most important, we do believe that by working together we can find win-win designs and that automated parking now has the potential to be a “game-changer” for many future projects in the city of Los Angeles.
Robert R. “Bud” Ovrom, Manager of the LA Department of Building and Safety can be reached through www.ladbs.org.