Park[ing] Day LA: 6th & Grand, Downtown

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Here's a photo of Torti Gallas and Partners, an urban design and architecture firm based in downtown, setting up their commandeered parking space at 6th & Grand Avenue.

Complete with a picket fence, welcome mat and a For Sale sign, their "concept for Park[ing] Day acknowledges the potential of a parking spot not only as a green space, but also as a place that can be reprogrammed with a variety of more valuable and dynamic uses," Neal I. Payton, a principal with the group, wrote in an e-mail. The rest of his explanation is below:

As Urbanists we at Torti Gallas ask: what elements of public benefit could be accommodated if a parking space was used for things other than just parking? How can the space be reprogrammed? Could it contain small-lot affordable housing? Mixed-use development? Geothermal heating and cooling pumps? Vertical stacking areas for Smart Cars? A continuous linear park space for joggers and urban hikers? Profitable real estate for the City?

What is the city losing by giving over so much of its prime real estate to the car? What could the city and its inhabitants gain by taking some of this land back?

All together, the existing parking spaces in downtown could accommodate:

  • 1,300 new two-bedroom units (at 1,100 SF per unit). The City could increase the supply of small-lot affordable housing.
  • 13,000 parking spaces for smart cars, using six-story robotic parking facilities. Why design a parking space for a Hummer or Escalade? Why not design the space so that it encourages drivers to chose small compact cars?
  • 4.6 miles of continuous paths. Downtown LA severely lacks green and open space. If the City were to take this land back from the car and give it to the pedestrian, we'd have a space that would stretch from here to Hancock Park . It'd be a linear green area that is as long as Riverside Park on the westside of Manhattan. Think of all the dog runs and urban jogging trails the space could accommodate!
  • Enough geothermal energy to heat 2,280 residential units (at 1,100 SF per unit) and 26.5- office buildings (at 120,000 SF).

Throwing a few quarters into a parking meter, doesn't reveal the true value of the parking space, especially in a dense place like downtown where property values are sky high. Parking the way that we do, for one or two quarters an hour, is an unfairly inexpensive short-term lease option for the storage of our vehicles, at a significant cost of our health, our housing, and the urban realm. It's time to rethink the way streets are used and the priority we place on making room for cars.