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LA wants to stop developers from building on top of ugly parking garages

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One approach is to eliminate parking requirements in areas accessible to public transit

In Los Angeles, it’s common practice for large new developments to include multi-story parking structures that take up most of the building’s lower levels. That practice, however, is rankling city planning leaders, who have proposed a number of ways to prevent ugly above-grade parking garages from peppering the urban landscape.

Urbanize LA reports that the Department of City Planning has released a recommendation report advising city officials on how to limit the number of unattractive podium parking structures built on the lower levels of local buildings.

The report maintains that buildings perched atop parking garages aren’t compatible with a pedestrian-friendly environment. The generic gray walls of the structures can be seen from the street level as "a looming mass," the report notes. Meanwhile, garages often clash with the appearance of older buildings next door.

But don’t worry; the planning department has a list of recommendations to avoid further construction of these types of parking garages in the future. In the short term, the department advises city officials to update design guidelines both Downtown and citywide making developers take more steps to integrate the garages into the building’s design aesthetic and limiting the number of floors above ground level on which floors of parking can be constructed.

In the long run, the department recommends numerous zoning changes through the ongoing re:code LA project. These include proposals to disincentivize above-grade parking while incentivizing property owners to find ways to do without it or hide more parking below the ground floor. The city could also require developers to find ways of disguising visible parking structures or "wrapping" them with what the report calls "habitable uses."

A more controversial approach would be eliminating parking requirements in certain areas accessible to transit. The report advises that city officials consider that option, along with the possibility of going one step further and imposing maximum parking requirements for certain structures.

Such steps could further transform a city slowly moving away from key elements of its car-centric urban plan. Currently, a full 14 percent of land in Los Angeles County is devoted to parking.