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LA Metro Saddles NoHo Station Redevelopment With $48M Parking Expansion

Metro's North Hollywood parcels, now up for possible redevelopment. Image via Metro
Metro's North Hollywood parcels, now up for possible redevelopment. Image via Metro

In a recent post at The Source, Metro announced a new call for joint development at four large parcels of land at and adjacent to its North Hollywood Red and Orange Line Stations. Curbed L.A. reports that the NoHo parcels could include an estimated 750 to 1,500 units of housing, up to 12 stories tall. Hopefully, plenty of that housing will be affordable, based on Metro's recently adopted joint development policies.

Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) will be a good thing for North Hollywood, for Metro, for Los Angeles. But is this truly TOD?

The issue here is parking.

Lots and lots and lots of parking.

The Source article completely misuses the term "replacement parking."

The current NoHo lot has 957 spaces and another 194 spaces are in the process of being added on the north side of Chandler Avenue east of the current lot. Parking at NoHo Station is heavily used with most sites taken each morning and many NoHo riders say the parking makes it possible for them to take transit. If the current lots are developed, Metro plans to ask for 2,000 replacement spaces for transit riders in parking lots and/or garages to be constructed in addition to parking needed for residents and retail. That would almost double the current parking available at the station for Red Line and Orange Line riders.

What is "replacement parking"? When a development takes away existing parking, the developer may be required to replace parking spaces that have been taken away. Is asking for 2,000 spaces to replace 1,151 spaces credibly "replacement parking"? No. It's a massive expansion. Cities and transit agencies (for example, BART [PDF]) generally require 1 to 1 replacement parking. Even 1 to 1 replacement hurts walkability, livability, and affordability.

Metro isn't asking for replacement parking. It is asking for a massive parking expansion. A massively expensive parking expansion.

At an estimated cost of $24,000 per parking space in an elevated structure (amount from Don Shoup - and it will likely be upwards of $34,000 per space for any underground parking) then Metro is saddling this redevelopment with an up-front cost of $48 million, just for parking for Metro. As The Source mentions, that's not counting additional parking for people who will live or shop there.

Past Metro attempts at redevelopment at North Hollywood and Universal City stations failed, in part due to onerous parking requirements required by Metro - and in part due to an economic downturn.

Metro sees some ridership benefits from park-and-ride lots. They enable far-flung commuters to drive a little less, and to take Metro for a portion of a multi-modal trip. Unfortunately, according to the recent American Public Transit Association (APTA) review, park-and-ride minimizes the environmental benefits of transit as well as subsidizing higher income transit riders at the expense of others less fortunate.

If Metro is really committed to fostering great place - or "Transit Oriented Communities" as Phil Washington urges - then the agency will need to show a greater commitment to great first-last mile connections, to housing, to great public spaces. In recent years, North Hollywood has become a great walkable neighborhood. Metro's joint development should build on that walkability.

If Metro is going to require about $50 million worth of improvements from developers, it's better to invest that money in housing, and first/last mile connectivity for walking, bicycling, bike-share, etc. Better to build great places that Metro riders will want to go to... not just a massive ocean of parking.

Some parking is probably needed, but, if it's a popular destination (and it already is) then why the "free" parking? If Metro continues to give away hundreds of free NoHo parking spaces, the agency will never know how much parking is really needed. As long as parking is free, there will never be enough to meet demand.

What do you think, readers? Give Metro your input at upcoming meetings:

The Community Workshop is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 24, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the North Hollywood Amelia Earhart Regional Library at 5211 Tujunga Avenue in NoHo.

A Development Guidelines Open House is scheduled for Tuesday, October 13, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the El Portal Theatre at 5269 Lankershim Boulevard in NoHo.

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