A referendum removing parking regulations would be a true test of LA’s urbanism(s)

LA’s urban crowd (this is not a pejorative) have done some victory laps here late, suggesting that their vision for LA has finally come to the fore, after Measure S did not get much traction at the voting booth. Feeling good that things on your policy agenda passed, and vice versa for bad ideas, is not a bad thing. It’s just hard for me to believe that voting behavior is that readily interpreted; S had a lot of moving parts to it, and it’s hard to know why people vote the way they do even on relatively straightforward referenda. Don’t get me wrong: S going away was not a bad thing at all for LA development, and in sum the good of passing Measure M last fall probably, on balance, outweighs the ills in it.

But that still doesn’t mean urbanists have a majority supporting a specific policy agenda. It’s possible, for example, that the no voters didn’t want the armageddon described among opponents to S, and that they do want trains, as supplied by M, but they do not necessarily want much else to change about Los Angeles development or neighborhoods. Measure M, in particular, spreads a ton of money around for roads, too, even if the shiniest part of the measure were the trains. (Yes, I’m still not thrilled with it, even though people argued me around to voting for it.)

What would actually test the vision? I think a referenda that eliminates parking minimums would be a strong test. It would also, if it passed, go a long ways in advancing the goal of increasing infill housing supply. My suspicion is that parking requirements are a bigger barrier to supplying new units than zoning is, generally, though this impression has not been subjected to any real empirical testing. Politically it’s a lot easier to connect zoning to high prices, and LA needs a systematic plan for up-zoning, which is one reason why we need updated general plans.

If nothing else, the ensuing debate would enable a discussion about why minimum parking requirements are so bad–the kind of debate we had early on with Measure S before it devolved into a screaming match.