Is Dowtown LA High on Own Parking Supply?


The immutable law of supply and demand is nevertheless pulling off a mutation in Downtown Los Angeles when it comes to one of the least glamorous and most interesting asset classes of commercial real estate in the area: parking lots.

Consider the $59-a day-charge for parking at an upper-middle-tier branded hotel in the city’s center. You might deduce from the price that there’s strong demand for parking and the hotel is getting whatever the traffic bears, to cite an apt aphorism.

I paid the tariff after pulling up in my rental vehicle to the valet-only entrance in the middle of a rainstorm.

The next day was Southern California sunny, and I decided to check other options for parking. Lo and behold: a $16 all-day rate at a place across the street with plenty of available spaces.

The $16 option was at one of the many very old, very cramped, pillar-infested, twisty-turny multi-floor parking lots. It wasn’t so bad pulling into the place but getting out proved to be fraught with risk. The lower price soon seemed a false economy—I was fairly certain myrental car was going to get more than a light ding on one turn or another if I kept parking in that joint for the several days of my business trip.

Give Downtown LA points for variety, though, because a surface lot next door was open and available at $30 a day. The spaces were not nearly so tight, and there was no narrow winding ramp to deal with.

Turns out the $29 daily savings I thought I would realize by going from the hotel to the surface lot was a false economy, too. The next day I found the passenger side of the vehicle smashed and the inside ransacked. It was a rental, so no great personal loss—a giveaway windbreaker, an Irish-knit cap I favored.

I haven’t seen the bill for the window, and will take that up with the credit-card company that promises to cover such damages on rental cars. The cost will somehow be passed on to the credit-card outfit or the rental car company or me.

I won’t hold my breath for any help from civic sources in the meantime. The parking lot attendant said he showed up at 7 a.m. and didn’t bother to call in the incident because the cops don’t do much about such crime in L.A. these days. My call to LAPD told me about as much—I got significantly better service at the credit-card company, eventually speaking with a human being.

I realize that I’m more vested in the particulars of the matter than anyone else. But the pricing regimen for parking and reaction to costly vandalism tells us that there is more to this than a random and unfortunate incident. The whole mess points us back to the notion of supply, demand and the mutation of that standard measuring stick for doing business as it now applies to L.A.

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Jerry Sullivan is National Managing Editor at The Real Deal. You can follow him @SullivanSaysSC