Home > Beverly Hills, Parking, Policy > Why the Beverly Hills Parking Propositions Miss the Real Issue

Why the Beverly Hills Parking Propositions Miss the Real Issue

For the past few weeks my mailbox has been packed with slickly-produced campaign flyers, nearly all of them about the issue of free parking in garages owned by the City of Beverly Hills. There are actually two proposals on the ballot. The first, Measure 2P, was put on there by a group of local landlords, and would require the city to provide two hours free to everyone in all city garages. The second, Measure 3P, was put on the ballot by the city council itself in response to “2P,” and would give three free hours to city residents only.

The details of these proposals aren’t that interesting, and I’ll be voting against both of them anyway. I rarely use city parking anymore, which makes my decision easier, but it also makes sense from other perspectives:

Donald Shoup would point out the “High Cost of Free Parking,” and how it encourages unnecessary driving. He might then give some statistics on how much Beverly Hills spends per space (including the latest underground project on Crescent Boulevard), money that could otherwise be spent on projects with more impact.

■ The city council would rightly point out that 2P removes ability to use resources at its disposal to balance the budget, especially in a time when it is facing shortfalls, and sets an unfortunate precedent over who gets to make the rules in this city (3P wouldn’t even be on the ballot except as a “desperation move” in response to 2P).

■ I would point out that the proposals are a reminder of how inefficient California’s proposition politics has become; we’re very good at voting in benefits, and very bad at voting in ways to pay for them.

Business promotion is the main argument offered by 2P supporters, and comes up on all the flyers I’ve received. (I’ve yet to receive anything in the mail against the proposal, but there is some opposition.) Some of the flyers mention the increasing competition from areas surrounding Beverly Hills, like the three free parking hours that Westfield Century City offers, or the cheap parking at the Beverly Center and The Grove. While these comparisons may be accurate, I don’t think they’re justified, as most of the examples offered concern private garages in shopping malls, where mall businesses subsidize spots. Beverly Hills public parking is, instead, “socialized” by the taxpayer, and paid for by every resident who also pays property taxes. Parking is expensive. People should pay for what they use.

There is some question over the legality of Measure 2P, and that challenge is still in the courts. I believe the proposal will still hit the ballot, however, despite the outcome of that case, and my guess is that it will pass, and not 3P. Whatever. Allowing public policy to come to a vote is a recipe for bad results, and makes me wonder whether Hans Voerknecht (the Dutch “bicycle activist”) has a point: “Democracy is not about doing the will of the people; it’s about choosing the best men and women out of the people who make the wisest decisions.”

Whatever the outcome at the ballot box, I think Beverly Hills and its businesses are missing out on the bigger issue. If business is suffering here versus our neighbors, it’s not because of parking, free or not. Shoppers prefer Century City or The Grove because the shopping experience is better. These other places have restored the human dimension to space: they take cars off their ersatz “streets,” and give it back to pedestrians. (Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade and Universal Studio’s City Walk do the same.) Shopping in Beverly Hills isn’t interesting or fun anymore. The model has become obsolete. The magic is gone.

A few years ago, Jimmy Delshad, who subsequently became mayor, proposed the idea of pedestrianizing Rodeo Drive. I don’t know exactly what came of the proposal, but Fred Hayman, the former owner of Giorgio’s and the “Pa Kettle of Rodeo Drive,” thought it wouldn’t work: “Exotic cars are part of the attraction of California.” I respect Mr. Hayman’s business acumen, but I can say with some confidence that no matter how much you may be enthralled by the odd Lamborghini that passes by, the noise and exhaust of cars eventually are going to wear you down. Who wants to dine outside with sports cars roaring by?

I’d really like the city of Beverly Hills to pick up this idea again, at least on an experimental basis. Close Rodeo Drive or Beverly Drive to vehicular traffic one day weekly. Maybe the city could move the Farmer’s Market from behind the courthouse to Beverly Drive on that day. Make the shopping experience unique, compelling, and fun again. Do this for a few months and see what happens. Otherwise, I am going to predict that Beverly Hills will continue losing shoppers, including me, to its neighbors.

Oh, and by the way, since this is nominally a bicycle blog, I should mention how bicycles fit in. Simply put, if we can pedestrianize the city center, the human-powered ways to get there have to be next. I don’t think there’s any great city that added bicycles to its transportation network without making pedestrians fit first.

Categories: Beverly Hills, Parking, Policy
  1. March 1, 2011 at 7:27 PM

    Great post! I came across it searching for ballot information just after scanning images from some of the dozen+ mailings on behalf of 2P. You highlight the key reasons for opposing the measure, the chief being that it’s best not to make policy at the ballot box.
    I recall being asked last Fall to take a phone survey intended to craft the pro-2P campaign. I note that it’s look and feel is girly, girly, girly: pink with generous images of shopper-types. Of course that displaces attention from less-glamorous medical establishments.
    I especially like “The model has become obsolete. The magic is gone.”

    • March 2, 2011 at 7:00 AM

      I was at a city council meeting a few months ago in which the subject of a drop-off zone for the hop-on-hop-off tour buses was being discussed. One of the surprising factoids: many (and perhaps most) tourists got off the bus for a moment to photograph themselves in front of a Beverly Hills sign, and then got right back on. They didn’t even bother walking into town.

      Even upper-end shoppers have interesting options close by, with stores like Louis Vuitton and Tiffany’s opening branches in Century City. The big department stores on Wilshire Boulevard may be unique for the moment, but Bloomingdales, also in Century City, isn’t far behind.

      The Golden Triangle has much to recommend it, but it could be so much more. The open-air plaza at the Montage development was a great start. I hope the city continues in that direction.

  2. KARL
    July 18, 2012 at 4:21 AM

    look if we have to raise a pittanc compared to what hte sierra club spends on solictations buuying our own semi trucks and car moving trailers to circulate a bunch of even post 1996 bastards around the county orth estate or amultstate region daily resisting free parking is best done by making it futile- by filling it up with cars spending the iminumum staing the maximum (so making it 3 insteadof 2 allows us to defusethe garages best)

    ALso keepingthese cars around spares the planet the cost of melting them down and subsidisinghte cost of new cars in doing so. How many cars have you plugged garages up wiht this year? Same goes for street parking of course- get busy- start parking! Our homeless that has difficult getting into jail need only stand in the way of people parking so making jail conditions humane to have more willing to do that for us is also a far mor efficient use of resources then arguments about not building hte garages etc. to begin with.

    WE can forcethe mt o charge to park.. garages cost far more then pluggingtehm up. driving from garage to garage is agood internship activity for our youth and scholalrships and contests coudl be setup to inspire enough of them to dothis.

    BUt the really important work is to not just stop minors from parking at school but stop our universities from tolerating the use of fedral financial aid to pay for car abuse. I attended a privfagte university that WOULD NOT GIVE ANY AID TO ANYONE WHOSE BUDGET INCLUDING CAR OWNERSHIP and this should be federal law. To put your hand out essentially vertical, so that almost all the money falls inot the laps of toyota etc., is no way to ask for a free ‘pay me a living wage’ dowry paid stamp.

    We need to be creative about what we can do with all these garages when people wise up and stop using them- at usc the cvs and ‘fresh and easy’ pay for parking and the science museum can’t be visiited by car unless you pony up ten bucks even though it’s just onteh other edge of campus. INside the museum though isthe most blashphemous propiganda deluding children about who the bad guys are I’ve ever seen- no wonder they don’t want hard working americans to actually be able to visit for free! We need to have free taxicabs I guess- i’m sure they cos foar less then garages and only car makers would lose if we did

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