The Beverly Hills City Council is slated to consider an urgency ordinance to lower parking requirements at its upcoming study session on Tuesday, Dec. 10. At the Council’s previous study session, on Nov. 19, Council members discussed the City’s existing in-lieu parking program regulations with several community members voicing their opinions that it was important to act with urgency, rather than continuing to delay changes to the program.
The program, which was started in 1976, is outdated according to Councilwoman Lili Bosse, who along with Councilman Julian Gold had requested that the City Council take up the issue in order to make it more amendable to businesses.
“I think that our parking standards are old and I think we need a holistic view of parking in the City,” Gold said.
“When we put this program in place, the City was a completely different place,” Bosse said. “I think this is an emergency and I think this is urgent. We are losing or have lost incredible opportunities because of what we have in place.”
The City’s in-lieu parking program currently allows certain businesses in specific locations to pay fees in lieu of providing all required parking spaces on-site, which are collected into the in-lieu parking fund. This fund is intended for the acquisition, development, operation and maintenance of off-street parking facilities. The program fund maintains approximately $12-$13 million, and 930 parking spaces have been approved since its inception.
The current in-lieu fee varies based on location and type of use or development. For new construction or reconstruction the fee is $49,576 on Rodeo Drive, $39,661 on Beverly Drive, and $29,830 on all other streets within the established in-lieu parking district. For restaurant expansions the fee is $12,095; however, in order to receive this lower fee a restaurant must already be in existence.
Six years ago the City piloted a lease program intended for restaurants whereby businesses could lease in-lieu parking spaces rather than paying the full cost of in-lieu parking spaces. The annual lease payment was set at half of the 10-year amortization rate for a full-cost in-lieu parking space. But with just one participating business, which ultimately went out of business after describing the associated in-lieu parking lease fee as “burdensome,” the pilot was clearly not a success.
A 2014 in-lieu parking study carried out by Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates found that there was an oversupply of parking in the Business Triangle area and that the program had “contributed to the creation of a vibrant commercial area in the Business Triangle.” In response, the City Council subsequently expanded the in-lieu parking district.
However, the current regulations are not without limitations and are particularly prohibitive for larger new construction projects. Under the current program, properties larger than 16,000 square feet are only allowed to participate in the program if the project consists of museum uses or the adaptive reuse of historic buildings. And given the built-up nature of the City’s commercial areas and the high cost of land, new commercial developments often must consider projects in excess of 16,000 square feet in order to make sound financial sense.
“The costs really are deterrents,” said local attorney Murray Fischer who represents clients that have been unable to move forward with developing projects as a result of the onerous costs associated with providing adequate parking.
At last month’s study session, Community Development Director Susan Healy Keene shared several potential changes to the City’s in-lieu parking program. Such changes include amending the program to allow sites greater than 16,000 square feet to participate in the program; reducing in-lieu parking fees for new restaurants; charging one in-lieu fee for any restaurant use (at a rate consistent with the more affordable restaurant expansion in-lieu fee); and changing the parking requirement for restaurants to be consistent with the general commercial rate of one parking space per 350 square feet of floor area.
In anticipation of Tuesday’s upcoming meeting, the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce sent out a letter this week urging its members to voice their support of the proposed changes. By lowering parking requirements for certain businesses and making other adjustments to the City’s in-lieu parking system, Chamber Vice President of Economic Development and Government Affairs Blair Schlecter wrote the changes would “make it easier to open and maintain a business in Beverly Hills.”
“Our number one recommendation is that the City lower parking requirements for new and existing businesses in the City,” Chamber President and CEO Todd Johnson wrote in a Nov. 26 letter to the City Council.
“The upcoming study session is scheduled to take place at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 10, at City Hall.