It may seem strange, but parking and parking requirements are a key reason L.A. is the L.A. we know and, uh, love and/or hate.

We have parking requirements — meaning a restaurant or store owner (or sometimes even a bar) has to provide a certain number of off-street spots — because it's unfair to force people to use public transit in a city where buses and trains can be really time consuming and inconvenient. But the parking requirements often lead to lower density development (a store with a big parking lot, instead of just a store next to another store.) Lower density development, in turn, makes public transit too expensive and impractical to build. And the cycle continues.

Next month, the Westside Urban Forum will host, “Dude, where's my parking spot?” A debate about parking. Seems worth checking out. More after the jump.

Matthew Yglesias at Think Progress had a discussion yesterday about market pricing for parking. Right now, an arbitrary regulatory regime governs parking. Like, say, 25 cents for 15 minutes, with a two hour limit. Who decided that? Not the free market. Someone at city hall.

Many Economists and new urbanist planning types believe market pricing should regulate parking. Forcing people to pay the actual cost of parking — it can't be truly be free or near-free because, after all, you're taking up desirable public space — will introduce incentives to better allocate a limited good. When you give something away, or cap the price, it leads to shortages. So, with free or near-free parking, we have shortages. There's no place to park over there!

If it were priced properly, you'd have to pay a market price for parking (like you do for other types of real estate or anything else). The revenue could be used to cut other fees or taxes or add services, ideally public transit.

This all works much better in a high-density city where there are ample public transit options. In L.A., it certainly seems a bit unfair and/or unworkable. And that, in part, is what the debate will be about next month.

The deets: Friday, July 16, 7 a.m., Regency Club, 10900 Wilshire Blvd., 17th Floor. Moderator: Bill Parent, associate dean, UCLA School of Public Affairs. Panelists: Scott Malsin, Culver City Council; Donald Shoup, professor of urban planning, UCLA, and author of “The High Cost of Free Parking”; Mott Smith, principal, Civic Enterprise Development LLC, and board member, Transportation and Land Use Collaborative.

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