As SoCal Real Estate recently reported, some trends that could be growing in Orange County and other parts of California and the Northwest can help mitigate problems created by reduced parking around office buildings, according to a report from CBRE.
The report suggested that solutions like offering valet parking, creating pick-up and drop-off areas in parking structures or adjacent locations to accommodate employees and visitors arriving via shared-ride services such as Uber and Lyft, offering tenants ride-sharing credits between local rail stations and the office complexes where they work, building convertible parking structures, as well as building parking structures that can partially be adapted to other uses in the future.
We spoke with David Dowd and Matt Carlson, SVPs at CBRE in Orange County and San Diego, respectively, about how these solutions might work in their particular markets.
Dowd says, “It really is going to depend on how quickly the autonomous vehicle is adopted. Otherwise, we’ll be staring at these parking structures and saying, ‘What will we do with these?’”
He adds that Orange County has been very slow to adapt to any type of public transportation at all, but density could change this, as well as the way parking structures are built. “People are starting to think of ways of making parking structures that aren’t sloped, but stacked, with the ramp at the back, This allows the parking structure — in the event a phenomenon happens and it is not needed as such — to go to commercial, residential, or hospitality uses.”
Dowd points out that in Orange County, there hasn’t been a huge amount of new office construction, so the market really hasn’t had to address that yet, but he does acknowledge that the market is starting to get denser. “Do we start incentivizing carpooling or Ubering on their own?”
In the John Wayne Airport area, in particularly, Dowd says there’s a lot of residential going in adjacent to business parks, a phenomenon that has really only begun in last five or six years. “In six months from now, you could look at a colleague and ask, ‘Where do you live?’ and they’ll answer that they walked to work since they live five blocks away. Business and residential districts are blurring, and eight to 10 months from now, you will probably be able to walk from work to a couple thousand apartment units.”
Dowd predicts that in some cases, companies may begin to mandate ride-sharing and other parking-mitigation solutions because office parking lots won’t be able to accommodate everyone who works in a building. Also, the density that is being encouraged is leading to increasing traffic problems. “Orange County is really becoming not drivable anymore,” Dowd says. “You used to be able to live far from work and commute, but what was once a 20-minute drive could now take 45 to 60 minutes. People want to be in urban apartments so they have that extra hour of leisure time every day.”
Another trend Dowd is noticing is companies locating in the best building for their employees, not necessarily the best building for their CEOs. The unemployment rate is so low that priorities have shifted to what is best for employees, and employees want quality of life.
Similar to Orange County, in some areas of San Diego, office-building density is increasing to the point where the number of employees in a building is greater than the available parking spaces, Carlson tells us. And the type of development that has taken place has decreased the available parking spaces even further. “In Downtown San Diego in particular, there has been a ton of residential development, which is taking up a lot of previously vacant lots that were parking lots,” Carlson says. “So, you have scarcity of parking now on the one hand, and also the question of what are we going to do with parking when we have automation, more ride sharing, and driverless cars.”
Carlson says the solution is for people to get creative. “In Downtown, where we used to have or two cars per 1,000 parking spaces in buildings, having three parking lots within in two blocks was fine, but now there are a lot of buildings under construction or formerly empty lots that now have buildings on them. You’re seeing more valet parking, where the attendant can stack cars and get a 20 percent increase in parking.”
Another solution is the parking equivalent of hot racking with naval submarines — two people share the same bunk, and one works a 12-hour shift while the other is sleeping. With parking, you utilize the same space at different times. This discussion is going on between residential and office developers, where you have 60 percent of residential tenants driving out of a building and going somewhere else between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., so the office owner asks the residential owner if they can we use some of their stalls. Here, parking spaces are looked upon as a commodity that can be traded. Not everyone is open to this idea, but it is obviously a trend.”
Carlson says he is also seeing creative ways to commute, such as via scooters and electric bicycles. “You can go much further distances with the battery packs on these bicycles than on a regular bicycle — you can now commute several miles on what looks like a normal bicycle. People are hoping to see more public transportation in SoCal, but it hasn’t really caught on.”
Regarding autonomous vehicles, anyone designing a building now is planning for these, whether it’s five or 10 years down the road, Carlson says. “These buildings will be up for 50 year. Developers are planning for less parking and more drop-off/pick-up areas. You don’t want your front door to be on a busy street where a Lyft driver can’t just pull in and drop off, and it’s expensive to dig down to put in a parking structure, so more folks are designing podium parking that can be used for parking now but could have a useful life later.”
In the past, podium parking has been a cheaper version of a parking structure, but since it lends itself to a better use later, it ends up being a wise economical solution, says Carlson. It does require some forethought when planning the parking structure, though. “Usually, the ceiling height is much lower in a parking structure than an office building, so you have to plan in advance to have taller parking structures, which adds to the cost,” he says. “Also, replacing up and down ramps in parking structures is extremely expensive. In some structures, an entire floor is a ramp up. I’ve seen a completely flat floor plate with higher ceiling heights and exterior ramps being built now.” He adds that zoning changes may be needed to enable future conversions.
Regarding San Diego in particular, Carlson says the market is a little more suburban than L.A., but similar to L.A. in that there is a central business district Downtown and another in UTC. San Diego, like Orange County, is also reluctant to shed its cars, “so we’re a little like L.A. and a little like OC.”