This post is inspired by the Parking Reform Network. The PRN developed a series of maps for over 100 of the largest cities in the country to show how much developable land area in the central city is devoted to parking. They counted both surface parking lots and parking garages. They determined the total area of the central city and subtracted 25% for streets and sidewalks leaving them with 75% of the central city area as developable land. The cities with the lowest percentage of developable land dedicated to parking probably will not be a surprise. They are New York City (0.4%), San Francisco (3.0%), Washington, D.C. (4.0%), Boston (6.0%) and Chicago (6.6%). The bottom five are Columbia, SC (37.0%), Lexington, KY (38.0%), Arlington, TX (39.0%), San Juan, PR (41.0%) and San Bernardino, CA (49.0%). Here’s a view of the best and worst city’s maps. Note: I don’t believe these are at the same scale.



I decided to do the same thing for Sebastopol. I saved a Google map of downtown and then traced the parking lots, streets and buildings to determine the total area of each. I was not surprised to learn that Sebastopol devotes a lot of downtown land to parking. The boundary for what I considered as the downtown core includes properties zoned Downtown Core, plus The Barlow and the properties to the east of The Barlow along Morris Street. The total area of the core is 3,274,756 sf (about 75 acres).

The street network in the core of Sebastopol is limited compared to some other places.  Streets are about 15% of the area of the downtown core so the amount of developable land closer to 85% of the total after subtracting streets and sidewalks.

The amount of land devoted to parking lots, both private and public accounts for about 39% of the developable land in downtown. This DOES NOT include street parking which is provided on most downtown streets. This amount of parking downtown puts us in the same league as the bottom 5 on the Parking Reform Network’s list. This is not where we should be. The map doesn’t look great. These areas should be considered prime redevelopment opportunities.

Combining the parking area and the street area and you get about 53% of the total area of our downtown core is exclusively for the movement and storage of cars.

And just for fun, I calculated the amount of land devoted to existing buildings downtown. This is just the footprint and does not represent the total square footage of development downtown. Most of the buildings downtown are single-story anyway. The total downtown building footprint is 31% of the developable land downtown. We use more of our downtown land for parking than we do for buildings.

The available parking is a mix of public and private lots. While I don’t think it often gets enforced, most of the private lots have signs that suggest the parking is available only for their customers. I personally believe that if you have a parking lot downtown, it’s fair game and should be open to anyone. It is ridiculous to expect people to move their car from one lot to another while downtown. A downtown trip could include a movie, dinner and a stop at Rite Aid. If you park at the movie theater there are a more than a dozen restaurants within a 10 minute walk. Rite Aid is about 3 minutes away. But the movie theater is one of those places with signs prohibiting anyone else from parking there. They are particularly sensitive when The Barlow is having an event and require security guards in the parking lot to make sure only movie theater patrons park there. The Barlow does not reciprocate, i.e. prohibit people from parking on their property and patronizing the movie theater. Just sayin’. You should be able to park once and walk anywhere downtown. The area I’m including as the downtown core on these images is less than 1/2 mile east to west. Certainly within a 10 minute walk.

We dedicate A LOT of land downtown to the storing of private cars. The total amount of land dedicated to parking in downtown Sebastopol is 1,099,700 sf. That’s more than 25 acres! Assuming 350 sf per parking space, including the necessary circulation , we have an estimated 3,142 off-street parking spaces downtown. It is really frustrating to listen to people talk about the lack of parking downtown when we devote 39% of developable land to parking. We should stop requiring a minimum number of parking spaces and allow developers to build what they feel is appropriate for their project. Many other cities are taking this approach, successfully. I do understand that we are a driving culture, but as this shows, we are not lacking for parking. We do not need any more parking downtown and we should be actively working to convert some of the existing parking lots to more productive uses for things we really do need, like housing.