News | To Drive or To Thrive: Manville Argues for Limiting Parking Lots in Silicon Valley

Stop the Video



by Meghan Orr

Parking is a perennial concern for city-dwellers when considering travel and work. Many residents know the feeling of having to factor in parking time and accessibility when deciding whether to embark on a day trip, try a new restaurant, or even visit a friend. A low-cost parking lot located near one’s place of employment is considered a workplace perk for many and being relegated to street parking is a non-starter for most searching homeowners or renters. The density of businesses and homes is such that personal vehicle travel is often burdensome for those living in urban centers, and residents are encouraged to employ alternate means of transportation such as ridesharing or public transit, especially in high-traffic areas such as universities or business districts. However, ironically enough, the opposite problem may be occurring in California’s Silicon Valley. Michael Manville, Associate Professor of Urban Planning at UCLA, recently published a report funded by the Pacific Southwest Region University Transportation Center (PSR-UTC) on the strict parking requirements the region’s cities have and the economic impact that these requirements may have on future land development in the area.  


Manville’s report (PSR-18-32), “The Opportunity Cost of Parking Requirements: Would Silicon Valley Be Richer if its Parking Requirements Were Lower?” describes Silicon Valley as being “surprisingly low-density,” despite its reputation for high productivity. Manville attributes this low density to the strict parking availability requirements that many of the cities hold in the valley, with about 14% of the land examined in the study determined to be off-street parking. He compares Silicon Valley to other highly productive cities such as San Francisco, New York, and Boston, which tend to enforce parking maximums in order to encourage development in business districts. He points to historic research that demonstrates that when density of corporate buildings increases, cost of doing business goes down, and may improve overall. Even in an age of internet communication, the benefits of interfacing in-person are still significant, and the physical proximity of the businesses one works with can impact an organization’s bottom line.  


Despite Silicon Valley’s significant financial successes already, Manville argues that their financial gains would be even higher if building development were more clustered, or agglomerated, as he describes it. In his report, Manville projects the amount of financial gains that the valley could have achieved had they lowered parking requirements by 50% in 2000. Manville estimates that if only half of that imagined space had instead been allocated to business development, the Valley could have gained as much as 13,000 more jobs than were already gained between 2000 and 2016. His robust analysis and comparisons to thriving built-up metro areas such as New York, Boston, and San Francisco make for a strong argument in favor of reconsidering the traditional Southern California ethos of preserving parking for employees at all costs.   


More information about the project can be found on the METRANS research webpage, or by clicking here.