Parking for All, Big and Small
School’s out so my kids are home and hopefully not always watching TV in their pajamas, and I am busy wearing 30 different hats: freelancer, wife, mother, vacation and party planner, chauffeur, playmate and playdate coordinator, therapist, and so on; as well as facing a large work load in the form of scheduling, laundry, cooking, entertaining other people’s children, and deflecting my own children’s attitudes on everything from piano lessons (bad) to swim lessons (angry) and workbooks (murderous).
Lucky for me, there is much happiness mixed in with all the effort, so while I joke about the tough stuff, I revel in the fun.
We live in Los Angeles - the second largest city in the country (and 21st largest city in the world), and that gives us some wonderful opportunities in terms of entertainment, restaurants, and museums. It also presents us with driving and parking challenges so intense that sometimes we just want to stay home.
One happy occasion summer always affords is a trip to my hometown – a place with no ranking among the cities of the world relating to size, population or anything else. My husband, with great generosity and relief, stays home while I take our two daughters to stay with my parents in the place where I grew up.
Swimming, amazing Mexican food, new books, shopping sprees at the craft store, the occasional cousin, and a guaranteed grandparent-made second dinner at 9 pm each day are our traditions.
Our visit this year was enjoyable and gave me a chance to reflect on the place where all my attitudes about life, including parking, were formed. This is the place where I was taught that a tortilla is as good as a fork if you tear it up and scoop.
I learned that a bad teacher can do a lot more damage than you’d think, and a good one can help you turn it around. Hard work is the path to success; brothers are a pain every day; friends who really know you are priceless; and few things are as beautiful as breezy sunsets in the place where you are a child and you feel secure.
I learned much more in my hometown, including how to spit, swear, cycle, swim and skate, drive a car, wield a hammer, cook, crochet, and fly a kite - but you get the picture. I know you can’t go home again, though I don’t know who said so or if it’s completely true, but I get to visit home and I’m glad for that.
Now that I’ve lived in the Los Angeles for 16 years, I understand the practice and the problems of parking in the big city, but I know my experience here is on the extreme end of the spectrum. I think more people are having small-town parking experiences.
What I mean by a small-town parking experience is someplace with a population under 25,000. A place with a well-defined downtown area and outskirts. Density is highest at the center and decreases as you move away from the center. Parking is plentiful in crowded areas and outlying areas. There are two blocks of meters at the epicenter and the rest is street parking or parking lot. Much like the place where I grew up.
My attitudes about parking, despite my current address and much contradictory experience, revolve around its being readily available. So available, there were places I parked in my hometown where there weren’t even painted lines, speed bumps or any kind of rules besides the assumption of common sense.
Parking isn’t an issue in my hometown. Property owners are required to provide it and keep it safe and clean and they do. There might be shortages around the farmer’s market on Sundays. There is an annual festival that draws a crowd, but it’s been going on for almost 100 years, so the parking situation is pretty well fleshed out.
I start thinking that I want parking in LA to be like parking in my hometown or wondering if we should apply small-town parking strategies to urban settings. Anybody who grew up in a small town and moved to a big one is going to be like me: our best ideas about parking involve more space and fewer people. But anybody addressing parking needs in a large city is focused on fitting more people into less space.
These are two different animals. I consider myself fortunate to be acquainted with both of them.