Urban planning

L.A. Finally Lets People Eat In Parking Lots

Los Angeles temporarily eased parking requirements during the pandemic, offering a glimpse of how much a less restrictive zoning code improves urban life.


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Before Los Angeles temporarily eased its zoning requirements and allowed restaurants to expand outdoor seating during the COVID-19 pandemic, the parking lot of The Golden Bull wasn't very "appealing," recalls hospitality consultant Marvin Wells.

Today, it has artificial grass, tiered levels, heat lamps, and a gardener to take care of the landscaping. "It is actually the biggest part of the restaurant that we've had," says Wells. "We're busier than we've ever been."

This change not only unlocked a new world of possibilities for restaurants—entire parts of the city were remade as more pedestrian-friendly.

Will this lead to a permanent loosening of zoning requirements that for decades have constrained the choices that L.A. residents and business owners have been able to make about how they work and live?

"I think the government can comfortably step back from trying to dictate how much parking every single property owner provides on their property," says Michael Manville, an urban planning professor at UCLA. "In stepping back, they will make cities more efficient, more equitable, and more environmentally sustainable."

Produced, shot, and edited by Paul Detrick; graphics by Detrick

Photos: Underwood Archives/UIG Universal Images Group/Newscom; Frank Worth/ZUMA Press/Newscom; JIM RUYMEN/UPI/Newscom; Image of Sport/Newscom; Álex Segura/EFE/Newscom