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Innovative Parking Design

Best Practice Category:

Site Layout, Parking Layout, and Building Design Parking Management Transportation Demand Management


An innovative parking design strategy encourages property owners to utilize existing or emerging techniques to accommodate vehicle parking in more efficient ways than traditional parking stalls. The goal of this strategy is to reduce the amount of space dedicated to parking while still meeting the needs of the community and local businesses.

City of West Hollywood / Photo by Jon Viscott.
credit: City of West Hollywood / Photo by Jon Viscott.

Innovative parking design can be accomplished in a number of ways, including using machinery and more effective utilization of space. Parking lifts are mechanical devices that move cars into a storage position. A typical set-up moves a car vertically so that a parking space below is freed and parking capacity is doubled. These are generally used in residential units, but can also be used with valet parking. Much larger high capacity lift systems have been created to be used in parking garages to further increase the number of cars that can be stored.

An alternative technique is tandem parking. Instead of parking one car in a stall, a tandem configuration fits two cars, front-to-back, in a single long space. Space is saved by reducing the amount of space required in a parking area. Again, this is generally used for residential uses or in commercial locations that provide a valet service.

Mechanical parking; By DooMMeeR
Mechanical parking; By DooMMeeR

Municipalities can support the use of these techniques by allowing them by-right to count toward required parking for new development and infill development. When used for residential units tandem and lift parking spaces should be assigned.

Innovative parking design strategies also include locating parking in a way that improves the urban environment for pedestrians. This includes moving parking below or to the rear of buildings so that stores front streets and are more easily accessible to people arriving via foot, transit, or bicycle. Site aesthetics may be improved through similar techniques. Large lots can be divided into smaller, more attractive lots. Parking areas can also be designed to improve connectivity for pedestrians and cyclists, to accommodate solar panels, and to use porous paving surfaces and more green spaces.


  • Balances parking supply with other goals
  • Increased compactness near transit stations
  • Creates more pedestrian-friendly streetscapes and storefronts
  • More available space for more optimal land uses such as-affordable housing, mixed-use, community spaces, parks/open space.
  • Reduce vehicle ownership and VMT
  • Reducing paved surfaces helps decrease the “urban heat island effect”


City of Los Angeles

Grasscrete can be used for parking areas in Los Angeles;  Immanuel Giel
Grasscrete can be used for parking areas in Los Angeles; Immanuel Giel

The City of Los Angeles passed Ordinance Number 179191 to reform tandem parking standards, allow mechanical lift parking in all zones, and to allow paved surfaces to use permeable material such as pavers, porous concrete, or a combination of concreate and holes filled with grass (grasscrete). This change to the zoning code allows more flexibility in meeting minimum parking requirements, while the allowing permeable materials helps with retention of precipitation and reduces water runoff.

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City of Santa Ana

The City of Santa Ana’s Transit Zoning Code provides regulations on the design and location of parking areas. The code establishes zones for different use types and intensities with corresponding parking regulations. Zones intended to be more pedestrian and transit-serving have stricter requirements on the location of parking areas. Parking should generally be sited in the rear of buildings or screened behind facades. Tandem parking is allowed to meeting minimum parking requirements.

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