I’m back from vacation, so now it’s time to get down to some serious calorie counting. Not because my clothes don’t fit or I ate too much in Italy or because in Los Angeles people are obsessed with how they look, but because the parking spaces are getting smaller and the cars are getting bigger.

I squeeze out of my car on a daily basis. This is not just an illusion. The “compact” spaces are taking over! Last week, I was trapped in the parking lot of Trader Joes by a car pulled right next to mine on the driver’s side. I couldn’t get in.

When I asked the store clerk to page the person with the red Subaru and the “ILOVELA” license plate, the clerk shrugged and said that, “this happens to our customers at least once a day.” ONCE A DAY! This is a brand-new store in West Hollywood. And additionally, there’s abandoned carts floating around too – which adds the element of a bumper-car ride in an old amusement park, just to make it interesting.

I’m not the only one who’s noticed the “shrinkage” of the spaces. A recent survey of my nearest and dearest found that they are experiencing the same reduction phenomena.

So I decided to do a little research to see how the parking economicswork? I called my real estate developer friends to see what they know and whether this is an economic development or merely a passing trend.

“You know that we have to submit proof in the development application that there is enough room for the additional traffic to be accommodated,” one developer said. “Adding compact spots helps us facilitate that need.”

But the cars are bigger, I said. “We only need to prove that we can fit them in,” he replied. It kind of reminds me of a childhood toy where once you get the pieces out of the box they never quite fit back in the same way. How else can they get 50 percent more cars in the lot that had been a bank branch before?

Well, this sounded like a lot of elevator math to me. “Capacity 1,000 pounds or 10 people.” (When was the last time you were in an elevator with 10 people who weighed only 100 pounds each?) My queries continued.

As it turns out, if you are a real estate developer with a parking lot that needs to accommodate 25 cars and the parking lot fits 75 cars in full-size spaces comfortably, you can take the balance of the 50 car spaces, chop them into compact spaces and make room for 100 cars instead. Are you following this? What’s the point? Do they have a deal with a guy who can take the dents out of my doors?

After all, if you are a real estate developer with a project proposal sitting on a desk at the local planning office, you certainly have compensated for the additional traffic that new stores might bring with your additional spaces, haven’t you? Does it matter that the local clientele all drive SUVs and can’t possibly fit into these spots? Why do they even try?

I guess that’s why in L.A., we live for valet parking.

Julie Brosterman is a consultant to the real estate technology, mortgage and servicing industries. After she spent 15 years in the title insurance industry, the Internet “spoke” to her and she has never looked back. She lives in Los Angeles and can be contacted at juliebrosterman@hotmail.com.


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