Construction will begin in June 2012 on an automated five-story parking structure at West Hollywood City Hall. With state-of-the-art technology, this new computerized parking structure will offer a valet-like experience where people leave their cars and the automated system then stores the vehicles in parking berths using motorized lifts, conveyers and shuttles. When a person is ready to leave, the system will then retrieve his or her car.
“This is an exciting project,” said Mayor John Duran. “It will solve a parking problem for City Hall and for the mid-city area. And at the same time, it’s cutting-edge technology that hasn’t been seen on the West Coast.”
The only other automated parking structure west of the Mississippi is under construction in Santa Monica, near St. John’s Hospital. The Weho five-story parking structure will be the same height as the three-story City Hall building. It will have the capacity for 200 cars, compared with the 66 spaces available in the current lot that the automated parking structure will replace. Construction is expected to be completed by July 2013.
Initially, the city considered building a traditional parking deck, but the ramping, ventilation shafts and heights required for human-occupied parking structures, plus the mandatory setbacks from adjacent lots, made that impractical.
“It was going to be this huge concrete building that wouldn’t meet the aesthetic needs,” said Oscar Delgado, director of Public Works. “This is a unique way to address parcels that are size challenged. This is a way to get the parking you need without taking up a lot of space. We had goals to protect parking but also create green space. And this automated system was a win-win.”
The city toyed with the idea of the automated parking system when it first started discussing the parking problem at City Hall four years ago, but the cost at that time was prohibitive—$40,000 to $50,000 per parking space. However, the price has come down drastically in the past year, making it a viable option at $13,200 per space.
Earlier this month, the City Council awarded the $2.6 million contract for the technology to Unitronics. The city will have to build a shell around the parking structure as well as a motor court area for dropping off and picking up cars.
At the same time, the city will also create a 27-foot-wide community plaza area between the back door of City Hall and the parking structure. That plaza will add a bit of green space behind City Hall that could be used for art displays, receptions and other community events.
The city briefly considered putting the automated structure below ground, but that would have incurred additional construction costs. “If you don’t have to go below grade, why should you,” Delgado said. “The water table is always a factor when you start digging.”
While some have visions of a bad science fiction movie where cars get stuck in the parking structure or it delivers the wrong car back to you, City Hall officials said that’s not a worry.
“I know that’s everyone’s fear, but that’s just not going to happen,” said Jackie Rocco, parking operations manager. “It’s a fully accessible system. It’s designed with redundancies. In case one component fails, there’s a backup one in place. Including backup generators.”
“The reliability of these facilities is fantastic. It may be new to us, but they’ve been perfecting this technology for two decades with automated structures in Europe and the Mideast," Delgado said.
Aware the automated system will be under close scrutiny by residents, they’ve deliberately overdesigned it.
“People are going to be looking at us,” said Delgado. “We don’t want it to be too slow to return cars; we wanted ours to be a little bit faster. We really want to showcase these green facilities.”
And green the facility will be. Not only will its footprint be smaller and construction completed quicker than traditional parking decks, once completed, it will reduce CO2 emissions equal to taking 92 cars off the road each year or planting 67,000 trees. The total amount allotted for the structure, technology, motor court and community plaza area is $13 million. A capital campaign will pay for it.
Rocco said the structure will be open for after-hours use by residents. The parking rates will be competitive, she said.
If the parking system proves successful, more automated structures could be on the horizon. “We’re a dense city that needs more parking,” said Duran. “If this works, we’ll look at putting them in other places around the city.”
To view a demonstration video of the new automated parking system, click here.