Long Beach planners will begin drafting new rules that could change parking requirements citywide as officials try to reduce the barriers that could be blocking new businesses from opening.

Staff from Long Beach’s Development Services Department held a public meeting Wednesday night to explain why the city wants to update the rules, which currently require a different number of parking spaces for different types of businesses.

Bradley Bounds, a planner with the city, explained that a laundromat only requires about four spaces for every 1,000 square feet of floor area. And if someone wanted to buy that laundromat with four parking spaces, he asked, could they convert it to a cycling gym?

“The short answer is ‘no’, you’d have to bike outside,” Bounds joked, noting that current city parking rules could require up to 28 spaces for that gym. “There’s not enough space.”

Bounds said that businesses will typically get turned away at the counter when they submit plans to the city because of parking requirements, meaning they have to look for a new space in the city to operate—or not open in Long Beach at all.

The proposed changes will now be drafted and submitted to the Planning Commission, which could forward the issue to the City Council for final adoption. The new rules could allow new businesses to maintain the same amount of off-street parking as what was required of the previous tenant, rather than being required to add more, so long as there isn’t an expansion of the space.

Buildings over 10 years old would not have to provide additional parking because of a change of use when a new business takes over.

Any council-approved changes would apply to almost all of the city, except for the Coastal Zone, which would have to go through a separate approval process at the California Coastal Commission.

Members of the public who attended the meeting were generally supportive of the city’s move to update parking regulations.

“If parking is the barrier to getting started, that costs the city money,” said Kurt Canfield. “It’s a compounding problem where we legislate out the ability for businesses to operate.”

Others said that eliminating the requirement for space to be reserved for cars, something that may not be needed in a few decades, could help build a city that “we want for the future.”

The city’s current code has 48 different potential uses for businesses, each with a unique parking requirement. It’s unclear how or if those will change in the proposal being drafted.

A department spokesperson said that the draft proposals could be sent to the Planning Commission at some point in July.

Long Beach may ease parking mandates to draw new businesses into vacant storefronts

Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.