The City Ventures development is exactly the sort of project La Habra needs so that it can finally create a decent downtown. However, I have beaten that issue to death with my previous two letters to planning. With this one I want to address why parking concerns should not reduce the scale of the development and how the city should handle the inevitable parking problems which will happen if La Habra Boulevard becomes a success.
Parking problems are a sign of a healthy downtown. If few people want to be in the downtown, there will not be parking problems. However, as soon as La Habra has a healthy downtown it will attract large numbers of people who will fill available parking. The knee jerk reaction is to create more surface parking lots. This is a huge mistake; surface lots are ugly, make an area less walkable, and are very low productivity uses of the land; thus they bring very little value to the city. Successful downtowns instead handle parking concerns with some combination of the following:
As long as parking is free, it gets over-used. No matter how much free parking is built, it is likely to not be enough. For this reason, successful downtowns need to construct paid parking at some point. Parking meters, or parking permits, free up parking for actual customers while at the same time raising significant money which the city can use to improve the area. For wonderful examples of parking fees helping improve downtowns see nearby cities such as Pasadena.
Parking garages are much more efficient uses for land than surface parking so they should also be considered. These should not be built in advance of demand, but once the on street parking is always full the city should look into constructing some. For good examples see downtown Brea and Fullerton as well as uptown Whittier.
Angled parking should also be considered along La Habra Boulevard as a way to improve the pedestrian environment and provide additional parking. Many great downtowns follow this model. For a good example of a nearby city removing lanes to create angled parking, see Pioneer Boulevard in Artesia. That city just approved removal of two lanes on Pioneer Boulevard to install angled parking.
Finally, if the area gets too popular to possibly supply parking, alternatives to cars should be implemented. Improved bus service and additional bike lanes allow people to enjoy an area even if there is absolutely no parking available. In particular, protected bike lanes behind angled parking would be a wonderful addition to La Habra Boulevard.
In the immediate future, La Habra needs to worry first about making La Habra Boulevard somewhere that people actually want to be. A great start is construction of high density residential projects like this one which bring customers within walking distance of empty storefronts, bringing them back to life. There is no justification for scaling back development because of parking concerns, once those problems manifest they can easily be addressed using whichever method the city prefers.