In a Tight Spot

Mike MeyerNovember 2018
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Are all parking spaces created equal? Not in the Valley, according to our original research.

Scottsdale display merchandiser Lee Anne Roth noticed something odd when she moved from the Los Angeles area six years ago. “Every time I pull into a parking lot [in the Valley], I don’t know if my [GMC] Yukon will fit into the space. I know it’s a little thing, but it drives me crazy.”

“It’s extremely inconsistent. Shouldn’t parking spaces be the same size?” echoes Scottsdale government loan underwriter Tia Petry. She drives a mid-size Kia Optima, smaller than Roth’s SUV. “I think there are spots that are so small, you don’t even want to park in them.”

Crowded parking is a small but daily nuisance for Valley drivers. Sixty percent of Arizona’s 4.3 million cars are registered in Maricopa County. With the surging popularity of mega-trucks and SUVs, the issue of parking-spot capacity is a matter of collective mental health – or at least of preserving your paint job. As such, PHOENIX conducted its own informal investigation.

According to traffic engineer Sam Enmon, the city of Phoenix requires commercial retail parking spaces be 9 feet wide and 20 feet long. Scottsdale’s stipulations are similar at 9 feet by 18 feet. This allows adequate room for drivers and passengers to open car doors while saving paint in the process. “The space includes the striping. It is measured from the striping centerline to striping centerline,” Enmon says.

Size matters, even if there is no Phoenix parking lot inspector or fines for incorrect slots. Tiny spaces can be costly. “We get people in all the time to fix dings, nicks, chips, and scratches” says Shahe Koulloukian, owner of Mazvo, an auto repair shop on Seventh Street. “Walk around your car and you’ll be shocked. All from parking lots.”

Tiny spaces can also be maddening.  A Valley driver never knows if the spot they wheel into will be one they can get out of easily or if they’ll have to do an embarrassing, multi-point shimmy.

According to the Arizona Auto Dealers Association, the Honda Civic was the best-seller in the first half of 2018, while the Ford F-150 topped truck sales. The Civic is a tidy 5 feet 9 inches across and 14 feet 8 inches long, while the hefty F-150 is 6 feet 6 inches wide less huge side mirrors and 19 feet 3 inches in length.

With those dimensions in mind, PHOENIX conducted its own survey. We measured parking spaces at 26 Valley hot spots. Are the lots roomy? Not really. Some are OK, and some are not even close. It is not your imagination. The average measurement, of the 26 lots measured, is 8 feet 7 inches by 17 feet 3 inches, considerably smaller than the legal requirement (see sidebar).

Which locations get an open-door OK? Two older centers were notable. Built in the early 1950s before being beautifully renovated in recent years, both Uptown Plaza at Central Avenue and Camelback Road and the Shops at Town and Country at Camelback and 22nd Street get gold stars.

“We planned on making the parking be part of our hospitality,” says David Scholl, a partner with Uptown Plaza developers/owners Vintage Partners. “Developers have a lot of choices, and some don’t focus on getting people to come and spend time. We want people to come and feel at home, right down to the parking lot.”

Kierland Commons offers a respectable 8-feet-11-inch width (not counting the stripe) and Central Phoenix’s Barrio Café offers 8-feet-10-inch spots behind its colorful 16th Street and Thomas Road location. Worthy of honorable mention is Dana Park Village Square in Chandler, measuring a generous 9 feet 3 inches by 18 feet.

But the prize for roomiest parking spaces goes to the Tanger Outlets in Glendale, where drivers have a full 10 feet and 4 inches of space but, again, just 18 feet in length.

Paradise Valley Mall has the dubious distinction of being home to the narrowest spaces at a tummy-sucking 7 feet 5 inches, while at Camelback Village, home to Steak 44, the spaces are 7 feet 7 inches by 17 feet. Thankfully, the eatery offers valet service.

“Valet parkers don’t need as big a space as a regular driver,” says Jarrod Baer of Integrity Valet. “We park cars closer, like a dealer.”

Drivers aren’t totally at a loss when squeezed. “There is a Neighborhood Services Inspector who can address issues as they surface,” Enmon says. “Just give them a call at 602-534-4444.”

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