ArcLight Hollywood, roof level. Grade: A+
The predominant strategy for parking in Los Angeles is to find the closest available space to the entrance of wherever it is you’re going. This is flawed thinking, at least when parking at the ArcLight Hollywood. Drive, drive, around the back, all the way up to the top. Let everyone else waste the precious minutes of their lives searching for the 24 spaces left on P3 that are promised to them by a digital display just inside the main gate. Get to the roof and you will be rewarded with acres of empty spots, not to mention some of the best views in the City. My dream is to put a restaurant on this roof. People would propose marriage there. And it would be even happier than a normal proposal because there’s so much parking.
Animal Medical Center, Van Nuys. Grade: A
This is a veterinarian who has valet parking. Necessary? Who cares!
City of Santa Monica, Parking Structure 4. Grade: C-
There are several identical parking structures around the Third Street Promenade and they are, collectively, some of the most perplexing examples of any kind of architecture of any era. Parking in one of these lots is like driving through an M.C. Escher drawing. You do not pass the same spaces on your way down from the top as you do on your way up. How this happens, I can’t explain, since I did not study quantum mechanics. This Möbius strip of concrete is further complicated by several phantom middle aisles that teleport you to seemingly random other parts of the garage, leading inevitably to a foreign exit on a different street from the one you initially came in from. Abandon all understanding of physics and space-time, ye who enter here. And be careful which elevator you use to get back to your car. You may have parked on level 6, but the wrong elevator will take you to a different level 6. And, possibly, 1953.
The Grove, anytime in December. Grade: D-
I went to The Grove on a Saturday to buy holiday presents. This was a bad idea. There were so many cars that it took an hour to make it through every level up to the top, only to realize there were no open spaces at all. It took another hour to make my way back down to the exit. Then the cashier charged me $2 because I didn’t get a validation, even though I never left my car. The only reason this isn’t an F is because it’s partially my own damn fault for going to The Grove on a Saturday in December.
Cardiff Avenue Parking Structure, Culver City. Grade: A
All the levels are named after movies. It’s delightful! I recommend The Karate Kid.
I would advise you never to park in West Hollywood but that’s a bit unnecessary because there are no parking spaces in West Hollywood for you to even consider. Every side street is permit-only now, and if you ever find an open metered spot on Sunset or Santa Monica you should put that up on Craigslist immediately as it will no doubt fetch you a pretty Bitcoin. But here’s a pro tip for you: just behind the strip mall on the south side of Sunset, the string of buildings with the Chin Chin and Le Petit Four, is a parking lot of such monumental proportions that you could live in an RV there for six months and nobody would notice. The lot serves maybe a dozen storefronts and no guards are really keeping track, so just park there and walk to wherever you’re going. You won’t get towed and you won’t get a ticket. This is one of my favorite Los Angeles secrets, but I’m fine parting with it, because I never plan on going to West Hollywood ever again.
Warner Brothers Studios, Lot A. Grade: A
All the levels are named after Looney Tunes characters. Adorable! I recommend Wile E. Coyote.
Trader Joe’s, Silver Lake. Grade: F-
Complaints about Trader Joe’s parking lots are so common as to be on the verge of cliché. But when you look deeper, you become struck with awe at how remarkably bad they are, and how each one is bad in exactly the same way as its brothers.
Each Trader Joe’s parking lot has at least two entrances that put the drivers who use one at loggerheads with the drivers using the other. Each has at least two separate zones of parking that look nothing like each other, connected in a string-of-pearls configuration with a single lane bottleneck connecting them. And each lot is notable for its massive size and inefficient allocation of spaces. Sure, you can play football in certain parts of a Trader Joe’s lot. But you can only fit three cars.
Once you notice the trends, you start to believe this must be intentional, a diabolical experiment in psychology that somehow primes us to buy boxed cereal knockoffs and cashew butter. Perhaps it’s a Soviet thing, this architecture designed to control. Who is this “Joe?” What is he trading? Sadly, you’ll never even get to ask, because you’re too busy fighting your fellow man for a place to leave your car.
Sunset Gower Studios, Gordon Parking Structure. Grade: F
This is commonly understood to be the worst parking garage of any studio backlot. It holds, I don’t know, six hundred cars? But that doesn’t stop them from packing in two thousand plus at any given moment. They have valets on hand, but not to park your car for you. These valets will direct you to a spot where you block at least four other cars from moving, any they take your keys so they can play automobile Tetris with your Prius if someone who got there before you needs to leave before you get back. Allow an extra half hour on either end of your meeting if you need to park here, or just find a metered space on Fountain.
International Creative Management. Grade: A
ICM has the best talent agency parking lot car wash in Los Angeles. It’s even better than any of the shopping mall parking lot car washes, like the Elite Auto Spa in Westfield Century City or the overpriced Grove Auto Spa in the parking garage at The Grove. And don’t even compare it to the parking lot car wash at The Parking Spot by the airport! That’s like a ten-year-old and a bucket compared to the ICM parking lot car wash.
Eric Spiegelman is a web producer in Los Angeles and the proprietor of Awl Music.