When this opens later this monthApple’s new Norman Foster-designed headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., will be more than just a spaceship-like orb nestled in 175 acres of trees. It will have enough space to park 11,000 cars, an area far larger than the square footage of the current building.
Apple’s parking infrastructure serves as the opening anecdote of “Parkingeddon“, a survey of The Economist examining why humans devote so much land to storing stationary vehicles:
For 14,000 workers, Apple builds nearly 11,000 parking spaces. Many cars will be hidden under the main building, but most will pile up in two huge garages to the south. Total up all the parking spaces and the lanes and ramps that will allow cars to access them, and it’s clear that Apple is allocating a huge area for stationary vehicles. In total, the new headquarters will include 318,000 square meters of offices and laboratories. The car parks will occupy 325,000 square meters.
That’s nearly 3.5 million square feet, or about 80 acres dedicated to parking.
Did I mention the building was named apple park?
But before blaming the tech giant for paving heaven, like The Economist quickly points out, it’s not really Apple’s fault:
Apple is building 11,000 parking spaces not because it wants to but because Cupertino, the suburban city where the new headquarters is located, demands it. Cupertino has a requirement for every building. A developer who wants to build a building, for example, must provide two parking spaces per apartment, one of which must be covered.
Ah of course. Even the most cutting-edge new structures are subject to retrograde parking requirements, often the most outdated and outdated aspect of local zoning laws. An estimated 25,000 square miles of land nationwide is dedicated to parking our vehicles, an area roughly the size of West Virginia.
But Cupertino’s arcane parking minimums don’t just take up valuable space in the city (and at great cost to its biggest taxpayer, I might add). By prioritizing parking minimums, accommodating all these cars at Apple’s new headquarters will only exacerbate the region’s horrible traffic jam. In addition, even though the building will run on renewable energy, the emissions generated by all these vehicles will significantly increase its carbon footprint.
Apple knows this, which is why the company is funding a vast private shuttle transit system which transports its employees from San Francisco and other cities in the region. The plan for the new building also includes an on-campus bike-sharing system and parking for 2,000 bikes. Additionally, the company offers incentives to entice employees to use shuttles, carpooling, or bicycling, so by Apple’s own estimates, about 28% of its employees do not drive to work. And yet, the city needs far more parking than Apple employees and visitors will ever need.
Should Apple have pushed back more? It is interesting that the city demanded infrastructure funds from Apple to prepare the region for increased automotive demand. Apple is paying $1.3 million to the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority and Caltrans to improve local roads. One would think that the same reasoning would apply to solutions that might reduce the number of cars. What if that $1.3 million was spent on improving public transportation to better connect campus to Caltrain? What if the city demanded that instead of offering free parking, Apple had to charge employees to park? What if Apple had – gasp – moved to a city with better transportation?
A high-performance building and a forest of 9,000 trees is certainly better than what was on the site before. (It was once an aging Hewlett-Packard building surrounded by a huge above-ground parking lot.) Still, the the company promise to “turn miles of asphalt sprawl into a haven of green space” is really only partially true. Apple is actually making the city sprawl worse and cleverly distracting everyone from the problem with a giant black glass donut.