As a continuation of the previous post, Salon (coincidentally) had a great article this morning on the plague that is parking lots in urban areas. Which, interestingly enough, is one thing I found in my research last night that cities like Vancouver and Portland were working to get rid of: vast, desolate, land-suckers which are anathema to density and intelligent land use.
In the 1920's a government regulation, the "minimum parking requirement" law, went into affect for new buildings. Today the American Planning Association has a 181-page book detailing all the parking requirement for cities.
Some cities, though, like Vancouver, Portland and Seattle, are flagrantly violating or ignoring laws on the books in order to create tight, active, walkable urban spaces without huge swaths of land being used for parking. It seems to be working. Many cities have also been taking empty parking lots (mostly in downtown areas) and simply building directly on top of them, leaving sidewalks, but building all the way to the street to not only fill in space but conserve resources.
The picture above is actually one that I found last night. This very same Safeway in Portland used to sit on a huge, dark and mostly empty parking lot. Then they rebuilt the store with housing on top and next to it, thus creating a much more economical and practical (not to mention aesthetically pleasing) use of space.
Anyway, the Salon article is worth a look if you care at all about this kind of stuff.