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Maximizing Self-Storage Land Use: Leveraging Zoning Allowances and Restrictions

By Bruce Jordan Comments
Continued from page 1


Many cities that lack a parking ordinance specific to self-storage will often lump self-storage with another land use like warehousing. The problem is warehousing can be employee-intensive and require considerably more parking than storage. Based on data from the Institute of Transportation Planners, a 100,000-square-foot self-storage facility would typically have a peak hour trip rate of 14 to 16 cars. We’ve convinced many cities that this data proves specific demand for parking and should be used as a measure of actual parking designated for self-storage.

One way to leverage parking and maximize building square footage is to designate parking in areas where you can’t build due to zoning requirements. A drive aisle that’s 28 feet wide allows for a 20-foot clear fire lane and 8 feet of parallel parking. Using the linear drive aisles’ 8-foot width enables you to add several parking spaces. In many cases, this strategy will get you to the required number of parking spaces while providing convenient access for customers. Maximizing the efficient use of parking is just another tool to increase the area of your facility.

Over/Under, Two-Story Ramp

Another strategy to maximize land use is to enable vehicle access to upper and lower levels of a two-story project. By manipulating a site’s topography for access, elevators, exit stairs and the machine room can often be eliminated.

One approach is an over-under concept in which the first floor is accessed from a lower drive aisle, and the second floor is accessed from the upper drive aisle. This increases the net-to-gross ratio and improves your project’s bottom line. Any time you can increase net square footage while holding gross square footage constant, your pro forma and profit will improve.

The self-storage over-under design concept

The same net-to-gross ratio benefits can be achieved on largely flat sites by incorporating a two-story ramp. In this case, two-story buildings can be designed in the center of the site, with one-story buildings on the perimeter. The center-up aisle is accessed via a 10 percent grade ramp between the two-story buildings to allow drive-aisle access to second-floor units. Access to first-floor units is provided from the perimeter drive aisles on grade. The result in both cases is a large increase in net rentable area.

Multi-story buildings with elevators are usually 75 percent efficient, while projects leveraging either the over-under or two-story ramp method are typically around 88 percent efficient. This means that for a multi-story, elevator-served project of 100,000 gross square feet, we’d get about 75,000 net rentable square feet. The same footprint designed with a two-story ramp or over-under concept would yield about 88,000 net rentable square feet. This represents considerable added value to your project.

There are many strategies to maximize land-use potential, but developing a thorough understanding of a jurisdiction’s zoning restrictions is essential to getting the most out of a given parcel. Taking the time to learn the land-use definitions in municipal ordinances and studying site-design options can result in a significant increase to your project’s bottom line.

Bruce Jordan is president of Jordan Architects Inc. He has more than 30 years of experience in architecture, preceded by an extensive background in construction and real estate development. His experience includes self-storage, professional office buildings, high-density residential projects, mixed-use projects, retail facilities, hotels, restaurants, industrial, commercial, and specialty projects such as museums and theme parks. For more information, call 949.388.8090; visit

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