The city is embarking on an effort to beautify parking lots in downtown Minneapolis. But just where are they?

We took a list of licenses from the city's business licensing department and sketched this map (below) of the licensed lots in downtown Minneapolis. These are distinct from accessory lots, often free parking for customers, and multi-story parking ramps.

Several of these lots are already poised for development. Lots owned by the Star Tribune already being taken out of service to make way for the massive redevelopment of Downtown East.

The city has 125 licenses for surface lots that can charge by the hour, day, week, month or for a special event. Most of those -- about 70, by our count -- are located in the immediate downtown area.

While most of the lots are located outside the center of downtown, they remain a pervasive element of Hennepin Avenue and Downtown East.

City ordinances include a number of requirements for surface parking lots. Here are the highlights:

(1) A landscaped yard at least seven (7) feet wide shall be provided along the public street, sidewalk or pathway, except where a greater yard is required. If a parking facility contains over one hundred (100) parking spaces, the minimum required landscaped yard shall be increased to nine (9) feet in width.

(2) Screening consisting of either a masonry wall, fence, berm or hedge or combination thereof that forms a screen three (3) feet in height and not less than sixty (60) percent opaque shall be provided, except that where areas are devoted principally to the parking or loading of trucks or commercial vehicles of more than fifteen thousand (15,000) pounds screening six (6) feet in height and not less than sixty (60) percent opaque shall be required.

(3) Not less than one (1) tree shall be provided for each twenty-five (25) linear feet or fraction thereof of parking or loading area lot frontage.

Most lots are out of compliance with these requirements. Two lots owned by Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, for example, exemplify compliance and non-compliance.

The lot below features no landscaping along the sidewalk and its cars abut a wooden fence.

This lot just adjacent to the one above is strikingly different. It includes a landscaped buffer yard, tree plantings and an ornamental fence.