Apparently it is Possible to Have Too Much Parking

In zoning, we talk about “parking ratios”, how many parking spaces you’re required to build as a multiple of the number of residential units in a multi-family building.

Portland’s ratios can be as low as zero if you’re near a frequent transit line. But a recent review by Bureau of Planning and Sustainability staff (PDF) computed that since 2006, on average, we’re building about 0.6 parking spaces per residential unit (outside of the Central City).

An interesting situation is developing in downtown Brooklyn, where the required parking ratio is 0.4 spaces per unit – but only 22% of households own cars.

“The issue, officials say, lies with the large garages that the developers of new residential buildings have been required by zoning rules to construct. But with 13 subway lines and 15 bus routes in the area, many new residents choose to leave their cars behind, meaning the garages sit half-empty and take up precious space.”

The city is considering dropping the ratio to 0.2. Apparently, you CAN have too much parking…

Note: My phrasing above apparently confused some folks. Brooklyn, not Portland, is considering changing the ratio to 0.2.

55 Comments

55 Responses to Apparently it is Possible to Have Too Much Parking

  1. m
    December 7, 2012 at 8:58 am Link

    “But with 13 subway lines and 15 bus routes in the area…”

    Have you ever been to downtown Brooklyn? Portland is NOT Brooklyn and Streetcars are not Subways!! This is a silly post. Subways are RAPID transit. Streetcars are a joke unless they are on dedicated track and not mixed in with cars. I can (and regularly do) walk faster than a waiting a taking a streetcar.

  2. Nick theoldurbanist
    December 7, 2012 at 11:57 am Link

    He’s right. I lived in NYC for most of my life and know that Portland is not Brooklyn. We don’t even have the density for LRT, never mind full blown rapid transit.

  3. Bob R.
    December 7, 2012 at 12:43 pm Link

    Of course Portland isn’t Brooklyn. I don’t think anyone claimed otherwise.

    The point is to illustrate that government mandated parking minimums don’t sync up with real-world uses.

    The market demand for parking in Portland is going to be far different than that in Brooklyn. But why should either city (or ANY city) force property owners to provide parking?

    If these new, controversial apartment complexes turn out to be failures because they don’t provide on-site parking, and on-site parking is something that renters want, then those complexes will fail or under-perform and developers will stop building them.

    A typical Portland city block can very easily support 40 parking spaces, 30 if you allow for service alleys and a loading zone or two. So we shouldn’t even be talking about mandated parking minimums until a block is developed to 30+ residential units. Commercial blocks that need high turnover can achieve this through pricing parking (meters) rather than publicly-subsidized “free” parking (no meters). Transitional blocks can accomplish this with a combination of meters and residential permits, as has been proposed in NW.

  4. m
    December 7, 2012 at 2:00 pm Link

    Bob R.: If only it were that simple. I am a long time proponent of real mass transit, but what is happening in Portland right now is not providing parking for owners. There is a dedicated anti-car movement that wants to turn much of the city into the alphabet district in NW. This is different than simply being pro-bicycle. If you want to want to rely simply on market forces and push mass transit let’s do that. The street car is the biggest scam going. It is a terrible form of transit and does not encourage development but for the property tax abatements associated with lots nearby. Therefore, it actually accomplishes neither goal: rapid transit or development.

    Apparently Portland wants to rely on market forces when it is convenient but intervene when it is not. My point is that for the city of Portland to want to go to 0.2 and cite Brooklyn as an example is a joke.

  5. EngineerScotty
    December 7, 2012 at 3:17 pm Link

    Still,

    Why should private property owners be forced to provide parking?

    Two reasons are often given:

    * A scarcity of on-street parking, which existing residents and uses may depend on;

    * Concerns about spillover parking–people parking on other people’s private property.

    The latter can be dealt with signs and/or tow trucks. (That said, the involuntary towing industry could use some serious reform). The former–why is that a problem? Why should people be entitled to a certain level of on-street parking, free of charge?

    One other step between free residential permits and meters is PAID residential permits: A resident in a dense neighborhood can pay for the privelege of parking a car for as long as he/she wants (other than in time-limited spaces), for a flat fee (lower than the rate of short-term spaces). Another option would be for a resident to “lease” a parking space on the street–at which point, only the permit holder (or other persons he/she permits) could park in that space.

  6. Bob R.
    December 7, 2012 at 3:44 pm Link

    for the city of Portland to want to go to 0.2 and cite Brooklyn as an example

    When did the City of Portland officially express such a want?

  7. Bob R.
    December 7, 2012 at 3:53 pm Link

    but for the property tax abatements associated with lots nearby

    But what I’m talking about is the new neighborhood apartment projects that some developers are putting up. The controversy isn’t subsidies … most of these projects are unsubsidized and not on the streetcar line. The controversy is that off-street parking isn’t mandated.

  8. Jason McHuff
    December 7, 2012 at 4:07 pm Link

    The correct solution is to allow developers to build however little parking they want and, if on-street parking really becomes a problem, put in meters and/or permits and let the marketplace work, as well as possibly allow nearby independent off-street parking.

  9. m
    December 7, 2012 at 4:11 pm Link

    “Why should private property owners be forced to provide parking?”

    I suspect the people who make these arguments have not lived in a city where parking truly is at a premium. The issue I have with all of this is that I do not think the arguments are driven by a quest to rely on market forces but is actually an anti-car agenda that makes free market arguments when it is convenient for them. The anti-car movement relies on assumptions that are not consistent with actual population growth but instead are driven by a Utopian (I would say 19th century) mentality that we should all be biking and walking. I enjoy biking and support pro bicycle ideas such as building the Sullivan’s gulch trail but I do not support the anti-car agenda.

    To answer the specific question: Parking should be required for new development because cars are in fact not evil but a safe, efficient, and comfortable form of transportation. They are becoming increasingly efficient and will soon enough be all or mostly electric. They will continue to be the primary form of transportation in this city for decades to come. Like it or not, that is the REALITY. If you want to change that, we need to build real mass transit: high efficient buses that run frequently coupled with max trains on a stand alone tracks. Forced congestion by eliminating parking is not about improved transportation. It’s about social engineering with an anti-car slant. The streetcar is ridiculously expensive and is actually counterproductive as a transportation solution.

  10. m
    December 7, 2012 at 4:14 pm Link

    “Why should private property owners be forced to provide parking?”

    I suspect the people who make these arguments have not lived in a city where parking truly is at a premium. The issue I have with all of this is that I do not think the arguments are driven by a quest to rely on market forces but is actually an anti-car agenda that makes free market arguments when it is convenient for them. The anti-car movement relies on assumptions that are not consistent with actual population growth but instead are driven by a Utopian (I would say 19th century) mentality that we should all be biking and walking. I enjoy biking and support pro bicycle ideas such as building the Sullivan’s gulch trail but I do not support the anti-car agenda.

    To answer the specific question: Parking should be required for new development because cars are in fact not evil but a safe, efficient, and comfortable form of transportation. They are becoming increasingly efficient and will soon enough be all or mostly electric. They will continue to be the primary form of transportation in this city for decades to come. Like it or not, that is the REALITY. If you want to change that, we need to build real mass transit: high efficient buses that run frequently coupled with max trains on a stand alone tracks. Forced congestion by eliminating parking is not about improved transportation. It’s about social engineering with an anti-car slant. The streetcar is ridiculously expensive and is actually counterproductive as a transportation solution.

  11. m
    December 7, 2012 at 4:21 pm Link

    “When did the City of Portland officially express such a want?”

    Mr. Smith states it above as something the city is considering.

  12. Allan
    December 7, 2012 at 4:39 pm Link

    I totally agree with you Jason – there’s nothing wrong with a paid public or private parking garage to solve a lack of parking provided by developers.

    Existing conditions should be taken into account when new developments go in. If there is already a parking problem, allowing new 0-car multi-unit (4+) development should pay into a pot that would eventually be used for solving this problem. My opinion is that if its challenging to provide parking on-site, development should not be discouraged just by requiring the parking. However if its easy and there is a demand, letting all developers off the hook with nothing is walking down a dangerous path towards an angry populace. Let the market decide where the parking should be – where its most affordable.

    One of the side-effects of all of our policies is that we’re going to sort our society based on people choosing to live where its convenient to use their chosen form of transportation. Maybe that’s ok, maybe not.

  13. W. K. Lis
    December 7, 2012 at 4:49 pm Link

    Some have a car “just in case”. With auto sharing, even the numbers quoted can be lower, “just in case” one needs a car to move furniture or some other large item or items.

  14. Chris I
    December 7, 2012 at 5:20 pm Link

    M,

    Assuming you get what you want, and the city requires off-street parking for all development, so what would you say to those that choose to not own a car? Because of your policies, they will be paying more every month for an apartment with a parking space that they don’t use.

  15. m
    December 7, 2012 at 6:17 pm Link

    “what would you say to those that choose to not own a car?”

    There already dozens (if not hundreds) of buildings in this city without parking. But you already know that. If you add more buildings with parking, those who want parking are more likely to choose those buildings. We could also have new buildings without parking for the people you described if they sign an agreement saying they truly won’t own a car. But we both know a super majority will actually own a car.

    The folks arguing for the so called free market are missing a key point: There is no such thing as a free market when it comes to gov’t owned and controlled transportation methods. That is true whether it is streets, bike lanes, max lines, etc. It is all owned and controlled by the city. The issue is what policies do we want to promote. I am pro bicycle. But unlike some others not also anti-car – it ignores the real world.

  16. dwainedibbly
    December 7, 2012 at 6:41 pm Link

    There should be no on-street parking, as a general rule. Use that space for bicycle & pedestrian infrastructure. Store private vehicles in private space. By allowing zero parking buildings we’re forcing that minority of residents who have cars to park in public space. Instead, set a ratio of less than 1.

    What ratio is best? Beats me. I don’t solve problems, I just throw out ideas. :)

  17. dwainedibbly
    December 7, 2012 at 7:00 pm Link

    There should be no on-street parking, as a general rule. Use that space for bicycle & pedestrian infrastructure. Store private vehicles in private space. By allowing zero parking buildings we’re forcing that minority of residents who have cars to park in public space. Instead, set a ratio of less than 1.

    What ratio is best? Beats me. I don’t solve problems, I just throw out ideas. :)

  18. Chris Smith
    December 7, 2012 at 7:18 pm Link

    Mr. Smith states it above as something the city is considering.

    What I said is that in some cases (along frequent transit corridors) it is already zero. The Planning and Sustainability Commission is in the process of examining whether that policy needs to be changed.

    Note that zero is a minimum, it allows the market to make the decision. For a decade, the market (mostly lenders) would not go below 0.8 as a minimum. Post-recession, some are now a lot more flexible. But strangely, that flexibility seems to only occur in places with relatively copious available on-street parking… Maybe the market is not so dumb?

  19. Ron Swaren
    December 7, 2012 at 8:09 pm Link

    “Note that zero is a minimum, it allows the market to make the decision.”

    Basically, corporate built housing is going to be your only option. And eventually higher prices on everything. The only times when we have had sharp drops in housing costs (and everything else tends to go with it) was when the timber industry crashed, and the most recent correction, due to the trade deficit.

  20. bjcefola
    December 7, 2012 at 11:36 pm Link

    m, if street parking is a problem why should the cost of solving that problem be born exclusively by those living in multi-family housing? They should pay for off-street parking so that current residents can continue to avoid doing so? The amount of space taken by a car parked curbside doesn’t depend on the owner’s address.

    You accuse defenders of the current parking policy of harboring an anti-car bias, and no doubt to some extent that’s true. But from what I’ve seen the effort to require more parking reflects a thinly veiled bias against multi-family housing. There is nothing admirable in that.

  21. Bob R.
    December 8, 2012 at 12:01 am Link

    “The folks arguing for the so called free market are missing a key point: There is no such thing as a free market when it comes to gov’t owned and controlled transportation methods.”

    Certainly the role of public infrastructure (ownership and/or subsidy) is a topic for much debate. But what’s at issue here is parking on private property. How much, if any, parking on private property should be mandated by government?

    In much of town (even Portland), there are mandates. But along certain corridors, mandates have been reduced or eliminated (some decades ago), and developers are now experimenting with differing ratios of private parking, including none. What’s so wrong with that?

    But unlike some others not also anti-car

    Most people I know in any sort of power aren’t “anti-car”, that’s a misnomer (perhaps even a smear).

    It’s like saying someone who says a diet shouldn’t consist primarily of chocolate is anti-chocolate. Chocolate is good, tasty, even nutritious and beneficial in the right combination. But it shouldn’t be the only way, a heavily-promoted way, to sustain one’s diet.

  22. m
    December 8, 2012 at 8:47 am Link

    “Most people I know in any sort of power aren’t “anti-car”, that’s a misnomer (perhaps even a smear).”

    The current Head of the PDC used to have a blog that was literally called “Cars are Evil”. If that isn’t evidence enough of anti-car bias in key decision makers in this town, I don’t know what else to say.

    Prior to moving to Portland in the 1990′s I lived in cities in other parts of the country where parking truly was at a premium. Much of that scarcity was due to the fact that most of the infrastructure was put in place before the explosion of cars in the mid 20th century. Portland has an opportunity to live in the real world, acknowledge that car are not going away and plan accordingly. Based on some of the comments I see on this site, I suspect that some of you have never lived in a city where parking was truly at a premium.

    I do not want to live in a city that wants to recreate the Alphabet District mistakes. With regard to that area, several people have tried to develop more off street parking and the city has resisted at every turn. In other words, the so called free market tried to respond to the problem and has been thwarted by the gov’t. With regard to new development, if the concern is residents paying for new parking, the city could subsidize the difference instead of boondoggles in wasting millions on things like a convention center hotel which if we were in an actual free market environment would never get built. Portland is so far from free market the PDC is actually now getting into the business of picking and choosing which industries to subsidize/encourage. Their mission of urban renewal is coming to an end and they need to justify their existence. The PDC needs to be shut down. That money could be used for basic service and if you like, to subsidized the acknowledgement of reality: we need to provide space for cares because they aren’t going away.

  23. Ron Swaren
    December 8, 2012 at 10:05 am Link

    Younger people tend to think that what they are doing will:
    1. GO on forever
    2. Be adopted by everyone else, too.

    True, you can rezone areas of Portland to have a proximity between where they live and where they work. Ten years later are they going to want to be living or working in the same circumstances? Maybe some, but most people change. Yeah, it can be an improvement–not argiung there–except as elsewhere stated Portland’s problem isn’t just transit. It also has suffered through a lot of bad,and short lived architecture. The Pearl is fine, with what will be long lasting buildings, scenic views, walkable attractions. But ever since the post World War 2 era, apartment construction has become notoriously cheap in quality.

    I don’t see any underlying necessity for the small, efficiency apartments with no parking. Visitors will have cars, some residents will have cars, people visiting nearby businesses or facilities (such as a school) will have cars. I think the Rose Quarter area will turn into a parking jumble as current single family blocks get replaced by apartments. And then the bridges between high density downtown and high density East town will be burdened, too. At least the towers would have underground parking.

    Lastly why should it be an underlying objective that Portland grows rapidly—and also gets a lot of federal and state transportation dollars. Don’t Oregon’s smaller communities, in Central Eastern and Southern Oregon need something, too? Sure would be better than more tweakers.
    The bicycling numbers will swell in the summertime but drop significantly when the rains set in, except for possible short trips, and go to nothing as soon as we start having below freezing cold snaps again. Therefore we also need a transit system that works all the time, too. This should be affordable—-so that other areas of the state can get what they need too.

  24. Bob R.
    December 8, 2012 at 10:44 am Link

    If that isn’t evidence enough of anti-car bias in key decision makers in this town, I don’t know what else to say.

    Oh for goodness sake, it took two seconds on Google to find the text from that “cars are evil” blog’s About page:

    I don’t really believe that cars are evil. In fact, my wife and I own two cars: a 1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee and a 2001 Honda Accord. We live a typical upper middle class life with three school age kids and the attendant duties that come with this type of life. We depend on our cars for daily tasks and, under oath, would admit that our cars have performed reliably beyond any reasonable expectations.

    My issue is not so much with cars themselves – in fact, the invention and proliferation of the automobile have contributed greatly to the growth and economic progress of this country over the past century. My concern is the extent to which we have allowed cars to dominate our lives. After much reflection on this topic, I have come to the conclusion that we live in a culture of increasing isolation, consumerism, poor health and blatant disregard for the environment, and that our obsessive attachment to our cars bears a significant amount of the blame for this culture.

    Given the above statement, you might expect to find a website filled with strident rhetoric blasting carmakers and lengthy research papers on the perils of global warming. That is neither my style nor the most effective use of this space. This space is intended to be a collection of personal observations, often humorous, and insights from other sources, about the impact of cars on our lives and thoughts about how to create a less intrusive role for cars in our lives. Let’s face it – most of us depend on cars for certain essential functions on our lives and that will never change. The goal is to return the car to its original role as a practical tool that allows us to do things we wouldn’t be able to do on foot or other non-mechanized form of transportation. We weren’t meant to spend a large percentage of our lives inside a nicely upholstered metal box. We need to step out of the box and start living.

    So the guy picked a provocative title for his blog and apparently nobody bothered to read what he was actually saying. He’s not “anti-car” and your assertion remains unproven.

  25. Bob R.
    December 8, 2012 at 10:53 am Link

    Younger people tend to think that what they are doing will: 1. GO on forever 2. Be adopted by everyone else, too.

    Well once you’ve shouted the kids get off the lawn, please explain why the demographic make-up of people I see at public meetings pushing for various issues tends to skew older. :-)

    But seriously, there’s plenty of market for these kinds of units for people of all ages. The proportion of older, retired folks who don’t need or want to shuffle off to a retirement community but otherwise can’t drive is increasing. Many of these retirees would like to be able to walk to shops and participate in their larger community. Car-free apartments close to transit and commercial corridors suit this.

    My own grandmother (now 102!) walked over 6 blocks each way to get groceries well into her 90′s. Never had a driver’s license.

    I don’t see any underlying necessity for the small, efficiency apartments with no parking. Visitors will have cars, some residents will have cars, people visiting nearby businesses or facilities (such as a school) will have cars.

    Visitors and shoppers are a great use for street parking. Like I said before, a typical Portland city block can support 40 cars of street parking, no problem. When you get beyond that, you need creative solutions. Market pricing is one such mechanism.

  26. Ron Swaren
    December 8, 2012 at 12:13 pm Link

    “Well once you’ve shouted the kids get off the lawn,’

    No, I usually have to shout at the dog owners to get their dogs out of the yard. Different problem. May require a fence.

    “please explain why the demographic make-up of people I see at public meetings pushing for various issues tends to skew older. ” The proportion of older, retired folks who don’t need or want to shuffle off to a retirement community but otherwise can’t drive is increasing. Many of these retirees would like to be able to walk to shops and participate in their larger community. Car-free apartments close to transit and commercial corridors suit this.”

    I think that’s a good point Bob. A big variable would be whether retirement planning is going to involve owned real estate (either reverse mortgages, home health visits or condominiums that are purchased–like Legends) or rented. In an inflationary market, which is what is developing here, the latter would still be the most prudent choice especially as longevity increases. I think the towers are a better solution, but there should be some exploration as to how these can become more affordable. There is far less labor going into high rise condos than suburban tract houses (at least in the actual unit) and virtually no maintenance so they should be affordable. So promoting them where you have amenities but the land costs are lower could make sense–like Beaverton or Troutdale.

    Probably some enterprising assisted living specialist will buy up some of the mini apartments and turn them into elderhostels?

    My mother didn’t drive either, which is why I knew something about Rose City Transit, and the BLUE Buses and even heard about the “galloping goose”!! from dad( which I guess was an old Portland streetcar line or something.)

    “Visitors and shoppers are a great use for street parking. Like I said before, a typical Portland city block can support 40 cars of street parking, no problem. When you get beyond that, you need creative solutions. ”

    Sure. Take typical parking density in NW Portland, and then add a special event! Even in areas close to schools when you have special events the parking gets fierce.

  27. m
    December 8, 2012 at 12:40 pm Link

    Bob:

    He is in fact anti-car. He would like to move us all away from car use as much as possible by artificially controlling the so called free market but then cite the need to rely on the free market when it is convenient. Most of the apartment developments in recent years relied on tax abatements to be developed (e.g., Pearl and South Waterfront). That is hardly free market.

    I would like to reduce car use as well. The way to do that is to give people real alternatives. Tri-Met is destroying our bus system before our very eyes and the streetcar is a scam of the highest order. If you keep building more apartments with out adequate parking, you will soon enough price out people who want cars (the poor) but those who can afford it will still own cars.

    Have you ever lived in a city where parking is actually at a premium? I highly suspect you haven’t. What emerges is a poor/rich dichotomy. Almost everyone actually wants a car, but only those who can afford one (the rich), use one in cities where it is at a premium. Hardly equitable.

    If you honestly believe that an anti-car agenda hasn’t emerged in this city in recent years with decisions being made by people like the head of the PDC, you aren’t paying attention. I find it highly amusing when planner types want to try control as many variables and plan as much as possible for their agenda but then suddenly invoke the free market idea when it suits them. Why does the city resist private landowners’ attempts to put more parking in NW alphabet district but instead want to implement meters where there is already time zones with signs by relying on the pseudo free market?

  28. ws
    December 8, 2012 at 1:13 pm Link

    “Almost everyone actually wants a car…”

    I’d doubt people living in Manhattan want a car. The point is, they don’t need one and if we keep building car-based landscapes, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    My personal beliefs is we need cars in cities. Every city has them. It’s just a matter of what degree.

    Allowing for no parking apartments is not anti-car.

    Nickel and diming car owners for other infrastructure is, in my opinion, a larger anti-car agenda. Not that supporting alternative modes from pots of car user-fees is bad, just not having any bicycle user-fees is adding to the acerbic nature of discussion regarding cars or not cars in our city.

  29. m
    December 8, 2012 at 2:03 pm Link

    “I’d doubt people living in Manhattan want a car.”

    Actually most people in Manhattan WANT a car and those who can afford to store it (the very rich), own and use one. But you don’t NEED a car in Manhattan to live comfortably because of the RAPID transit system. Therefore, most people forgo their want of a car due to their income status and are satisfied their need for reliable rapid transit via the subway.

    Portland does not have adequate rapid transit to satisfy the need for a car. Continued cuts to the bus system and expansion of the joke that is the streetcar system will do nothing to change that.

  30. Bob R.
    December 8, 2012 at 2:28 pm Link

    He is in fact anti-car. He would like to move us all away from car use as much as possible

    “As much as possible” seems a tad extreme, given that fact that’s not what he actually wrote. But if you have a way to read his mind and divine that he is in fact anti-car, go right ahead. I don’t have to accept your assertion as proof, however.

    but then cite the need to rely on the free market when it is convenient.

    “Convenient”, or perhaps more likely, correctly identifying when market mechanisms are a good solution. We don’t have to have government involvement in every part of urban life, and we don’t have to turn everything 100% over to the “market” either. Finding that blend somewhere in the middle however doesn’t seem to please the more ardent “free market” true believers.

  31. Chris Smith
    December 8, 2012 at 2:42 pm Link

    Why does the city resist private landowners’ attempts to put more parking in NW alphabet district but instead want to implement meters where there is already time zones with signs by relying on the pseudo free market?

    In fact, in 2003, the City adopted a zoning overlay that allowed parking structures in 6 locations that would otherwise not be allowed (the neighborhood association supported five of those, the sixth generated another 10 years of the parking wars).

    There are several locations on NW 23rd that could have been developed for parking structures in the existing commercial zoning.

    But “the market” has built no parking structures. Is that a failure of the City? Or is it the choice of the private landowners? I’m pretty sure it’s the latter.

  32. m
    December 8, 2012 at 2:52 pm Link

    Thanks for confirming that you have never lived in a city where parking is truly at a premium. Your comments therefore come from only theory and not experience. Blending is fine, but they need to be honest about it. It’s like the surveys Metro puts out. If you slant the question enough and limit the choices, you can get the results you want.

  33. halverbk
    December 8, 2012 at 2:56 pm Link

    My concern with the lack of off-street parking required in these projects is the impact on the neighborhood. Not just the people who live there, but the people who are going to live there. The local evidence that I have heard is people in these new units are going to have cars at around a 0.6 ratio. They may not use their cars as much as others, but many will still have them. Interestingly, if they do not use them, the cars will be sitting on the street all day making it even more difficult for others to find parking during that time. The other point from above is that the lenders seem to have green-lighted this type of project in relatively large numbers. If the market determines they fail because of their lack of off-street parking, the neighborhood is stuck with them until some combination of parking permits, parking meters and parking lots are created.

    The 60+ project I am most familiar with has perhaps 40 parking spots (assuming that parking is allowed on the strip next to the park) within 400 feet of building. Those that park next to the MAX station would be bumped to another stop. No issue there. But walking 400 feet from car to home is definitely not the norm. The next project in the area (when it comes) will have very little off-street parking. I am concerned the lenders and the market are not looking at this issue with that level of detail. The city can make sure that there is some reasonable level of parking available so that the livability in our current environment is good.

  34. ws
    December 8, 2012 at 3:06 pm Link

    “Actually most people in Manhattan WANT a car and those who can afford to store it (the very rich), own and use one.”

    This is complete nonsensical argument backed by nothing. Sure, if you gave the option of everyone having the option of free car parking, I’m sure lots of people would choose that — but it’s a simple, spatial impossibility that everyone own a car in Manhattan and drive it where they damn well please — let alone have the ability to store said vehicle within Manhattan Island.

    It’s an impossibility, but people aren’t going to want to operate a car when they wouldn’t be able to pull it off the storage lot because there’s so much congestion from everyone else driving their cars.

    Yes, owning a car is a class-based privilege (i.e., a premium as you describe it).

    Did you just learn this? It’s an urban reality.

  35. ws
    December 8, 2012 at 3:13 pm Link

    “Not just the people who live there, but the people who are going to live there. The local evidence that I have heard is people in these new units are going to have cars at around a 0.6 ratio.”

    I’m concerned about this too, but I feel it could better be solved with TriMet bus pass subsidies for renters and better car-sharing.

    However, I noticed a condo on Williams with parking spaces that aren’t ever close to full.

    People renting in dense areas need to be more respectful of their car ownership on the neighborhood too.

    And I’ve said it before, the city needs to get aggressive on employment density downtown. People won’t need to own cars if there’s more jobs downtown, especially higher paying jobs that stay within the city limits rather than the Silicon Forest and what not.

    Very important, but never gets talked about.

  36. m
    December 8, 2012 at 4:55 pm Link

    “People renting in dense areas need to be more respectful of their car ownership on the neighborhood too.”

    Yeah, like that’s gonna happen.

    With regard to my so called nonsensical argument, I was responding to a nonsensical comparison between Portland and Manhattan (i.e., 2 cities with vastly different density levels and transit systems).

    Thanks for sharing.

  37. Bob R.
    December 8, 2012 at 5:18 pm Link

    The original post linked to an article about Brooklyn, not Manhattan, and no comparison was made to Portland. I’ve been to both places, they are quite different (and as you have so often pointed out, Portland is very different from those places.)

    But I didn’t see the original post as a comparison, rather the article about Brooklyn illustrates the point that parking mandates don’t necessarily reflect what people need or want in reality.

    The ratio for Portland is going to be different than Brooklyn, obviously. But why not (continue to) relax the rules and see what people will buy or rent? If indeed people don’t want units without parking, they won’t generate enough revenue for developers to keep building them.

  38. EngineerScotty
    December 8, 2012 at 5:26 pm Link

    M,

    What we need, and is useful, is housing diversity.

    Some people want to live in dense, urban neighborhoods where many amenities are within walking distance, and ownership of an automobile is expensive. Others want to live in less dense environments, where parking is ample, but you have to drive to get a gallon of milk.

    There is, at present, a surplus of the latter in the Portland area; and most of the residential neighborhoods in the greater metro area are zoned as low- or medium-density suburbs–with multifamily dwellings limited, retail and commerce segregated from homes, and only a handful of units per acre.

    On the other hand, there appears to be a shortage of higher-density, walkable urban neighborhoods. Any perusal of a realtor’s website will reveal that homes in urban neighborhoods are considerably more expensive than are equivalent (in terms of size, condition, and amenities) homes in your average suburb. There is a market for walkable urbanism, which is a good thing.

    That said, the US went through several decades in the latter half of the 20th century, in which cities and urbanism were associated with crime and poverty. Racist attitudes (specifically, a reaction to court-mandated desegregation of urban school districts) figured into this as well, which is why the phrase “white flight” is part of the American lexicon. Many of the zoning laws on the books operate under the assumption that high-density = poverty, and limit density to keep the riff-raff out. As municipal governments generally don’t like to attract riff-raff (’tis bad for the tax base), exclusionary zoning practices became the norm throughout the land, leading to a landscape in which low densities abounded, and it was convenient to use automobiles, and near impossible not to.

    Now, the worm is turning again. Increased gas prices, increased concern for the environment, and the telecommunications revolution have had the result that many of the younger generations regard owning a car as a burden rather than a symbol of freedom–and desire to live in places where they can live without them. But a decent no-car lifestyle requires some combination of quality transit and walkable neighborhoods. It seems reasonable public policy to change zoning codes in walkable neighborhoods with quality transit, to let more people live there–particularly because additional residents often increases the other amenities. (More riders = more frequent transit. More customers = more and healthier businesses).

    The folks who complain seem to be a) those who don’t like walkable urbanism to begin with, or b) existing residents (often with single-family dwellings) who don’t want their “share” of the public urban amenities (such as on-street parking) to decrease, and/or still associated density with poverty. One notorious local blogger here in town reacts to every newly-proposed apartment as though a housing project is being built next door–but these places are attracting hipsters and not hoodlums.

    M… are you living in a neighborhood in which additional apartments are being built? Are you concerned about no longer having parking for your guests, or about property values going down, or about vice and crime moving into your own community? Or is your concern more abstract? If you don’t wish to provide any information about yourself, feel free to not answer, but your perspective would be interesting.

  39. m
    December 8, 2012 at 5:28 pm Link

    Bob:

    I was responding to ws’s mention of Manhattan. I am familiar with the difference between Brooklyn and Manhattan. Glad to hear you have visited NYC.

    This is becoming tedious IMHO. Thank you all for your comments.

  40. ws
    December 8, 2012 at 5:55 pm Link

    @ M

    I used Manhattan as an outlier to show that density *does work*. I never said they were the same as Portland (do you really think we don’t know the difference?). It’s a comparison between the two cities to expose the differences and why it is — as well as an argument for/against parking regs and the appropriate level a neighborhood needs.

    If we keep fighting density and regulation of parking at all costs, the lack of density (in Portland) will be a self-fulfilling prophecy, as I mentioned earlier.

    Imagine if every single apartment in NW Portland had on-site parking. It would reduce its density and would add curb cuts along every block. That’s not pedestrian friendly.

    Parking-less apartments in appropriate neighborhoods shouldn’t be a problem. Parking-less aparments that tear down nice, historic homes and buildings that cast a shadow in “typically” residential neighborhoods, is, however, a major livability concern.

    Look on the bright side. We’ve finally found out what libertarian anti-planner schemes can produce: no regulation of private property including government mandated on-site parking.

  41. bjcefola
    December 9, 2012 at 9:11 am Link

    Parking-less aparments that tear down nice, historic homes and buildings that cast a shadow in “typically” residential neighborhoods, is, however, a major livability concern.

    These apartments are going up directly along commercial corridors, not plopped in the middle of residential areas. Whatever “shadow” multi-family housing casts, why is it worse than the “shadow” of existing commercial uses?

    A couple observations from experience living adjacent to a commercial corridor:
    - Street parking is already scarce, as employees and customers park on side streets.
    - Because of this “strangers” on the sidewalks are the norm, not the exception.
    - Livability problems from homeless/drunks dwarf anything related to density.
    - All of this is priced into the cost of housing. To the extent those features make an area unappealing they show up in relatively lower prices compared to homes a block or two further in.

    Just as people can pay more to get housing with off-street parking if that’s important to them, they can pay more and live further away from commercial corridors if they don’t want to deal with associated problems (and benefits).

  42. ws
    December 9, 2012 at 10:53 am Link

    “These apartments are going up directly along commercial corridors, not plopped in the middle of residential areas. Whatever “shadow” multi-family housing casts, why is it worse than the “shadow” of existing commercial uses?”

    That’s not an excuse to tear down 100 year-old homes.

    Density as an end result will fail. It needs to be placed correctly, which included building at heights consistent with the historic neighborhood. (i.e., Belmont is 3-4 stories. A 10 story building, as an example, would not be consistent with this).

    Downtown is different. Build high as you’d like but take into consideration light access.

  43. Chris I
    December 9, 2012 at 6:38 pm Link

    You don’t need an excuse to tear down 100-year old homes. I see no reason to limit what developers choose to do with buildings around here. Why should we be preserving homes based on age alone? What is so special about them? There are thousands of them in Portland.

  44. ws
    December 9, 2012 at 8:01 pm Link

    Chris I:

    So if a developer wanted to destroy the Hollywood Theater and put up a condo, they should be allowed to do that?

    Feel free to go around on this site and see what gems of buildings were torn down for parking lots.

    http://vintageportland.wordpress.com/

    Maybe reassess your stance that there’s reasons we preserve architecture instead of destroying it blatantly without regard for its historic — and civic — importance.

  45. bjcefola
    December 9, 2012 at 10:54 pm Link

    ws, which 100 year old homes should be saved? What about 99 year old homes? What about homes that are falling apart? Ugly homes?

    If you think heritage is not adequately addressed by the city than push for tougher preservation. That would be an interesting conversation, touching on what was worth saving and what price as a community we’re willing to pay and how that cost should be allocated.

    But what isn’t interesting is to hear about arbitrarily imposing the full cost on a small group (owners who want to sell to developers, residents of multi-family housing) just because we can. That’s no better than what parking advocates are doing.

  46. jon
    December 9, 2012 at 10:58 pm Link

    BS I know it hard for people who worship their almighty car to fathom but you can live very easily in Portland without a car, and I do. Dont force me to pay for a parking space with my apartment which I do not want or need, I also dont want wasteland around my apartment for storing cars, I want that precious land used for stores and services that I can use.

  47. jon
    December 9, 2012 at 11:00 pm Link

    BS I know it hard for people who worship their almighty car to fathom but you can live very easily in Portland without a car, and I do. Dont force me to pay for a parking space with my apartment which I do not want or need, I also dont want wasteland around my apartment for storing cars, I want that precious land used for stores and services that I can use.

  48. EngineerScotty
    December 9, 2012 at 11:47 pm Link

    A big difference between the Hollywood Theater and a “100-year-old” home, which may or may not have architectural value worth preserving.

  49. ws
    December 10, 2012 at 12:02 am Link

    Of course there’s a big difference between Hollywood Theater and an old home.

    That’s why I used it as an example as Chris I didn’t want to limit developers.

    Remember, about half of the homes in Boise/Eliot were destroyed from the hospital and I5 construction.

    http://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/66097

    I’m not saying this is happening, but it’s a concern (and an off-topic concern, apparently).

  50. Bob R.
    December 10, 2012 at 12:21 am Link

    Speaking as the owner of a 100+ year old home, I feel I can see the issue from both perspectives because when I bought this property in 2002 it was distressed (trashed rental, no kitchen! bad wiring, hazards galore) and it had a comp. plan overlay which allowed for dense, multifamily housing of the sort which is rather controversial now.

    A potential outcome (of many plans) was to habitate for awhile, fix some obvious problems cheaply, and then possibly redevelop someday or sell to a developer.

    But then darned it if, as we remodeled and learned new skills and made the place ours, we sort of fell in love with it. (In the way that one might love an adopted, fleabitten, malformed stray pet.)

    So now, after much fixing up, the idea is to gradually expand the house to add bedrooms and perhaps an ADU and generally increase the number of future “units” on the site without actually tearing the place down — we still intend to live here quite awhile and would like someone else to appreciate what we’ve done someday.

    But the nice thing about it is that these choices have been our decision. We are relatively free here to add bedrooms without also having to add parking spaces.

    (Think about that for a moment… What if parking ratios didn’t just apply to “units” but to single-family bedrooms… There’s be quite an outcry from people who already have driveways if they were forced to pave over their remaining lawn if they wanted to add a granny flat off of the back porch.)

    This experience has also taught me that a structure can be so far “gone” that proper remodeling becomes so labor-intensive that simply replacing the structure with a new one is very economical and tempting, if perhaps not as charming.

    Anyway, I think we should respect the older properties we have around here, at least help foster an attitude of respect … and find ways to enhance, relocate, adapt and reuse… something never gets to be “historic” unless it actually survives a few generations. But how do we do that without trapping a property owner into a structure they’d prefer to replace with something far more marketable (or prefer to sell to someone who can develop)?

    (And yes, I do realize this has larger ramifications including issues relating to properties outside of the UGB, subdividing, and property rights in general. The world is complicated! :-) )

  51. bjcefola
    December 10, 2012 at 8:06 am Link

    At the risk of going off-topic, here are before and after photos on the Hollywood Theater showing the visual impact of the apartments. Opinions will vary, but in my view the streetscape is improved by the new construction. The empty lot looked like a missing tooth in a smile.

  52. Bob R.
    December 10, 2012 at 8:36 am Link

    And if you go back further in time, you can see that there was once a building (also without off-street parking IIRC) on that long-vacant lot:

    http://vintageportland.wordpress.com/2011/06/29/ne-sandy-blvd-1952/

  53. Ron Swaren
    December 10, 2012 at 10:23 am Link

    “BS I know it hard for people who worship their almighty car to fathom but you can live very easily in Portland without a car, and I do. Dont force me to pay for a parking space with my apartment which I do not want or need, I also dont want wasteland around my apartment for storing cars, I want that precious land used for stores and services that I can use.”

    So if the weather gets too bad for people to cycle then do they move away to somewhere else, temporarily? If their health circumstances change for a considerable length of time, do they move out? Seems like it would be hard to move when you’re ill or injured, but hey what do I know?

    For the last several weeks there has been a low grade flu or cold virus going around, so you think people ought to subject themselves to more physical stress and come down with the full blown thing, or risk pneumonia? Then, if we get an arctic high pressure that drops temps below freezing or gives us freezing rain, then just soldier on with the bikes? (I’m waiting to see those west hills residents keep up their daily commutes, especially as their knees get repeatedly stressed from climbing the hill.)

    It’s hard for me to agree that there really is still a free market in the city. Who are you kidding? Once any zoning starts there is no free market. My lot is zoned r-2, so the limit is 2 units—and probably an ADU. But I can’t put six here. Free market? Sheesh.

    And, I find the stores close to me are too expensive and though I sometimes will bike to the bank ( a mile away) or go on the Springwater trail to downtown, getting to the lower cost stores is something I can better do in combination with other trips by auto.

    But getting back to the bike apartments, specifically, why aren’t these being union-built? A lot of the buildings in the Pearl were (and I worked on a few of them as well as some in Seattle) but these small studio apartment buildings are mostly scab labor. I’m going to ask at one of the next union meetings for them to protest. The condominium towers are, IMO, a much better investment, architecturally; yet they are unaffordable to most.

  54. Bob R.
    December 10, 2012 at 11:37 am Link

    Ron, there are many transportation alternatives for apartments which don’t have off-street parking … people aren’t forced to only walk or ride bikes. That’s never been the case, nor will it be.

    The places in Portland where zoning allows these units are along transit lines. Maybe not the greatest service in all cases (“frequent service” has been eroded), it it is there. There’s two competing car-sharing services in town, and there’s cabs, TriMet LIFT, and medical transport services, depending on your circumstances.

    As mentioned earlier, my grandmother lived independently well into her 90′s (and something like 15 years of that as a widow) without ever owning a car. Yes, occasionally relatives would take her to appointments or to the mall, or a neighbor would check in, but that’s the point of living in a relatively dense, walkable area: You’re near other people and services, and driving becomes less necessary.

  55. Lenny Anderson
    December 10, 2012 at 3:01 pm Link

    I strongly support the construction of apartments without parking. Most neighborhoods have a ton of parking in the public ROW. Parking increases costs and/or creates dead spaces in the streetscape…think a nice smile with a couple of teeth missing. I would guess that the local retail folks would love to have this kind of development which brings 100s of customers without the financial burden of car ownership to their doorsteps. Haven’t heard from them.
    re the Hollywood Theatre, I do wonder why the City did not offer to swap the ROW on the westside of the new building for public space on the eastside, between the new apartment and the theater. That was a missed opportunity.

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