Voting Against the Grain on Parking

Yesterday, the Planning and Sustainability Commission voted to recommend new minimum parking requirements for multi-family buildings in transit corridors, with one dissenting vote.

The immediate question on Twitter: “was @chrissmithus the dissenting vote?” I was not! It was my colleague Katherine Schultz, an architect who has experience actually building stuff, and knows what the impacts of the new policy will be.

Not that I’m afraid to cast a dissenting vote – last year I was the lone no vote on the freeway expansion component of the N/NE Quadrant Plan. I didn’t change the outcome, but I got to make a point.

So why not hold tight and vote to continue zero parking minimums for apartments near transit corridors? Because the outcome is in the balance and there are two very good reasons for the PSC to influence it:

1) In response to very loud concerns from neighborhoods over the recent spate of buildings with no parking (unheard of for the first decade it was allowed in code, but now apparently in favor by lenders post-recession), City Council directed us to respond expeditiously, and I’m confident that if we didn’t produce a policy, Council would come up with one I’d like less (and may still – more on that below).

2) Our current policy may point in the right direction, but is incomplete, and can’t ultimately be successful without a lot more work.

Here are some of the policy issues we need to think about:

An orderly transition

Most Portland neighborhoods today manage parking as ‘a commons’ relying on the cooperative action of individuals to manage a relatively unconstrained asset. As neighborhood centers get denser, that’s not going to work. Our vision for our City doesn’t accommodate building so much parking that we’ll just ‘have enough for everybody’.

So we’re going to need a clear transition plan as centers grow up. At what point do we form a TMA (Transportation Management Association)? When do permits become appropriate? Meters?

In the long run parking will have to be either a market good (priced) or a heavily regulated good, but we have no plan or triggers on how to make the transition. We need to develop policy to empower neighborhoods to develop in an orderly way that works for homeowners, renters and businesses alike.

Are we selling out the parking requirements too cheaply?

Being able to avoid building parking is a huge economic boon to developers. Shouldn’t we ask for something back in exchange? Some of the things we might ask for:

  • Some units affordable to folks at 60% of median family income or lower

  • Accessible units for folks with physical disabilities – or just those of us getting older
  • A diversity of units (include some 2- and 3-bedroom units)
  • Ground floor active uses to meet the needs of the new neighbors

Are our permit systems robust enough?

We also need to think about our parking permit policies. PBOT’s existing parking permit programs are about preserving access during business hours. But as we see residents shifting to non-auto modes for commuting, while still owning cars, the impact of long-term storage of cars that see little use becomes an issue. Cars generate value when they’re moving, not when they’re parked. Do we want to think about discouraging long-term parking (perhaps shifting people to car sharing) to help keep our neighborhoods more vibrant?

Is there a windfall to be captured?

The first developers into a neighborhood also have an advantage – they can effectively absorb any excess supply of on-street parking, making zero parking buildings more feasible. Later projects will not have that advantage. Should we have some way to capture the value of that initial advantage and put it back into the neighborhood?

All of these should be looked at in the Comp Plan process now underway.

Tighter alignment with transit

And I’m actually very happy about one amendment we adopted – the standard for the transit service that earns the no parking exemption is tightened from 20 min peak hour to TriMet’s Frequent Service system (which targets 15 minutes or better all day – although we’re not at that standard in all cases today). Some proponents of higher density development expressed concern that this reduces the number of properties that can be developed with minimal parking. But the fact is that we have an oversupply of zoned capacity for housing. We don’t need density everywhere – we need density to cluster in neighborhood and town centers, and aligning to the higher level of service will better drive that clustering.

What we did

Given that we have a long way to go on these policy questions, it’s hard to stand pat on a simple zero minimum. So I reluctantly agree that we need a short-term “bandaid”. We opted to require that larger buildings (40 units and above) build at least some parking (1 space for every 4 units, with some allowances to reduce this by adding things like car share spaces). But this should also at least partially curb the impact of these buildings on our neighborhoods until we have a better policy tools to address the issues.

The geometry and size of these larger buildings will insulate them from some of the cost issues around creating the parking.

Hopefully that will hold us until we can sort out the bigger picture in the Comp Plan.

What happens next

At the Planning and Sustainability Commission we had about equal testimony between folks who wanted stronger parking requirements, and folks who wanted to leave the zero minimums in effect.

The last time we were at Council, the ratio was more like 4-to-1 favoring the folks who want an immediate regulatory solution.

I suspect that at City Council there will be strongly voiced requests to lower the trigger to 20 units. I fear that would take some good smaller projects and cause them to no longer pencil.

I hope the folks who argued in favor of not requiring more parking will turn out to make their case as eloquently at Council as they did before us! Either way, it’s going to be a good debate. See you there.

68 Comments

68 Responses to Voting Against the Grain on Parking

  1. Cora Potter
    March 14, 2013 at 7:44 am Link

    Thank you for the amendment to tighten up what qualifies as frequent service! I was disappointed when I didn’t see that in the original proposal.

    This will definitely help us direct development toward the areas that are appropriate for the level of density that supports low car/ no car housing. And, I think we’ll have an easier time convincing new residents that storing a car isn’t worth the cost.

  2. Chris I
    March 14, 2013 at 8:01 am Link

    “Being able to avoid building parking is a huge economic boon to developers. Shouldn’t we ask for something back in exchange?”

    We get lower unit prices. The market controls what a developer can charge for a unit. No one is going to pay the same amount for a unit with parking as they would for a unit without (unless they are forced to pay for a unit with parking because they have no other options).

    The problem with car-free buildings is that the street parking is free or underpriced. Fix that problem, and the issue of “freeloading renters” will go away.

  3. Grant
    March 14, 2013 at 9:01 am Link

    We get lower unit prices.

    I would love to see evidence to back up that oft-repeated claim. Here’s an example: The Albert is the new 4 story building on Williams and Beech, which has off-street parking. There is another building under construction right across the street, which will not have parking. Will the developer of the new building charge less, or will he match the per-sf rate his neighbor/competitor is charging, and pocket the difference? I suspect the latter. Maybe I have less faith in the altruistic tendencies of developers, but until there is an apples-to-apples comparison, I am very skeptical of anyone claiming that rents will be lower in buildings with no parking.

  4. Chris Smith
    March 14, 2013 at 9:04 am Link

    Unfortunately while we have an historically low vacancy rate, there’s not much relationship between construction costs and rents. Rents are driven by demand at the moment.

    But that shouldn’t be the case forever.

  5. Chris I
    March 14, 2013 at 9:30 am Link

    Grant,

    That sounds like a great case study. We will have to see what the comparable costs end up at. It is hard to find 1:1 comparisons, because each building is unique. But honestly, it doesn’t seem like something that needs much evidence. Would you pay the same for both of those apartments, knowing that at one of them you could own and park a car, and at the other you couldn’t? The estimated cost of garage parking is $20,000 per spot. I find it hard to believe that this does not translate to some amount of value in rent.

  6. m
    March 14, 2013 at 9:35 am Link

    “We get lower unit prices.”

    Wrong. The developer gets more money because he can build more units and charge the same knowing that people can park on the street. Only when parking becomes a premium (e.g., Alphabet district) does this even become remotely an issue.

    40 Units is much too large as a limit. And even those limits have loopholes (e.g., car share) as currently proposed. If 40 remains the limit, there will be a large # of 39 unit buildings. You can count on it.

    Developers have ZERO concern with the impact on the neighborhood in which they are building. They are interested in maximizing their profit. Period. Less/no onsite parking = more units = more profits.

    Anyone who argues otherwise is either incredibly naive or they think the residents in these impacted neighborhoods are idiots.

  7. Chris I
    March 14, 2013 at 9:43 am Link

    M,

    Use The Milano as an example. Are people with cars renting these? Where are these new residents parking for free? The immediate area does not have a ton of on-street parking, and what is there is already highly utilized.

    What about apartments that were built back in the 1920s without parking? What about my house? I don’t have a garage or off-street parking. Am I a freeloader? Should the city make us add off-street parking?

  8. benschon
    March 14, 2013 at 10:14 am Link

    “We get lower unit prices” is a statement that is backed up by empirical evidence. See this paper, especially the discussion beginning on page 12.

    http://www.vtpi.org/park-hou.pdf

    On a typical infill site, even the rule change proposed by staff/PSC will raise rental prices $50/month and eliminate 5 apartments, at the same profit margin for the developer. (see Table B, lines 1 and 2)

    http://www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/article/420062

    The reason prices are still quite high for units in new buildings is because of enormous pent-up demand for rental housing in our wonderful close-in neighborhoods. The fact is, these units would be even more expensive if they are required to have parking.

  9. m
    March 14, 2013 at 10:16 am Link

    Chris:

    The Milano is not in a residential neighborhood. In addition, I alos believe it has about 12 parking spaces for cars and 60 units. How many would be required under the latest proposals? This is also very close to Max.

    If people want to live 100 feet East of I-5 next to the Rose Garden and Convention Center, good for them. Did anyone complain about the building of the Milano? I doubt it.

    Were any tax abatements granted for the Milano?

  10. benschon
    March 14, 2013 at 11:06 am Link

    Also, escalating demand, land prices, and property values indicate that new development near transit streets increases the desirability of existing neighborhoods. This is exactly opposite of resident claims that no-parking apartments “are ruining the neighborhood,” and “lowering property values.”

  11. Reza
    March 14, 2013 at 11:53 am Link

    I’m one of those people that thinks that zero minimum parking requirements fall flat if the area is not served by extremely high-quality transit (preferably in both north-south, and east-west directions). To me, high-quality transit is very frequent, reliable, and runs late into the evening. This means ideally 12 minute headways or better until at least 9-10 PM, with 15-20 minute service until well past midnight (3 AM on weekends).

    So I have a problem tying this policy to whatever TriMet decides is “Frequent Service”. As you note, TriMet can’t even meet the 15 minute standard, which is still absurdly low. If you really want to foster a car-free lifestyle, you need bus and train service that allows for spontaneous use, which does not rely on using real-time arrivals or timetables. Like Jarrett Walker says, frequency is freedom. And to have true freedom, you really need headways of 5-10 minutes running all day, and we are just not there in any part of the Metro besides the Banfield MAX line, on some of the heavily-used bus lines during peak hours, and on the 10th/11th streetcar spine (if they don’t end up bunching).

    I think the policy should only be in effect in areas where the property is within a quarter mile (or half-mile if HCT) of true frequent service in both north-south and east-west directions. This will severely limit the number of zero parking minimum development possible, but that will just be another impetus to invest heavily in future transit service to the point where all people, and just those who bike, could reliably live car-free.

  12. Reza
    March 14, 2013 at 11:55 am Link

    Correction: And **not** just those who bike…

  13. bjcefola
    March 14, 2013 at 12:10 pm Link

    I didn’t expect it to get taken up at this stage, but I think it’s essential that neighborhoods get the ability to waive new parking requirements in exchange for other design features. Parking costs money. Some locations may benefit more from having that money spent in other ways- such as the creation of a public plaza or seating area, putting in a new stop light, or a reduction in building height. Just yesterday it was reported that the Boise neighborhood reached a GNA with a developer in part because of the inclusion of retail along the length of the building. That very feature is the one Richmond successfully objected to before LUBA in getting the 37th and Division building stopped. Different neighborhoods have different values and priorities. They should be able to act on them.

    As far as windfalls for developers, they build where they make money. If they don’t make money building in the city they won’t, they’ll build in suburbs and across the river in Washington. The negative consequences of that in sprawl, pollution, traffic congestion and de-facto segregation should be obvious. Unless one is a fan of tax subsidies to offset the cost of burdensome regulations, developers making money by building in the city is not a bad thing.

    Speaking of windfalls, how about the one for homeowners who chose not to buy off-street parking, and who now seek privileged access to public street parking? Does it make sense for the city to protect those homeowners from the consequences of their choices, and if so why do it in a way that punishes others?

  14. Michael, Portland Afoot
    March 14, 2013 at 12:26 pm Link

    I’ve decided that I’m journalistically comfortable reporting as fact the notion that no-parking apartments put downward pressure on nearby housing prices.

    First: no parking requirements = more housing units in a given area.

    Second: the “downward pressure” claim is not the same as saying (falsely) “the new units will be cheaper than the old ones.”

    1) Newly built units are usually nicer than old ones. Therefore people are willing to pay more for them. The housing units whose prices are affected by the presence of more new construction are all the *other* units in the same housing market, which now face more competition for renters.

    2) “Put downward pressure on the price” is not the same as “lower the price.” The downward pressure described in (1) is going to be offset, immediately surrounding a new apartment building, by the same increased desirability that encouraged the construction of the new building in the first place. So the downward pressure in the local housing market is more likely to show up 20 blocks away — but even then, it’s just that the price of units in that neighborhood isn’t going to escalate as quickly as it otherwise would have.

    I’m always looking for reasons that I’m wrong, so feel free to pile on.

  15. Chris I
    March 14, 2013 at 12:36 pm Link

    m,

    So what projects are you concerned with, then? The ones on Division?

    Why is it okay for the city to force the private sector to provide off-street parking, but not okay for it to charge for private storage on the public right of way?

  16. Nick theoldurbanist
    March 14, 2013 at 12:53 pm Link

    Reza: The ideal frequency levels that you mention are very unrealistic for a mid-size city such as Portland with low/medium population density.

    15 minute base/30 minute evening headways are much more realistic levels on FS lines, with closer headways during the day on very some busy lines; e.g., #72.

    I am satisfied with that; when I moved from NYC 12 years ago, I know what the score was going to be here transit-wise, and thus I acclimated.

  17. al m
    March 14, 2013 at 1:06 pm Link

    People want their cars.
    One of the major reasons people stay in my building is I have a private parking lot.

    As always, government thwarts the will of the people by prohibiting parking.

    The will of the oligarchs is law these days.

  18. Chris Smith
    March 14, 2013 at 1:23 pm Link

    As always, government thwarts the will of the people by prohibiting parking.

    Al, let’s be perfectly clear. We are NOT prohibiting parking. A developer is still welcome to build parking up to a maximum which is not changing. The issue in question is whether to REQUIRE a minimum amount of parking.

  19. EngineerScotty
    March 14, 2013 at 1:23 pm Link

    “Prohibiting parking” is not the same as “requiring free parking”.

    Other than in rather limited circumstances, I’m not aware of any existing off-street parking lots being forced to close or become something else, or of a broad program of taking away on-street parking just because. (Sometimes it gets repurposed for something else).

    But nobody is suggesting that it should be impossible for anyone to park a car, ever.

  20. m
    March 14, 2013 at 1:30 pm Link

    Chris:

    I am concerned with the buildings put up in existing residential neighborhoods that are currently mostly single family home.

    But this is about more than just one building or specific buildings. It is about a much bigger movement being pushed by some who think cars are inherently evil (comments to that effect have been made on this site) and that we should do everything we can to discourage their use through intentionally increasing congestion (what they call ‘traffic calming’) and forced density by providing tax abatements to developers through urban renewal and TOD.

    After tremendous amounts of planning and market intervention through regulations and things like Urban Renewal, they suddenly bring up the idea of a ‘free market’ for parking. It is beyond absurd IMO. Fully 25% of the city’s budget goes to Urban Renewal.

    Portland has neither the density nor the infrastructure to recreate Manhattan, but that is what they want. It will never happen. TriMet is more of a property development company than it is a transportation agency these days and it will go bankrupt long before they achieve their goal. It is well on its way with their current management and puppet Board.

  21. al m
    March 14, 2013 at 1:32 pm Link

    The issue in question is whether to REQUIRE a minimum amount of parking.

    ~~~> Ok, I didn’t read the post closely enough I guess.

  22. EngineerScotty
    March 14, 2013 at 2:01 pm Link

    m,

    Traffic calming is not the same thing as “intentionally increasing congestion”. Most traffic calming happens on uncongested residential streets, and the point is to slow cars down so that the pedestrian environment is safe(r), not to make it utterly unpleasant to drive.

    “Road diets”–intentionally reducing the through capacity of a road, may be another matter. In some cases, a road diet may primarily be about safety, and can actually help with traffic throughput–a common example of this is converting many four-lane streets without turning refuges, into three-lane streets (one through lane in each direction, and a center turn refuge) and bike lanes–and possibly additional right-turn lanes at intersections, and bus pullouts at stops. This slows down traffic, and discourages unsafe passing maneuvers–but can improve traffic flow and throughput by getting bicycles and left-turners out of the flow of traffic. About the only folks that these conversions disadvantage are the speed demons who like to weave through traffic as though it were a highway, who know can no longer (legally) pass the car in front of them.

    Nobody thinks that Portland will turn into Manhattan, I don’t know where that strawman comes from and/or why it has so much traction. We’ve got a 40-story height limit citywide, and outside of downtown, the zoning code limits height to well below that. One does not have to be Manhattan or Hong Kong to be a thriving city.

    And nobody is “forcing density”–unless you are referring to density of parking places. Developers are generally free to build at lower densities than zoning codes allow (zoning codes specify maximums, after all).

  23. Reza
    March 14, 2013 at 2:26 pm Link

    @ Nick theoldurbanist:

    What you say may be true about city size, but why should Portland have to settle for such mediocre transit frequencies and service duration?

    In my experience and among my friends, people who live in the city and don’t regularly bike almost always own a car. And even if they do have a bike and use it every day to commute, they still likely have a car for weekend errands and trips. How can we encourage building these zero minimum parking developments if we are not going to have the requisite transit to support car-free living? Like I said, not everybody wants to bike, so if you don’t regularly bike and live in one of these no-parking buildings and only have 15-20 minute headway service (going only east-west or north-south) at best within 1/4 mile, you are still likely going to have a car and park it on-street for free at the cost of the public taxpayer.

  24. EngineerScotty
    March 14, 2013 at 3:39 pm Link

    300 square-feet micro-apartments are now available in the Pearl:

    http://www.kgw.com/home/Micro-apartments-open-in-Portlands-Pearl-Dist-197881221.html

    Hmm. 300 square feet–that’s about the interior dimensions of a TriMet bus. Hey–I know what TriMet can do with the used busses it takes out of service, and all the free parking that some people want to make sure remains available. :)

  25. bjcefola
    March 14, 2013 at 5:08 pm Link

    What is the evidence that “being able to avoid building parking is a huge economic boon to developers”? Is there a study showing that buildings without parking generate a higher rate of return than those with parking? Profit isn’t driven by construction cost or rent alone, but by the margin between them.

    If housing without parking is such a cherry why does any new construction have parking? Do people think the builders behind the nearly 50% of new housing that includes parking are just stupid?

  26. EngineerScotty
    March 14, 2013 at 5:35 pm Link

    bjcefola,

    1) In many places, parking remains mandatory for new construction. The controversial exemption only applies to parts of Portland, well-served by transit, and PDC is recommending that “well-served” be tightened up.

    2) In transit-poor areas, building without parking would be stupid. There are no developers considering building parking-free apartments in Happy Valley or Tualatin or Cornelius, even if they could legally get away with it. It’s only within Portland, where one can actually live car-free and not miss it, that this becomes an attractive option for builders.

    3) A lot of construction standards are dictated by lenders as well as by the law.

  27. Lenny Anderson
    March 14, 2013 at 5:42 pm Link

    Parking lots are urban blight and should be replaced with housing, stores, offices, parks, just about anything but auto storage.
    Note that zoning keeps these new apartments along transit corridors, so nothing will ever get built within low density single family neighborhoods. Having more residents in multi-family housing along these corridors will increase the retail and other activity there as well, including more transit ridership (leading to more service we hope!)

  28. Chris Smith
    March 14, 2013 at 5:43 pm Link

    Many (most) developers I have spoken to believe parking gets subsidizes by other elements of projects, i.e., the difference in rent you can command with parking over without is less than enough to amortize the cost to build it.

    In a lot of cases lenders require parking because they don’t believe housing can be sold/rented without it. Clearly that’s changing.

  29. dwainedibbly
    March 14, 2013 at 5:51 pm Link

    Please read Mia Birk’s book. One of the biggest problems that they had in creating cycling infrastructure was resistance to removing on-street parking. If we force all cars to park on the street, we’re going to have major problems expanding infrastructure in the future as we try to build out the Bike Plan.

    The 25% requirement seems like a good compromise. It creates enough parking for some people now without forcing too much parking into projects. Residents who want to park can pay higher rent or (if condo) can buy their spaces.

    Eventually, if people really do give up cars, the parking areas can be turned into garden spaces or, if underground, into storage spaces or other amenities for the residents.

  30. bjcefola
    March 14, 2013 at 6:06 pm Link

    Scotty, at the commission hearing a city official indicated that a little under 50% of recent apartment construction included parking. I don’t recall the exact specifications, if it was just the inner city or including areas east of 205, but it definitely was not Cornelius or Tualatin.

    Again though, is there ANY evidence that construction without parking offers a higher return than construction with parking? Given how frequently I see the claim surely someone can point to something substantial to back it up?

  31. al m
    March 14, 2013 at 6:16 pm Link

    Ya know what?
    Cars are going to extinct on their own, it will happen, that is 100% certain.

    Why won’t the powers that be just allow it to play out on its own?

  32. EngineerScotty
    March 14, 2013 at 6:29 pm Link

    bjcefola,

    Turning land into apartments, especially in an in-demand urban area, makes money. The more land than can be built up, the more money.

    Turning land into parking lots, does not.

    An average parking space is about 120 square feet, not including any driveways. If we are talking about a 4-story building, that’s 480 square feet. 800 square feet is generally spacious for a 2-bedroom apartment, one bedroom and studio apartments are smaller.

    Depending on the number of stories of the building, parking can get very expensive, very quickly.

  33. bjcefola
    March 14, 2013 at 7:24 pm Link

    Scotty, I’m not contesting that building parking costs money. I’m contesting the idea that the developer eats that cost rather than passing it on to tenants.

  34. Joseph E
    March 14, 2013 at 8:33 pm Link

    2 years ago, I lived in Long Beach, CA, in a neighborhood 2 miles west of the center of the city with free but crowded street parking. You could park on the street for free, but sometimes it required circling around to find a spot, especially if you got home after 7 pm. Since my job often brought me home late and I used our (1) car to get to diverse work sites, both places were moved had off-street parking. I would often end up looking at listings for apartments without parking, and they were generally $150 to $200 cheaper than a place with 2 off-street spaces. For example, we paid $1200 for our second place in a 12-unit building with parking, while older buildings with back yards and similar sized units but no parking went for $1000. So an off-street space cost $100 a month, about. One of my friends actually rented a space in a church lot for $50 a month, but it was only for over-night use (after 9 pm I think) and was a few blocks away.

    Portland currently has only a handful of neighborhoods with limited parking. But parking is still valuable. Our current 2bd house near Hollywood is only $1200 a month, partly because it lacks any off-street parking (most similar places are $1400 in the area); I also think we are getting a good deal.

    The problem is, the 200 square feet needed for parking plus parking access would be worth over $300 a month as residential rental space. If parking is worth even $100 a month, it is less than 1/3 the price of that space as residential. And building 200 square feet of 1st-floor parking garage isn’t much cheaper than building 200 square feet of an apartment. So the only way to include parking is charge more for a similarly-sized unit – probably about 20% more for a 2bd, even worse for a 1bd or studio. And due to FAR and heigh limits, that parking space reduces the number of units that can be built, which can make the whole development unprofitable.

    I currently don’t own a car, but I could. Why should I, as the renter of an old house without parking, or my landlord, have some sort of priority over future residents who may not want off-street parking?

    If parking gets too full, new buildings will include some parking due to free market reasons, once the value of an off-street parking gets up near $150 a month.

    Pricing on-street parking at market rates is the “sustainable” solution, and is both free-market, libertarian, green and pro-jobs. Even the NIMBYs who want to make parking-free buildings illegal will not really benefit in the long-term if they are owners, because they will be constraining the value of their own land. The only people who would benefit are current renters at parking-free buildings.

  35. Joseph E
    March 14, 2013 at 8:35 pm Link

    2 years ago, I lived in Long Beach, CA, in a neighborhood 2 miles west of the center of the city with free but crowded street parking. You could park on the street for free, but sometimes it required circling around to find a spot, especially if you got home after 7 pm. Since my job often brought me home late and I used our (1) car to get to diverse work sites, both places were moved had off-street parking. I would often end up looking at listings for apartments without parking, and they were generally $150 to $200 cheaper than a place with 2 off-street spaces. For example, we paid $1200 for our second place in a 12-unit building with parking, while older buildings with back yards and similar sized units but no parking went for $1000. So an off-street space cost $100 a month, about. One of my friends actually rented a space in a church lot for $50 a month, but it was only for over-night use (after 9 pm I think) and was a few blocks away.

    Portland currently has only a handful of neighborhoods with limited parking. But parking is still valuable. Our current 2bd house near Hollywood is only $1200 a month, partly because it lacks any off-street parking (most similar places are $1400 in the area); I also think we are getting a good deal.

    The problem is, the 200 square feet needed for parking plus parking access would be worth over $300 a month as residential rental space. If parking is worth even $100 a month, it is less than 1/3 the price of that space as residential. And building 200 square feet of 1st-floor parking garage isn’t much cheaper than building 200 square feet of an apartment. So the only way to include parking is charge more for a similarly-sized unit – probably about 20% more for a 2bd, even worse for a 1bd or studio. And due to FAR and heigh limits, that parking space reduces the number of units that can be built, which can make the whole development unprofitable.

    I currently don’t own a car, but I could. Why should I, as the renter of an old house without parking, or my landlord, have some sort of priority over future residents who may not want off-street parking?

    If parking gets too full, new buildings will include some parking due to free market reasons, once the value of an off-street parking gets up near $150 a month.

    Pricing on-street parking at market rates is the “sustainable” solution, and is both free-market, libertarian, green and pro-jobs. Even the NIMBYs who want to make parking-free buildings illegal will not really benefit in the long-term if they are owners, because they will be constraining the value of their own land. The only people who would benefit are current renters at parking-free buildings who own cars and park on the street.

  36. bjcefola
    March 14, 2013 at 10:22 pm Link

    m, with respect to urban renewal I’d ask you to consider something. If it weren’t for the large redevelopment projects subsidized by urban renewal such as the pearl district and south waterfront, where would all that housing demand have gone?

    Some of it would have gone to the suburbs, but considering those residents opted to live in the most urban fashion possible I expect a lot of them would stay close-in. How much redevelopment pressure would the inner east side face then?

    For those who want to keep everything the same in the neighborhoods I think urban renewal’s been a friend more than an enemy.

  37. Wanderer
    March 15, 2013 at 2:48 pm Link

    “This building will turn our city into Manhattan” is just a routine NIMBY trope, used everywhere. It has no connection to the reality of Portland or anywhere else. In Berkeley, people would routinely say that four story apartment buildings were Manhattanizing their neighborhoods. There’s a bit of a way to go, given that Berkeley is less than 1/6 the density of Manhattan, and Portland is at about 1/15.

  38. m
    March 15, 2013 at 4:32 pm Link

    Wanderer:

    I am not against more buildings. I am against putting up more buildings while ignoring the reality that most of these people will own cars. Requiring parking for larger developments (in my opinion 15-20 or greater) is just plain common sense. Part of the recent outcry came when folks from the city made statements with a straight face that they believed these folks wouldn’t own cars. A rather large “BS” call emerged in response and sparked some of the recent comments.

    bjcefola:
    If people want to live there, I have no issue with developers putting up buildings with adequate parking but we as taxpayers shouldn’t be subsidizing developers through property tax abatements.

    Also, I understand the policy reasons behind UR, but maybe you can consider this: How is it ok for the Education UR district to be approved when it clearly is not a blighted neighborhood and most of the land is already tax exempt and will therefore not result in increased tax revenues which is supposed to be the purpose of TIF?

    The very liberal Jerry Brown of CA sees UR for what it really is: a scam put forth by developers.

  39. zefwagner
    March 15, 2013 at 6:41 pm Link

    The biggest flaw I see in the zoning change is that a developer building a 39-unit building does not have to provide any parking, but if they build a 40-unit building they suddenly have to provide 10 parking spots. That is really weird to have a sudden jump like that. I would have preferred to see something like “.25 parking spots for each unit in excess of 40.” I suspect we are going to see some developments where they build two 39-unit buildings side by side, rather than one 78-unit building. Maybe that would be a good thing to break up building mass, but it also wastes space due to setbacks and such.

  40. Joe R.
    March 16, 2013 at 10:39 am Link

    Chris,

    I’m surprised you were supportive of the change in what’s considered eligible “frequent service”. The premise behind the existing code section is that if one can travel to and from work via transit, they can live without a car relatively easily. Residents can walk, bike, or carshare for other daily activities if they live in a mixed-use neighborhood, with such destinations less than 2 miles away. It’s true of where I live out on NE Glisan, as I witness with several of my neighbors and myself. So I think that part of the existing code makes sense.

    Many of these corridors have 10-15 minute service during the peak periods and 15-25 minutes throughout the day, and perhaps 30 minutes later in the evening. Adding more transit dependent people along these routes would increase demand and justify increased service levels to everyone’s benefit.

    However, the opposite scenario which the PSC just passed will likely lead to stagnant or declining transit service levels. The provision of transit service and demand for it must go hand in hand. If the City requires a 1 space per unit for new development on these “near-Frequent Service” corridors, they will develop at lower densities and lack much incentive for people to take the bus. The result is little to no increase in transit service and a stagnant transportation mode share.

    I’m fine with 0.25 parking ratios of larger development projects, but I think this change will stifle small infill development the most. If this amendment is passed by City Council, plenty of R1 lots near me will be designed solely around how to provide parking, rather than creating more compatible infill development. How do you fit 5 parking spaces on a 5,000 square foot lot, particularly when there are very few alleyways in the city? Easy.. you create a podium parking garage and build two stories on top of that. Talk about increased development costs! And the height and mass will not fit within smaller scale residential neighborhoods. This is a HUGE change to residential neighborhoods and isn’t being adequately considered by City planning staff.

  41. bjcefola
    March 16, 2013 at 6:42 pm Link

    m, if you’re against tax subsidies why not argue against tax subsidies? Why support policies like parking minimums that by reducing opportunities for small scale redevelopment strengthen the demand for large scale redevelopment, the kind most likely to acquire subsidies?

  42. m
    March 16, 2013 at 8:39 pm Link

    Because tax subsidies can be changed. Once buildings go in without parking, it is too late (e.g., the Alphabet district in NW). And three buildings near each other with 39 units has the same impact as one large building with 117 units.

  43. doug
    March 16, 2013 at 9:29 pm Link

    I am afraid that good larger projects (that are not to permitting yet) may already be going by the wayside just because of the knowledge that the 40 unit threshold is the highest they can hope for.

    Lowering the thresholds means the city will be less able to meet it’s Comp Plan goals. Putting density along Transit Streets was one plan that might have worked. Centers are less likely to work if they require upzoning deeper into single family neighborhoods. Certainly the “Central City” option, which goes out to Chavez Blvd., would require a lot of upzoning. And East Portland doesn’t have the sidewalks. West Portland is concerned about environmental areas (and their “rural character”). So can we meet the Comp Plan goals of housing units at all?

  44. Chris Smith
    March 16, 2013 at 9:41 pm Link

    I have very little concern that we can meet the Comp Plan housing targets, focusing on centers and frequent service transit corridors. I think the frequent service amendment supports the comp plan rather than detracting from it.

  45. bjcefola
    March 17, 2013 at 8:32 am Link

    m, parking can be managed regardless of what is built by either managing demand (meters/permits) or supply (build a public parking garage). Moreover, a lot of people seem to like NW Portland just the way it is.

  46. m
    March 17, 2013 at 11:26 am Link

    I don’t want it to have to be “managed.” I want the people who increase the density to be responsible their impact. A lot of people seem to like NW Portland just the way it is just a lot of people like how their neighborhoods currently are and resisting changes to their neighborhood. Interesting reasoning. You still haven’t answered my question as to how the Education UR are can be ok when the neighborhood is not blighted and contains most tax exempt property.

  47. al m
    March 17, 2013 at 11:45 am Link

    I don’t want it to have to be “managed.” I want the people who increase the density to be responsible their impact. A lot of people seem to like NW Portland just the way it is just a lot of people like how their neighborhoods currently are and resisting changes to their neighborhood.

    ~~~>I second this motion

  48. Doug
    March 17, 2013 at 1:31 pm Link

    Chris:

    I have also heard that there is enough capacity in the zoning along transit streets to meet the comp plan housing goals using the Corridors approach. However, there are then some constraints, such as currently economically functional one- and two-story buildings that will not likely be replaced. That lowers the number of potential sites. I believe there has been some work by BPS to calculate that effect in, too.

    I believe that was done with the current code as a base. If you factor in parking requirements beyond 40 units it would seem that this becomes closer to the realm of not meeting those goals. Then, if Council decides to drop that threshold to 20 units, is the city then unable to meet that threshold with existing zoning?

  49. bjcefola
    March 17, 2013 at 7:18 pm Link

    m, if you want people to be responsible for their actions why are you supporting a solution that doesn’t depend on people’s actions, but rather on what kind of housing they live in? How does the impact of someone’s decision to park on the street change if they live in a house, an apartment, or if they’re just visiting a friend or a local business? The end result is still the same- a car parked on the street. If the action is the same why shouldn’t the accountability be the same?

    People are free to seek influence over how their neighborhood develops, but the rules need to apply to everyone. Demanding that some people pay for off-street parking so that others can avoid doing so isn’t democratic rule, it’s a caste system. And it’s intensely counterproductive if you are opposed to urban renewal.

    With respect to that, I think the less urban renewal the better. I wouldn’t mind at all if we went the way of California. I’d welcome an end to the patronage and the diversion of resources away from municipal services. And I’d also welcome having more development dispersed throughout the city, located wherever and in whatever form is most economically viable rather than concentrating it in subsidy-driven mega projects. Can you say the same? If not, you’re like someone complaining that the train isn’t slowing down even as you shovel coal into the fire.

  50. m
    March 17, 2013 at 8:07 pm Link

    “How does the impact of someone’s decision to park on the street change if they live in a house, an apartment, or if they’re just visiting a friend or a local business?”

    I am going to take a guess that you have never lived in a high density city where parking and adequate housing are truly at a premium. If you had, you would never ask a question like that.

    It’s all about density. There is a diminishing return on the quality of life for all that comes with significant increased density, particularly when there is an insufficient transportation infrastructure to support that density such as in Portland. Cities that developed in the late 19th and early 20th Century with major rapid transit via rail can not be replicated today in the US. They were done at a time when workplace safety and unions were of little concern and there was less world wide demand for the raw materials such that costs were much lower. TriMet will go bankrupt long before it could ever approach an adequate rapid transit system via light rail. Moreover, TriMet made a fundamental mistake in building surface light rail downtown – the small blocks limits capacity to 2 cars per train.

    Meanwhile, Portland is decimating its bus system at a time when it is should be doing the opposite. Portland needs to expand basic bus service and build BRT. That will allow density to occur while giving people real options for rapid transit.

    Urban renewal eats up 1/4 of the city’s budget while cuts continue to major quality of life issues such as youth programs (e.g., the SUN program) so that developers can get rich.

    It needs to stop.

  51. EngineerScotty
    March 17, 2013 at 8:59 pm Link

    m,

    Nobody, or hardly anybody, is disagreeing with you on urban renewal in general, or the PSU project in particular. This is largely a separate issue from parking minimums. Yet you continually bring up UR in this thread as though the issues are tied together. One cann use UR to reduce density, indeed this was often done in the mid 20th century. One can also support density without supporting UR.

  52. m
    March 18, 2013 at 8:27 am Link

    Scotty:

    If you don’t think giving financial incentives to developers via UR for putting high density particle board buildings is unrelated to parking minimums, I respectfully suggest you step back and look at the big picture of what is going on in this town.

  53. EngineerScotty
    March 18, 2013 at 10:09 am Link

    m,

    Most such developments that I’m aware of, are not going into UR districts.

    If by “big picture”, you mean that city or regional government generally has been captured by developers, and is pursuing policies designed to enrich developers at the expense of the people at large–and that UR and no-parking-minimums are simply two examples of such policies–that’s a different argument to have. “Real estate weasel” is a term I’ve encountered on a few public affairs blogs, and we hear quite a bit of that line of argument on PT, given that certain transit-related projects (particularly those involving trains) are frequently accused of being done to benefit politically-connected interests (including developers) rather than transit users.

    Of course, the same arguments can be made about suburban sprawl, road extensions, and the like–urbanists love to blame “developers” for these things, and indeed–developers, given that they only make money when they are developing something, have historically been energetic promoters of sprawl. In some cases, the development firms are disjoint–Tiffany Schweizer doesn’t, to my knowledge, build subdivisions in Happy Valley, and many of the builders who specialize in such things won’t go near the Pearl District.

    Generally, this forum prefers to focus on policies as opposed to politics and politicians. Sometimes we must (and do) engage in discussion of a more political and personal nature. Generally, those of us here who support lower (or no) parking minimums believe it to be the right thing to do for the public at large; not because we are compromised by any developer.

    (Full disclosure: My wife works part time as a realtor, but she isn’t affected by, nor has an opinion on, the present topic).

    Finally, I’d note that use of particle board for exterior walls (the main thing that it’s useful for in unfinished buildings) is not limited to cheap apartments–such construction techniques are equally at home in suburban single-family buildings.

  54. Chris Smith
    March 18, 2013 at 11:01 am Link

    There probably is a policy nexus between subsidies and parking, but in practice there is a geographical divide.

    Most of our urban renewal districts (at least those that might include housing) are in the central city (Lents being a notable exception), while the parking regulations in question only apply OUTSIDE the central city.

  55. Unit
    March 18, 2013 at 4:24 pm Link

    Count me as one that was extremely disappointed to see us back-pedaling on this.

    It is simple to draw the connection between parking-less buildings and revitalized main streets, Division being the clearest case-in-point. Does anyone really think Division’s revitalization would have been so remarkable if these buildings had been required to have parking? No, what would have happened was a few of the buildings wouldn’t have happened at all, meaning fewer neighborhood residents to support the retail (and thus less retail); the remainder would have been built with podium-style parking, a surefire way to kill human-scaled development. Division would be characterized by more parking lots and half-dead building frontages.

    Is it true that many of these parking-less residents own cars? Of course. But paring down the incredible surplus of parking that exists between private lots and on-street parking means less wasted space, more space devoted to people, more customers for the retail, fewer driveways to contend with while walking, and *voila*, we have a new walkable urban environment.

    This is the *only* real walkable place we’ve started to build in the region other than the Pearl in the past 60 years. Now we’re killing it halfway in. Parking lots destroy walkable communities, but god forbid any resident can’t park immediately in front of their house at any given moment.

    We gave in to those that screamed the loudest, those that mistakenly think they alone own their street. Bad public policy all around. Goodbye quality urbanism, I barely knew ye.

  56. bjcefola
    March 18, 2013 at 7:43 pm Link

    Apologies in advance if this strays too far into the political or personal.

    m, you would guess utterly wrong if you thought I’ve never lived in a high density city. I still have my CTA card and still have occasion to use it. But that’s not very relevant to anything, except maybe a discussion of fare collection mechanisms.

    What is relevant is my experience living where I do in Portland. And put simply, I enjoy it. I enjoy being able to walk to most of my shopping and recreational activities. I like that my children will be able to walk to school, on full sidewalks with ample safe crossing points. I like that when I need to get somewhere I can’t walk to I have close access to frequent service transit. I enjoy all this so much that I wish that others who want it could enjoy that same lifestyle.

    Density does that in a direct, physical sense. It allows more people to live where I live and to enjoy the same amenities I enjoy. That’s good for them and good for me. It means the businesses and services I patronize will have more customers, it makes the streets and sidewalks safer, and it does this while serving feel-goody causes like energy independence and sustainability.

    Density is not without its challenges. Accommodating families, both in housing and public transit, is a problem. Balancing respect for the past with respect for the future is another. But every place and every community has its problems. At issue is whether we try to meet those challenges, or duck and cover and pretend we’re living in 1950.

  57. al m
    March 18, 2013 at 9:26 pm Link

    You might want to take a look at this article:
    http://citytank.org/2013/03/08/driven-into-poverty-walkable-urbanism-and-the-suburbanization-of-poverty/

  58. Lenny Anderson
    March 19, 2013 at 8:06 am Link

    Keeping the close in neighborhood’s affordable is one reason why we need URAs (Urban Renewal Areas)…30% of TIF (Tax Increment Funding) $ goes for affordable housing by law in Portland. I helped gentrify Potrero Hill in SF 40 plus years ago…when you help improve a neighborhood, it attracts people! Yes, capitalism sucks; what do you suggest? The transformation of inner N/NE was fueled by adidas’ relocation to old Bess Kaiser, the MAX Yellow Line, and the simple fact that these were the last affordable quadrants. The last is the most important. The Interstate URA continues to provide lots of resources for affordable housing..again 30% of $300K is no small pot. We need to be sure that it, and all URAs, sunset as scheduled, and the City gets the nice increase in general fund taxes as designed; there is always pressure to extend from the communities that benefit from those TIF dollars.

  59. zefwagner
    March 20, 2013 at 11:04 am Link

    I agree with Unit’s characterization of the issue. We might easily forget it now, but 10 years ago Division was kind of a wasteland. I remember it being a street with the occasional interesting business or building here and there, with decaying buildings, vacant storefronts, and parking lots making up most of the corridor. It’s way better now.

  60. Lenny Anderson
    March 20, 2013 at 3:05 pm Link

    Interstate URA was funded with $300M plus, not K!
    re parking, I wonder about the trends in auto ownership and use among residents who live in all the single family homes in inner N/NE/SE Portland. There is already plenty of parking in most of these neighborhoods on the street, except maybe near busy destinations. If car ownership and use are trending down, what’s the problem. Maybe the homeowners who are leading this charge agains parkingless apartments just are confused about who owns that parking in front of their homes…not them! (and flunked kindergarten).

  61. Lenny Anderson
    March 22, 2013 at 11:24 am Link

    I am just back from Trader Joes in Hollywood. Every time I bike there I pass by the new parkingless apartment on Sandy next to the Hollywood Theatre. While the Hollywood Boosters were hyperventilating about the parking issue, they (and the City, developer, architect, and ??) failed to note this project is sited right up against the Hollywood Threatre. There will be a small public plaza on the other side of the project along Sandy Blvd. Oh what a lost opportunity to have a fine little plaza in front of the historic Theatre.

  62. bjcefola
    March 22, 2013 at 12:35 pm Link

    Lenny, that’s exactly what I have in mind when I say that if parking minimums are enacted, neighborhoods ought to be able to waive them in exchange for other design considerations.

    If we’re going to require the developer to pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into a design feature it should be a feature that offers the greatest benefit to that particular location. Maybe that’s parking, but maybe it’s a plaza or seating area.

    I encourage people to look hard at that building and its surrounding area. If you were to spend $200K on something(10 spaces at 20K apiece) is parking really the ideal use?

  63. Lenny Anderson
    March 23, 2013 at 5:18 pm Link

    Hollywood is the perfect place for parkingless apartments, its just a damn shame that the public ROW to the west of the project was not swapped out so the planned plaza could have been between the apartments and the theatre. Stupid!
    Parking is a terrible land use in a place that wants to be an exciting, energetic and affordable city.

  64. Ron Swaren
    March 23, 2013 at 8:08 pm Link

    “Also, escalating demand, land prices, and property values indicate that new development near transit streets increases the desirability of existing neighborhoods. This is exactly opposite of resident claims that no-parking apartments “are ruining the neighborhood,” and “lowering property values.”

    Seems to answer the question of whether these micro-apartment building will in the long term drive rents down. Aren’t rental prices in “desirable” areas higher? What the surrounding homeowner “claims” is irrelevant to the economics issue: They may see “ruin” in other indicators, such as overcrowding, or losing street parking.

    Real estate has always been known as a hedge against inflation. More people in the city will drive the prices on everything else up (i.e. “demand”) and rising real estate values will be the safe harbor against inflation. Always has been. Portland R.E. prices are about 50X what they were, post World War2.

  65. bjcefola
    March 24, 2013 at 7:57 am Link

    Ron, affordable housing is what happens when everyone who would pay more for a particular residence chooses to live elsewhere.

    Either new construction is affordable for a given individual giving them more choices, or it is unaffordable and by soaking up demand from people who can pay more it still gives the given individual more choices.

    New construction may not absolutely lower prices, but citywide it lowers them relative to what they’d be otherwise.

  66. Ron Swaren
    March 24, 2013 at 2:35 pm Link

    Show me one example in any of this new construction where someone can build their own home. Lot of families have done that in the past, as a way of improving their net worth, but it is impossible in any of the high density developments. So you’re stuck with a long term mortgage, thus a longer period of time with risk of default.

    And here are nationwide stats from the US Census bureau (Can you argue with these figures?):
    http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/housing/census/historic/values.html

    which states:”Median home values adjusted for inflation nearly quadrupled over the 60-year period since the first housing census in 1940.”

    Even in inflation adjusted dollars the average home price in Oregon rose from 41.5 k in 1950 to 152 k in 2000.

  67. Anandakos
    March 24, 2013 at 9:33 pm Link

    @Ron Swaren,

    The “Lower 48″ of the United States did not gain more than a few acres from 1950 through 2000. In fact, it lost quite a bit of Louisiana. But the population roughly doubled.

    Since the majority of people want to live where the majority of people want to live (I know, a tautology, but an instructive one), simple supply and demand microeconomics tells us that land prices in those areas where the majority of people want to live will follow a parabolic curve in response to changes in population.

    It’s not some evil conspiracy by the Democrats, sadly.

  68. Ron Swaren
    March 24, 2013 at 10:50 pm Link

    So is the price of rental housing going down with the load of micro-apartments coming into the market?

    “It’s not some evil conspiracy by the Democrats, sadly.”
    And the purpose of that remark? Trying to get me back in your party?

Leave a Reply

By posting a comment, you are granting a license to Portland Transport for your comment. Please refer to The Rules.