Don’t Tread on Me: It’s time to stop requiring off-street parking
In a tempest in a teapot, a few residents of southeast Portland – that supposed bastion of eco-friendliness – are taking to the barricades to defend their right to park. They feel threatened by the recent appearance of numerous new housing developments that are taking advantage of a two-decade old exemption from parking requirements for buildings along transit streets. From the enraged and outraged tone of their complaints, you would think that the City is sending in the black helicopters.
There are good arguments that government shouldn’t be requiring parking anywhere – it reduces developable land area, it raises costs and therefore reduces affordability, it increases impermeable surface or requires expensive mitigation, it encourages car ownership and use and many times creates barriers to pedestrian activity and deadzones. Parking is an amenity, like granite counters, that a homebuyer or renter should be able to choose, or not, depending on how much they are willing to pay for housing.
BJ Cefola writes as much to the Portland City Council.
Like most American cities, almost half of Portland’s urbanized land area is paved for cars already, with hundreds of thousands of on-street parking spaces provided and paid for by everyone. The territorial and exclusivist arguments for protecting “homeowner’s rights” to parking in front of their homes shouldn’t be driving public policy yet the Portland City Council seems ready to cave, putting amendments that would require parking for all projects with over 40 units on the agenda for April 4, 2013. The new mayor, Charlie Hales, seems to be stampeded into responding to the concerns of a small, vocal group of protectionists, rather than supporting a deliberate, thoughtful approach to accommodating cars in the city. Particularly troubling are comments from some Councilors and one member of the Planning and Sustainable Development Commission that “real” families can’t live in housing without off-street parking.