Off-Street Parking Mandates (continued)
It seems like there is nothing like threatening the loss of a parking spot in front of your house to raise the ire. A voice of reason in this debate is the informal group calling itself Portlanders for Sustainable Development whose letter to the Mayor and City Council appears below. Coming soon will be a post on how this issue is showing up around the country as people flock back to urban neighborhoods. Keep tuned.
“Dear Mayor Hales and Commissioners:
We are residents of Portland who envision our city as a vibrant, sustainable city where residents can walk, bike or ride transit as well as drive automobiles in their daily life. We would like to live in a city where higher density housing and businesses are located along neighborhood Main Streets and Transit Corridors, linked to Town Centers and the Central City. We believe that the current code, which does not require on-site parking along many transit corridors, is the right choice to build this future city.
Our group feels that requiring parking works against the city’s stated Comprehensive Plan goals, to provide housing for all while reducing auto travel and building walkable neighborhoods. Some of us feel that the Planning Commission proposed code amendments are an acceptable compromise; others feel that they restrict development too tightly, and will tether our city to outmoded values and patterns.
We all believe that parking minimums are bad policy because:
they don’t manage parking demand and, therefore, don’t solve parking problems in residential or commercial areas. Each neighborhood has unique development patterns and demand for parking is widely variable. Zoning code changes are blunt instruments: they’re inflexible, permanent, and they affect the entire city including areas without parking congestion. Management solutions such as parking meters and permit districts can be tested and applied to targeted areas as needed, and are ultimately far more effective.
they reduce the supply of affordable housing in the neighborhoods that need it the most. Requiring parking in mid-sized housing developments guarantees that tenants will be paying for the storage of cars whether they own them or not. Furthermore, developers will likely build fewer and larger units to avoid building excess parking supply. In an area like Portland with very low vacancy rates, slowing the rate of new supply make many close-in neighborhoods unaffordable to fixed-income seniors, young people and low-income families.
they are not in-line with the city’s and the region’s sustainable development goals. Regional and local policies encourage much of Portland’s growing population to be housed downtown and in neighborhood centers and corridors where services and amenities are concentrated. Parking minimums make sustainable, affordable, transit oriented development less feasible in these locations. Parking supply mandates incentivize automobile ownership and usage through a de facto subsidy.
they are out of touch with observed demographic trends. Automobile ownership is declining in key segments of the population, particularly among the young and recently retired. Growth in car share opportunities and the ever increasing costs of maintenance and fuel are likely to support this trend. If these trends continue we will likely be able to meet parking demand with current supply, and if these trends accelerate we could end up with a glut of expensive, unused and unconvertible parking garages.
they displace storefronts, public spaces and residences with parking lots when land values are too low to allow structured parking to be feasible. This bleeds the energy and vitality out of a Main Street. While Downtown and The Pearl District have land values high enough to make structured parking economically feasible, most of Portland does not. Surface parking lots will create “missing teeth” in the street frontage, and many projects simply will not be built because the cost of providing parking absorbs any potential financial incentive.
Thank you for your consideration of our perspective. We hope our comments will lead to better and more equitable housing and neighborhoods for everyone in our city.”