Bike parking dispute boils over at Pearl District condo

Bike parking dispute boils over at Pearl District condo

(From The Encore’s website)

When the Encore condominiums in the Pearl District opened in 2008, bike-friendliness was a main selling point. “Ride. Relax. Repeat” was the marketing slogan. The building also caught my eye and ended up on the Front Page for offering a free bicycle to new owners. The building’s developer, Hoyt Street Properties, purchased a long-term advertising campaign here on BikePortland.

But that was then.

Now, several Encore residents claim that the board of the Encore Condominium Owners Association (they took ownership of the building from Hoyt last summer) is vehemently anti-bike and has established new bike parking rules and policies that one long-time owner calls “draconian.”

At issue is how to deal with the growing number of bicycles at the 177 unit building. Residents I’ve spoken with say there aren’t nearly enough spaces (even though only about 150 units are currently sold). However, instead of increasing the number of racks, the board has come up with new rules and a convoluted, fee-based lottery and permit system that comes nowhere near meeting demand.

Peggy Kolb and her husband were among the first people to buy at The Encore. “We are avid bike riders,” she told me on the phone yesterday. “We bought here because it was bike friendly.” Kolb and her husband own four bicycles and they were able to park them — for free — in racks and storage areas when they moved in. Kolb feels the board — who adopted a host of new bicycle rules in November that will allow only one bike per unit and will begin charging for bike parking — is acting in their own interests and without taking residents’ bike parking concerns seriously.

Currently there are about 70 bike spaces available for residents with another 20 promised to be coming soon. That would put the total at just 90 designated bike parking spaces in a building with well over 300 residents (estimated). It’s important to note that Owner’s Association rules stipulate that residents cannot use the racks in front of the building and bikes are not allowed on balconies or patios.

On November 29th, the Board of the Encore Condominium Owners’ Association adopted nine pages of “bicycle rules” (PDF) — most of them dealing with parking. The new rules dictate everything from where bicycles can be stored to how the forthcoming bike parking lottery and permit program will work.

At the Encore, the board has decided that each unit is limited to one bike parking space (the City of Portland Planning Code was recently updated to require 1.5 bike parking spaces per unit in multi-dwelling buildings). Since there are only 90 spaces, once those fill up a lottery will be held. If not chosen in the lottery, residents will be placed on one of two waiting lists: one for people without any assigned bike spot and the other for people who already have one assigned spot.

To enter the bike parking lottery, it will cost $100. If chosen, an annual bike parking permit will cost an additional $20. According to the board, the $100 lottery registration fee is to, “defer its costs, deter owners who make little use of their bicycles and to fund future bicycle storage solutions.” The ongoing $20 permit fee is, “to defer rack maintenance costs.”

Before this new permitting and lottery system goes into effect, all the bikes currently parked in existing systems must be taken down so the spaces can be re-assigned.

In a message sent to residents by the board on December 3rd of last year (PDF), they acknowledged bike parking demand is likely at about 210 spaces.

According to residents I’ve heard from, the board has no plans to significantly expand the number of official bike parking spaces. There’s plenty of room in the existing parking garage, but residents claim the board doesn’t want more bikes in the garage. They are concerned about bikes damaging parked cars, about the aesthetics of so many bikes, and about how the presence of bikes might attract thieves.

“People have gone to the board and requested that they install their own racks in the [auto] parking spaces they already own,” says Peggy Kolb, “But the board says no.” Kolb said her sub-compact car leaves plenty of room to park a few bikes, but she’s been told it’s not allowed. Under Hoyt’s ownership, the rules said only “vehicles” were allowed to park in auto spaces; but owner’s association added the word “motor vehicles.” According to one resident, that was, “The straw that broke the camel’s back.”

“I’m pretty upset,” added Kolb. “Quite a few people in the building are very upset.”

Another resident, Steven Brown, echoed many of Kolb’s concerns. He said when the building was first marketed by Hoyt Properties, prospective buyers were told that bike parking would be free, available, and more racks would be installed as needed. Now, he feels the “overly anti-bicycle” board’s new fees and other rules are, “designed to discourage bicycle parking in the garage.”

The board addressed this issue in their December 3rd message by stating even though there is, “… the possibility of adding more racks in garage common areas, this raises several practical, legal and aesthetic issues that require more study.”

The board tasked resident Curtis Holloway with the job of studying the issue. He told me he presented many solutions to the board about how to increase bike parking capacity without the need for byzantine or onerous rules. “The board didn’t like what I presented, so they ended my study committee and took away my responsibility.”

The next board meeting where they’ll do the lottery and discuss what they refer to as, “the bicycle storage problem” is January 24th. I’ve been unable to reach the board directly for comment, so I plan to attend and report back.

For a Pearl District condo that prides itself on being bike-friendly, these bike parking policies seem over the top. The Encore’s location is prime for low-car and carfree living and accommodating a lot of bicycles seems like a “problem” they should be happy to have.

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