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City weighs parking rule for NW that could block a fifth of new homes

City weighs parking rule for NW that could block a fifth of new homes

~1950 Pettygrove.

The Tess O’Brien Apartments on NW 19th and Pettygrove, built with no on-site parking, are the largest project that would have been illegal under a proposal going before city council tomorrow.
(Photo: Ted Timmons)

Portland’s City Council will meet Wednesday to consider a new mandatory parking requirement that, if it had existed for the last eight years, would have illegalized 23 percent of the new housing supply in northwest Portland during the period.

The Tess O’Brien Apartments, a 126-unit project that starts pre-leasing next week and will offer some of the cheapest new market-rate housing in northwest Portland, couldn’t have been built if they’d been required to have 42 on-site parking spaces, its developer said in an interview.

“Do the math,” Martin Kehoe of Portland LEEDS Living said Friday. “The apartments at the Tess O’Brien are between $1250 and $1400 a month. If we were required to build parking, you’d be between $1800 and $2000 a month. … It probably just wouldn’t have been built. And then what’s that going to do to the existing project that’s out there and has been built? It’s just going to drive the rents of those up.”

Kehoe said the Tess O’Brien units, which average 330 square feet, are intended for people who don’t own cars.

“We’ve got free bike parking rooms, you’re a block off the bus, you’re a block off streetcar, you’ve got access to Uber whenever you want it,” he said. “People who move into these apartments … they don’t have cars.”

The proposal up for debate on Wednesday would apply the same rule to the Northwest District, immediately west of Interstate 405, that applies in other neighborhoods outside the central city: buildings with 31 to 40 homes would need at least one parking space for every five units. Buildings with 41 to 50 homes would need one space for every four units. Buildings with 51 or more homes would need one space for every three units.

Mandatory parking minimums would have driven up the construction cost of 305 new homes built in northwest Portland since 2008.

Including the Tess O’Brien Apartments, those mandatory parking minimums would have driven up the construction cost of 305 new homes built in northwest Portland since 2008, city data show, potentially by enough to kill the five new buildings in question. That’s 23 percent of the 1,339 units that were added to northwest by buildings of 10 or more units.

For comparison’s sake, if those 305 new no-parking homes were in a single building, it would have been the sixth largest built in Portland since at least 2000. The largest new building in the Lloyd District, for example, added 337 units to the city’s housing supply.

But most new homes in northwest Portland are in buildings where developers opted to build more than the minimum amount of parking, usually much more, suggesting that new no-parking buildings are a niche market in the Northwest District.

‘We certainly should have the option of no parking’

nw portland new units

Buildings marked in orange would have been illegal under the proposed new rule.
(Data: Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. Chart: BikePortland.)

Portland rental vacancy rates have been below 5 percent since 2008. Last year, monthly rent in the average apartment rose $100, with hikes concentrated mostly in older units. In April, the local Barry Apartment Construction Report saw housing supply finally keeping up with demand (a trend confirmed by May Census figures) but still not increasing fast enough for a significant rise in vacancies.

Local home purchase prices, too, have been rising at the fastest rates in the nation.

“It won’t end until we have more balance between supply and demand in the housing market,” University of Oregon economist Tim Duy told The Oregonian last week.

“Demand is severely outpacing supply,” the news report said.

Margot Black, an organizer for the advocacy group Portland Tenants United speaking for herself, said in an interview Monday that she’d spoken with Portland Commissioner Steve Novick last week to oppose new parking minimums in northwest.

“Right now, we should not be doing anything that restricts supply and increases prices,” said Black. “We certainly should have the option of no parking if that means we could have more units at a lower price.”

Parking advisory committee: Every building brings more cars

2018 nw everett 1910 9-20

2018 NW Everett Street.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

The proposal to bring parking minimums to the Northwest District comes from the volunteer Northwest Portland Parking Stakeholder Advisory Committee.

“At least half of our committee did not use to support parking minimums,” said Rick Michaelson, who chairs that committee and supports minimums. “We see that the transit system has not expanded rapidly.”

Michaelson said that even in the Footprint apartments, another 50-unit microapartment building in northwest, 16 units have signed up for street parking permits.

“We’re going to see a minimum of 30 percent even for these microapartments,” he said. “We think it’s a fairness issue. We think we need as many opportunities to get the system in balance and make sure that everybody contributes to the parking infrastructure.”

“9700 parking permits have been issued that are competing for the 4100 spaces.”
— Karen Karlsson, NW Portland Parking Stakeholder Advisory Committee

Michaelson predicted that city rates for street parking will go up, which will lead to more demand for off-street parking in the future. He also said a project similar to Tess O’Brien might have penciled out even with 42 on-site parking spaces.

“Some developers are choosing to have parking without affecting the bottom line,” he said.

Michaelson said his committee had discussed other ideas for affordability such as not counting below-market-rate units toward a building’s total, or exempting buildings that offer free TriMet passes to residents.

Karen Karlsson, who also serves on the committee, said her “bottom line” is that “9700 parking permits have been issued that are competing for the 4100 spaces.”

“We really need to find a way to help balance the supply and reduce the demand,” she said. “We need every tool that we can get.”







Council will hold hearing Wednesday and may vote

Portland City Council

Portland City Council: Steve Novick, Amanda Fritz, Charlie Hales, Dan Saltzman and Nick Fish.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Portland Commissioner Steve Novick said Friday that because he assumes “markets operate like markets,” requiring on-site parking in buildings in transit-oriented neighborhoods does tend to drive up housing costs by reducing the supply of new housing.

But Novick said he is considering support for a new parking minimum anyway, at least in the short term, because minimums already exist in most of the city.

“I generally am not excited about constructing lots of new parking,” Novick said. “I don’t think we should continue to build society around the car if we are going to take our climate goals seriously. [But] I am much more sympathetic when folks come from a neighborhood that has meters, has a permit system, has a fair amount of density, and say ‘Hey, we want to be treated the way other folks are treated.’”

The central city, which includes the Pearl District in inner northwest, doesn’t have parking minimums. As in northwest, developers there usually opt to include on-site parking as an amenity for residents who choose to pay extra for it.

Most of the buildings that define northwest Portland were built before the city’s first parking requirements.

But many older apartments and condos in northwest Portland, maybe even most of them, have zero on-site parking. That’s because most of the buildings that define northwest Portland were built before the city’s first parking requirements, which probably date to the 1950s.

In fact, one older apartment building in the district without on-site parking belongs to Michaelson’s real estate company.

For the second half of the 20th century, most new apartment and condo buildings in Portland had garages or parking lots attached. In 2000 the city council, led by then-Commissioner Charlie Hales, eliminated parking minimums for units close to frequent-service transit lines. Starting in 2008, as Portland’s rents began their recent climb, some developers began to secure loans for buildings without on-site parking.

In most of those buildings around Portland’s east side, half or more of households in the no-parking buildings owned at least one car. That meant parking spillover, which led to a backlash from some neighbors.

In 2013, Hales (newly elected as mayor) led approval of what he described as a stopgap measure to require parking at most new buildings of 30 units or more, even if they were within a block of a frequent transit line. But there was one exception: the Northwest District, which was already in the midst of a parking reform program.

Demand-based parking group organizing opposition to rule

park avenue west

Parking excavation beneath the future Park Avenue West tower downtown.
(Photo: GRI.com)

In the three years when many apartment buildings in Portland were being constructed without parking, from 2011 through 2013, average construction costs per apartment fell even though construction costs for other units didn’t.

Then, after parking minimums were reinstated for most transit-oriented buildings in 2013, average construction costs per apartment shot back up even though construction costs for other units didn’t.

Tony Jordan of the group PDX Shoupistas, which advocates for demand-based parking policy, found that the number of buildings going up in Portland with exactly 30 units — the maximum size a transit-oriented building can be in most of the city without triggering parking minimums — is apparently about to soar. There are currently 14 such buildings in development, he calculated last week.

According to city permit data obtained by BikePortland under state open records rules, that compares to eight such buildings over the last 15 years.

Jordan is organizing people to contact the city council Tuesday and/or testify on Wednesday to oppose new minimums.

“In times like this, proposals which curtail the supply of new housing and increase rents should be dead on arrival,” Jordan wrote Monday. “A vote for minimum parking requirements is a vote to make the housing crisis worse.”

Novick says citywide reform is an option, but not yet

housing+construction+ankeny

New homes on Southeast Ankeny Street, built with an on-site garage.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

In an interview Friday, Joan Frederiksen of the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability said the city staff does not see a “tradeoff” between space for parking and space for people.

“I wouldn’t use the word tradeoff,” she said. “I think it’s more about balancing. … With this project we are echoing the direction council provided back in 2013, finding that balance between parking and affordability.”

Matt Grumm, a senior policy manager for Housing Commissioner Dan Saltzman, put things differently.

“There’s no doubt that these are tradeoffs,” he said. “Parking minimums potentially increase the cost of that housing.”

Grumm said his boss would “wait for the hearing” before deciding how to vote but suggested that maybe developers who opt to include below-market-rate units in their buildings should get a break on parking requirements.

“It’ll be interesting to see if that gets any traction,” he said.

In an email last week, Hales spokeswoman Sara Hottman said the mayor supports the proposal to “extend the City’s minimum parking requirements to the Northwest Plan district.”

There are two other votes on the council: Nick Fish, who proposed the 2013 parking minimums that were passed into code, and Amanda Fritz.

Both Novick and Frederiksen suggested that the city might consider amending its citywide parking minimums at some point in the future.

“Even if we wind up applying parking minimums in northwest next week, I’m really encouraged that I’ve been hearing people opposing parking minimums,” Novick said. “Once we have those new tools available, one option is to revisit the parking minimum requirements throughout the city.”

Novick didn’t respond to a question about when the council is likely to consider his proposal that would let neighborhoods create their own parking permit districts.

Eudaly: “We must start decreasing our reliance on the personal automobile”

NW Portland Week - Day 5-24.jpg

Parking outside the Clearing Cafe on NW Thurman.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Chloe Eudaly, who is running on a housing-affordability platform to replace Novick on the city council, said in an email Monday that she opposes new minimums:

Portland is going through growing pains right now and traffic congestion and parking are high on the list of concerns, but what’s even higher is housing affordability. So when we’re talking about a policy that would increase the cost of housing and decrease the number of units built, such as minimum parking standards for new multi-family developments, we need to consider our options and their impacts very carefully.

I respect the work of the NW Parking SAC, as an almost 20-year former resident of NW Portland I know what a headache parking has become in the area, but I don’t support their proposal of a blanket minimum parking standard for all new multi-dwelling developments of more than 30 units. Knowing that these spaces are likely to be underutilized in many developments and that we must start decreasing our reliance on the personal automobile, I believe we can and must come up with a more nuanced approach, especially in a neighborhood that is so central, dense, and transit-friendly (many NW residents live within 10 blocks of the street car, Max, AND a bus line).

Instead of requiring more parking space, Eudaly suggested requiring developers to offer bus passes, bike-share or car-share memberships, creating shared parking options, and raising on-street permit prices “to more closely reflect the actual cost of providing street parking.”

Other options she suggested included shared parking garages and a “live where you work” program. She, too, suggested a parking exemption for developers that include below-market-rate units.

Black, the tenants organizer, said Portland is facing a difficult transition away from a “small town” where most trips happen by car and most homes have private yards, driveways and “a picket fence.”

“It’s great if you got it, but it’s mathematically impossible for all of us to have it,” she said. “I see Portland really struggling to make this shift into a city from this small-town feel. … We need to shepherd Portland through that paradigm shift.”

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org. The Real Estate Beat is a regular column. You can sign up to get an email of Real Estate Beat posts (and nothing else) here, or read past installments here.

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As state law passes, the fight for affordable proximity moves to City Hall

As state law passes, the fight for affordable proximity moves to City Hall

trauma

A rally last fall to better protect Portland tenants from displacement.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

After years of fighting, a “grand bargain” on affordable housing passed Oregon’s legislature this week. But it won’t begin shaping Portland’s bikeable neighborhoods until after the city council takes action of its own.

Representatives for Mayor Charlie Hales and his council colleague, Housing Commissioner Dan Saltzman, say that plans to do so are already underway.

Any city plan seems certain to include some level of “inclusionary zoning,” a measure that could require that up to 20 percent of units in some new buildings be sold and/or rented at discount prices to people who make less than 80 percent of the median income. (As of 2015, that 80 percent figure means that a family of three that makes less than $52,950 would qualify for the reduced-rate units.)

But many questions remain. In which neighborhoods would the rule apply? Will developers be allowed to build higher, or exempted from expensive requirements such as auto parking, to make up for their losses from those discounted rents? Will inclusionary zoning be coupled with other changes such as re-legalizing duplexes or garden apartments or charging a “linkage fee” on all new development? Developers will also have the option to get out of the inclusionary zoning requirement by paying into a city affordable housing fund; how high will that fee be?

All of those decisions will be made by cities like Portland, probably in the next few months.

Because migration to Portland boomed during the Great Recession just as the construction rate plummeted, the city’s population has grown 79 percent faster than its housing supply.

rental shortage width=

When vacancy rates are low, landlords can raise the rent without losing tenants.
(Data: Census Bureau.)

That’s left the metro area with one of the nation’s lowest rental vacancy rates and made soaring real estate prices and rents the single hottest issue in the current mayoral election.





Oregon’s House of Representatives approved a Senate bill Thursday that removed the “preemption” in state law that has banned cities from using inclusionary zoning. Gov. Kate Brown is expected to sign.

Saltzman’s chief of staff, Brendan Finn, said in an email Thursday that his boss has laid out a plan for “a community-wide data driven discussion that would include but would not be limited to members of the development community, as well as affordable housing experts and advocates.”

“Dan introduced a resolution at council Feb. 10,” Finn said. “Now that preemption is to be lifted and signed into law, we can get started on a process for crafting a policy for Portland.”

Hales spokeswoman Sara Hottman said the mayor is also ready to start work.

“Mayor Hales has instructed all involved city bureaus to develop plans for an effective Portland implementation of the new law,” Hottman said in an email. “Commissioner Saltzman, in charge of the Housing Bureau, has been instrumental in passing the bill, and will be overseeing the implementation.”

A repeal of the state’s ban was the Portland city government’s top legislative priority in Salem this year.

Affordability advocates gear up for local debate
Occupy Portland on SW Main Street-4-3

Commissioner Dan Saltzman walks past an Occupy Portland demonstration in 2011.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

The Portland advocates who’ve been pushing for repeal of the state ban said they’ll be shifting their work to City Hall, in part because they think a successful policy in Portland will create political support for a future effort to fully remove Salem’s regulation of housing price controls. Here’s the word from Vivian Satterfield, deputy director of OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon:

This is obviously a big day for OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon and the Oregon Inclusionary Zoning Coalition. We’re proud to have put this issue on the table in Salem and to have convened a large and powerful statewide coalition that together, brought about this historic victory for housing opportunity. That being said, there are key pieces of the legislation that need to be fixed in future years at the state level. OPAL and other partners of the Coalition, namely those organizations representing people of color and working families, expect to be at the relevant policy tables to craft a local IZ policy that maximizes the use of the tool in its current form. We have already initiated these discussions with Commissioner Saltzman’s office and we look forward to working with the future Mayor of Portland as well. Demonstrated efficacy of any inclusionary zoning policy both at the City of Portland and other jurisdictions ready to adopt their own IZ policy will undoubtedly support future efforts to seek a full repeal and local control.

For three years now, we’ve been exploring how you can’t have a truly bike-friendly city without affordable proximity. Depending on how this new state law gets enacted and what other changes come along with it, this could be a very important moment in making sure Portland’s bikeable neighborhoods don’t slip permanently out of reach for most Portlanders.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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Very few poor people drive to work downtown

Very few poor people drive to work downtown

The Portland area has invested $4.8 billion in a regional public rail network, and currently spends $313 million a year to hold down ticket prices on the system.

Another several million dollars each year go toward expansions of the region’s biking network.

Despite that investment, at least one Portland city council member has been arguing in the lead-up to a hearing next month that the public should also be subsidizing downtown car trips.

His reasoning: some of the people who drive downtown are poor.

“If we’re charging for parking, we’re taking someone earning nine, ten an hour and we’re making that eight-something an hour.”
Commissioner Dan Saltzman

The issue is coming up as the city discusses possible rate changes for its parking meters and publicly financed Smart Park garages.

One of the questions that’s likely to come up during an upcoming City Hall discussion on Dec. 17: Should the city keep giving away its street parking after 7 p.m., even in areas where street parking consistently fills up at night with people visiting restaurants, theaters, clubs and bars?

In a work session last month, Commissioner Dan Saltzman argued that maybe nighttime meters should remain free in order to subsidize the car commutes of people who work downtown at night, such as janitors and dishwashers.

“It’s a subsidy for low-wage workers to have the meters stop at 7:00 pm, so why can’t we continue that?” Saltzman said. “If we’re charging for parking, we’re taking someone earning nine, ten an hour and we’re making that eight-something an hour.”

“Do you throw a big subsidy at everybody because some people might need it?”
Commissioner Steve Novick

Commissioner Steve Novick, who directly oversees the transportation bureau, disagreed.

“It’s a question of, do you throw a big subsidy at everybody because some people might need it?” Novick said.

A better option for holding down parking prices for nighttime commuters, Novick suggested, might be to create a low-price permit system for the Smart Park garages.

And if the money from a parking meter rate hike were spent on improving non-car transportation, that might come out to a win for low-income workers, both downtown and elsewhere.

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Novick and Saltzman’s disagreement raises a fair question. Is it a good idea for the government to subsidize a particular activity by poor people, even if it also subsidizes the same activity among rich and middle-income people?

Here’s one way to start answering the question: How many poor people actually drive downtown?

The best available data (which is, unfortunately, from 2006-2010) suggests that the central business district (south of Burnside, north of Jefferson) employs about 1,000 workers whose households make less than $15,000 a year. Of those, about 350 drive to work. That’s about 2 percent of the district’s drive-alone workforce.

Here’s a detailed version of the chart at the top of this post.

The stripes to the right represent higher-income households. Mouse over each stripe to see what income they represent, and approximately how many drive-alone commuters to the central business district make that much money. (For this chart, we looked at data for the central business district because it had by far the highest worker volumes and therefore the lowest margins of error. These margins of error are substantial, though, and these shouldn’t be interpreted as precise. You can see the source data here.)

Another 2,500 or so downtown commuters are in households that make $15,000 to $30,000 a year. About 700 of those people drive to work. That’s another 3 percent of the district’s drive alone workforce.

The remaining 95 percent of drive-alone commuters to Portland’s central business district make more than $30,000 — in most cases, much more. As the above chart shows, half of the district’s drive-alone workers are in households that bring in more than $100,000 a year.

Among those richest downtown workers, 59 percent drive alone to work. That compares to about 35 percent of the poorest downtown workers.

Busted!

Hello subsidy.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

At the council’s Oct. 8 work session, Portland parking plan manager Judith Gray said there’s no question that higher parking prices are a disproportionate burden to the poorest people.

Then again, she added, a system that makes it hard to find a parking space also has a disproportionate burden on the poorest people.

People who are shift workers or low-wage earners, if they’re janitorial or working in restaurants, they have the least flexibility of all. If our system is not well managed, if it’s 99 percent full when they need to work, they don’t have an option. A lot of office workers or daytime workers other workers can be late. I worked in restaurants in Washington DC in the 80s. If you have to replace a daytime shift person, you’ve got to be on time. So a badly managed system is not an equity strategy for them.

Gray said she had an “open mind” for hearing ideas that could prevent poor people from being excessively hurt by parking costs.

Absent that, she suggested, the most broadly equitable strategy might involve the government charging what the market will bear for people who park cars on its land — and then “channeling the revenues to improve the system overall.”

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org


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Fact check: Is PBOT “subsidizing” bike share?

Fact check: Is PBOT “subsidizing” bike share?

saltzman-50

Commissioner Saltzman says PBOT is
subsidizing Portland bike share. He’s wrong.
(Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)

Yesterday, City Commissioner Dan Saltzman made headlines for a comment he shared with the Willamette Week about transportation funding.

According to Willamette Week reporter Aaron Mesh, when answering questions about whether or not PBOT’s proposed street fee should go to voters or be passed by City Council, Saltzman went a bit further and cast doubt the fee even being necessary at all.

Here’s the comment published in the Willamette Week (both online and in this week’s print edition):

“I’m not absolutely convinced we need the street maintenance fee,” Saltzman said. “The Transportation Bureau seems to be falling all over themselves to subsidize a bike-share program. If we have dollars to subsidize bike share, why don’t we have dollars to put in sidewalks and fix up our roads?”

Mesh says that comment ruffled Commissioner Steve Novick’s feathers so much that Novick will yank his endorsement of Saltzman, who’s up for re-election in May. Infighting at City Hall is always interesting, but it’s not as important to us as simply making sure our electeds present accurate information when they speak to reporters about transportation issues.

On that note, Saltzman’s comments about bike share funding jumped off the page because they appeared to be blatantly untrue.

We’ve always assumed that the only money dedicated to bike share thus far is the $1.8 million federal grant approved by Metro in December 2011. That is, zero PBOT funds have been used on the system. To check our hunch, we contacted PBOT Communications Manager Dylan Rivera.

“PBOT has never planned to use city funds to contribute to capital or operations of bike share,” he said. “Up front capital costs are to be covered by the Metro/federal grant and sponsors. Operations are expected to be paid by revenues from bike share users and sponsors.”

Rivera added that, “PBOT has not spent any city money on planning the system. The Metro/federal grant is covering planning.”

Of course, PBOT has said they’d step in and provide some of the start-up costs if private sector sponsorships don’t pay for all the start up costs in one lump sum. In that scenario, Rivera said, “PBOT might provide a portion of start up costs on the condition that it would be reimbursed by committed sponsors.”

We acknowledge that potential risk and capital commitment from PBOT could be seen as a subsidy; but that scenario hasn’t come to pass. At least not yet.

Given all this, it appears Commissioner Saltzman either just really doesn’t like the street fee, and/or he isn’t fully aware of how bike share has been, and will be, funded.

Either way, his comments in the Willamette Week do not accurately characterize the situation.

— We’ve contacted Saltzman’s office and will update this story when we hear back.