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Formerly the home of Beaumont-Wilshire Neighbors for Responsible Growth, the Portland Land Matters blog explores citywide land-use concerns, such as home demolitions, with the belief that development should create an improvement.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

It's up to City Council to make a real difference

Northeast Fremont between 44th and 45th avenues: Future sight of neighborhood boon or neighborhood behemoth? Tell City Hall what you'd like to see.
After about four hours, the Planning and Sustainability Commission hastily voted—despite some hankering for an additional work session—to rubber-stamp the weak amendments put forth by the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. Requiring .25 parking space per unit for buildings of more than 40 units is like dripping water on a bonfire: so little done to mitigate a known impact, and a gift to no-parking developers. As long as they build at 40 units and under, it's business as usual.

This almost pointless charade feels like we're not getting the responsible planning that we're paying for, especially when considering the project that may be permitted in this neighborhood. One side of the block has no sidewalk while the other side gets a 4-story, 50-unit apartment building without parking. The only way these two elements jive is that they both hit bottom on the amenity scale.

Under the proposed code amendments, for the building proposed for Northeast Fremont, the developer would have to build 12 or 13 spaces, with options to decrease that number significantly. After all the developer "buy-downs"—again, neighbors get nothing in these deals except additional negative impact—the end result is about 8 spaces to satisfy a projected influx of at least four times the vehicles. The city's own recently collected data shows that more than 70 percent of households own a car. This is data taxpayers paid to discover; why is it being ignored?

Leaving aside the question as to whether that possession is a luxury item or a necessity (think lower income worker with night shift or need to travel around the city, or a parent with several kids), the city also reported, "Many people stated that there were no amenities that would reduce their need for a vehicle." While I admire the bike-only activists and hope there are hundreds more who will live in these buildings, it's not an option for everyone.

One testifier summed up the debacle as boiling down to car storage. That's certainly a big part of the problem, but in our case eclipsed by traffic/pedestrian safety and emergency response times on Fremont.

One brainstorm: Make the cost of parking permits high enough that we recoup enough money to pay for sidewalks all around the affected block and on adjoining blocks so that pedestrians don't have to walk in the street. Many drivers will be circling for spaces at all hours, and the lack of good street connectivity and traffic controls already make conditions hazardous. It rankles that we have to pay for safety measures that mitigate problems brought on by the developer who's receiving all the rent checks, but at least the finite resource (on-street parking) can be exploited for the neighborhood's overall good as well.

Stay tuned for the City Council session, and let the mayor and commissioners know how you feel about the amendments coming their way. For more on those, read on:

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