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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.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Let's make parking requirements worth the work

Many Beaumont-Wilshire residents took time out of a sunny Saturday to help the city achieve clarity on changes to code regarding no-parking buildings, such as the one proposed for Northeast Fremont. If you can submit your opinions on the amendments soon to City Council (contact info at lower right), great. If you can also make it to Tuesday's hearing, even better. 

Amendment No. 1: Giving an inch where it will take a mile

Taking the proposed project on Northeast Fremont as the example for how the city's draft interim measures would affect the landscape, it appears that only about 8 spaces would be required in the building of 50 units. City data shows that more than 70 percent of households surveyed own a car.

Requiring such scant space for tenants' possessions hardly makes a dent in the impact, so how about better connecting reality to the requirements? Instead of the proposed 1 spot per 4 units, BWNRG recommends that the requirement should be 1 spot per 2 units. That compromise still provides an incentive for people to go without cars. 

Instead of the 1-space-per-2-units rule applying only to buildings of 41 units or more (as proposed), the parking requirement should be applied to buildings of 20 or more units. The distrust toward developers and the city is so great that many neighbors see the 41-unit threshold, again, as laughable. It's easy to imagine a wave of 40-unit buildings without parking, each sending 60-plus cars onto neighborhood streets for storage. That's not solving the problem, that's increasing it.

BWNRG recommends: 1 space per 2 units in buildings of 20 units or more.

Amendment No. 2: Don't count on Tri-Met

This amendment proposes that minimum parking requirements not apply to projects within 500 feet of frequent transit service. Since Tri-Met service changes regularly (example: the Fremont bus—no longer running 7 days a week or to downtown) and the service it provides is not within the city's control, we suggest that there be no exception to parking requirements based on any level of expected Tri-Met service. 

BWNRG recommends: Required parking applies regardless of Tri-Met service levels.

Amendment No. 3: Deals for developers stick it to neighbors

This amendment allows substituting car-sharing spots for some of the required car spaces. We're against any bargaining of this kind, and also recommend disallowing further reductions for motorcycle and bicycle parking, striking out code sections 33.266.110.B.5 and 33.266.110.B.7.

The requirement should be straightforward, simple: 1 space per 2 units, a formula that still does not cover the anticipated influx of vehicles. Developers can choose to make their properties more attractive by adding or increasing bicycle/motorcycle parking and car-sharing spots, but we'd hate to see the city apply unwieldy formulas and take on more monitoring responsibilities, especially when neighbors have to shoulder additional traffic impact. Under the recommended 1 space per 2 units, they’re already absorbing a majority of the anticipated vehicles.

According to the city’s recent parking-related survey, “Many people stated that there were no amenities that would reduce their need for a vehicle.”

BWNRG recommends: No reductions allowed in required parking.

Amendment No. 4: Spaces elsewhere are no sure thing

We suggest returning to the current language of the code that requires the parking to be on the same site as the development. As our case shows, properties change hands and uses—tying them up in use as parking lots for nearby residential projects makes the no-parking buildings dependent on an unchanging future. Buildings should be self-sustaining, self-contained in the amenities provided to tenants. Developers may say it's too difficult to design parking into the building or not economically feasible, but smart architects the world over—from the Pearl District, to Vancouver, B.C., to Hong Kong—can do it. Tenants not provided parking on-site are encouraged to rent or arrange spaces elsewhere individually if they choose, which meets the spirit of this amendment without any city monitoring. 

BWNRG recommends: Required parking must be on-site.

Amendment No. 5: Load up on safety

A loading space should be required for any building with 20 units or more, instead of the 41-unit threshold proposed. If the Northeast Fremont building is approved, serious questions remain as to whether the city's designation of major emergency response route can still apply. Imagine a garbage pick-up, a tenant move-in, and a delivery occurring at the same time—not impossible considering the proposed 50 units—how fast could a firetruck, ambulance, or police car navigate the congestion? Neighbors across the east side, not just in Beaumont-Wilshire, depend on a functioning Fremont for emergency response. A loading space somewhat ameliorates this safety concern at a site where on-street parking will be at a premium.

BWNRG recommends: Loading space required for buildings of 20 units or more.

Make it a moratorium

It's irresponsible for the city to be drafting measures to avoid known problems while simultaneously approving one of those problems, as it seems ready to do in permitting the Northeast Fremont building. A moratorium will save us all time, effort, and money in the long run, and should be embraced as a tool for allowing city staff, developers, and Portlanders to thoughtfully craft the future of the neighborhoods.

Last but hardly least

For safety issues dealing with transportation, whether it's calling for removal of the silt fencing that hinders visibility along Frermont, reporting car crashes (one occurred just outside that fence on March 6), or any other suggestions for improvements, call 503-823-5185, ask for Matthew Machado. He's familiar with the site and in contact with the contractors.

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