The minimum parking requirements for new multi-family buildings along high density corridors has residents living in the immediate neighborhood very concerned. At the City Council session of January 10, citizens had a chance to air their complaints as well as voice approval.

Joe Zehnder, Chief Planner for the City of Portland, gave an account of a recent study for the Bureau of Sustainability (BES) by David Evans and Associates, Inc. The study is in  response to the TOD‘s (Transit Oriented Development) being built in the inner City.

The study included eight different project locations each with its unique living situations but similar in that they are all located on or near a commercial street and located close to residential and business property. They also all have limited or no parking.

Four of those in the study were located here in inner southeast. They include The 20 on Hawthorne, 1550 SE 20th Ave.; Andria Condominiums, 910 SE 42nd Ave.; 3810 SE Division Apartments, 3810 SE Division and 43 Division Micro-Units 4300 block of SE Division St.

The City’s intention, quoted here,  is to set policy and regulations related to parking minimums on “long-standing support for compact development and economically viable neighborhood centers, reducing vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and related air quality impacts, encouraging use of transit and active transportation, and addressing climate change.”1

By unbundling parking  from the structure they can build more rentals and purportedly charge less for the rental unit. Most importantly, they say, it will be easier for people not own a car.

The problem is that 72 percent of those living in the study project locations own a car and two/thirds of them park on the street.

Most of the citizens testifying at the hearing had concerns about the logistics of the projects already underway.

Cathy Lambert, owner of Division Hardware located directly across from the 3810 Division Apartments, testified at the hearing. Her customers need to park close because they are purchasing building supplies. The 80 plus units across the street along with the other units a block away are all in competition for parking spots.

Allen Field of the Richmond neighborhood, estimates that there will be 320 new units along Division St. over the next year.

He had innovative suggestions to Council. The first is to demand each developer do a parking study in the area of intended development. Any development over a certain  number of units must be required to provide some parking. Also, since it is the intention of this type of building to attract renters who don’t own a car, why not offer a waiver or rebate to car-free tenants?

Jeff Sakamoto testified in favor of the progress of the new apartments. He formerly lived in Seattle and is familiar with high density/low parking spaces. He stated that if people want sustainability and if they want to slow global warming and affordability, they are going to have to embrace these developments.

He also suggests that people and businesses look into car storage units, something becoming more prevalent in Seattle.

A citizen from the Sellwood neighborhood noted that in the new no-parking apartment complex located at 12th and SE Tacoma, there isn’t a service parking spot. They voiced concern about the problem of traffic congestion on Tacoma St. if anyone in the building needed an emergency vehicle or a place to park while moving in moving in and out or were being picked up by a taxi or TriMet lift bus. They felt at least one service parking space should be a part of any plan.

According to the study, all eight locations had extra parking during peak period parking within a two minute walk from the building. Their figure was that they were 85 percent occupied which means that there is adequate parking within a two block walking distance of each project location.

A majority of people in the study, 64 percent, use alternate transportation to go to work but the preferred mode of travel is still their cars. A few factors might make them less attached to their vehicle. They are: transit to work/school; affordable daycare in the area and more car-share options. So far, none of the eight buildings have a car-share option in the immediate proximity of the apartment.

Between the testimonies of the people and the findings in the study it is evident that improvements in the development and parking policies will need to be made in order to achieve the objectives of the City’s neighborhood development goats.