The Southeast Examiner is experimenting with a new column to pose controversial questions  affecting the neighborhoods and solicit neighbors’ solutions. The first response is from Richmond resident Steve Gutman. The opinions expressed do not represent The Southeast Examiner. 

Next month’s question is: What is your solution to the furniture and household objects left out on the curb? Send an email to examiner@inseportland.com.

What is your solution for the inner city parking dilemma?

1. First, residents shall immediately legalize peer to peer driveway rentals through several readily available online marketplaces such as www.parkeasier.com and www.justpark.com. This would allow my neighbor across the street and others to rent out their driveway and earn money. This can happen without construction, loss of green space or expense. Give those nearly car-free millennials living in zero parking apartments an off-street place to park their cars.

2. Second, any interested neighborhood shall have a clear, simple and legal pathway to managing parking demand by voting to establish a Parking Benefit District. This would give any neighborhood that’s tired of listening to itself complain about the lack of local on street parking (like Richmond, Goose Hollow and Nob Hill) a simple and democratic way forward.

Steps would look something like this: any contiguous area containing a certain number of (e.g. fifty or more) on street parking spaces could hold a vote to decide whether the local parking situation is annoying enough to justify the creation of a Parking Benefit District to manage the problem; if the ayes win, they could set up the PBD, count how many on street spaces are available in the district, and rent out 85% of them; the first spot per household would cost something significant (like $50/month). Once every household that wants a spot has one, households could rent a second on street space for $75/month. After that, if there were any remaining unclaimed spots, they’d be made available to residents of Commercial Use Zones (e.g. zero parking apartment dwellers), for $100 per month.

Since the overall demand for parking under these conditions is impossible to foresee, there would need to be a mechanism to adjust these prices up or down, to ensure that every available spot is used; and  the PBD isn’t underpricing street parking, and leaving money on the street.

Why would the Parking Benefit District want to maximize revenue? Simple. Because all of the money would be put into a “Local Right of Way Enhancement Fund,” that would fund improvements to the public right of way in the Benefit District. Improvements like pothole filling, sidewalk ramps, crosswalk restriping, regular street sweeping, installation of dynamic crosswalk signals… maybe even burying utility cables.

If the streets are fine as they are, then give the money back to every resident of the PBD. The public right of way belongs to the public, and if it generates revenue and the public can’t agree on how to spend it, it should simply go back to the people as an annual dividend. Note that everyone in the district would get a dividend including those who don’t park on the street.

3. Public streets shouldn’t be managed in a way that gives only certain privileged

people (i.e. car owners) a free place to park. Especially if there’s more parking demand than available supply, street parking should be managed to maximize the public benefit. In other words, it should be managed to maximize value to ALL local taxpayers (renters and owners alike).

I understand that my proposed policy will raise hackles but remember, impacted neighborhoods would have to choose to adopt this policy, and, people won’t tax themselves unless they see on obvious problem. If adopted, the new fee would surely upset some people. However, it’s important to realize that parking has never been “free.” It has always cost money, and we have all been paying it.