By Midge Pierce

Citing the potentially devastating effect on its commercial strip, the Hawthorne Boulevard Business Association unanimously voted to oppose a PBOT proposal to implement permit parking for 623 spaces along the busiest portion of the street.

Angered that approval of ballots for the proposal had initially been presented to Richmond and Sunnyside but not the business association, board members slammed a process that would give each business only one vote. One called it “onerous, fraudulent.”

Co-president Gregg Harris called it an “end-run” by decision makers who have clearly never run a business that was “autocratic, not democratic”.

Transportation officials chose Hawthorne for one its two new parking permit programs because of its high parking occupancy rate, complaints and resident requests.

Under the plan, drivers who do not have an area parking permit would have a two-hour visitor limit. Because the limit is intended to improve street vitality by encouraging customer turnover, PBOT representatives were surprised at the backlash which ranged from concern over insufficient time for shopping and dining to outrage about businesses’ potential bottom line losses.

Representatives from Fred Meyers, with 450 employees, and New Seasons – the area’s largest employers – expressed alarm about the potential impact on employees who could ill afford the $75 first year annual fees or those who would have to move their cars every two hours to comply with policy.

The upshot, they warned is more parking in adjacent neighborhoods adding to the car crunch.

Hostel manager Michelle Machado pointed out that the plan places an inequitable burden on businesses and those in the area who are already struggling. Others said the City is all talk and no action on the socio-economic front.

“We’re faced with kicking staff into the dark ages or pushing more cars into the neighborhood,” said business owner Don Mack.

Officials are looking into providing mass transit passes and other incentives. They said interest in permits was driven be people who feel entitled to park in front of their houses. They aren’t, PBOT confirms.

Board Members responded that the issue isn’t solved by permits but by better planning.

“The problem is the City allowing apartments to be built without parking,” said Roger Jones. It will only get worse as more and more apartments are built. New residents bring in more cars, one said, citing estimates that 100 new units = 75 more cars.

The next step for the permit project is counting ballots sent to neighbors. Sixty percent of neighbors must favor the project to proceed and PBOT expects to have votes tallied by early August.

If a majority fails to approve the proposal, nearby Division may be next in line.

Julia Hanfling said, “If we had been involved earlier, we could have worked together toward solutions.”

The Community is at a crossroads, according to Harris. “It needs to improve decision-making or go downhill unless it makes better choices.”

Asked about consideration of other options, specifically a parking garage, PBOT responded. “No,” adding that, “if you’re fixing parking, you don’t make everyone happy.”

Also of note at the meeting, HBBA learned that the corridor would receive crime prevention relief with the addition of two 24/7 walking beat officers dedicated to community outreach and engagement.