Posted by Jonathan Maus ( Publisher/Editor ) on October 14th, 2009 at 10:20 am
[UPDATE 10/16, 9:53am: Planning Commission has not voted in favor of this increase. They are still considering it after some follow-up testimony that was not in favor of it. I received conflicting accounts of what transpired at the hearing and I am working on an update now. Stay tuned for a follow story. I regret any confusion this has caused. — Jonathan]
[UPDATE 10/16, 11:30am: Please see this updated story for the latest on this issue.]
Condominiums in NW Portland.
(Photo © Dan Liu)
Yesterday, the Portland Planning Commission voted to approve a major increase to the minimum requirement for long-term bike parking at condominiums and apartment buildings (what the City calls Multi-Family Dwellings).
Due in part to advocacy by Michelle Poyourow of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA), the Commission voted to increase the existing requirement of 1 bike space for every four dwelling units to 1.5 bike spaces for each unit.
It all started back in 2007, when Poyourow put in a request to delete a piece of the existing zoning code. The code, 33.266.200.B.2.d (7), states that developers can opt-out of providing long-term parking “if long-term bicycle parking is provided in a dwelling unit”. This is seen as a major loophole and it was inserted “in the eleventh hour” by an influential developer when the issue was first raised by the BTA back in the 1990s.
Poyourow’s code amendment request made it through the system and in August of this year it was forwarded to the Planning Commission. At a hearing on the issue on August 25th, Poyourow asked the Commission to go one step further and have the City’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) to not only strike out that loophole, but expand the minimum requirement.
BPS added the bike parking issue into a larger set of code amendments known as the Regulatory Improvement Code Amendment Package 5 (RICAP 5).
About a month later BPS issued a memo which I’ve excerpted below (emphasis mine):
“Currently, the Zoning Code requires one long-term bicycle parking space for every four dwelling units. The space may be provided by allowing residents to bring their bikes into their dwelling units. Allowing parking requirements to be met in dwelling units has been a problem because the developer/builder of a building usually is not the manager or operator of the building. As a result, the developer may meet the requirement by saying parking will be in the dwelling units, but the manager of the building may tell residents that they cannot bring bikes into the elevators or corridors, effectively barring them from the designated parking
There is also increasing data that one space per four dwelling units is insufficient. Some testimony received at the August 25 hearing indicated as many as two bikes per dwelling unit is typical, and the Bureau of Transportation has documented that 70 percent of Portlanders own a bicycle and more than half of city residents own more than one bicycle. Eight percent of Portlanders reported that bicycling was their primary commute mode in 2008.
Staff recommendation: Increase the requirement from one space per four dwelling units to 1.5 spaces per dwelling unit. See Attachment A.”
Yesterday, Poyourow testified at the Planning Commission hearing. Joining her was prominent Portland developer John Carroll. Carroll, whose buildings include the Eliot Tower, The Gregory, and the Pearl Lotfts, testified in strong support of the new, higher minimum bike parking requirement. Carroll noted to the Commissioners that in the Eliot building, 25% of his car parking spaces sit empty and that the quickest-selling units in that development were the studios that came with no auto spaces at all.
With the findings of BPS and supportive testimony, the proposed changes passed (note: the changes are not retroactive and would only apply to new developments).
Now, they will be forwarded to City Council, where they’ll have another public hearing. I’ll update this story with the date of that Council hearing so you can share your testimony and/or show up in support.
UPDATE, 11:21AM: I’m now hearing that the Planning Commission might be taking a month to look more closely into the 1.5 bike spaces number after hearing further comments from developer John Carroll. I’m looking into this now and will update the story if necessary.