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Commissioner Fritz on Portland’s “low-car” apartment debate

Posted by on January 10th, 2013 at 11:54 am

Bike-centric apartments on Williams-1
Apartments without car parking
are springing up all over town.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Other than her unfortunate position on bike share (which she ultimately supported), Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz isn’t known for her record on transportation policy. Even so, there have been stirrings this week — thanks to results of a survey of city hall staffers released by The Portland Mercury yesterday — about her being named the commissioner in charge of the Bureau of Transportation (PBOT).

We’ll address that issue in another post. For now, ever wondered how Commissioner Fritz feels about the heated topic of apartment buildings being built without car parking (a.k.a. “low-car apartments”)?

Yesterday, Fritz responded to a constituent email written by north Portland resident Jessica Roberts (who happens to be a former advocate at the Bicycle Transportation Alliance and now works at Alta Planning + Design). Jessica writes great citizen feedback letters. We’ve profiled her in the past and she’s even written an article for us about how to get your letter published in the newspaper.

Back in November, Jessica emailed Barry Manning with the City’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability about the apartment parking issue and cc’d Commisioner Fritz (and others). Below are Jessica’s original email followed by Fritz’s response (emphases are mine).


Dear Mr. Manning,

I am unable to make today’s hearing on no-parking development, so I am requesting that you accept this comment by email.

I strongly support the elimination of parking minima for development on major transit lines, and feel it would be a major step backwards for our city if we reversed this policy to require on-site vehicle storage.

My husband and I do not own a car. When we bought a home, we wanted to be as close in as possible precisely so that we can bike, walk, and take transit – thus not buying a car, and thus keeping our negative impact on the environment and our neighborhoods minimal. However, far too many condo developments bundled on-site parking that we did not need and did not want – and that raised the price of the unit beyond what we could consider. It wasn’t until we found one of the earliest developments to take advantage of the TOD no-parking policy that we could actually afford a home. It would have materially raised the cost of housing for us if we only had housing available to us with vehicle storage.

The public right-of-way is not guaranteed or exclusive vehicle storage for any individual Portland resident. If neighbors who object to the new development have homes built before parking minima were eliminated, they ought to have vehicle parking, in which case there is no problem. If they do not have on-site vehicle storage, then they have no greater right to ‘reserve’ the public right-of-way [emphasis mine] for their own private use than newer residents. In no case, however, is it good public policy to require parking minima for the convenience of homeowners who happen to already live in a neighborhood (and who probably bought homes back when housing and rental prices did not exclude low-income residents from far too many neighborhoods).

The free market has the ability to regulate on-street parking demand. If our streets truly become so clogged with cars that buyers demand on-site parking, I am confident that developers will provide on-site parking.

In the meantime, however, it is a matter of equity to allow low- and no-car households in our city decent housing options that do not force them to pay for a resource (vehicle parking) they cannot afford and do not want.

Yours,
Jessica

And here’s how Commissioner Fritz responded (party edited for brevity):

Dear Jessica,

While I share your concern for the public right-of-way remaining public and available to all, I ask you also to consider the needs of people with disabilities, people who work evening and night shifts, and families with day care providers not located on the same transit lines. All of those groups may need on-site parking. I don’t believe any large multi-family building in a desirable neighborhood should be reserved only for those who have the physical, job, and family characteristics that allow car-free living or walking several blocks to get to their car. Providing four parking spaces in a 20-unit building isn’t contrary to our ideals – it would recognize that there are many different folks in Portland, and one size seldom fits all.

Sincerely,

Amanda

Amanda Fritz
Commissioner, City of Portland

I share this not only so you have a sense of where Fritz stands, but to remind you to keep the issue in mind. The City Council is set to have a work session on it today at 2:00 pm. So far, no changes in policy have been put on the table; but as you can see with Commissioner Fritz, there is a sense among some leaders that the current policy isn’t working.

For more on Portland’s parking debate, read the recent guest column in The Oregonian written by parking expert Donald Shoup.

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Comments
  • Jessica Roberts January 10, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    Please be sure to send your thoughts on the matter to all of our current elected officials (contact information here. If you sent a comment in last year, neither Mayor Hales nor Commissioner Novick received it. I just received a very thoughtful response from Novick that shows he has not yet decided what his stance is. Now is the moment to act.

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  • Jayson January 10, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    Kudos to Jessica for a well-thought out letter. I agree with the points raised by Jessica, but I would add another point. Requiring some parking minimum can lead to unintended consequences. For example, a townhome development in my neighborhood was just beyond the no parking minimum reach of the transit line (but still only two blocks away). As a result, the developer provided a one-car garage for each unit, and thus resulting in a street full of garage doors and little else. It’s discouraging to bike or walk around this building due to occasions when cars backing out into the street conflict with me walking to the bus or MAX.

    In contrast, a similar townhome development adjacent to the bus line was able to build without on-site parking and achieved a far friendlier development face, complete with living room windows, little stoops to welcome visitors and no added conflicts with pedestrians or bicyclists.

    Like Jessica, I’m also unable to make the hearing today and will certainly write a letter to Commissioner Fritz, who I mistakingly voted for in the last election..

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  • Mabsf January 10, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    I would like to met that fictious family! And why wouldn’t that fictious family be able to get a parking permit or consider another housing development?

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    • John Lascurettes January 10, 2013 at 4:12 pm

      Disabled users are able to request disabled spots be designated in front of their houses. I know of several around Portland, including one just down my block in front of a private residence (that is, it’s not serving a commercial need).

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  • Tony January 10, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    The problem with Ms. Fritz response (well, at least one problem) is that she is responding as though there will not be housing built close-in that DOES have parking.

    Nothing is precluding developers from building with parking. In fact, while these no-parking apartments have been allowed for a long time, only recently have they been built.

    If there is demand for apartments with parking, apartments with parking will be built. If there is demand for apartments with no parking, well… the city might just decide to make that impossible.

    Ms. Fritz would to better to propose and promote incentives to provide for larger apartments which are ADA compliant, to accomodate families and the disabled. Provide incentives for loading zones and car share spots too.

    Ms. Fritz could also work to overturn current regulations which prohibit residents with unused parking from renting it to those who want to use it.

    These are all flexible and targeted solutions which will allow the city to grow in a sustainable direction.

    If she doesn’t pursue any of these ideas, or similar ones, it exposes this response as one which uses these categories of people as shield to protect close-in residents who want free parking, right in front of their house, come hell or high water. I know that the so called “Neighbors for Responsible Growth” have her ear and I have strong (and somewhat supported) suspicions that the concern for the disabled is at least partially feigned and is primarily considered a strategy for stopping high density developments.

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    • annefi January 10, 2013 at 2:51 pm

      Loading zones and car share spots are an important convenience that is omitted in the design for the four-story car-free apartment building that is planned to go up next to the 7-11 at S.E. 17th and Tacoma in Sellwood. This building will front busy Tacoma and have NO loading/unloading zone for tenants to use when they move in or out. That is totally inconsiderate. I guess the assumption by the developers is that the tenants will park their moving vans (or friends’ cars) in the 7-11 parking lot while they move in or out.

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      • 9watts January 10, 2013 at 2:53 pm

        move by bike? :-)

        But I agree with your larger point.

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  • dan January 10, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    Note that developments without parking just mean that public assets (on-street parking) are subsidizing commercial interests. For free market forces to operate in this realm, there would need to be mandatory permits for extended street parking in all close-in residential areas. While I love this idea, I don’t think we’re likely to see this.

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  • todd January 10, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    I can understand people with certain disabilities being effectively car dependent, thus needing (signed! reserved!) parking access. I fail to see what night shifts or families or child care providers have to do with such dependency. To the extent that parking for able-bodied people is desirable, the market will provide. It should never be a legal entitlement, which can only foster dependency through natural abhorrence of waste, like monthly car payments or insurance premiums that don’t diminish with diminished driving.

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    • Spiffy January 10, 2013 at 1:06 pm

      [blockquote] I fail to see what night shifts or families or child care providers have to do with such dependency.[/blockquote]
      TriMet service cuts mean that they don’t run transit late or at all in some areas… if you get off work in the middle of the night you might need to drive home as the only option… same with your child-care being inaccessible…

      but that fails to address the problems with those services… TriMet should run later and to more areas… and building more affordable housing with no parking means you can walk or bike to work and your child-care provider because you can afford to live close to them…

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    • Bjorn January 10, 2013 at 4:05 pm

      People with disabilities can get a handicapped space placed right in front of their house so they actually aren’t impacted at all by these developments.

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      • davemess January 11, 2013 at 12:02 pm

        Or if it is really that crucial, they can also seek out residences that have private parking.

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  • Indy January 10, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    “When I emailed Fritz asking to share reasons for her opposition, she replied that, “I would rather spend $2 million on structural improvements for cyclists and pedestrians on Barbur, or elsewhere in neighborhoods outside of downtown.””

    I agree with Fritz. That is a *far* better investment than Bike Share.

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  • 9watts January 10, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    Let’s have some data, Commissioner Fritz! Speculating about disabled and night shift workers, imagined inconveniences because they might be tempted to move into these buildings or live adjacent to them is really a stretch in my view. Why not do the more interesting thing and inquire whether any members of those groups you listed currently get around without a car–may prefer to eschew the car even!–and if so what their experiences are. Invite them to a hearing. We might all learn a lot. The rest to me is mostly all-too-familiar, unimaginative, cars-first boilerplate.

    Then there’s the far simpler and well understood idea of parking benefit districts which is sort of an end run around most of this.

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    • Bill Michtom January 13, 2013 at 7:30 pm

      This is only anecdotal, but it is two data points. I lived in Multnomah Village and specifically got an annual bus pass so that I could use TriMet as much as possible. This ran into the reality of TriMet’s totally unrealistic scheduling one evening when I went to the Symphony.

      I came out of the concert at 10:15 pm, went to the bus stop and found that the last bus had left downtown 45 minutes previously–that would be 9-bloody-30!

      Talking about this with a friend who also lived in southern SW Portland, I was told that the bus to her part of town stopped for the evening at 7:30 pm!

      That people in this thread criticize Fritz for these concerns seems more like wanting to criticize someone than trying to solve a problem. She does not seem to be advocating against low/no-car apartments, but for including the broader population that actually lives in Portland.

      As another person noted, TriMet doesn’t run all night. There are many reasons people are forced to depend on cars, not all of them solved by a handicapped space.

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  • davemess January 10, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    “I don’t believe any large multi-family building in a desirable neighborhood should be reserved only for those who have the physical, job, and family characteristics that allow car-free living or walking several blocks to get to their car.”

    Wow, just wow. Clearly it should be reserved for people who own cars and make a substantial income!

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    • 9watts January 10, 2013 at 1:08 pm

      The worst of it is the implication that carfree living is something that only rich, able-bodied people pursue as a lifestyle marker. I wonder what Amanda imagines the 24% of the renter population in Multnomah Co. West of 82nd Ave who don’t have a car to be like? Or the 6% of homeowners who don’t have a car.

      Secondly, what’s with the walk-several-blocks-to-the-car bugaboo? Is that supposed to be recognized as a dastardly inconvenience, a slight, an affront to the sensibilities of all car owners who are entitled to something better than that? I thought Amanda was from another country, originally, where this sort of logic would wither in the glare of public scrutiny.

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      • Todd Boulanger January 10, 2013 at 1:27 pm

        I guess she is implying that car owners cannot do what transit riders are expected to do – walk a few blocks.

        As for ADA on-street parking, that is an important emerging national issue that is being impeded by too many home owners (and renters) who chose to car park on street overnight for convenience vs. parking in their garage [that most likely is being used for household storage and not its intended use].

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        • sabes January 10, 2013 at 10:49 pm

          Who are you to tell me what to use my garage for? Do I tell you what to use your living room for?

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          • 9watts January 10, 2013 at 10:55 pm

            If you insist that your neighbors whose houses don’t have living rooms can’t park their couches and coffee tables in the street but you who have a living room but have chosen to always park your couch in the street should continue to have that right I might be tempted to. Just saying.

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      • Donna January 10, 2013 at 7:08 pm

        And that is so ironic because not only can I not afford a car of my own, most of my friends without cars can’t afford one, either.

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    • todd January 10, 2013 at 1:17 pm

      Wow indeed. It makes car dependency sound like the natural, normative state, something you need special elite characteristics to transcend, instead of the corporate-engineered, culturally reinforced “need” it became in later decades of the last millennium. And it’s not a question of whether housing should be “reserved” for car-independent people, but instead whether to permit such housing where clearly in demand.

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    • Rol January 10, 2013 at 2:13 pm

      It’s ass-backwards ain’t it? “Reserving a building only for car-free people,” would be done by an on-site parking MAXIMUM. Which no one is proposing. Same kind of fallacious argument that says gay marriage is a war on (straight) marriage, and says that not wanting to be bombarded with Christmas crap around Kwanzaa-time, is a war on Christmas.

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    • Donna January 10, 2013 at 7:06 pm

      As usual, politicians cater to the wealthy(er). Amanda Fritz is no different.

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    • Bill Michtom January 13, 2013 at 7:33 pm

      No. It should include the broad Portland population. That DOES NOT mean wealthy, by the way. Having a car and being wealthy are not by any means connected.

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  • Ted Buehler January 10, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    My issue isn’t the lack of car parking. It’s the quality and quantity of bike parking.

    If you want folks to live car-free, they need some serious bike storage accommodation.

    * secure bike parking for all the bikes in the household
    * indoors (so you can leave your lights attached and stuff)
    * climate controlled so your bike dries out.
    * dry enough for your bike, jacket and gloves to dry out overhight in the bike room, not in your studio apartment
    * some parking spots that don’t require upper body strength to park (non-hanging)
    * a set of basic tools on the wall
    * spots for at least a few trailers
    * limited number of people with access to the room — if its an 84 unit apartment building, have 3 different bike rooms, each keyed differently, to reduce the risk of a clepto being in your sector.

    If an apartment building has this, then folks will invest in the bicycle equipment needed to be 365 day/yr riders.

    If an apartment building has a bunch of bike hooks, outdoors, in the parking lot, then people *won’t* invest in the equipment, because it’s going to get stolen/vandalized (duh).

    I haven’t seen these discussions going on, has anyone else?

    **********

    In the Boise Neighborhood (Williams and Mississippi, Fremont to Skidmore) we have the Bike Centric EcoFlats (in the photo above) where the indoor bike room has most everything I asked for. And we have The Albert (at Beech St., just opened a few months ago) where it’s a bunch of bike hooks in the parking lot.

    I’m pretty sure that fewer folks in The Albert are going to convert to bicycling 365, because their stuff gets stolen, rots away being perpetually wet, etc.

    Ted Buehler

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    • Bill Michtom January 13, 2013 at 7:36 pm

      Also helpful would be more bike racks all over. I live downtown and have use a bike all the time (no car) and I am often places where a bike rack doesn–and should–exist.

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  • Ted Buehler January 10, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    If anyone wants to have a say in this for a new building, we have a proposal for a 30-unit apartment building up for discussion this Monday, 8:00 pm, at AYOS (3710 N Mississippi). Developer is proposing 30 units, zero parking, for a lot at 3724 N Vancouver Ave. Developer has a good reputation, but their building they are finishing next to Pistil’s Nursery on Mississippi only has 4 indoor bike parking spaces for about 40 apartments.

    Come and speak up. It’s on the agenda from 8:00 – 8:30.

    Ted Buehler
    Co-chair, Boise Neighborhood Association

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    • 9watts January 10, 2013 at 1:15 pm

      “4 indoor bike parking spaces for about 40 apartments”

      My understanding is that the required ratio is 1.1 not 0.1. Those numbers sound strange/not compliant.

      9watts
      President, Sunnyside Neighborhood Association

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      • Ted Buehler January 10, 2013 at 4:14 pm

        9watts — there was plenty of covered outdoor bike parking. But only a few indoor spaces (I think it was 7, actually). & this is a 4 story building with no elevator. So very few “average folks” are going to be able to muscle their bikes up 2 flights of stairs to hang them in a tiny living room, they’ll just be parking them outside, under a shed-roof, but pretty vulnerable IMO. And if your bike is wet when you park it at night, it will still be wet when you come out in the morning.

        But, in their defense, this developer’s 2nd building on Mississippi has a large indoor bike room, and they’re promising (as stated below) “more than adequate bike parking” on this one.

        Ted Buehler

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    • Ted Buehler January 10, 2013 at 1:16 pm

      BTW, the developer promises “more than ample bike parking” on this one…

      Ted Buehler

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  • RH January 10, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    So the recent study showed that there was plentiful on street parking within 2 blocks of these low car apartments. Are people really that lazy that they can’t walk up to 2 blocks? Isn’t that why we spend money to build sidewalks? Apartments/Condos build without parking can be more visually pleasing too.

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    • Scott January 10, 2013 at 1:45 pm

      It is the people who live in car free apartments who actually own one or two cars that should be walking two blocks. Remember that the comments on this site are not the ultimate cross section of Portland, nor should we be making laws that force it to be. Protect peoples desired way of life, and they might spend less energy trying to defeat yours.

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      • 9watts January 10, 2013 at 1:49 pm

        “Protect peoples desired way of life, and they might spend less energy trying to defeat yours.”

        Man this apple pie tastes good. Glad we have so much apple pie that everyone can gorge themselves. Why is all this apple pie in the dumpster? Hey everybody! Apple pie!

        Interesting social theory, but I don’t see it quite in those terms.

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      • davemess January 11, 2013 at 12:26 pm

        But Scott, anyone who bought or rents a house without a driveway and/or garage is also in a “car free” living situation. The public street in front of your house is not “your” parking area.

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    • Bill Michtom January 13, 2013 at 7:39 pm

      I–although I no longer have a car–can’t walk two blocks. Fortunately, I can ride a bike, but your assumption is not based on reality.

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  • MossHops January 10, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    I’ll join the chorus and state that Ms. Fritz’ remarks are off the mark. I think Jessica made a fantastic point in stating that we should allow the markets to decide. At the moment, there is greater demand for apartments with lower prices and no parking, eventually enough of these will be built that there will be greater demand for more expensive apartments with parking, and the builders will respond to that.

    That said… There’s a reason that I moved from San Francisco. As much as I loved that city, it’s a hard city to live in and lack of parking has a lot to do with it.

    In the back of our (cyclist) minds, we think that if we make driving more difficult, more will get on bikes (or public transport) and we will have cycling heaven. However, San Francisco is instructional in that their parking problems probably got more people on to public transport, but also lead to a lot of people stubbornly sticking to their cars and trolling for hours on end looking for parking spots.

    This parking trolling affects everyone. It makes the buses run slower, it slows down the bikes, it leads to more confrontations. No one in the city is insulated from this issue, even if they don’t own a car. A good friend of mine in San Francisco has lived car free for quite some time and it has mostly worked well for her. That said, we never had many events at her place because no one wanted to mess with the notoriously bad parking in her neighborhood.

    If you don’t own a car you may think that no parking is going to be a net positive for you, but it will definitively change the fabric of transport in the city and they are not all positive changes. I’m not saying that we should require parking for these new developments, but I do think we need to take a pragmatic view of other cities that have more limited parking and decide if that is the type of city that we want to become.

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    • Scott January 10, 2013 at 2:09 pm

      well said

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    • 9watts January 10, 2013 at 2:12 pm

      “In the back of our (cyclist) minds, we think that if we make driving more difficult, more will get on bikes (or public transport) and we will have cycling heaven.”
      straw bike

      I don’t think it is that simple at all. People right here right now are giving up their cars, or by whatever route more and more end up not owning a car. The Census bears this out. I can walk you through Multnomah Co. Census tract by Census tract. Studies that show younger generations not bothering to get drivers licenses at historic rates, not buying cars, the popularity of zipcar, getaround, car2go, etc. The list is long.

      This is not not not about convincing people to get rid of their cars. They already are. Slowly, perhaps, but there’s no reason to think that pace couldn’t or won’t pick up.

      To me this parking thing is one small piece of the infrastructure catching up to people’s revealed preferences. The challenge is to figure out how to persuade or incentivize those without cars to move into these apartments. If they are still too expensive then require the developers to provide incentives with the money they saved skipping the parking costs.

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      • MossHops January 10, 2013 at 2:29 pm

        “If they are still too expensive then require the developers to provide incentives with the money they saved skipping the parking costs.”

        My reason for disliking this idea is the same reason I like Jessica’s original point that having no parking minimums will let the market decide. Most of us believe that the public is significantly subsidizing car ownership (including parking). If this is true, then the markets should bear this out with apartments that offer parking costing significantly more than those without. No developer subsidy would be required if parking costs as much as we think it does.

        Furthermore, if we require developer subsidies on housing without parking, then we are giving them a disincentive to actual build these types of dwellings. I don’t think that’s what you want.

        “In the back of our (cyclist) minds, we think that if we make driving more difficult, more will get on bikes (or public transport) and we will have cycling heaven.”
        straw bike

        Please don’t take my quote out of context. My very next sentence was:

        ” However, San Francisco is instructional in that their parking problems probably got more people on to public transport, but also lead to a lot of people stubbornly sticking to their cars and trolling for hours on end looking for parking spots.”

        That is, reducing parking will encourage different behavior. However, if we look at other dense, low parking cities, we will see that some of that behavior is a net positive (more utilization of public transport, more biking/walking), but some is negative (people driving around for 45 minutes waiting for a parking spot.) In context, my total comment is stating that there are some very positive and very negative consequences of limiting parking and we need to pragmatically and realistically confront both sides of this issue.

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        • 9watts January 10, 2013 at 2:48 pm

          I appreciate that the parking issue has many dimensions. And you raise a bunch of good ones. But I don’t think you’re fully accounting for the dynamic aspect of preferences changing in the near future. My reason for suggesting a developer subsidy to encourage carfree households to rent is a short term fix for the perception that though these apartments are carfree those with cars are moving in. Since we can’t forbid this, and the developers are apparently taking a windfall here, and the parking mgmt ideas I’ve seen are asymmetric this seemed to me a potential piece of the puzzle.

          But I’m not really seeing the negatives of limiting (off street car) parking. I’ve yet to hear anyone who lives carfree complain about it.

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      • Bill Michtom January 13, 2013 at 7:43 pm

        Re-enforcing my earlier comment, one thing we desperately need is expanded public transit–and that should be more buses because they are much more versatile than rail and, of course, way less capital intensive.

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        • 9watts January 13, 2013 at 8:48 pm

          Good luck with that. Buses and trains suffer serious and inherent practical and financial limitations when compared to the flexible car/bike/feet alternatives. This is not something more money or more political will is going to be able to overcome. If you build a bus system to handle the peak periods it will be incredibly underutilized outside of those times. One of the reasons Trimet doesn’t run that late in SW is that not that many people take the bus outside of peak periods. I know, chicken and egg, but often I’m the only one at the end of the line.

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          • Bill Michtom January 13, 2013 at 11:02 pm

            I certainly don’t disagree that there are problems, but I think they could be overcome in a few ways.

            One, a national coalition of mayors and representatives pushing for operating funding from the feds instead of only capital funding. More efforts to undercut some of the advantages of private-car dependency, through both making it less advantageous (cost) and making public transit more so.

            As to the loneliness at the end of the line, smaller vehicles that are more appropriate for fewer riders paired with huge PR campaigns combining cultural events and transit access, as well as improved access for workers on swing and graveyard shifts. Plus, special late-night-date-night transit to cut down on the need for a designated driver.

            These things are doable if we want them to be, though, of course, they/we must fight the corporate behemoth that keeps money out of the public commons.

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            • 9watts January 13, 2013 at 11:06 pm

              I will again recommend Rodney Tolley’s The Greening of Urban Transport. An excellent reference on the topic of mass transit’s role (and limitations) in a future urban context.

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              • Bill Michtom January 14, 2013 at 11:32 am

                Thanks. Just put it on hold at the library.

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    • Esther January 10, 2013 at 2:41 pm

      Portland is not San Frnacisco. Most single unit houses are still incredibly close together on much smaller lots in San Francisco than they are here. Density is 17,719 per square mile in San Francisco, 4 times what it is here, 4,375/square mile.

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    • Esther January 10, 2013 at 2:43 pm

      Portland is not San Frnacisco. Most single unit houses are still incredibly close together on much smaller lots in San Francisco than they are here. Density is 17,719 per square mile in San Francisco, 4 times what it is here, 4,375/square mile. Even if all these proposed developments were built, that would not get us anywhere close to SF.

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      • MossHops January 10, 2013 at 2:54 pm

        A few things to note:
        1. We are not San Francisco… yet. Our policies both on new buildings and allowing additional dwellings in existing homes is encouraging additional density. I live close to Division and the transformation is absolutely remarkable. The key here is that it is nearly impossible to “fix” San Francisco. However, we can create policies in Portland now to ensure that Portland will not become San Francisco.

        2.The density numbers are wildly misleading. San Francisco does not have an equivalent to East, Southwest or Northwest Portland within it’s city boundary. That is, there are only dense neighborhoods in that city whereas Portland has some dense, and some not-so-dense areas. The Pearl and NW 23rd are very close to SF in density already. Division, Hawthorne and others are getting there over time. Density affects neighborhoods, not cities.

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  • Ross Williams January 10, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    The problem is pretty simple. If developers can have the public pay for parking, then it makes economic sense for them to do so. This allows them to charge lower prices or to make a larger profit. Probably a bit of both.

    If the goal is to make sure that people aren’t paying for parking they don’t need, perhaps there ought to be a minimum number of parking spaces and a maximum that is less than one for every unit. This will encourage developers to split rental of parking from unit rentals.

    The question is how many of the people who live in large new apartment buildings close to transit are actually carless? The assumption should not be that everyone in a building will have a car, nor that no one will. But we ought to make sure that those that do own cars pay the fulls costs and aren’t subsidized by those that don’t or the public.

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    • Tony January 10, 2013 at 1:50 pm

      Why not treat public parking like the finite public resource it is and manage it appropriately with permits if needed.

      That solves most of the problems and concerns in a targeted and flexible manner. Requiring minimum on site parking leads to more expensive housing and to more parking congestion (as it encourages the ownership of more cars, many of which will not have dedicated spaces).

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  • Jessica Roberts January 10, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    Ross Williams
    The assumption should not be that everyone in a building will have a car, nor that no one will. But we ought to make sure that those that do own cars pay the fulls costs and aren’t subsidized by those that don’t or the public.

    Works for me, as long as the people who already park their private automobiles in the public right-of-way have to pay for that privilege too.

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    • Scott January 10, 2013 at 1:54 pm

      property taxes on a house are much more then a low sq ft condo for that reason and others

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      • Psyfalcon January 10, 2013 at 2:28 pm

        My house, with a garage, has higher taxes than a condo so I pay for on street parking?

        I’m moving my car to the road right now!

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        • Scott January 10, 2013 at 2:42 pm

          congratulations! Park it on the street if you want, but it sounds kinda silly to me. I guess I need to clarify: *My comments are my own opinion: based on experience both professionally at PBOT and personally living and parking in Portland; and may not apply to you.

          When I had a car, and off-street parking was available, I used that as a first resource. Now carless, I don’t have the same problems, but I think it is imprudent to put the cart before the horse in removing parking from commercial districts, limiting the ability for people to function in a capacity that I have no right to refuse

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        • i ride my bike January 10, 2013 at 6:17 pm

          Doubt it, small condos pay higher property taxes than large houses

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          • GlowBoy January 10, 2013 at 10:45 pm

            My experience, having owned both a condo and two houses, is that the homeowner pays at least as much as the condo owner on a per-square-foot basis. In other words, large houses (or even modestly sized houses like my current one) pay a crapload more than small condos.

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            • bicycle rider January 12, 2013 at 11:33 pm

              my parents lived in a 2 bedroom condo in the Pearl and paid $11000/year. the key word is “lived”, they couldnt afford the property taxes

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    • 9watts January 10, 2013 at 1:58 pm

      Glad you both brought this up.
      There is a to me regrettable undercurrent to the parking management schemes that would grandfather in the homeowners’ right to park on the street (whether or not they may have off street parking) but preclude those discounted permits for future (perhaps even present?) renters in buildings without off-street parking. This is so wrong.

      I’m not into subsidizing car ownership, but I reject this biased logic. Statistically in our inner Eastside neighborhoods it is the homeowners who own more cars per household and per person than renters. Homeowners typically also have more driveway and other off street space, though this is rather unevenly distributed among neighborhoods. To exaggerate these initial conditions by favoring homeowners with on-street parking permission is a political ploy I find very difficult to accept. There are many clever ways to manage parking. I just don’t like asymmetric ones that reward those complaining the loudest.

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      • Tony January 10, 2013 at 2:41 pm

        I feel, deep down, the same way. That said, I feel that it’s more important, in the short term, to present something palatable to current home owners to prevent minimum parking requirements from being imposed.

        I think it would have to be only residents in buildings which took advantage of the no-parking provisions which would be precluded or pay an increased amount. Kind of a trade off. I’d prefer a prioritized system where first cars pay less than 2nd or third cars, and current residents without on-site parking are prioritized over homeowners with driveways and garages.

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        • 9watts January 10, 2013 at 2:51 pm

          I see that and always learn from my more pragmatic friends. But I’m also leery of something so complicated that it requires a bureaucracy just to keep track of all the various tiered rates and administer them and follow up….

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        • MossHops January 10, 2013 at 3:03 pm

          “I’d prefer a prioritized system where first cars pay less than 2nd or third cars, and current residents without on-site parking are prioritized over homeowners with driveways and garages.”

          I was tracking with you until the “current residents without on-site parking are prioritized over homeowners with driveways and garages.”

          Seems to give me a incentive to take out the driveway and garage.

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          • Tony January 10, 2013 at 5:45 pm

            I see the danger there, I am more trying to accommodate the streetcar neighborhoods which were built many decades ago without on site parking. If it still has a curb cut, it counts as a parking spot, I say.

            Removing your driveway and putting a curb cut in for the privilege of buying a permit is like having children so you can pre-board on an airplane.

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            • MossHops January 10, 2013 at 6:13 pm

              Probably an apt metaphor. I suppose I’m just trying to point out that houses that have driveways that are used is beneficial for everyone else who is parking in the street. Homeowners who have driveways shouldn’t be penalized for that, but they would have to pay for the permits if they street park, just like everyone else.

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            • bicycle rider January 12, 2013 at 11:36 pm

              curb cuts for off-street parking remove on-street parking for everyone

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              • 9watts January 12, 2013 at 11:39 pm

                not for me!
                I don’t have a car (to park on the street).

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    • Rol January 10, 2013 at 2:54 pm

      That’s really the key to this. Off-street and on-street parking both need to be opened up to market forces at the same time; otherwise everybody’s playing an arbitrage game between the public & private spheres trying to get the best deal.

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  • Lenny Anderson January 10, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    I sure which Jessica were our Trans Commish and not possibly Fritz. The latter seems to have a tin ear when it comes to getting to a balanced transportation system in Portland.

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    • i ride my bike January 10, 2013 at 6:22 pm

      Amen. Plus Fritz has stated many times that bikes are overrepresented. Hales would be a natural for trans commissioner given his background, wish he would reconsider.

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  • benschon January 10, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    We need to be clear that the “equity” argument for parking mandates is a smokescreen. It is a statistical fact that car owners are wealthier than non-car owners, and renters are wealthier than owners. Hypothetical, low-wage, night shift workers who own cars and are unwilling to walk one block to get a free parking space are not being shut out.

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    • benschon January 10, 2013 at 2:14 pm

      Crud: I meant to write “owners wealthier than renters”. You know what I mean.

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  • Brian January 10, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    Someone should tell Amanda that the city and PHB directly sponsor affordable housing projects that seek to reduce the overall cost to provide afordable housing by eliminating parking and locating developments near light rail.
    http://www.oregonlive.com/front-porch/index.ssf/2012/10/some_assembly_required_kah_san.html
    The article makes no mention of the financial details but according to the developer, surface parking costs an estimated $4,000-5,000 per unit and the given the income restrictions for this project (30%-60% AMI), the future residents probably don’t even have the disposable income for car ownership, not to mention responsible car ownership (well maintained, insured et cetera).

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  • Esther January 10, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    Portland is not San Frnacisco. Most single unit houses are still incredibly close together on much smaller lots in San Francisco than they are here. Density is 17,719 per square mile in San Francisco, 4 times what it is here, 4,375/square mile. Even if all these proposed developments were built, that would not get us anywhere close to SF.

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  • RH January 10, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    The Donald Shoup article reference in this blog post says “almost a quarter of renter households in Portland do not own a car.” Very interesting stat!

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    • 9watts January 10, 2013 at 2:55 pm

      glad you thought that was interesting.
      I think it is an overlooked statistic in this conversation and I bring it up every chance I get. 6% of homeowners as well. You can look all this up on the Census database and go census tract by census tract.

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  • Rol January 10, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    Delving into the risky territory of unsolicited advice here: The only thing I would change in that fine, fine letter would be the one and only thing that drew attention to itself, which was the word “minima.” Some Latin plurals are great — addenda, millenia, etc. Others I would avoid like the plague, unless I’m satirizing someone or making fun of myself — minima unless we’re in math class, conundra, aquaria, auditoria, vacua (“My carpet is so shaggy, in the last two years I’ve been through 3 vacua”). Other than that it’s dang-near perfect and I’m of the same mind.

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  • dwainedibbly January 10, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    Contrarian viewpoint: I *want* on-site parking, at some minimum level, so that when PBOT comes to take away the on-street parking too build separated bike infrastructure, there are fewer objections. If you force everyone to park on the street, you will NEVER get that parking removed.

    Have a condo with a space that you don’t need? Rent it out to another resident. That’s what happens in my building all the time.

    Or sell it if you’re feeling lucky. Mrs Dibbly & I have heard that before we bought our place, there were a couple of units here where people sold off their parking spaces in an effort to hang on to the property when the economy crashed. (The spaces are deeded separate from the living units, so it’s easy for them to change hands.) When those units eventually had to be sold but without parking, it was very, very hard to unload them. Parking spaces ended up being worth $50,000, I hear. Current developers may find the same problem once the market for “low or no-parking” buyers & tenants is exhausted.

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    • 9watts January 10, 2013 at 3:43 pm

      Mr & Mrs Dibbly,
      with all due respect, those calculations don’t add up.

      “…once the market for “low or no-parking” buyers & tenants is exhausted.”

      I think you’ve got that exactly backwards. Where do you get the idea that this is a finite quantity, or drying up?

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    • i ride my bike January 10, 2013 at 6:26 pm

      That just concedes the street to motor vehicles by turning them into highways, Id prefer tame slow streets where bikes take the lane and where traffic goes naturally at bike speed. See most 2 lane commercial streets in inner Portland as an example.

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  • dk January 11, 2013 at 11:53 am

    I think this debate is missing the bigger picture. Hales is talking about appointing Fritz to the head of PBOT! The article is meant to illustrate (yet again) her hostility towards active transportation. I think it sends a pretty clear message about Hales’ attitude towards cycling. I think we’ve all been waiting with bated breath to see what type of transportation mayor Hales will be….now we know.

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  • Tom January 12, 2013 at 1:54 am

    Amanda Fritz comments and assumed policies make me want to move out of Portland. I cannot afford to own and operate a car and I should have the option of living in an apartment building that does not cater to car owners. I, along with many of my friends, moved to Portland because it is a progressive city that values bicycling, walkability and mass transit. If I wanted to live somewhere that guaranteed a free parking spot in front of my house I would have moved to the suburbs. Our society is in a state of denial regarding climate change but I think that looking back in 100 years, we will see the pro-car in the city argument as ridiculous.

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    • 9watts January 12, 2013 at 7:41 am

      I agree completely, but I predict 10 years, tops, for us to taste regret over our current foolishness.

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      • davemess January 12, 2013 at 8:35 am

        I think you are seriously overestimating the American public. 10 years?

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      • davemess January 12, 2013 at 8:36 am

        Just compare now to ten years ago. Are things really that different culturally (and not just here in Portland).

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        • 9watts January 12, 2013 at 9:18 am

          …drifting a little from the original topic, but so be it.

          You are assuming (and you have good company) that history is (must be?) linear, that there is nothing out there able to upset the tidy and incremental progression of our understanding or of threats to our way of doing things. I don’t subscribe to that view of history, nor does my assessment have anything to do with overestimating the American public.
          We’re talking about two different things here: prediction of how soon we may experience regret (soon), and how quickly the American public might agree with that prediction (not soon). One looks backwards, the other forward.

          When big changes happen we humans find ourselves quite able to adjust our perspectives very rapidly. Sometimes we have no choice. Cuba’s (i>Special Period in the early 1990s is perhaps one of the most relevant examples. Admittedly this was in response to a supply disruption not a more lurching breakdown of established climate patterns, but it may yet prove instructive.

          Most everywhere I look, 2015 is viewed as a tipping point for reversing the global trend toward emitting more CO2 every year. There would appear to be some reluctant convergence of opinion around this (admittedly highly political) date. In reality the date was probably 20 years ago, but we don’t do so well with that kind of regretful pronouncement so we keep pushing it ahead. But the fact that this date is so very soon suggests to me that some folks who should know a thing or two about this (International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook Nov. 2011 for starters) are really worried.

          Here’s the best summary I have so far found:
          http://www.ecoequity.org/2009/12/a-350-ppm-emergency-pathway/ (press release)
          http://gdrights.org/2009/10/25/a-350-ppm-emergency-pathway-2/
          (report)

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