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Should central-city apartment buildings charge extra for bike parking?

Posted by on July 25th, 2014 at 10:04 am

Paramount Apts at Flint and Broadway
The new owner of the Paramount Apartments on N Flint and Broadway built a new indoor bike parking area and charges tenants $6 a month to use it.
(Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)

Here’s a question for those who say it’s only fair for car parking to cover its own costs: Should bike parking ever do the same?

Whichever way you come down on the question, the new landlord of an inner North Portland apartment building is putting it to the test. He spent $2,000 to add 40 indoor bike parking spaces, a bench and a repair clamp to an unused shop room and is now charging tenants $6 a month per bike to use it.

“Just trying to recoup some of my labor and expense,” the landlord, Roy Eberle of Eugene, explained in a phone interview Thursday.

Eberle decided against recouping that cost by building it into every unit’s rent.

“You know, some people don’t bike. People have a choice this way.”
— Roy Eberle, owner of Paramount Apartments

“You know, some people don’t bike,” Eberle went on. “People have a choice this way.”

Charging anything at all for indoor bike parking is unusual in Portland apartment buildings, in part because city code requires new buildings to provide at least 1.1 bike parking spaces per unit — slightly more than most buildings currently tend to fill. Unless space runs short, landlords commonly choose to offer it as a free amenity.

In Eberle’s building, the 66-unit Paramount Apartments at 253 N. Broadway between Wheeler and Flint, space hasn’t run short yet. A few weeks after the 40-bike space opened, he estimated that about 20 people are using it.

Matt Stefanik, one of Eberle’s tenants, isn’t among them.

“I’m not going to pay $6 for that,” said Stefanik, who owns two bikes and pays $800 a month including utilities for a studio of about 450 square feet. “I just keep them up in my apartment. It’s not a big deal.”


Stefanik is one of many Paramount residents who don’t own cars. Those who do, he said, can pay “$75 or $65 a month” to store one in the nearby lot.

Eberle, who took out a mortgage to buy the property for $7 million late last year, said he was talked into adding the bike parking by his maintenance worker and on-site manager.

“They were bikers and they wanted a bike room,” he said. “It’s working out. I’m surprised that so many actually wanted storage. … It’s a bike town, as you know.”

Eberle’s decision to voluntarily add indoor bike parking to an old building is one many local landlords are facing, now that such rooms are a standard amenity at every new building.

At $120 a month, Eberle’s $2,000 cash investment (which didn’t include his labor) will be paid back in a year and a half.

He added that getting fewer tenants to store bikes in their rooms is likely to save him maintenance on the doors, molding, drywall and paint.

Betsy Reese, a local property manager and biking advocate who owned the Paramount with her husband before selling it to Eberle last year, wrote in an email that though she doesn’t charge extra for bike parking at her other properties, she sees no problem with the new owners charging a nominal fee.

“I would say that the new management at the Paramount should be commended for converting to bike parking the space that we had used for our shop and office,” she wrote. “I wonder how many other 1920s-era big apartment buildings in Portland have retrofitted for a common area for indoor bike parking?”

Stefanik, understandably, is less of a fan. For the moment, he’ll be continuing to haul his bikes past the parking room and up the elevator to his studio.

“I’d use it for sure if it didn’t cost anything,” he said.

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Comments
  • tedder42 July 25, 2014 at 10:09 am

    I’m okay with it. I think it’s a good idea, actually. Just like parking meters, it prevents accumulation of unused bikes. I’ve been in apartments with bikes that have obviously never been ridden- hell, they might be owned by tenants that have moved out.

    A little money changing hands keeps everyone honest. The landlord has more incentive to keep the room, the tenants have incentive to be aware of their bicycles.

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  • TonyJ July 25, 2014 at 10:21 am

    If it’s good for the goose, it’s good for the gander and I’m, perhaps, one of the most consistent voices advocating for an expansion of paid auto parking.

    Six dollars a month is more than the city charges for area permit program permits (those are 60 a year). 6 dollars might be appropriate if the facilities are particularly nice and if the manager is insuring the space against theft.

    I guess we’ll find out if the market will bear this price, it sounds like it’s not. Why not offer the same spaces at 3 a month if they’re only 1/2 filled. Did he poll his residents or just kind of randomly pick the number?

    In a year or two after he has recouped his losses, will the fees be reduced or will they be earmarked for additional improvements for the cyclists?

    Finally, I hope that in a few years when we consider more residential permits and meters, Mr. Eberle lends his support to the city charging his tenants market rates for permits so that the city can “recoup some of [its] labor and expense.”

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    • Dave July 25, 2014 at 11:52 am

      Theft insurance would be a biggie that could seal the deal for many cyclists looking for an apartment. I wonder if a group of landlords could negotiate an insurance package within a city based on secured parking and tenants’ willingness to buy and use adequate locks.

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    • matt picio July 28, 2014 at 4:14 pm

      $6 a month is less than the city charges for downtown bike lockers. It’s a good deal, provided the landlord doesn’t use it as an excuse to prohibit tenants from taking bikes up to their apartments to store inside.

      Landlords might think twice, though – if it’s advertised as “secure” or “protected” bike parking and a fee is charged, then they may open themselves up to liability – hopefully they are consulting their attorney beforehand.

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  • Alex Reed July 25, 2014 at 10:22 am

    Yeah, I’m totally OK with bike parking covering its costs in cases where all nearby car parking is doing the same! (That way bike parking is cheaper than car parking, as it should be, because car parking requires much more space and money to create and maintain). This case sounds a little bit borderline, because car owners in that building can park their cars for free reasonably securely a few blocks away in the Williams / Tillamook area. That’s not really the building owner’s problem or fault, but it does point out an issue with Portland’s copious provision of free car parking.

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  • John Liu July 25, 2014 at 10:22 am

    In the current tight housing market, this landlord surely didn’t need to build the bike facility to keep his building fully rented. So I think it was a forward-looking decision to build it. Some tenants will use it, some won’t, depends on individual circumstance and pocketbook. In a few years, when the apartment supply has grown, that facility will probably help keep the building competitive in a housing market that will be more tilted to tenants than it is today.

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  • Chris Smith July 25, 2014 at 10:25 am

    Somebody is paying for it. There will certainly be cases where it makes good economic sense to charge the ultimate end user.

    There may also be cases where someone else foots the bill. I’m thinking of the New Relic office downtown where the quality of their bike parking is a tool to attract employees.

    But there’s nothing sacred about bike parking that should make it always be free. It’s much more important that it be available and of good quality.

    The idea that auto parking should be free causes incredible economic distortions that we have to work hard every day to overcome.

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  • Chris I July 25, 2014 at 10:25 am

    It’s just like charging for street car parking: if you charge enough, people will start using their garages. This sounds perfectly reasonable to me. If someone doesn’t have space in their apartment, they still have an option to securely park their bike.

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    • Paul in the 'couve July 25, 2014 at 12:24 pm

      Also, it may help prevent the accumulation of under utilized or abandoned bikes in the parking area. It is an amenity like a pool, or a workout area, or a club house, so in one sense it is reasonable to include it in the rent, and treat it as an inducement to prospective renters. On the other hand, a work out room, or even a pool actually require someone physically make the effort to use the resource, so even when “free” (i.e.; at no additional line item cost) those amenities tend to be under utilized most of the time.

      The issue with storing things, even bicycles, is that people can use, abuse, and use up the resource without making any effort. Put a bike int he rack, and then forget about it.

      To me, I can see paying a fee as preferable so that bike parking is being actively used for bikes that are ridden and not a place to accumulate mostly unused bicycle objects.

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  • Chris Smith July 25, 2014 at 10:26 am

    Charging (or permit systems) will also be an important tool in some buildings to keep unused or abandoned bikes from clogging the available parking.

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  • Allison July 25, 2014 at 10:27 am

    What’s the question here? Does this landlord have the right to do this? Of course. Would I, as a potential renter, be willing to take this deal and not feel like he was trying to gouge me? Heck no.

    I understand the impulse of drawing moral equivalencies between bikes and cars but it’s so problematic as to be laughable. Car parking takes up so much more space than bike parking does whether you measure by the amount of space it actually takes up, how much space needs to be reserved so you can get the cars in and out, or even per person (granted that cars can take more than one passenger).

    40 bikes at $6/month per bike? This isn’t a cost recouping. This is a money maker. And the landlord has the right to do it. But I think he may end up re-thinking his pricing if his tenants choose to continue to bring their bikes up to their apartments and his brand new bike facility stays empty.

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  • Allison July 25, 2014 at 10:28 am

    >>>“You know, some people don’t bike,” Eberle went on. “People have a choice this way.”

    /snort

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  • Dwaine Dibbly July 25, 2014 at 10:31 am

    In a city where this amenity has come to be expected, it’s going to sound a little strange to tenants that there is an extra charge. As stated in the article, there is an incentive for the landlord to get people to use the bike room since it reduces building damage. (Personally, as the landlord I probably would have looked at it from the standpoint of reducing damage and provided the amenity free to my tenants, but that’s just me.)

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    • Spiffy July 25, 2014 at 11:11 am

      “He added that getting fewer tenants to store bikes in their rooms is likely to save him maintenance on the doors, molding, drywall and paint.”

      sounds like he’s saving money AND making money… good for him…

      but I also would continue to haul my bike to my apartment… not only because of the cost but also because bike storage areas are theft targets and I don’t want my bike stolen…

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    • Dwaine Dibbly July 27, 2014 at 5:06 pm

      I have been thinking a lot about this, and I think I’ve changed my mind. A small charge keeps people from abusing the room by filling it with unused bikes, etc., as others have pointed out. As a landlord, I’d use the fee to pay for some sort of electronic lock system for the bike room if the building didn’t already have a “fob” system. If the building DID already have that, then it would be simple enough to set up a lock on the bike room and grant access to the tenants who have opted-in.

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  • Zaphod July 25, 2014 at 10:51 am

    While reasonable to charge for such a facility, if a landlord’s ethical position is towards a livable and vibrant urban fabric then maybe free bike storage is a small cost for a landlord. If I were deciding between two properties to lease, this would weigh into the equation perhaps more than the incremental $6.

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  • Fourknees July 25, 2014 at 10:58 am

    Amenities aren’t free although marketing that way is effective. The cost Is just included in rent at other places. No different than how some places include utilities in the rent as “free”, while others have you pay for on your own for electricity, etc.

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  • resopmok July 25, 2014 at 11:16 am

    If he were to have full usage of the available bike parking at a rate of $6 per space, it would take still less than 9 months to recoup the costs of installation completely, and anything beyond that is profit considering how little ongoing maintenance costs for such a facility would be. To me, it smacks of nickel and diming residents who are already paying more (imo) than a fair price for their units. Also, there’s not even enough space for 1 bike per unit, meaning that some residents would be forced to keep their bikes in their units anyway, assuming they all had bikes. Next step? Maybe add a $.25 coin operation to the elevator?

    At a cost of $7 million it will probably take about 15 years to pay the mortgage on this building – really not too bad for a property that generates its own income. While I understand that the landlord is looking to run a profitable business, I have a hard time sympathizing with people who are trying to squeeze others in their housing situations.

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    • davemess July 25, 2014 at 1:20 pm

      The other option is that the owner just didn’t build the storage room. Then no one is gouged but also no one has the opportunity to use a storage room.

      I think this is completely reasonable if you want another place to store a bike it’s fair to charge a little more for it. People can still store bikes in their rooms.

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  • Randall S July 25, 2014 at 11:23 am

    “An apartment owner installed an optional facility in the building, and is allowing people to use it if they pay for it.”

    Why is this news?

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    • Michael Andersen (News Editor) July 25, 2014 at 2:01 pm

      Ha!

      Because it’s a new trend – as Reese says, most old apartment buildings don’t have indoor bike parking at all. Now that it’s becoming expected for a building to offer a bike storage room, more and more landlords (and their tenants) are going to have to make this decision.

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  • Alexis July 25, 2014 at 11:29 am

    Having lived in apartment buildings where bike storage/parking was “free”, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with charging for this, especially if the amenities warrant the cost.

    “Free” bike storage/parking ends up being a neglected dumping ground for other tenants never/rarely used bikes, IMO. If paying a few bucks a month will limit access and keep the facility clean, secure, well lit, and supplied with a repair area and tools, I’m all for it.

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  • JJJJ July 25, 2014 at 11:29 am

    Im interested in why $6 was chosen. It appears to be a random amount, and at least for me, 6 seems like a dealbreaker while 3 seems perfectly reasonable. Could you pay $6 and use the equivalent space to store other things?

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  • Eli July 25, 2014 at 11:43 am

    As a landlord myself of a 3-unit 110 year old building (Capitol Hill, Seattle), I think it is kindof counterproductive to charge.

    I don’t want my tenants damaging the interior paint/drywall by bringing their bikes into their units. I provide bike parking as a means of deterring costly damage to my own property.

    Simultaneously, it’s just a fact that my tenants expect bike parking, even if the bikes are largely for recreational use (meaning that they are not necessarily motivated enough to pay an extra fee).

    I guess I could charge a few extra bucks for it, but frankly, their rent is 100 times what I might get in parking fees. I’d rather just have happy tenants who are less motivated to move out, and reduce my building churn. The last thing I want is for tenants to feel that they are being nickeled and dimed on something they really do expect in an urban apartment.

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  • benschon July 25, 2014 at 11:53 am

    There are public goods, safety and basic livability things, that should be required and all apartment dwellers pay: electrical hookups, flushing toilets, fire-resistant buildings, hallways/common areas, etc. Then there are private goods that should be charged for, a la carte, according to market prices: bike storage, car storage, cable TV hookups, bigger apartments, etc. If the owner wants to fold private goods into the cost of his rents, he can, but it’s market-distorting and unfair to those who don’t want them.

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  • ScottG July 25, 2014 at 11:59 am

    At $6/mo I don’t see it as a very big deal. What I would hate is a landlord having a policy requiring me to lock my bike up in a common area, and not being able to take my bike inside my dwelling. I have friends at Cyan who have had their bikes stolen/stripped/vandalized and the management wasn’t able to do anything about it.

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  • maccoinnich July 25, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    I live in NW Portland, in an older apartment not dissimilar to the Paramount. It was built without bike storage, but the management converted some vacant space into bike storage. The space is much smaller than would be required in a new building, and as such is always full. A number of the bikes seem like they haven’t been used the whole time I’ve lived in the building. I would gladly pay an extra $6 on my rent if it was enough to ensure there were always a few spare racks.

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  • Adam H. July 25, 2014 at 1:54 pm

    I live in Goose Hollow and my building charges $10/month per bike for storage. Really not that big of a deal, although they won’t give me a garage door opener…

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  • Anna July 25, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    I live in an older building in NW and we have a (free) bike room here that seems to be pretty decent and well-used but big enough that there’s still space on the racks, but I keep both of my bikes in my 400 square foot studio. In a different building my old bike got stripped while locked up in the bike room and I don’t trust it. Plus I had a bike get stolen a while back and I’m still feeling paranoid from that. I appreciate when buildings have bike storage though, even if I don’t want to use it. I just like that they made the effort for cyclists.

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  • wsbob July 25, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    I would just as soon not pay for a place outside my residence to store the bike, but a nice, secure and well equipped bike storage with repair and maintenance area for a modest price is a good deal.

    Much better deal than people with cars get. At the big apartment complex across from where I live, there are some garages residents can pay extra for, but most have uncovered parking spaces, and some have to park their cars on the street at the curb. The street also, is what they’ve got for a place to fix their cars. Not fun at any time. Worse when it’s dark cold and wet.

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    • 9watts July 26, 2014 at 9:17 pm

      “most have uncovered parking spaces”

      Most of the cars are already equipped with roofs, no?

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      • wsbob July 27, 2014 at 12:32 am

        “…Most of the cars are already equipped with roofs, no?” 9watts

        The car’s roof doesn’t do much to protect the exterior of the car, and that’s why a carport or a garage to store a car is great to have. Covered or indoor parking helps reduce deterioration of the car’s mechanical components too.

        Exposure to the elements at outdoor parking, or even unheated parking, is really hard on them. My preference is indoor, heated bike parking. Getting the bike as wet and funky when riding it is alright, as long as at the end of the ride, it gets to be cleaned up a little and allowed to dry in a fairly warm, low humidity space. Cold, moist garages during long Oregon winter nights don’t sound good to me.

        Thanks to Vesely and the suggestion of his maintenance worker and on-site manager, people at this building could have a really nice thing going. A place out of the apartment but still in the building, not just to store their bikes, but to clean up and work on them too. They could easily save more than enough money on their own maintenance and repairs, to cover the modest cost of using the room.

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  • Mossby Pomegranate July 25, 2014 at 4:53 pm

    Wow what cheapskates who won’t cough up a measly six bucks a month. The building owners concerns are valid. I see the damage I’ve done to my own home bring bikes inside.

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  • bjorn July 25, 2014 at 5:50 pm

    Like careless parking downtown on a Sunday if they charged nothing it would be too crowded to use. There are only 40 spots and this guy wants to hog 2 of them and pay nothing. They should just continue to adjust the price til they figure out what price leads to 95% utilization and go with that.

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    • bjorn July 25, 2014 at 5:53 pm

      *fareless

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    • wsbob July 26, 2014 at 9:57 am

      “Like careless parking downtown on a Sunday if they charged nothing it would be too crowded to use. …” bjorn

      Off topic, but street parking downtown generally was not too crowded to use on Sundays when the city did not charge on that day. I can’t remember right off hand how recent it was that Sundays were no charge street parking. I’ll guess, about 15 years ago.

      The city began implementing charges for parking on Sundays and more hours of the day, because it had the idea this could be a justifiable, constructive means of generating revenue. Whether that’s so continues to be debatable.

      As far as Roy Eberle with his apartment building bike room, is concerned, you’ve got a point, that if he didn’t charge anything for parking bikes in the new bike room, people, some not even riding their bikes to speak of, may just overwhelm the room for storage. Eberle’s feeling that charging for use of the room is fair because not all of his tenants bike, may also be right. Charging only people willing to pay for use of the room, avoids resentment from residents that have no use for the room.

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      • Paul in The 'Couve July 26, 2014 at 2:36 pm

        Bob, I think this is the second time in like 6 years I’ve actually liked one of your comments and agreed with everything you said….. Now I may have to dig up an old rant and tear into you to make myself feel at equilibrium again….

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        • wsbob July 27, 2014 at 12:13 am

          “…I’ve actually liked one of your comments and agreed with everything you said….. Now I may have to dig up an old rant and tear into you to make myself feel at equilibrium again….” Paul in The ‘Couve

          Uh-oh…did your agreement coincide with some unanticipated wobble of the earth on its axis? ;). Avoid the rant, and put your energy instead to reasoned, balanced thought. And for doing that, maybe reward yourself with an extra cupcake and an espresso, or something.

          I try to not present ideas just so people will agree with them. Better to try look at and evaluate the basic elements of a given issue or situation, and try without undue influence, lay out a fair viewpoint about it. I think this is better preparation for sorting out changes, if they’re needed.

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  • Byron July 26, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    In our condo the association put up two “walls” of hanging bike parking and charge for the privilege of hanging your bike there. Right now I have a convenient way to store my bike but if needed I would pay. I believe that there is no moral justification for bicycles getting a free pass on anything. If I use it I should pay for it in some way, preferably more direct than indirect.

    At that price I expect that there would be some protection against theft but that is difficult to guarantee in this world.

    So I would come down on the side that charging for bike storage is perfectly reasonable and is a business decision that each owner/association has to deal with. By the way, I pay more than that in just taxes on my parking space where my car and bike are stored.

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    • 9watts July 26, 2014 at 9:21 pm

      “I believe that there is no moral justification for bicycles getting a free pass on anything. If I use it I should pay for it in some way, preferably more direct than indirect.”

      Yes, but.

      There is the issue of incentivizing your tenants to *not* have a car. This, if followed through, would save everyone gobs of money, foment good will in the neighborhood, reduce carnage, etc. There is no reason in my mind (if Eberle were so inclined, and it doesn’t particularly seem like he is) to structure this a little differently where *not having a car on site* qualifies for a free bike parking space. I realize this is a tiny monetary incentive to most bikeportland readers, and miniscule when compared with the rent mentioned, but symbolically it could have some weight, besides serving as an indirect way to gather some data than can be hard to gather.

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  • paikiala July 28, 2014 at 10:21 am

    Sounds a lot like what many forward thinking cities do – uncoupling the on-site required parking from the cost to rent an apartment. So only those that want to rent the parking space pay that cost. Parking isn’t free anywhere, even on the street. Someone had to pay for the space. On-street free parking just means the property owner gave up extra land, and/or the citizens of portland did, for vehicle storage.

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  • Trikeguy July 28, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    I don’t see a problem with his charging for an optional convenience – but I’d never store my ride in a public space.

    OTOH I’d pay substantially more than that for an enclosed space with a door I can lock – basically a deep closet with a hangar on the back wall, wide enough for my trike (narrower than my apartment door, but barely) and tall enough for it (When I hang it on the MAX the rear wheel is on the ground and the BB is just over my head and I’m 6’2″).

    As it is I have a garage at my new place – partly for general storage, partly to park my trikes and partly as a workshop.

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  • jim July 29, 2014 at 12:50 am

    You’re complaining about $6 a month? That is like 2 coffees. You should be overjoyed it is ONLY $6 a month.

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  • Terry July 30, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    I live at the Paramount and was overjoyed when they finally put in a bike room. $6.00.If $6.00 is going to break your pocketbook then perhaps you should live in one of the lower income s holes with all of the meth freaks or skip that extra three shot macchiato for one afternoon a month.The Paramount is a grand old building with lots of class not to mention a fantastic manager and new owner who really cares for the tenants and the building.I think this is a ridiculous,petty,non issue.

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