permitted for Northwest Thurman near 23rd.
(Image: Footprint Investments)
Here’s a pretty simple solution for complaints that new “microapartment” buildings will swamp on-street parking: forbid some of the people in them from parking cars on the streets.
In a cover story of the current Portland Tribune, the concept gets positive reactions from a microapartment developer, a neighborhood association official and a sustainability think tank. And Portland Bureau of Transportation Director Leah Treat calls it “very interesting.”
The idea would only work in areas that use parking permit systems, such as (as of this year) much of Northwest Portland. It’s home to two new microapartment buildings, which use small bedrooms with shared kitchens and lounges to offer lower-rent units in high-demand areas at market price.
Like some new apartment buildings in Portland, they also typically lack on-site parking space.
Here’s the description from Tribune reporter Peter Korn, presented as a sidebar to his story about the microapartment trend:
The Tribune asked the major players how they would respond to putting a cap on the number of street parking permits granted to each new micro apartment building.
“I think that’s a great idea,” says Ron Walters, until recently president of the NWDA, who serves on the neighborhood association’s transportation, planning and parking committees. Walters would go a step further and require new apartment buildings to come with their own transportation plans, spelling out how developers expect their renters to move about the city.
Cathy Reines, chief operating officer of Footprint Investments, developer of the Footprint Thurman micro apartments in Northwest Portland, says she’d support capping parking permits for her buildings (her company has 18 micro apartment buildings renting out in Seattle and she expects to build a number in Portland). Reines says she anticipates no more than five or 10 renters will have cars at the 50-unit Thurman Street development. A city transportation rule limiting the number of on-street parking permits dedicated to her building to 10 permits or so would work, she says.
In fact, Reines says she would be interested in incentives if her building kept its parking permits below their allotment. If, say, only five renters at Footprint Thurman sought city parking permits, the building could be rewarded with some sort of public transportation incentive.
Sightline Institute Deputy Director Clark Williams-Derry, whose Seattle think tank is a proponent of building apartments without off-street parking in dense neighborhoods, says he could support the parking permit limit for new micros.
“It obviously favors existing residents over new ones. … That’s not the greatest outcome,” Williams-Derry says. “But if it’s a way to navigate the politics and provide more inexpensive housing options for people who need and want it, it’s not the worst outcome.”
It’s a bit odd that the article doesn’t really discuss the usual solution to freeing up space on public streets, which is raising the price of parking on them. And it’s funny that after years of batted-aside claims that bicycle advocates want to “take away people’s cars,” something pretty similar to that idea is being endorsed by both a developer and a neighborhood association dominated by car owners.
And of course, there’s one important stakeholder group that didn’t get asked to sound off on the Tribune’s proposal: the future tenants who’d be subject to the new regulation.
That said, as the city prepares for a parking policy overhaul, kudos to Korn for circulating an interesting idea that actually seems to bring interest groups together on such a contentious issue.
— The Real Estate Beat is a weekly column sponsored by real estate broker Lyudmila Leissler of Portlandia Home/Windermere Real Estate. Let Mila help you find the best bike-friendly home.
Michael Andersen was news editor of BikePortland.org from 2013 to 2016 and still pops up occasionally.