Comment of the Week: bike parking is about the future

There were a lot of excellent comments in response to our coverage of last week’s City Council Work Session on housing affordability. The whole thread is worth reading.

Bike parking regulations, in particular, have been targeted for potential code changes after being identified as a key impediment to quick housing production in a survey of development professionals earlier this year. At last Tuesday’s session, an economic consulting group working for the city put a price tag of $11,000 per unit as the cost of bike parking regulations, making their cost comparable to System Development Charges.

Many people have had a reaction to the $11,000/per unit figure, including our readers. The most interesting discussions I’ve seen this week have honed in on “opportunity cost.” The consultants arrived at the $11,000 amount by figuring how much income a developer was losing by not being able to rent that ground floor space to a retailer, so the “opportunity” of having bike parking costs the developer the loss of retail income. Several commenters disagreed with including opportunity cost in the calculation, some of them pretty colorfully.

But ED had even a more fundamental criticism which zeroed in on what the policy discussion should be. Policy has an eye toward the future, not just current day needs and desires. Here is what ED wrote in reply to qqq:

Yeah, we’ve been focused here on whether or not the bike parking regulations are onerous but you make great points about the ground floor active use requirements. I think what they have in common is that both are items that may not immediately translate into profits for developers – because of existing financing terms, market preferences etc – but may have long-term value that we collectively do not yet know how to value. Ground-floor retail that may be hard to rent today could be an amazing community space or vibrant business in 10-20 years; but if it’s not built today, there’s no chance for it to grow into that value. Bike parking and ground-floor retail can’t be easily retrofitted into existing apartment buildings. Hence, the role of city regulations is to try to balance long-term needs against immediate needs/desires. Does the current city code get it right prioritizing ground-floor retail and bike parking as a bet on the future we collectively want to see? Maybe! But that’s the really interesting policy discussion that should be had, in my opinion, rather than whether bike parking adds xx% to current construction costs or what the current utilization rates/trends are.


There are also other critiques of the consultant’s analysis that are worth reading, take a peek! Thank you ED, and all the other commenters, for this strong thread.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)

Lisa Caballero is on the board of SWTrails PDX, and was the chair of her neighborhood association's transportation committee. A proud graduate of the PBOT/PSU transportation class, she got interested in local transportation issues because of service cuts to her bus, the 51. Lisa has lived in Portland for 23 years and can be reached at lisacaballero853@gmail.com.

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Fred
Fred
10 months ago

I’m sending BP a bill for $85, which is the amount of money I would have earned had I been working instead of reading this post. 😉

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
10 months ago
Reply to  Fred

How will you divvy out that $85 to all of us who read your comment?

ED
ED
10 months ago

Oh wow, thanks for picking my comment! It was a good discussion and I am glad to have a forum to respectfully discuss.

rob
rob
10 months ago

My experience with ED is – great reformer!

rob
rob
10 months ago
Reply to  ED

Just found out who ED was. Knowing that, I am more impressed than ever with BP. Now I am wondering how many other brilliant rascals are part of the BP gang. As I have said before, thank you BP for the learning opportunity.

Ross Williams
Ross Williams
10 months ago

It actually raises an even more interesting question. If the problem is a lack of affordable housing shouldn’t the city ban anything that raises the price of a unit, including auto parking, granite countertops … The reality of this discussion is that the housing crisis is one of those crisis the wealthy and powerful use to serve their interests. Transforming bike parking into rentable space is one of those interests. Its unlikely that additional revenue will actually lead to more affordable housing. Instead it will add to the income stream of the developer. Lowering the cost of development will work the same way. Instead of lowering the cost of housing they will continue to develop more housing for the upper middle class and wealthy, because that is where the money is. They will just have a bigger profit margin.

Watts
Watts
10 months ago

If you want to instantly increase the number of units available for rent in the inner city, ban short-term rentals there. The fact that this is never discussed tells you a bit about who is “concerned” with housing availability, and why they focus on things like bike rooms in high-end apartment buildings.