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Great article, Brian. I was depressed to read a post in bikeportland (bikeportland!) this week, arguing against the current zoning codes' lack of parking minimums. I really hope that the City doesn't make a retrograde move on this issue, just when we're starting to see developers embrace an option not available in most other US cities.

Jacob Spence

Good post! It's an interesting problem to have, and as a native of Dallas and Houston, I would hate to see any progress in square footage allotments for surface parking. Your mention of solutions in Zurich reminded me of a lecture we had at the UOPDX by Umberto Dindo about the 2000-Watt Society (http://www.stadt-zuerich.ch/portal/en/index/portraet_der_stadt_zuerich/2000-watt_society.html).

I think it is also worth looking into vertical parking solutions. These mechanized and SF minimum strategies have been around for quite some time but have yet to make it to Portland it seems, though I believe the new project at NW 12th & Everett has one.


I live in one of the neighborhoods (Overlook) where one of the complexes is planned. The general tone of the conversations I've heard is 1) while the complex is located along a Max line, dwellers will still use cars and flood the largely single dwelling, geographically constrained neighborhood with automobile traffic in search of parking. In other words, that cost savings for the developer will be assessed in livability to the neighborhood. 2) That it is a done deal. Portland city officials are committed to ideals rather than to stakeholders.

There are good reasons for both of these perceptions.


Like you mention Brian, there is a definite catch-22 in play here. Whereas Portland, as a progressive urban pedestrian oriented city, has long embraced (1997) the ‘maximum parking requirements’, the fact is that not providing tenant parking, in most but not all cases, can push this discussion outside the boundaries of the project and into the surrounding environment. Burying our head in the sand and overlooking this fact is dangerous. That isn’t to say that not providing parking is not an option, but strategically understanding the trends of tenants and users on a case by case basis is crucial to the success of the project. Lenders and investors have definitely opened their eyes to non-parking inclusive project financing and thus opened up development that does not include this amenity. Though, I would suggest that one failed project, because of this non-inclusion, will close that door rapidly. It seems that one must be committed to a brand that caters to a bike based culture (such as EcoFlats or the Milano) as a great option for dense(r) urban living for those without cars and not needing those parking options.
I would be suspect of a statement like “the more you build parking, the less likely it is to be a place where people want to go”. The Pearl district developed over a very short period of time with most, if not all, of the buildings having on-site, or direct access to, parking. I don’t see how this has limited peoples’ want to go there. One can only imagine what would have happened had there been no project based parking - First Thursday would be … interesting. Or, imagine what the environment around the Edge would be like without on-site REI parking. Comparing ourselves to a transit rich city such as Zurich seems to be a bit of a stretch to me. Portland must continue to develop its transit system to get up to the ideals of a non-vehicular based environment and then many of these discussions will become mute.
As well, there is a bigger cultural discussion to be had here about the needs and functions of the car in our vehicular-based society. I don’t believe that projects such as this can resolve this discussion, but it is exciting to see that discussion happening through its instigation.
In the meantime, we must also make sure the discussion does not limit itself to “do you have parking?”, but also address the many architectural and urban design questions associated with the project’s contribution to the surrounding built environment. It reminds me of the many design commission discussions I have seen over the years that spend mounds of time on bike parking requirements and ignore the fact that the project being discussed contributed nothing to the urban, pedestrian environment.

Jim Heuer

Brian, you are right on to bring up this issue. The City seems to be favoring car-less development while failing to recognize that such development requires substantial improvements in bicycle routes (such that us older folks can feel comfortable using them) and in mass transit for those who prefer it.

In the absence of tying these developments together, you wind up with the result on Division and similar ones where I live in Irvington. Here we find new apartment construction that has no parking, but an estimated 40% of the residents own cars. Those cars then invariably are parked on the street in the surrounding single-family areas. So far the new apartment construction has been sufficiently limited in our area that we've been able to absorb the parking, but the City's nearly complete N/NE Quadrant plan calls for dramatic increases in high density housing along the Broadway/Weidler corridor (likely without much or any parking) without any estimates of the required increase in transit frequency (and costs to Trimet) to support it.


Mjanssen, I think you hit the nail right on the head. We're focusing too much on the parking aspect of these new developments, and not enough on what other contributions are provided.

The planning principles our City embraces are a direct result of New Urbanism and PUDs (which is a good thing in most people's opinions). Places should be walkable and have a healthy mix of building type and income classes. Development should be infill so as to reinforce the natural progression of development in the area.

All this to say that I don't see parking as the large issue here. It's been statistically proven that where greater vehicular accommodations have been made, congestion grows to fill it. To paraphrase Andres Duany, do we want to live in a city that has vehicular congestion on a massive scale or on a smaller scale? Because either way, there's no escaping that fact that auto demand will meet supply.

The larger problem I see is allowing the zoning ordinances in these controversial areas (like CS - Commercial Storefront) to allow residential uses on the ground floor. This absolutely KILLS the intent of creating vibrate communities with walkable streets and mixed uses. Not providing ground floor commercial will in fact increase auto dependance, because now you don't have the option of walking down the street to work, you must get in your car (or take the underfunded public transit system) to commute to work elsewhere.

I think the neighbors of these new developments are feeling the growing pains of what was once strictly a residential district starting to become part of a PUD, where a variety of uses will be available (restaurants, offices, retail, etc.). Part of the success of the Pearl was that there was no existing residential neighborhood to speak of and the development happened so rapidly, that there were no "growing pains" to speak of.

Fred Leeson

It's a thought-provoking discussion, indeed. One thing to think about is that the younger generation is much less car dependent than the boomers. I have two adult sons, 25 and 28, and NEITHER is a car owner. I once lived in Northwest Portland, where literally dozens of apartments were built in the teens and 1920s without parking. Yes, parking was difficult (I owned a car at the time) but the Northwest neighborhood was then -- and still is today -- perhaps the most vibrant in the city. Yes, I think the city needs to monitor the impact of these new developments, but let's not jump to premature conclusions.

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