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City hits developer with fine for Pearl District parking lot

Hoyt Street Properties agrees to fence off property
by: Christopher Onstott A 112-space private parking lot in the Pearl District will be closed after a city hearings officer ruled that it was built improperly. Hoyt Street Properties had been fined $1,200 a month because of the code violation.

A Portland hearings officer has fined Pearl District developer Hoyt Street Properties $5,500 for constructing and running an illegal parking lot that may have netted the company more than $100,000 during the past three years.

The fine was imposed Tuesday. A Tribune story in early November revealed that the company has for three years operated an undeveloped piece of property between Northwest 10th and 11th avenues without city approval. The company rented space in the parking lot for $100 a month.

In November, an official with the Portland Bureau of Development Services told the Tribune that the parking lot case had 'fallen between the cracks.'

In response to the Tribune's story and citizen complaints, the bureau brought a code violation case against Hoyt Street for paving its lot without a permit and running a parking lot despite a ban on new parking lots in the central city.

During Tuesday's hearing, Michelle Seward, the bureau's representative, pointed out that in 2008 the city had notified Hoyt Street that it was violating city code. The city did not follow up on the violation until after the Tribune's story.

City Hearings Officer Gregory Frank agreed not to impose a penalty on Hoyt Street Properties based on the three years of renting parking spaces if the company immediately removes the parking spaces and fences off the lot.

During the hearing, Tiffany Sweitzer, Hoyt Street Properties' president, did not dispute the city's case. Frank ruled Tuesday that Hoyt Street must pay $1,475 as the cost of city inspections, as well as a $5,500 civil penalty, estimated at half of one month's parking revenue. Using that formula, the three-year-old parking lot may have been yielding as much as $10,000 in revenue per month.

Seward also asked that Frank impose a $30,000 monthly fine that Hoyt Street only has to pay if it does not remove the parking lot. Frank gave the developer 45 days to fence off the property.

Ross Caron, Bureau of Development Services' spokesman, says the city's request is in line with bureau policy, which focuses on getting code violators to follow the rules once a complaint has been made.

'Our bureau's goal is to gain compliance,' Caron said.

Did allowing Hoyt Street to hold on to the parking revenue serve as a message to other property owners and developers to flout the rules? No, Caron said.

'I don't believe that's the message at all,' he said. 'We encourage everyone to be in compliance.'

According to Caron, if the hearings officer had felt Hoyt Street should have been given a greater penalty, he could have required the developer to pay a more significant fine.

Sweitzer did not return phone calls for comment on the issue.