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City council votes against Northwest Portland parking garage

In a surprise decision Wednesday night, the Portland City Council voted in support of an appeal by the Northwest Portland neighborhood association that could defeat plans for a parking garage behind Papa Haydn restaurant on Northwest 23rd Avenue.

The decision came in the form of a 3-2 vote agreeing with the appeal, which was based on the premise that the design of the proposed garage did not fit into the neighborhood both because of its appearance and its impact on pedestrians.

The proposed garage has long been a point of contention between Northwest developer Richard Singer and members of the Northwest District Association.

Singer and supporters in the Nob Hill Business Association say the garage is needed for the ever-increasing number of shoppers in the Northwest business district.

City commissioners Sam Adams and Erik Sten voted in support of the appeal and Randy Leonard and Dan Saltzman voted against.

The deciding vote, by Mayor Tom Potter, took even some members of his staff by surprise. His staff had recommended he vote to reject the appeal and allow the garage to be built.

The three and a half-hour meeting Wednesday night included 29 people testifying against the garage and 24 in support.

John Doussard, the mayor's spokesman, said the mayor was concerned about safety issues if the garage were built.

The vote does not necessarily seal the fate of the proposed two-level, 103-stall garage. The still-unanswered question is whether Potter might yet vote for a garage design at the proposed location near 23rd Avenue and Irving Street, if a new design somehow mitigated the impact on pedestrian activity.

Veronica Valenzuela, the mayor's liaison with the bureau of planning, said developers have two options for keeping the garage alive as a result of the Wednesday night decision. They can appeal the City Council decision to the state Land Use Board of Appeals, or they can submit a new application with a new garage design to the city's landmarks commission.

Kim Carlson, co-chair of the neighborhood association transportation committee, was among those who testified Wednesday. Carlson said that it was her impression that even a redesign of the garage might not sway the mayor.

'What I was hearing (from the mayor) was this location was not the right location,' she said.

Data was presented at Wednesday's meeting that showed the Northwest 23rd Avenue and Irving Street corner - where cars would access the proposed garage - is among the city's busiest pedestrian locations. The survey counted 829 pedestrians at the corner in an hour.