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Council circles the block on apartment parking plan

Portland city commissioners agreed Thursday to seek some short-term fixes that might limit the number of apartments being built without tenant parking. However, any fixes will probably come too late to affect a spate of buildings already under construction or in the development pipeline.

In the past few years there’s been a slew of developers taking advantage of 1980s and 1990s city codes that encouraged the development of new apartments without tenant parking spaces. The city policies were designed to boost the use of transit, bicycling and other alternatives to cars, while reducing the number of large surface parking lots.

But the flurry of new apartments proposed since the Great Recession eased has alarmed residents of many eastside neighborhoods, who fear they won’t be able to park in front of their homes because apartment tenants will be forced to use on-street parking. Some say their neighborhood could wind up like Northwest Portland or even Manhattan, two places where parking is difficult to find.

Southeast Division Street east of 32nd Avenue is Ground Central for this dispute.

“There are nine new buildings going in in a seven-block stretch” of Division, said Allen Field, with a combined 320 units.

“Ask yourself if you would like to park three blocks away from your house, lugging two bags of groceries,” said William Gregg, of the Buckman neighborhood.

There also are similar apartments or condos being built on Hawthorne, Tacoma, Burnside and other eastside commercial arteries. As of November, the planning bureau found that 22 multifamily projects containing 863 dwelling units are proposed or under construction in Portland that lack any on-site parking. All but one are on the eastside.

Some residents urged the City Council to enact an immediate moratorium on building permits for apartment complexes without designated parking slots, or to impose new minimum on-site parking requirements.

The Planning and Sustainability Commission earlier decided the situation doesn’t meet state legal requirements to declare a building moratorium, said commissioner Chris Smith. However, he said the city rules need some tweaking, and urged city councilors to refer ideas to the planning commission.

Chief City Planner Joe Zehnder outlined four policy changes the city might consider on a fast track, and Mayor Charlie Hales directed city planners to immediately work on those changes.

The main policy change could set a maximum number of multifamily units that could be built in a single project without parking. City Commissioner Amanda Fritz said she favors exempting projects with less than 20 units, and then requiring a minimum number for larger complexes. For example, she said there could be a requirement to have one parking space for every four units.

Of the 22 projects in the works without parking, all but one have more than 20 units.

Another change would require apartment developers to provide loading zones. Sellwood residents testified Thursday that a project on Tacoma Street doesn’t allow for parking out front, making it difficult for a new tenant to bring their belongings to the unit on move-in day. Another change would require developers to make more provisions for people with disabilities.

The fourth fix would require that the street where the apartment is built actually have good transit service. TriMet has reduced service on Fremont street, Hales noted, rendering the goal of building transit-oriented development there meaningless.

The mayor asked the planning bureau to put the policy changes on a fast track, quickly sending them to the Planning and Sustainability Commission, in hopes the City Council can approve the new policies by March.

However, neighbors concerned about the impact of projects already in the development pipeline may not get much relief.

“It’s for projects that have not been proposed yet,” Zehnder said.


Here are the projects proposed with no parking:

• N Interstate and N Sumner Street (46 units) submitted for permits

• N Interstate and N Overlook Boulevard (72 units) pre-permit submittal

• N Williams and N Beech Avenue (22 units) submitted for permits

• N Mississippi and N Failing Street (25 units) under construction

Inner northeast:

• NE Fremont and NE 44th Avenue (56 units) submitted for permits

• NE Sandy and NE 41st Avenue (47 units) under construction

• NE Tillamook and NE 41st Avenue (47 units) under construction

• NE Garfield and NE Failing Street (33 units) submitted for permits

• NE Hancock and NE 15th Avenue (50 units) construction completed

• NE Glisan and NE 24th Avenue (32 units) construction completed

• E Burnside and NE 30th Avenue (50 units) submitted for permits

Inner southeast:

• SE Division and SE 31st Avenue (15 units) construction completed

• SE Division and SE 33rd Avenue (31 units) submitted for permits±

• SE Division and SE 33rd Place (28 units) pre-permit submittal±

† Apartments with less than 10 units or located in the Central City or Northwest Plan Districts are not

included.

± Two apartment buildings may share 10 parking spaces with a 30-unit building proposed at 3330 SE

Division Street.

Bureau of Planning and Sustainability 5

• SE Division and SE 37th Avenue (81 units) under construction§

• SE Division and SE 38th Avenue (23 units) construction completed

• SE Division and SE 44th Avenue (29 units) construction completed

• SE Division and SE 44th Avenue (21 units) pre-permit submittal

• SE Hawthorne and SE 30th Avenue (50 units) submitted for permits

• SE Morrison and SE 16th Avenue (30 units) submitted for permits

• SE Tacoma and SE 17th Avenue (46 units) pre-permit submittal

Inner southwest:

• SW Water and SW Meade Street (29 units) under construction

Source: Bureau of Planning and Sustainability