Jason Miner in the Oregonian: Let's Discuss Real Options for Portland's Parking Debate
As Portland grows, parking has become a hot topic in neighborhoods where new apartments are being built. In an op-ed published by the Oregonian on September 26, our Executive Director explains why the debate needs to consider workable solutions, instead of a dichotomy between parking or no parking.
The right solution for Portland's apartment parking debate isn't about quantity of spots. It's about quality: of design, of policy and of the conversation we have about our future. Yet almost everything we've heard about the issue so far is constrained to the simplest of choices: Shall we require parking for new residents drawn to Portland neighborhoods, or not?
There are other options, options that don't pit new residents against old residents, developers against neighbors. There are options that don't involve prying into whether someone owns a car, two cars, a bike or none of the above. So why aren't we talking about these options?
Any good solution should be guided by our values. For 40 years we've made a commitment to house Portland's growing population in existing neighborhoods and give everyone choices for living and getting around without being forced to drive.
That's the right thing to do -- for equity, for air quality, for making efficient use of taxpayer money, for making Portland a better place. It's good for small businesses and property values, and for ensuring that frequent transit remains viable for as many people as possible.
As more people come to Portland neighborhoods, there won't always be a parking spot for everyone right where they want it. Some of the new residents will have cars, and some won't. And because of the city's foresight in removing parking minimums along high-frequency transit corridors, some will live in buildings that don't have parking.
But this does not have to create problems. In fact, we can use this demand to benefit the neighborhood and support the high turnover that local businesses need.
Let's be clear about what won't work for our neighborhoods. Simply requiring that apartment developers include on-site parking will exacerbate congestion citywide by incentivizing car ownership for new residents. We'll see more traffic on Division, Williams and other corridors that connect neighborhoods. That's not most Portlanders' vision for the future.
On the other hand, as Portland omits off-street parking in some neighborhoods, we should ensure that we have a realistic plan for managing on-street parking. We have options. In affected neighborhoods, issue a free on-street parking permit to each existing house, charge a fee for apartment residents' cars, and create and enforce stricter parking time limits on those who don't hold permits. Portland already has examples of such districts.
We could provide meter parking on main corridors, and we could require developers to provide car-sharing opportunities near new buildings.
We could even use this system to return revenue to neighborhoods for their needs, such as traffic calming, burying utility lines or fixing sidewalks.
But so far, we've heard virtually nothing about these options, so it's no surprise the debate has become increasingly polarized.
We can do better. Portlanders deserve a more thorough examination of these solutions' potential from the media and elected officials. We need to have this conversation, but we need it to be focused on real solutions.
Let's get started.
Read the editorial on OregonLive.com here. If you agree that a broader discussion is needed in this debate, we hope you'll say so in the comments section, or write a Letter to the Editor expressing your support for a more productive conversation.
1000 Friends believes that livable neighborhoods inside the urban growth boundary are essential to protecting the irreplaceable farm and forestlands outside. We believe there are workable solutions that keep our commitments for healthier, affordable housing and transportation options for everyone, without damaging the livability of great Portland neighborhoods. Good land use planning is the key to making this happen. Learn more about the role of land use planning in your community at friends.org/LandUseIs.