City study: Still plenty of free street space near no-parking housing developments

move the house apartments straight aheadResidents of housing units that don’t offer on-site auto parking are just as likely to own cars as their neighbors, a new city-funded study found. But there’s still plenty of room to park those cars.

From the report, prepared by David Evans and Associates and released Thursday:

In general, the survey results do not suggest a relationship between on-site parking and vehicle ownership. Survey responses indicate that residents at both types of buildings (those with on-site parking and those without on-site parking) have similar trends in motorized vehicle ownership.

Why no change in residents’ behavior? Maybe because there’s still lots of room on the street to park your car for free nearby:

The on-street parking observations found that all eight project locations have peak period parking utilization below 85 percent of the existing capacity, which indicates that there is adequate parking within a two block walking distance of each project location. All locations have areas with high parking demand with one or more blocks at capacity during peak periods. Irvington Gardens is most utilized, but none of the project locations have a clear pattern of high on-street parking demand around the project buildings.

Parking also takes up valuable real estate, which adds to the rent the landlord must eventually charge per unit – meaning that if substantial parking were required, many new apartment projects wouldn’t be built, because they would be out of the local price range. In another component of the city’s study, staff calculated that on-site parking spaces would add $50 to $500 a month to the necessary rent for the average 550-square-foot unit in a new 50-apartment building, depending on the parking ratio required. (A ratio of one space for every four units adds $50 a month; a ratio of three spaces for every four units adds $500.)

You can read all the city’s work here.

I see three important effects of these two reports:

  • They may give pause to people who oppose the city’s lack of a minimum parking requirement on transit corridors. If there’s no meaningful parking shortage from such developments, why are we talking about a change to parking policy?
  • They’ll give ammunition to people who are mostly interested in preventing redevelopment – the city’s pricing report shows that if you want to shut down construction, parking minimums are a great way to do it.
  • They throw a wrench in anyone’s argument that no-parking apartments appeal mostly to the car-free. When free street parking is convenient, on-site parking doesn’t change Portlanders’ car ownership behavior.

Here’s what the reports don’t show:

  • They don’t estimate how much parking along streets like Division Street comes from nearby retailers, or whether on-site parking minimums, parking meters or parking permits would help retailers.
  • They don’t disprove the fact that dense development leads to higher transit use and retail within walking and biking distance, both of which enable low-car life over the long run.
  • They don’t address the question of whether adding more apartments to an area helps keep it affordable for working-class or poor tenants.
  • They don’t ask what happens if no-parking developments continue until, inevitably, on-street parking becomes scarce.

The city’s key hearing on this issue is next week, and the city invites your feedback by email or in person.

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