No-parking apartment buildings
From Portland Afoot
No-parking apartment buildings in Portland are the ones that don't require car-free families to pay for parking spaces they don't use. As of 2012, the savings from real estate and construction for each unbuilt parking space shaves an estimated $100 to $200 off the necessary rent required to finance a new apartment building. (In practice, this is usually because expensive excavation is not required, or because developers can afford to put more units instead of setting aside space for autos.)
However, because even in the best places to live in Portland without a car, many Portland households own autos, any home that provides no on-side parking will usually increase the demand for nearby street parking.
 List of no-parking apartment buildings
As of October 2012, this list includes only new apartment buildings under development in summer 2012. Many downtown Portland and Northwest Portland apartment buildings that were constructed before the rise in automobile use did not offer on-site parking, as did many older single-family homes on the inner east side.
Apartments with less than 10 units or located in the central city or Northwest Plan districts are not included.
- N Interstate and N Sumner Street (46 units)
- N Interstate and N Overlook Boulevard (72 units)
- N Williams and N Beech Avenue (22 units)
- N Williams and N Shaver Street (18 units)
- N Mississippi and N Failing Street (25 units)
- NE Fremont and NE 44th Avenue (56 units)
- NE Sandy and NE 41st Avenue (47 units)
- NE Tillamook and NE 41st Avenue (47 units)
- NE Garfield and NE Failing Street (33 units)
- NE Hancock and NE 15th Avenue (50 units)
- NE Glisan and NE 24th Avenue (32 units)
- E Burnside and NE 30th Avenue (50 units)
- SE Division and SE 31st Avenue (15 units)
- SE Division and SE 33rd Avenue (31 units)
- SE Division and SE 33rd Place (28 units)
- SE Division and SE 37th Avenue (81 units)
- SE Division and SE 38th Avenue (23 units)
- SE Division and SE 44th Avenue (29 units)
- SE Division and SE 44th Avenue (21 units)
- SE Hawthorne and SE 30th Avenue (50 units)
- SE Morrison and SE 16th Avenue (30 units)
- SE Tacoma and SE 17th Avenue (46 units)
- SE Water and SW Meade Street (29 units)
 Advantages of no-parking apartments
Each parking space would add $100 to $200 a month to an associated apartment's rent, even though it's almost useless to the 27 percent of Portland tenants who don't own cars. For example, a new 77-apartment building at SE Hawthorne and 26th will include 22 underground auto parking spaces, or 0.28 spaces for every new apartment. (The developer wasn't required to provide this parking, but did so anyway as a service to residents.) That's a cost of $45,000 per parking space; at the 2012 cost of capital (about 6 percent, according to Eric Cress of Urban Development Partners), the developer of the building will have to collect about $227 a month in additional rent for each parking space in order to finance the additional construction costs.
Not making extra room for auto parking allows things to be closer to each other, making more things within walking distance. For example, compare the amount of downtown surface parking in Portland to that in Houston.
Compared to denser cities, much street space in Portland neighborhoods is unused. Unoccupied road space costs taxpayers money (in maintenance and lost property taxes) but serves little public purpose.
 Disadvantages of no-parking apartments
No-parking apartment buildings make it harder for residents to park near their own homes. Although city taxpayers, not residents, own and maintain the streets in front of homes, it's annoying when you regularly have to walk more than a few yards away from your home to reach your car. (Note: this doesn't apply to people with mobility issues, since Portlanders with disabilities can apply to have the public parking space in front of their homes set aside for disability parking.)
No-parking apartment buildings make it harder for customers to park near local businesses. Some say this can dampen customers' desire to visit an area. Though the densest parts of town have no shortage of shops -- thanks in part to the high number of people who live within walking distance -- not all such shops are regional destinations such as sit-down restaurants or specialty retailers, which are probably the businesses most affected by scarce auto parking.
Both of the above problems can be solved by charging for parking in an area, either with pay-by-the-month parking permits or pay-by-the-minute parking meters. In most of Portland, on-street parking is owned by the public and provided for free to nearby car users.
 Possible responses to parking shortages
There are three possible ways a city can respond to increased demand for auto parking, any of which can happen in combination:
- Reduce the demand for auto parking by making biking, walking or riding public transportation cheaper or more desirable relative to cars.
- Increase the supply of parking by building more parking structures or requiring developers to do so.
- Increase the price of auto parking.
In downtown Portland, the Lloyd District and South Waterfront, where street parking is restricted by parking meters, most new buildings create new auto parking and recoup some of the cost of its construction by charging residents for parking spaces if they need them. As of 2012, the usual rate is about $100 per space per month. This uses tactics (2) and (3), in an area where (1) is already fairly effective.
On the inner Eastside, the city sells zoned parking permits that residents can use to park their own vehicles on the city street during daylight hours. This is mostly to prevent people from parking cars on the street and then walking or riding TriMet to jobs in the central city. This uses tactic (3).
In parts of the city not on frequent transit lines or urban centers, the city requires developers to provide on-site parking. Because the city doesn't charge for nearby on-street parking, developers are essentially required to provide that parking for free and to build it into the cost of their rents and sale prices, whether or not the residents plan to use it. This is a case of tactic (2).
 History of auto parking in Portland
 The beginning of minimum parking requirements and suburbanization
Almost all homes in Portland were built without space dedicated to auto parking until the 1930s and 1940s. This earlier period is when many of Portland's best-known neighborhoods, from Nob Hill on Northwest 23rd Avenue to the Hawthorne Boulevard and Belmont Street shopping districts to Ladd's Addition to downtown St. Johns, were developed.
After car ownership became common, some developers began including on-site parking spaces for people to put their cars, while others continued to rely on nearby street parking. By the 1950s Portland, like most North American cities, had addressed the potential for shortages of on-street parking by requiring the builders of all new homes and businesses outside the central city to provide auto parking.
Among the results was that it became much more expensive to develop dense housing. This and many other factors, including the expansion of interstate freeways, the removal of the old streetcar network and rising urban crime levels, led new housing development to shift to the areas now in outer Southwest Portland, East Portland and suburbs and exurbs including Vancouver, Beaverton, Hillsboro, Gresham, Tigard, Lake Oswego and beyond. In these areas, land was cheap enough to devote more of it to storing automobiles -- and because more and more people in the suburbs owned automobiles, the effect of adding all that parking space, which pushed buildings farther apart from each other, was seen as a price worth paying.
 The urban rebound and the return of free-market parking
In the 1990s and 2000s, the end of freeway expansion, the return of the streetcar and a long decline in urban crime led dense, walkable central cities to become more popular and desirable places to live. In turn, some cities including Portland began to remove minimum parking requirements in some areas, in order to remove an obstacle to dense, urban development.
As reported in 2012 by Willamette Week, the legal change in Portland to remove mandatory parking requirements within a couple blocks of frequent service transit lines -- specifically, transit lines where headways between vehicles are 20 minutes or fewer -- was driven by Charlie Hales. A homebuilders' lobbyist turned city commissioner, Hales and his then-colleague Erik Sten "battled then-Mayor Vera Katz to get the zoning change through -- with the intention of motivating developers to build bigger projects at less expense."
The new law did not require developers to stop building auto parking, but it permitted developers to rely on nearby street parking if they thought enough people would want to live in apartments where it was sometimes annoying to find a parking space.
But this rule had little effect until 2009, because the newly free market for parking still didn't demand such buildings. Because no-parking apartments were seen as undesirable to most people who could afford newly built housing, banks refused to finance new housing outside the central city without on-site auto parking.
This changed when a small Portland-based development company called Urban Development Partners, anticipating the coming surge in demand for central-city apartments, persuaded Wells Fargo to finance a new 36-unit apartment building at the southwest corner of SE Division Street and 38th Avenue.
As reported by Portland Afoot in The Rent Issue, UDP's advocate at Wells Fargo was a young Wells Fargo executive and longtime Portlander named Bryce Payne. To persuade his bank to finance the building -- the first apartment building in Portland for years, and the first car-free apartment complex outside the central city in decades -- Payne drove a visiting Wells Fargo colleague from San Francisco to visit the east side of the Hawthorne Bridge during rush hour, as cyclists poured across.
Wells Fargo agreed to finance the project.
The success of that first building, which was driven by a major spike in demand for Portland apartments after 2010 that gave Portland the second-lowest rental vacancy rate in the country after New York City, attracted imitators such as Urban Development Group, which built a series of other no-parking apartment buildings in inner northeast, southeast and North Portland residential neighborhoods.
During spring and summer 2012, neighbors began to notice the size and number of these new no-parking apartment buildings, and to oppose their development at many neighborhood association meetings.
 How to get involved
The Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability has scheduled a "public forum" about no-parking apartment buildings on Nov. 13 at 12:30 p.m., at 1900 SW 4th Avenue (near PSU), Room 2500A. The presentation on parking is likely to begin at 1:30 p.m., with testimony likely to run from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
"This forum will provide an opportunity for the public to relay comments and ask questions about the issue," according to the bureau's fact sheet about no-parking apartments.
Southeast Portland neighborhood liaison Matt Wickstrom said in October 2012 that he expects most people at the meeting to be homeowners and other current residents who oppose the increase in low-car housing in their neighborhoods. The city may consider reinstating its late-20th-Century requirement that developers provide on-site parking on all new apartments -- perhaps one space for every four units, or one for every two -- whether or not the market demands it.
As explained by the fact sheet, people wishing to share an opinion on whether the city should change its rules on low-car housing should contact their local neighborhood liaison:
- East Portland liaison: Chris Scarzello, 503-823-7716, firstname.lastname@example.org
- North Portland liaison: Barry Manning, 503-823-7965, email@example.com
- Northeast Portland liaison: Debbie Bischoff, 503-823-6946, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Southeast Portland liaison: Matt Wickstrom, 503-823-2834, email@example.com
- west district liaison: Joan Frederiksen, 503-823-3111, firstname.lastname@example.org
- central city liaison: Troy Doss, 503-823-5857, email@example.com
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