Bend City Council Consider Removing Parking Requirements | Local and State
Eliminating parking requirements is being considered in Bend, with advocates arguing that fewer requirements lead to a more sustainable and affordable future and opponents arguing that no requirement will cause more parking problems in the city.
Bend, like several other cities across the country, requires a minimum number of parking spaces when building a new home, apartment, or business. This number can be based on several factors, including square footage or the number of bedrooms in an apartment.
Last week, Bend City Council showed support for considering removing these parking requirements for new city-wide developments. The idea, first proposed by Councilor Melanie Kebler in February, received unanimous support.
The goal of this policy would be to move Bend towards a future that is less dependent on the car and more environmentally friendly in the long run, Kebler said. It could also encourage denser housing and a better transportation system that can be used by everyone – not just people who can afford a car.
“How do we prioritize the different uses of the land to make room for people? I think that’s really the point of this policy, ”Kebler said. “How much space do we want to need to be dedicated to cars? And I think that’s the conversation we are having.
About half a dozen cities have implemented this policy in full, and hundreds at least in part, in recent years, according to Sightline Institute, a sustainability think tank. The concept of removing parking requirements is based on research, much of it from UCLA Professor Donald Shoup, who argues that free off-street parking “increases housing costs, subsidizes cars, worsens congestion roads, pollute the air and water, damage the economy, degrade cities. design, encourage sprawl, reduce walking, exclude the poor and accelerate global warming. “
But the idea has been rebuffed by several residents, who fear the policy change could lead to more frequented parking in the city, including more cars spilling into neighborhoods.
A group called Does Parking Matter? – which is made up of a free association of people belonging to neighborhood associations – sent an online survey, not statistically valid earlier this year, asking residents if they support the idea of removing parking requirements for new housing: about 83% said no.
“We all want to build a better corner,” said Mike Walker, a group representative. “We just need to understand that there is more than one side to this story.”
The case for eliminating parking requirements
The basic concept is this: parking is expensive, which increases the cost of a project. A new parking space in a structure can cost $ 30,000, according to Michael Anderson, researcher at the Sightline Institute.
The idea is that the less land required for parking, the more it can be used to build housing. This means that a developer can put more units on the lot, making a project more financially feasible than it was with the parking requirements, which can ultimately translate into lower rents and lower costs. house prices.
With cities becoming more expensive to live in, the goal of policies like these is to offer choices, Anderson said.
“One of the ways to do this is to offer increasingly cheaper housing in places where you don’t have to drive as much,” Anderson said.
Kebler doesn’t see removing parking requirements as a silver bullet to lower house prices and make Bend a less car-dependent city, but rather as one strategy among many to make it happen.
“We have to start somewhere,” Kebler said.
Some residents and developers are concerned that the costs of removing parking requirements will outweigh the benefits.
Walker, a member of the River West Neighborhood Association, wonders if removing parking requirements will deliver the benefits advocated by defenders.
Walker said he was not convinced removing parking requirements would affect rents, based on conversations he has had with property managers.
The parking group is interested in a conversation about parking reform, Walker said, but is concerned that no requirements at all will lead developers not to build enough parking spaces for their projects. This could mean more cars on the street, leading to traffic jams in neighboring neighborhoods.
“I trust the big builders,” Walker said, referring to development companies like Pahlisch Homes that build large housing estates. “But there are a lot of small developers who will overbuild the land, trying to maximize the size, and their tenants will start to fall into the neighborhood.”
Concern with cars spilling into neighborhoods is also shared by some affordable housing developers, who have said they will build on-site parking whether or not the city requires it.
“I don’t think we would just go ahead and say we would do one without parking,” said Rob Roy, a collaborating manager with Pacific Crest Affordable Housing in Bend. “Cars are still part of our way of life.”
Roy said the current parking requirements for affordable housing on the books are working well.
And while parking comes at a cost, a more concerning barrier that makes it harder for affordable housing projects to do is the price of wood, Roy said. The cost of wood is three to four times what the company is currently forecasting, he said.
Keith Wooden, the real estate director for Housing Works, said Bend does not have a robust enough transit system to reasonably consider building homes without on-site parking. Wooden said he would support the creation of easy and inexpensive variances for parking for certain types of housing projects for populations like the elderly or adults with developmental disabilities, who may not have as many people anyway. cars than the general population.
The possibility for the inhabitants of its subdivisions to park in the surrounding districts is not a risk to be taken either. Affordable housing projects already carry a stigma and may face repression from neighbors, Wooden said.
“Yeah, you get more units in the short term, but then you have an ongoing problem of people spilling out onto the streets … and the reality of asking, ‘How long is it going to be before people no longer need this car? Wooden said.
The fact that none of the promoters would likely seize the opportunity to reduce the number of parking spaces at this time reinforces one of the central points of the policy advocates.
Removing parking requirements doesn’t mean existing parking lots will be removed, and it doesn’t mean new parking lots in Bend won’t be built, said David Welton. Welton is a founding member of the BendYIMBY group, which advocates for an adequate and diverse housing supply for all residents and supports the removal of parking requirements.
Because most people in Bend are still addicted to cars, developers will continue to meet market demand for people wanting a place to put their cars, Welton said.
These are low-end housing, like microunits or smaller apartments, where not having parking requirements can make a difference in whether a project could get started in the first place.
Welton also believes that concerns about cars “spilling out” into the streets are overblown, especially in relation to the housing crisis in central Oregon.
“A place to live is a really big plus,” Welton said. “A car parked along a street, in my book, is not a big deal.”
As for concerns that Bend doesn’t have transit in place to support less parking, Councilor Kebler said part of what makes transit more robust is having dense neighborhoods. Eliminating parking requirements helps create denser neighborhoods that can be more easily served by public transport.
“I think a lot of opposition comes from seeing the status quo as the natural state of affairs. We built Bend to get people in their cars to get around, ”Kebler said. “We have prioritized space in our land use for cars and the use of cars. This is why we are where we are today. To get away from it, we’re going to have to make different priorities and decisions. “