On Thursday, September 7th, Portland City Council will consider adoption of the Central City 2035 plan, a document which will guide development in the city center for the next 20 years.
Portlanders should be able to look at this plan and envision the city in 2035. Let’s do an experiment:
Think for a second about the world as it is now and what you would like Portland to be in 20 years. Think about where you’d like to live in the city, pretend you work downtown, and then close your eyes and imagine a commute in 2035.
How did you get there? Did you ride a bike? Did you take a bus? Was a robot driving that bus or a human operator? Maybe you lived downtown? Maybe you took a jetpack? Maybe you took a Lyft or Uber or something we can’t imagine yet?
Did your vision for 2035 include driving your own car to the central city and parking in a parking garage?
Why then do so many of the Performance Targets and Action Plans for our city’s next 20 years seek to incentivize and build new expensive car parking for central city commuters and visitors?
While Mayor Ted Wheeler has publicly criticized the plans of Prosper Portland to bet its future on parking revenues, when he (most likely) votes to pass CC2035 they will be codified in a set of Action Plans.
Building Parking, For Your Health?
For an example, look at the bizarrely named “Transportation Health and Environment” Action TR7. This action calls for “Incentives to Create Off-Street Parking” in an area that was “built prior to the automobile age.” The supposed problem for the Central Eastside is that developers don’t want to pay the high cost to build parking that no one will be using in 20 years. The solution proposed in this plan is to retrofit the district to accommodate automobiles, at a time in our history when we not only are well aware of the damage car culture has caused, but when we can, for the first time, see the likely end of the automobile age as we know it.
Old Town and Chinatown Parking Garages
But that’s not all they have planned for the Central City. Old Town / Chinatown is another area of town where they would like to mortgage our future tax revenues to build more parking garages. Check out Action Plan item RC44.
There are some great ideas in the CC2035 plan, we should definitely make more efficient use of the parking we have as peak car passes us by. It may even be the case that new parking garages will help spur development, but the public must be honestly informed about the true cost of these garages, the poor outlook for self-sustainability, and the negative impact they have on our transportation and climate action goals. Every dollar spent on a car parking garage is one less dollar we can spend improving transit, building affordable housing, and incentivizing non-car modes. We’ll lose the opportunity to spend many many millions of dollars on sustainable practices if we build more public parking garages and we will be paying the mortgage on them when they are, inevitably, empty.
Convertible Parking Garages? Not In The Plan
Proponents of new parking like to point to trendy articles about converting parking garages into housing or offices. This is probably less likely than we think. Underground parking will only be used as housing in dystopian scenarios and building parking to be convertible makes it even more expensive.
But there’s another reason we probably won’t see convertible Prosper Portland parking garages in the future, it’s not required in the plan. Developers won’t build much parking at all, unless we force them. Prosper Portland knows new parking garages won’t pay for themselves, so it’s trying to get PBOT to help pay with meter money. Any requirement to make new parking be “convertible” would only make those projects harder to pencil out.
City Council should require that any structured parking built with public subsidy be convertible to other active uses (not just storage). If PBOT and Prosper Portland claim these projects can be turned into housing or retail space, then there should be no resistance to this amendment.
Tell City Council To “Stop Building More Parking Garages”
There is a hearing on CC2035 on September 7th at 2PM at City Council and there will be another hearing on September 14th. If you plan to testify, please mention that the city should not build more parking garages. Let developers build parking if they require it. Demand that any new public parking be completely convertible to active uses.
Please write to city council today and tell them to commit to climate action goals, transportation goals, and affordability by removing Action Plans TR7, TR22, and RC58 and modifying RC44. Tell them that new parking will be a significant cost burden on the city and will tie up critical funds that could be better used subsidizing transit or housing.
Please send an email now and demand that any parking built with public money (or in agreement with Prosper Portland) be built such that it is convertible to an active use by design.
For more inspiration, check out our coverage of the CC2035 Discussion Draft and read over the testimony sent in by Portlanders for Parking Reform.
Building more parking now in 2017 is a mistake; it certainly shouldn’t be part of our long range plans for Portland.
How to Testify
To testify, please provide your full name and address. Testimony to City Council is considered public record. Testifiers’ names, addresses and any other information included in the testimony will be posted on the website. You may submit testimony to the Portland City Council on the Recommended Draft CC2035 Plan in any of the following ways:
Send an email to email@example.com
Subject: CC2035 Testimony
In person at the public hearing
September 7, 2017 at 2 p.m. City Council Chambers: 1221 SW 4th Avenue, Portland
Additional hearing dates may be scheduled. Please confirm dates and times by checking the City Council calendar one week in advance.
[…] Of course you can always take more time and write a longer letter. Check out our previous coverage for more details. […]