Parking vs Housing: Mayor Wheeler Calls Debate ‘Over’

Convenient parking is a problem in parts of Portland, Mayor Ted Wheeler conceded last week. But it’s a smaller problem than housing — and Wheeler says that when the two come in conflict, housing must be the priority.

I want to put a marker down. The debate: ‘Parking vs. Housing?’ It’s really over.” – Ted Wheeler  

The mayor’s words came at a Rose City Park Neighborhood meeting April 25th. Wheeler was asked by RCPNA board member Deborah Field what his plan was to “require developers to put in ample parking spaces” with new housing projects.

The mayor’s response was definitive:

But I want to put a marker down. The debate: Parking vs. Housing? It’s really over. That piece of the conversation is over. When younger families or younger people say they want to locate here, the first thing they’re saying isn’t ‘Boy I wish I had another parking space, or had access to a parking space.” What they’re saying is, “I can’t afford to live in this city.”  And, so, the city, meaning the debate that happened over the last three years actually made a choice, and the choice was affordability and housing over access to parking. I just want you to be aware that that is a real dynamic and is a real choice and it was made with full community involvement.

The mayor told the crowd that “parking adds significantly to the cost of affordable housing.”

(This is true for both market-rate and publicly backed homes, for the simple reason that urban space costs money. You can read more about the effect of excessive parking on housing prices here.)

He suggested that neighborhoods, like Rose City Park, which want to manage their parking supply should form parking districts similar to those in Northwest Portland and the Central Eastside Industrial District.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation has spent years working to develop a framework for neighborhoods to create parking permit zones and parking benefit districts, but the policy has yet to be voted on by Portland City Council. Wheeler said he wouldn’t suggest simply taking the plan from NW Portland and moving it to Rose City Park, seemingly a contradiction to Commissioner Saltzman’s position that NW Portland is conducting a pilot for other neighborhoods to follow.

The mayor’s comments can be read here or viewed below (starting at 35:30).

20170425-RCPNA-Wheeler from portland politic on Vimeo.

Thank you to Catie Gould and E.J. Finneran for tipping us off to this news.  Thank you to Michael Anderson for edits!

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