TAKE ACTION: Testimony is accepted before September 22nd, 5PM on the CC2035 plan which includes goals to build new car parking structures with city backed bonds and parking meter revenue. Click this link for more information.
Portland City Council is considering a massive plan for the next 20 years of development in the central city. This plan is supposed to set the stage for a more sustainable, equitable, and livable city, but it contains plans to waste money on single-use commuter and visitor parking garages that will take decades to pay off, siphoning critical money we could use to transition to transit and other modes.
It is worse than wasteful to build publicly funded or financed parking garages in our central city. If the Convention Center Hotel Parking Garage is any indication, these hulking structures will be filled with car parking stalls costing more than $50,000 each. To pay back the loans required, those parking stalls will need to be filled with motor vehicles, parked at premium prices, nearly every day for the next 20-30 years.
This is a no-win situation for Portland. If those garages are profitable, it will mean that our goals to cut car traffic to downtown have failed. If we succeed at our critical and ambitious climate goals, then taxpayers will be on the hook for millions of dollars. It would be better to burn the money than build garages with it.
In the next two days, please take a minute and tell City Council that this is a very bad idea.
Let’s Use What We Have Already
The desire to build more parking is based on the belief of Prosper Portland and other groups that we don’t have enough car parking in the central city. This is debatable. There are many many thousands of parking stalls in the city, but at any given time they are empty due to regulations (residential parking in downtown can’t currently be leased to commuters) or they are parked up with cars that might not be there if we had higher prices for meters or if we had better transit. Let’s use smarter parking management tools to make better use of what we have. Let’s prioritize transit traffic on our streets so that taking the bus is a more viable option. We can make do with what we have now before future trends reduce parking demand.
Let Private Capital Take The Risk
If car parking was a good long-term fiscal bet, then private developers would be begging for the opportunity to build it, but it isn’t. Parking is expensive to build and a very risky investment in this time of extreme transportation disruption. Developers aren’t willing to build new parking garages unless the city is willing to take all the long-term risk. The city has far greater priorities than parking, like deeply-affordable housing.
Require That Parking Garages Pencil Out
If the city is still going to consider building (or buying) a parking garage, shouldn’t it be required to show the real risk of taxpayers footing the bill? Consultants for Prosper Portland can produce projections that show the garages can be self-sustaining in today’s market, but if you ask how much money the garage will make in 2030, they will say “no one knows the future.”
We need to demand better than that. Surely no one can know the future, but we can take into account the impact that ride-share, self-driving buses, and our own climate action goals will have on parking demand. If a car parking garage can’t pay for itself, Portland taxpayers should know about it. Require realistic projections for long-term viability and, better yet, require a vote of the public to green-light a garage.
Require 100% Convertibility To Active Uses
Prosper Portland and PBOT say that it’s ok to build garages that might be empty because we can convert them to homes or offices in the future. If this is true, then there should be no controversy in the city passing an ordinance requiring any city-involved parking structure be 100% convertible to active uses in the future, storage units don’t cut it. Without that guarantee, it’s very likely that new garages will be single-use facilities that will be an albatross around the neck of Portland residents for a generation.
Take Action In Three Minutes
30 Seconds – Start an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject: CC2035 Testimony
1 Minute – Ask council to require that any new parking built with city involvement be 100% convertible to active uses.
30 Seconds – Sign your name and address. Hit send.