Developers Re-think Parking

November 19, 2009

Today’s Oregonian has a short piece on a development in the Boise neighborhood where new residents are showing up without cars:

So far, 70 percent of tenants renting apartments in Tupelo Alley, a major new housing complex on North Mississippi Avenue built by Trammell Crow, a large-scale housing developer, do not have cars.

“I think the developers are sorry they spent $20,000 per space on parking,” says Ben Kaiser, a Portland architect and developer. He says builders will start thinking more about providing sheltered parking for bicycles, especially as the market grows for expensive custom-built bike frames that riders won’t want to leave locked up outdoors.

Two recent Planning Commission recommendations touch directly on this:

  1. As part of RICAP 5 we recommended increasing the bike parking ratio in mult-unit dwellings
  2. As part of our Bicycle Plan for 2030 recommendation, we called for an assessment of what policies would help allocate parking between cars and bikes (and perhaps reduce the amount of total area required for parking)

Perhaps market forces will beat us to the punch!



  1. Can market forces beat Portland to the punch and reduce the amount of area dedicated to parking if there are still minimum off-street car parking requirements in most of the city?

  2. I think I question the “most of the city” characterization.

    Note the following code language (33.266.110 B):

    3. Exceptions for sites well served by transit. There is no minimum parking requirement for sites located less than 500 feet from a transit street with 20-minute peak hour service. Applicants requesting this exception must provide a map identifying the site and TriMet schedules for all transit routes within 500 feet of the site.

    4. Bicycle parking may substitute for up to 25 percent of required parking. For every five non-required bicycle parking spaces that meet the short or long-term bicycle parking standards, the motor vehicle parking requirement is reduced by one space. Existing parking may be converted to take advantage of this provision.

    It would be an interesting exercise to map the 500 feet from transit lines meeting the frequency requirement. I suspect it would encompass a very high percentage of the areas zoned for multi-family dwellings.

    And we already have a mechanism to swap out 25% of the minimum for bike parking.

    I strongly suspect that the real minimum is being imposed by lenders.

    But I think parking minimums would be a great topic of conversation during the Portland Plan process!

  3. I would love to see that map as well. It would also be interesting to see what happens when the transit exemption is extended from 500 feet to a walking distance cut-off point such as 1/4 mile, or about 1200 feet, which would be supported by studies of walking behavior.

    Even if 500 feet covers most multi-family housing, that still leaves out many single family dwellings in neighborhoods with plentiful on-street parking. This can force people to provide off-street parking whether they need it or not.

    Has anyone looked at whether parking requirements are an impediment to second units outside the exemption area?

    If it is lenders effectively driving the development of excessive parking, rather than zoning regulations, has anyone suggested policies to address that?

    • Perhaps someone who knows the code better than I do can comment, but I don’t believe any of the single-dwelling residential zones require off-street parking.

      And I also don’t believe that ADUs (accessory dwelling units) trigger any parking requirement.

      As to the lenders, they are slow to change as underwriting standards are often set nationally. This is similar to the effort to get lenders to finance mixed-use construction, which took a number of years. One approach may be to work with smaller local lenders to provide examples of successful projects.

      • From the link you sent me in an earlier thread:
        It would appear that the 1-space-per-unit rule applies for household living in all residential except “High Density Residential” and “Central Residential” (except within 500 feet of high frequency transit). So as far as I can tell, someone adding an accessory dwelling unit would need a second parking space unless they are within the 500 foot transit buffer.

        In table 266-1 it is indicated that RF-RH must meet “Standard A.” This standard for “Household Living” use is one space per unit except in RH where it is more like 1 space per 2 units.

        Unless I am somehow misreading this. Is there an exception for ADUs somewhere else in the zoning code?

        I like your idea of helping developers work with local lenders to overcome obsolete national lending standards on these types of issues. Do you know of anyone working on that?

  4. I agree that the table indicates that RF-RH are subject to the 1-space-per-unit standard (with exceptions).

    But I believe RF-RH are high-density multi-unit zones. Single family zones like R2.5 (the rowhouse zone) are not covered in the table, which is what leads me to believe that they are not subject to a minimum.

    ADUs are accessory to single family homes, so by the same logic are not subject to the minimum standard.

    [Again – I am not a code expert and my reading here could be wrong.]

    • Single Family Zoning Code:
      Multi-Family Zoning Code:

      The way I read it, RF is Residential Farm / Forest, basically the lowest density residential zone. RH is residential high density. So I interpret “RF-RH” in the parking code to mean all single family residential zones, and all multi-family residential zones except Central Residential and Institutional Residential.

      ADUs are residential units in the relevant zones, so I don’t see why they would be exempt from the parking standards (unless they qualify for the transit proximity exemption).

      [and I could be wrong too. I’m just reading the code I can find on the cities planning web page.]

      • The list on http://www.portlandonline.com/bps/index.cfm?c=36431 identifies RH as a multi-dwelling zone, distinct from the R2.5, R5, R7, R10 and R20 single-dwelling zones. I don’t believe it is a collective designation.

        Next time I run into a staffer, I’ll seek a clarification.

  5. Chris, I checked it out with staff and you’re right and I’m wrong!

    The designation RF-RH in the table is NOT read alphabetically, but rather in order of density, which is:


    ALL of those are encompassed in the RF-RH ‘bracket’. Only RX (Central City residential) is excluded.

    So outside of the transit-exclusion radius, a new single family home WOULD need to have one parking space.

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