Portland’s residential off-street parking requirements actually reduce available parking

Today in Portland, new construction in almost any residential neighborhood is required to include 1 off-street parking space per unit. If you’re concerned about being able to find parking near your house, this might sound good — more parking means more parking, right?

Not quite. Most new parking requires a new curb cut, and, on many streets, this curb cut takes the place of on-street parking. In other words, by requiring new construction to include driveways, we are actually reducing the net amount of parking available to the public. Each new curb cut takes a parking space out of circulation and attaches it permanently to the residence (whether the resident wants it or not). Now you can’t park there, your neighbors can’t park there, and your guests can’t park there. Only the owner can park there, and they can only do that if they have a car and their car is at home.

If these curb cuts and garages don’t actually make parking easier for the neighborhood, why do we require them to be built? Off-street parking requirements drive up construction costs, create conflict with people walking, and remove parking spaces from the neighborhood. Besides, they’re often ugly, they require lots of paving that could otherwise be a garden or a front porch, and they take up valuable real estate that could be housing people.

In my neighborhood, a recent project shows the changes brought by our city’s misguided parking policy. This is at NE 7th and Skidmore, from a couple years ago. You can see about a hundred feet of on-street parking was available for any driver to use:

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Today, this block has more concrete, fewer trees, and less parking.

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Would this have project have turned out differently if Portland didn’t require off-street parking? I don’t know. But I do know that I’d like that option to be available!

This summer, Portland is taking a fresh look at our zoning code, including this parking requirement. If you would like to see smarter parking policy that will improve mobility and livability for all our citizens, please bring your concerns to City Hall. Comment on the Residential Infill Project proposal and tell them you support removing parking minimums in our residential neighborhoods.

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