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March 6th, 2013 AARON MESH | News Stories
 

Timber Jam

A fired city bureau chief scores one last goal—expanding the parking district around Jeld-Wen Field.

news3_parking_3918(Left) CHASING CARS: Tom Miller has told Bike Portland performance-pricing on meters would “nudge” people not to drive. IMAGE: vivianjohnson.com (Right) SIGN, SIGN, EVERYWHERE A SIGN: The street-parking instructions outside Jake’s Famous Crawfish are 6-feet tall. The sign announcing higher rates is at the bottom. IMAGE: Kurt Armstrong
     
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Sam Stidham, a sales clerk at West Burnside clothing boutique Reveille, had no idea that parking around the corner from her storefront had jumped to $3.50 an hour during Portland Timbers games.

“I don’t drive down here because I already didn’t want to pay for parking,” she says. “But that’s insane. Nice job, Charlie Hales.” 

Stidham’s frustration with the new mayor is understandable, but maybe misplaced. In January, the Portland Bureau of Transportation quietly expanded the area around Jeld-Wen Field where it charges special-event rates at meters.

The Jeld-Wen Field On-Street Parking Event District expanded two blocks east, to Southwest 12th Avenue, almost without notice. Business owners in Portland’s burgeoning West End weren’t consulted.

Neither, it turns out, was Hales.

Departing PBOT director Tom Miller authorized the expansion of the parking-event district Jan. 31—five days before leaving his job. Hales had fired Miller a month earlier (even before Hales took office Jan. 1) but let Miller stay on for another month.

Under then-Mayor Sam Adams, Miller’s mentor and protector, the City Council gave Miller authority to enlarge the district when it increased rates around the soccer stadium in 2011. Miller didn’t need to ask permission, and he didn’t seek it from the mayor who had fired him.

An aide to Hales confirmed Miller enacted the parking-event district expansion without telling the mayor. Hales declined to comment. Miller could not be reached by press deadline.

The event-parking district’s expansion went into effect March 3, during the Timbers’ season opener against the New York Red Bulls. During games, the meter rate more than doubles from $1.60 an hour to $3.50 an hour.

The move adds 182 on-street parking spaces to the 449 where PBOT had already increased meter rates during stadium events.

Miller had long argued more parking-meter money would give the Transportation Bureau a revenue boost. Hales has declared he wants to fix city streets before seeking new funding sources.

Miller was a champion of “performance pricing”—parking spots where the rate fluctuates based on demand.

He argued during PBOT work sessions last fall that such parking spaces would help fill the bureau’s $4.5 million budget shortfall and encourage people to take public transit to games instead of driving.

PBOT made one concession: It cut back by half the hours that higher-meter prices apply during soccer matches, from eight hours to four.

“We made that adjustment realizing that this would affect the property owners in the area,” says PBOT spokeswoman Cheryl Kuck.

Jane Jabonski, who manages Jake’s Famous Crawfish at 401 SW 12th Ave., says she learned that the parking-event district had reached her restaurant by reading about it in The Oregonian.

“It’s unfortunate,” she says. “I feel bad for our employees who have to park here, and I feel bad for our customers. But it’s the price of doing business in the city. I don’t own the street.”

Outside Jake’s, the new rules have created a byzantine tower of signage.

Last week’s addition of a “Stadium Event Parking District” placard  means the signs outside the restaurant’s valet station are stacked 6-feet high. Workers adding the new sign had to extend the pole by more than a foot. (The sign announcing the change is at sidewalk level,  where it’s hard to spot.)

“Too many signs, man,” says Jake’s valet Jose Avendano, who watched a customer pay $14.50 to park at the restaurant during the first Timbers game.

“I get all these complaints,” Avendano says. “Who are you going to complain to? Are you going to complain to the City of Portland, or are you going to complain to the valet?” 

 
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