The Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability has issued a document that rejects any immediate changes to the city policy allowing apartments without on-site parking. The bureau says there's no need for a building moratorium, and no rush on zoning rule changes or an increase in design review.
"The moratorium we don't think is defensible," chief planner Joe Zehnder tells WW, citing restrictions defined by state law. "Changing the zoning rules is definitely possible—six months to a year, depending on controversy."
The recommendation sets up a conflict between city planners and Mayor-elect Charlie Hales, who this summer suggested the moratorium idea to Division Street homeowners, and pledged to adjust the apartment zoning.
WW first report about the conflict in a cover story, "Block Busters," published Sept. 19, noting that Hales had been a champion of allowing new housing to be built without on-site parking when he served on the City Council a decade ago.
The planning bureau document accompanies a city study of apartments without on-site parking released last week. The study shows that most of the tenants in these buildings own cars, but street-parking congestion around the complexes remains low.
Homeowners in several neighborhoods across the east side of Portland demanded in September that City Council issue a moratorium blocking construction on these buildings.
The planning bureau's document says that's not going to happen.
"A compelling argument for pursuing a moratorium, rather than changes to zoning regulations through public planning processes, has not been established," the FAQ sheet reads. "Likewise no substantiated shortfall of water, sewer and transportation services is occurring or is documented to occur as a result of upcoming apartments with little or no parking. Therefore, justifying a public facilities moratorium is also infeasible."
The document then says that any immediate changes to zoning code aren't possible either—they'd be overturned by the state Land Use Board of Appeals. And it says tightening design review would require a bill in the state legislature.
The planning bureau says any changes in the rules will have to wait until the city's Comprehensive Plan Update next year.
"We do have a planning process underway where we can hash those out," Zehnder says. "If we do it right, it's best done as part of the Comprehensive Plan."
The clash between homeowner demands for immediate action and planners' desire for deliberation could reach a head today. The Planning and Sustainability Commission is holding a public forum at 1:30 pm at 1900 SW 4th Ave., Room 2500A.