Portland City Council moved forward last night with new new parking requirements for apartment buildings, adding an amendment by Commissioner Nick Fish that would trigger parking minimums for buildings with more than 30 units.
But as WW reported yesterday, the council backed away from forcing Beaverton-based developer Dennis Sackhoff to add 20 parking spaces to his half-finished 81-unit apartment building on Southeast Division Street. Commissioners said they were worried Sackhoff would sue.
It was a well-founded fear.
During Thursday's public testimony about the parking rules, Sackhoff's attorneys presented City Council with a letter threatening a lawsuit if the city passed rules that applied to the controversial 37th Street Apartments.
That letter is here.
"Litigation is the last thing 37th Street wants," reads the letter from Bend-based attorney Donald Joe Willis, "but if required, I stand ready, willing and able to vigorously pursue my client's rights in court. Hopefully the city will take no further action that would require litigation."
Willis writes that Sackhoff would sue the city for violating two forms of due process and for taking an investment without just compensation.
"I am not certain of the total amount of damage," Willis writes, "but it would likely be in the millions."
The city halted construction on Sackhoff's building in February after a state land-use court revoked its permit on a technicality. Sackhoff will be allowed to apply for a new permit next week.
As the City Council hearing ended Thursday evening, Mayor Charlie Hales mentioned the possibility of making the new new rules apply to Sackhoff's building.
"That has been considered," Hales said. "We do not have a majority."
Commissioner Steve Novick told the assembled neighborhood activists that the risk of a lawsuit was too great with the city facing a $25 million budget shortfall.
"We're talking about closing a women's homeless shelter," Novick said. "We're talking about closing a community center. We had to weigh the possibility of cutting community centers and homeless shelters against 20 parking spaces."
Novick added that Sackhoff shouldn't have to meet the parking requirements when his building permit was yanked on an unrelated design technicality.
"Even cranky developers deserve some form of fair play," Novick said.