Mayor Charlie Hales Proposes to Remove Ban on Apartments Without Parking

In his race for mayor, Hales put in place parking minimums for apartment complexes larger than 30 units along corridors. As he leaves office, he's proposing to get rid of them.

Mayor Charlie Hales is proposing to undo the city zoning codes that require developers to build off-street parking for buildings of more than 30 units.

This is a significant reversal—not only because minimum parking requirements raise the cost of housing but also because Hales championed the same parking minimums in 2012 as he was running for office and passed them in City Council during his fourth month in office.

The change from Hales comes in the form of an amendment to current zoning plans.

"This would undo a […] code change that imposed minimum requirements for developments of more than 30 units," says a memo from the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, published late Friday.

As a city commissioner, Hales had gained a reputation as a champion of high-density development and public transportation (along with the nickname "Choo-Choo Charlie"), in part on the basis of the fact he'd gotten rid of these same parking requirements for the first time in 2000.

But Hales bowed to public pressure on the campaign trail in 2012, as large developments were opening in the city.

Residents took issue with the lack of parking, particularly along Southeast Division Street, where at least 224 apartments went up in a 13-block span with no parking ("Block Busters," WW, Sept. 18, 2012).

Earlier this year, the Council declined to create new parking requirements for developers in Northwest—a sign that at City Hall concerns over the housing crunch trumped residents' parking woes.

Tony Jordan, with Portlanders for Parking Reform, which pushed for rolling back the requirements along transit corridors, says that the city is working on other ways to address parking shortages, including permit programs.

"I think it's great," says Jordan. "It's redeeming of the decision that was made in 2013. [It] will help us build the housing we need."

Jordan argues the parking requirements are antithetical to the mayor's record of championing environmental causes.

"If we build copious amounts of parking, our transportation systems will suffer and we won't meet our climate action goals," Jordan adds.

Hales spokesman Brian Worley says Hales thinks the parking requirements have been ineffective.

"He no longer believes the 2013 minimum parking requirements are good public policy," says Worley. "In addition, minimum parking requirements do not promote more walkable, livable neighborhoods, while negatively contributing to climate change, and further increase Portland's housing affordability crisis."

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