Walkable neighborhoods need more housing, not more parking

Below is testimony submitted by Oregon Walks in advance of the October 5th City Council meeting. We applaud the work of our partner organizations including Portlanders for Parking Reform and Portland For Everyone for their ongoing work to encourage the city's adoption of thoughtful, cogent transportation policy that supports dense, walkable communities.


October 5, 2016
Oregon Walks: Testimony to City Council Regarding Parking Minimums in Comprehensive Plan Update
Oregon Walks is the state’s pedestrian advocacy organization that works to make walking a safe, convenient, and accessible transportation option in every community, for every Oregonian. As explained and popularized by nationally-recognized urban scholar Dr. Donald Shoup in “The High Cost of Free Parking,” few urban planning policies have as profound an impact on the viability of building walkable communities than those that regulate automobile parking minimums in urban neighborhoods. The impact of forcing new construction to build abundant parking for automobiles has a significant impact on the supply of housing we can build in walkable neighborhoods, thereby restricting the number of Portlanders who can afford to live somewhere they can walk their children to school. 
In 2013, Oregon Walks joined dozens of community advocates and organizations in opposing the minimum parking requirements. Since this vote three years ago, many of the fears expressed by our organization and our peers have been realized: Portland’s rents have continued to skyrocket, our streets have become increasingly gridlocked, and many folks are lamenting their limited mobility and opportunity to get around town safely. 
Oregon Walks is submitting testimony in advance of the October 6th Council hearing to ask City Council to strongly consider  eliminate the minimum parking requirements in the Mixed Use Zones designated as “Centers” and potentially along “Corridors” as high capacity, frequent headway transit is built. In our letter this past July, we advocated for eliminating parking minimums in Northwest Portland; today, we ask Council to continue to assess if they believe the decisions to mandate provisions for automobile parking over affordable housing, healthier communities, and low-carbon communities truly reflect the relative urgency of each issue in our city. We also affirm our support for the letter of intent and the MOU signed between TriMet and the City of Portland to more fully integrate land use and frequent service for fully realizing the 2040 growth concept. We’re excited to see continued support for Transportation Demand Management programs, as a way to mitigate against parking concerns, as well as minimizing parking footprints in new developments through mechanized stacked parking.  
These seemingly minor policy proposals will have significant ramifications for the number of people who will have an opportunity to afford to live in a walkable neighborhood. By eliminating mandatory provisions of automobile parking in the neighborhoods specifically targeted in the Comprehensive Plan for new growth to address our current housing shortage, we’re encouraging Portland’s new economic growth to provide a housing stock with demonstratively proven community benefits. By taking a proactive stance to eliminate these parking minimums to encourage other forms of transportation besides single-occupancy vehicle use, City Council can encourage more walking, make current and future investments in public transit more cost-effective, improve local air quality, contribute towards Portland’s ambitious carbon reductions goals, provide options for residents stuck in congestion, and increase the number of homes built to address the housing affordability. This is not a radical idea; advocacy for the elimination of parking minimums has now been championed as a necessary piece of urban housing reform by the White House in their recent “Housing Development Toolkit”, which stated that minimum parking requirements “have a disproportionate impact on housing for low-income households because these families tend to own fewer vehicles but are nonetheless burdened by the extra cost of parking’s inclusion in the development.” 
Oregon Walks encourages City Council to eliminate the parking minimums in the Mixed Use Zones as part of the Comprehensive Plan. Policy initiatives like this only push us quicker toward our desired outcomes on affordable housing, climate policy, supporting healthy commuting options, and cost-effective use of limited urban space that benefits all Portlanders. 
Noel Mickelberry
Executive Director, Oregon Walks
Aaron Brown
Board President, Oregon Walks