Allan Classen
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Parking permits going up in price, down in supply


Parking permits in the Northwest District’s Zone M are going to become much more costly. They may triple in price from the current $60 up to $180 a year. Or, they could go as high as $300 a year.
If you can get one.

The citizen stakeholder advisory committee overseeing the program, aware that about 9,000 permit holders are competing for some 5,000 on-street parking spaces, agrees that something has to give. Raising the permit price closer to the market rate for private parking and capping the number of permits in circulation are how they intend trim the oversupply of permits.

The SAC proposes reducing the total number of permits to 6,100. Permanent guest passes may be discontinued. A formula for who qualifies for permits in the future will be ironed out later.

Permit holders are allowed to occupy metered parking stalls without feeding the meters and to ignore posted time limits (except on 21st and 23rd avenues). Residents and workers within Zone M (roughly between Northwest 16th, 25th, Vaughn and Burnside streets) have been allowed to purchase permits without restriction so far, but the City Council gave the Portland Bureau of Transportation and the SAC the right to formulate “tools” to ration access in the future.

SAC members know these proposals will be unpopular.

“Going from $60 to $300? People are going to go absolutely crazy,” said SAC member and Northwest District Association board member Ron Walters. “There will be mayhem.”

“I have a hard time with that number [$300],” said Mark Stromme, a SAC member and owner of commercial property in Zone M. “It’s bit onerous.”

Walters and Stromme favored a motion increasing the rate to $180. The SAC passed the motion 4-2.
Low income drivers would be exempted from the increases.

But when that recommendation went to the NWDA board, it was rebuffed as too modest.

Board member Bill Welch moved to support a $300 permit fee as well as a hard cap on total permits issued. The motion passed unanimously. (Three SAC members also on the NWDA board did not vote.)
Welch sees the easy access to cheap permits as an invitation to developers of apartment buildings seeking to avoid the cost of providing parking for their tenants. These developers save enormously on construction costs while burdening surrounding blocks with additional parking demand.

An unofficial count of apartment buildings erected in Zone M since 2011 found 920 new units and 407 parking stalls. Since 2014, the parking ratio has declined further, to 501 units and only 143 parking places—slightly more than one space per four apartments.

The parking squeeze is tightening month by month. The city receives applications for about 300 additional permits per month during the current construction boom.

“The neighborhood is growing at an unbelievable rate,” Walters said.

Higher fees and tighter restrictions may not be applied equally to businesses. The SAC is recommending $180 for employee permits. PBOT staff is recommending the cap of 6,100 be divided between 3,250 permits for employees and 2,850 for residents.

The committee will hold a special meeting Tuesday, April 4, 4 p.m., at Friendly House, 1737 NW 26th Ave. to finalize recommendations on the two key questions:

• Raising residential permits to $300 and employee permits to $180.

• Setting an absolute cap on the total number of permits.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation will consider the recommendations in making final decisions in June, which will be implemented during the renewal period in August.

Rick Michaelson, who chairs the SAC, is aware that neighbors may appear at the April 4 meeting to voice disapproval.

They will be welcome. His only caveat: “The SAC is advisory. Ultimately, it is up to the PBOT director to make final decisions on our recommendations.”