A progressive approach to the Northwest District’s parking conundrum—raising the price of parking permits to reduce demand—ran into populist opposition last month in the form of lower-income renters who couldn’t see paying up to $300 a year for permits now costing $60.
The Northwest Parking Stakeholders Advisory Committee, which oversees the Zone M meter and permit district encompassing most of the Northwest District, listened to nearly two hours of civil yet passionate comments from a standing-room-only crowd and decided that $180 would be a reasonable compromise.
Nearly 100 citizens, most of them tenants, packed the meeting room and waited their turn to speak.
SAC chair Rick Michaelson called the input “incredibly helpful, incredibly useful.”
SAC member Karen Karlsson, who is also president of the Northwest District Association, which had earlier recommended the $300 rate, said such an increase would go beyond influencing parking behavior.
Noting that the district’s median income is $30,000-$35,000 a year, Karlsson said, “They can’t afford $300. All we’re doing is kicking them out of the neighborhood.”
One young woman said she would rather park in the nearby industrial area and walk to her apartment than pay that much.
A young man said he has worked six days a week for five years without a vacation just to pay for a moldy studio apartment without internet or cable service. If the cost of permits were to reach $300, he said he would have to sell his car or park it elsewhere.
He and several other residents called it unfair that parking demand and rental rates are being driven by a flood of new apartment buildings, many of which provide no off-street parking.
SAC member Ron Walters recommended that tenants of such buildings be ineligible to purchase permits.
When Michaelson questioned treating existing tenants differently from newcomers, Walters replied that it is fair because newcomers move here by choice and with knowledge of rents and parking policies. Existing residents, however, may not have options.
Michaelson then suggested that perhaps existing rates should be grandfathered for current permit holders while only new applicants pay steeper rates.
Fears that draconian measures might be used to reduce the supply of about 9,000 permits down to 6,100 were assuaged by Michaelson, who “imagined” that the reduction can be accomplished by attrition.
“No one anticipates a lottery,” he said.
In a follow-up meeting, the committee voted to limit the number of permits available for apartment buildings having 30 or more units. Existing buildings could have no more than .6 permits per unit, and new buildings will be limited to .4 permits per unit.
Employers in Zone M will be limited to .8 permits per worker.
All current Zone M permit holders may renew their permits. Residents who choose not to renew their permit will be offered two alternatives as an incentive: $100 off a TriMet pass and one-year BIKETOWN membership or a TriMet annual pass for half price.
In addition, Zone M residents will be eligible for May-through-August BIKETOWN memberships for $10. The subsidized rate will be underwritten by a $54,000 payment from parking meter revenues in Zone M.
The new permit rates and restrictions go into effect Sept. 1.
None of the changes affect Zone K between Northwest 16th, 18th, Burnside and Northrup streets.