Property management firms say they weren’t included in the planning
Large apartment management firms balked at the thought of choosing which of their tenants would be able to park on the street.
They didn’t want the administrative burden of picking winners and losers or the possibility of being sued for discrimination by someone left out. Let the city decide who will be eligible for a dwindling number of parking permits to be granted in Northwest Portland’s Zone M and leave them out of it.
That was the message of a several property managers who attended the June meeting of the Parking Stakeholders Advisory Committee, which was given the authority to ration permits in Zone M by City Council last year. The particulars are now being crafted by the committee.
The two-year-old parking program has so far granted permits to every area worker and resident willing to pay the $60 annual fee (rising to $180 this month).
That has resulted in oversubscribing the zone’s 5,200 parking spaces by selling about 9,000 permits, making the hunt for an available spot almost as difficult as before the program began. Unless a formula can be established to limit eligibility, the whole exercise fails to provide a public benefit by making parking easier for those who have a reason to be in the district.
The first proposed stages of rationing are to be modest, pertaining only to residents of new buildings having more than 30 units. In these buildings, only 60 percent of the units could get a permit. Of the 54 apartment buildings with more than 30 units in Zone M, only 13 buildings had permits exceeding the 60 percent threshold last year. Those would be the first buildings to feel the pinch if and when rationing comes.
That was the plan, anyway. But property managers from at least four firms protested that they hadn’t received adequate notice of plans to make them gatekeepers for tenants seeking permits.
Jeff Reingold, president of Income Property Management, told the SAC that administering the right to park on the street could make permits conditions of leases and subject to complex landlord-tenant law. Preparing for this potential new responsibility would take more than the month or so before Aug. 1, when the annual permits are renewed.
Reingold also criticized the SAC and program staff for not reaching out sooner and more broadly to property management companies or their trade group, Multifamily NW.
“I’m not going to accept this,” Reingold said. “The problem is, you didn’t ask.”
Reingold’s problem with the program actually goes deeper. He doesn’t believe access to on-street parking should be limited at all.
“You’re not changing demand, just restricting supply,” he said. “That’s not how it works.”
Last month, he returned to the SAC with a direct challenge to the program’s authority.
“You don’t have the right to treat different tenants differently,” he said. “We don’t want any restrictions. If you force us to rent apartments without the right to park, that’s unacceptable.”
SAC Chair Rick Michaelson had a ready retort: “I look forward to your court case.”
Reingold demurred that he hadn’t mentioned the possibility of a suit.
“Then I don’t know what else you’re going to do,” Michaelson replied, apparently confident that City Council would be unlikely to reverse clear directives issued in July 2016.
The only other property manager to speak at the July SAC meeting, Russell Tunes of Apartments Northwest LLC, said setting limits on the supply of permits is “realistic … When it’s full, it’s full.”
Longtime Northwest Portland apartment owner Walter McMonies attended both the June and July SAC meetings at which the rationing process was discussed.
“Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater,” warned McMonies, who said the program is helping contain the parking problem.
“Let’s fine-tune what you’ve done,” he told the SAC.
If a consensus can be found among property managers, it will have to accommodate a wide range of views. Tim Gray of Apartments Northwest told the SAC they were “playing god with the parking permits” and that their approach represents a position somewhere between socialism and communism.
“Nobody really cares about us or our concerns,” Gray said. “This is all about forcing everyone to ride bikes and walk and take transit.”
Michaelson recognized that there wouldn’t be time to bring property management companies on board before the annual permits are renewed in August, so he postponed action on rationing strategies for another year. That means the number of permits in circulation will increase over the next 12 months as new apartment buildings are completed and occupied. The program’s goal of reducing parking saturation to 85 percent of available spaces—the level at which, on average, a vacant space can be found on each block—will fall further out of sync.
“We’re well over 90 percent [at peak times],” he said.
Noting that the program’s start-up was delayed four years (due primarily to a PBOT meter-acquisition scandal), Michaelson said, “Some of us would like to see things get better before we retire.”