By Lee Perlman
For the Hollywood Star
In the waning months of 2009, one neighborhood looked at the loss of parking privileges it has grown to depend on, while another looked at gaining some new ones.
At a meeting of the Lloyd District Community Association board late last year, Calaroga Terrace retirement community general manager Gary Warren complained to city parking manager Ramon Corona that the city is imposing “tighter and tighter restrictions” on local parking permits, which allow the holders to park for free indefinitely at long-term meters. Corona replied that this trend will continue.
“The future is to get rid of the permit system here,” he said. “It was only intended to last a few years.” The system was created when the meters were first introduced in 1999, he said, because there were people already living in buildings that had no off-street parking who, the city felt, “had to be accommodated.” The intent was to phase out the program as the old residents died or moved away, he said; newcomers could choose to move in or not based on the circumstances in play. “Permits in a meter district don’t work at all,” Corona said.
“I thought the objective was to add people to the area,” Warren said.
“We’ve added thousands of units (to the meter district) downtown,” Corona replied. “The meters are here, and developers have to take that into account.”
Architect and LDCA board member Bill Ruff noted that no off-street parking is legally required of new development in the district, “but to be viable you need it.”
A particularly problematic property is the Cascadian Tower, a seven-story condominium building on Northeast Holladay Street at Sixth Avenue. It was intended to be Phase One of a much larger development featuring a second, adjacent tower that would contain structured parking for both buildings. This part of the project fell through financially. Developer Joe Weston is now planning a building of a similar size, the Cosmopolitan, on the site of the proposed second tower, but he is reportedly reluctant to provide parking for the Cascadian.
Corona said that the city is gradually replacing older-style parking in the district with “smart meter” devices; most of the older meters will be gone by the end of 2010, he said. The city is also considering, but “hasn’t decided yet,” on plans to extend the meter district into the Broadway-Weidler corridor, beginning at the west end, when the Portland Streetcar east side extension is completed in 2012. (See below.) Adjacent businesses and property owners can have “pretty much whatever they want” in terms of time restrictions on parking near their establishments, whether these are imposed by meters or signs. Most businesses do not want long-term parking next to them, Corona said, because it does not encourage the parking turnover they need.
Meanwhile, to the east, some Sullivan’s Gulch neighborhood residents are considering seeking a residential permit parking district in their neighborhood to discourage people from using their streets as free, long-term parking lots. Some of the culprits, residents claim, are the employees and customers of businesses located west of Northeast 16th Avenue, the boundary of the meter district. However, at a recent neighborhood meeting one resident charged that people have been known to park on local streets, take a $2 MAX light rail trip to Portland International Airport, and reclaim their vehicles three weeks later.
Corona said the city would be willing to consider a permit district in this neighborhood, but pointed out that it has been tried unsuccessfully twice before.
The city’s permit parking system requires that a district contain at least 40 block faces, and in the case of Sullivan’s Gulch this means including parts of the neighborhood not currently negatively affected by non-resident parking. When the matter was submitted to a vote of residents, not enough of them returned ballots to meet the city’s requirements. Since then the city has gradually eliminated the subsidy that allowed districts to operate at a financial loss, and permits currently cost $45 a year apiece.