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Dealing with the Downside of Density

The Euclid Society came together on June 6, 2013, to engage in a lively discussion on density-related issues in the Portland area.

Parking and its relation to planning and development is a complex topic that many cities currently struggle to variously accommodate.  Some cities promote stackable parking lots, more frequent public transit as an alternative to personal vehicles, and in Portland, for many years, a no minimum parking requirement in commercial zones with proximity to public transit (the CS and CM zones). However, that rule came under fire and culminated in recent decisions by LUBA in Richmond Neighbors for Responsible Growth v. City of Portland, (LUBA No. 2012-061, February 20, 2013) and Kerns Neighbors for Rational Growth v. City of Portland, (LUBA No. 2012-085, February 26, 2013).  Although these cases did not specifically include arguments about the no minimum parking rules, the political backdrop leading to the appeals focused on a lack of parking in area neighborhoods.

As a result of the lawsuits, the City of Portland adopted new minimum parking standards in the two affected commercial zones. The minimum standards are a token to the neighbors if a large residential development is proposed, however, the no minimum parking standards remain for commercial uses.  Further, the concern for many affordable housing advocates is the disincentive for high density developments near transit in favor of building projects with only 30 units that are exempt from parking standards.

In addition to the no minimum parking outcry, another subtext in the discussion is that most properties in the affected zones are not subject to site plan and design review.  As can be seen in the materials provided at the Euclid Society session, those projects that are subject to site plan and design review show marked improvement over the massive residential cubes that many community members find aesthetically offensive.  High density residential development along transit corridors would be much more palatable if site plan and design review standards applied.

Please consider joining the conversation at one of our upcoming Euclid Society events.  Save the date for September 25, 2013, when we will present on the latest in the urban growth boundary expansion debate.


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