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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Council Will Talk Apartment Parking this Afternoon. Temper Your Expectations.

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Thu, Apr 4, 2013 at 11:14 AM

The 37th Street Apartments, stalled since February

When city council considers whether to require parking at Portland apartment developments later today, expect emotion from both sides of the fractious debate. Expect testimony from dozens of speakers, and expect policies to move forward that would hamper future projects with no on-site parking.

Don't expect those changes to take root right away, though, as they might if council voted to make the matter an emergency ordinance. And don't figure new policies the city eventually adopts will apply to the SE Division Street development that's drawn so much attention in this debate.

According to Commissioner Nick Fish, a leading voice on city council in this heated discussion, commissioners aren't likely to treat the measure as an emergency, nor require Dennis Sackhoff—developer of the stalled 81-unit project at SE Division and 37th Avenue—to abide by new minimums for the building.

"My sense from my conversation with my colleagues is council is unlikely to require whatever we do tomorrow will apply to that developer," Fish told the Mercury on Wednesday. "In some ways there’s been too much attention paid to one developer and one building. The proposal we’re taking up tomorrow applies city-wide."

That's good news for Sackhoff, whose 37th Street Apartments project is already partially built, but sits dormant due to a ruling from the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals and neighborhood pressure. It might also figure into Sackhoff's reasons for setting up a meeting with his chief nemesis in the matter, the group Richmond Neighbors for Responsible Development Growth.

Another thing to count on at today's hearing: The proposed policies to shift.

As first reported by Willamette Week, Fish plans to toughen up the proposed minimums a bit, assigning requirements to smaller buildings than initially proposed, and upping requirements for larger buildings. He tells the Mercury he's got the votes to get those measures passed.

"I think we’ve hit the sweet spot," Fish said. "I expect the vote to go forward."

Other commissioners may have a say, too. Fish expects one of his colleagues to float an amendment that will limit the amount of parking developers can offset by offering car share spaces, bike parking and other perks.

That notion—giving developers ways to offset building expensive parking spaces—is one Fish hopes to explore further in the future. He'd like to offer developers reduced minimums if they designate a certain percentage of units as affordable housing.

"None of these apartments are affordable; let's just be clear," he said. "I think we can be creative for coming up with voluntary mechanisms for encouraging affordable housing for these units."

We expect that will add to this afternoon's discussion.

UPDATE, 12:08 pm: Or if you want to know how today's council meeting will go, just consult the proposed ordinance posted to the Auditor's Office website. It contains this bit of omniscience:

omniscience2.jpg

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