Thursday, May 2, 2019

Revised Missing Middle Housing Concepts Whiff on Parking

The City finally published the presentation boards from the April 30th workshop on Missing Middle Housing, and the way they are handling parking is going to doom the project to ineffectiveness.

Require 1 space  per unit even on triplexes

But these 3- and 4-plexes don't have parking!
Here are the posters and code concepts.

If we want missing middle housing to be as affordable as possible, and if we want to encourage more of it, insisting that large portions of a lot be allocated to car storage is inefficient and costly, and will hamper development of these.

Of course if we really don't want very many of these, and want instead to give the appearance only of encouraging missing middle housing, then having excessive parking requirements is a good way to mask our intentions!

The imagery in the materials show these streetcar-era missing middle plexes and cottage clusters, and few of them have parking that meets the requirement. So there's a deceptive element in showing these pre-war Missing Middle forms to illustrate a standard of  "one space per unit." They didn't need them, we function today without them, and we should not insist on them for the future.

We should remove the parking minimums on these projects and let developers decide how much parking the market requires.

Postscript, May 4rd

Though this note didn't really occasion very much comment, the comments that did appear happened over on FB, so here are a couple of comments that seemed worth a response.

One person argues that transit has to come first:
Until there is a much better public transit system with frequent service, cars will be used. Then, a car culture population will need to be convinced that public transit (or bikes, or UBER/LYFT) are better than having one's own car. Parking will be needed.
This gets it a little backwards. We've tried for decades to improve transit and failed. The expansion for evening and weekend service will help some, but these don't increase service all that much during rush hour.

The more durable remedy is better land use with more people clustered near transit lines, which will provide the customer base for more frequent service.

We also need to stop subsidizing car use with things like mandates for an oversupply of parking. When more of the externalities like road maintenance costs, social costs, and environmental costs of car use are actually brought into the trip price of car use, transit will better flourish. There's a real pricing problem and market failure here.

Another person values the administrative slog:
I think it is unrealistic in most parts of Salem. They are proposing 1 per unit. That is a big reduction already. If the developer wants an exception, let them go through the variance process. That is what it is there for. That way there is a public hearing and they must make their case. If you put it in the code, you are stuck and there is NO public hearing or way for neighbors to comment or stop the development....
The question isn't what's realistic. No change at all is what's "realistic"! No, the question is, what is necessary for affordable housing.

And significantly, neither comment responds to the problem of creating more options for affordable housing. The second comment ends on what is probably the bottom line: preserving NIMBY capacity to "stop the development." It is the exclusionary function of parking as an indirect wealth check that is most valued.

This is why HB 2001 or similar statewide legislation will be necessary. As the "next increment of development," duplexes, triplexes, and four-plexes should be the next step up in intensity for residential neighborhoods by right, with no cumbersome administrative or hearing process necessary.


Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Added a PS with a couple of comments from FB

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

BikePortland has an update on HB 2001, "‘Missing middle’ housing bill needs a push in Salem," and Sightline a piece on decarbonization, "A Duplex, a Triplex and a Fourplex Can Cut a Block’s Carbon Impact 20%:
The carbon savings from 'middle housing' are voluntary, self-financing and immense. So why are they illegal?"

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

HB 2001 passed the Senate today! It had already passed the House, and presumably the Governor will sign it.

Not passing some kind of carbon control law is a profound disappointment.

But between the rent containment bill earlier and this missing middle housing bill, there's historically significant progress on housing from this session.