Friday, February 21, 2020

City Council, February 24th - Win on Parking

Earlier this month Council made a strong move towards comprehensive parking reform when at first reading they strengthened the multi-family and missing middle housing code amendments. The ordinance is up for second reading and enactment on Monday, and this is a great step.

From the updated Staff Report on parking:
The proposed code amendment would calibrate parking requirements according to the type of units provided in developments with 13 or more units. For example, one space would be required for each studio and one-bedroom unit, but 1.5 spaces would be required for each two- or more bedroom unit. This recognizes that dwelling units with more bedrooms are more likely to house residents with more than one car.

The proposed code amendment would also reduce off-street parking requirements for smaller multifamily projects. Specifically, the requirements for housing with three to 12 units would be required to provide one space per unit. Currently, a three-unit project is generally required to provide two spaces per unit, and a four to 12-unit project is required to provide 1.5 spaces per unit. Reducing these requirements would make it easier to develop smaller developments by providing more space for housing units instead of parking stalls. (Developers could build more parking than the minimum requirement.) The current parking requirements have made it very challenging for property owners to develop smaller projects on smaller lots, with many often abandoning their plans.

As mentioned above, the City Council voted to eliminate minimum parking requirements for multifamily projects in the Central Salem Development Program (CSDP) area and Cherriot’s Core Network. The CSDP area is generally located between Hood Street NE to the north, Mission Street SE to the south, the Willamette River to the west, and 12th Street to the east (Attachment 7). Salem’s downtown is more likely to support multifamily units with little to no parking than other locations in the city. It is an urban environment where goods, services, and entertainment are generally within walking distance, and there are multiple options for alternative forms of transportation, including frequent transit service. There are also City-owned parking facilities in the downtown that could provide additional parking spaces to residents that want to lease an off-street parking space.

The Core Network is a network of bus service corridors where frequent service is prioritized. The corridors include, in part, Commercial Street SE, Liberty Street SE, Lancaster Drive NE, Market Street NE, Center Street NE, State Street, Edgewater Street NW, and Salem’s Downtown (Attachment 8). Reduction or removal of service in the corridors cannot occur without the Cherriots’ Board of Directors holding a public hearing and taking action. This Planning Commission recommendation is reflected in the ordinance; it further incents transit-oriented development and workforce housing.

In addition, the proposed code amendment would allow a 10 percent off-street parking reduction for developments within a quarter-mile of a transit stop, and it would allow reductions for multifamily projects that provide additional covered bicycle parking or a shared car/van service on site. This provides an incentive for multifamily housing to be located near transit stops and encourages alternative forms of transportation. A 20 percent reduction in required parking spaces would also be allowed for multifamily developments within a quarter-mile of stops with 15-minute transit service, as recommended by the Planning Commission.

Under the proposed code amendment, parking reductions would also be allowed for affordable housing units, which are those affordable to household with incomes equal to or less than 80 percent of the median family income for the county in which the property is located. This would incent the development of lower-priced housing and workforce housing. [italics added]
I'm not sure everything is cleaned up and consistent?
But look at the two italicized passages from the Staff Report. Aren't the 15-minute service bus stops essentially identical with the Core Network? I'm not sure it's clear on when a 20% reduction is allowed and when there is no minimum required. Separately, the summary chart also uses 25%, not 20%. There might be a little clean-up and clarification needed yet on the support materials and perhaps even in code itself.

But the overall policy goal remains clear.

Moving to a concrete example, you might recall these slides from the State Street Corridor Study a couple years ago:

Four stories of retail and housing: Ideal
(from the State Street Corridor Study)

Doesn't pencil out - but parking might meet code now
It will be especially interesting to see now if the adjustments on parking along Cherriots' Core Network help kick-start redevelopment on the State Street corridor between 12th and 25th. Are they enough, or do we need more adjustment even?

Other Items

There's an update on projects eligible for System Development Charges and reimbursement. The first two on the list sure look like direct subsidies for an auto dealer:
Cherry/Salem Parkway. The comprehensive plan change for development of Capitol Subaru located along Auto Group Drive NE required construction of an additional westbound to northbound right turn lane at the intersection of Cherry Avenue NE and Salem Parkway NE. The developer is eligible for credits up to 100 percent of the total cost pursuant to Administrative Rule 109-200.

Cherry/Pine. The comprehensive plan change for development of Capitol Subaru located along Auto Group Drive NE required construction of an additional northbound to westbound left-turn lane at the intersection of Cherry Avenue NE and Pine Street NE. The developer is eligible for credits up to 100 percent of the total cost pursuant to Administrative Rule 109-200.
Compare with a project on the North Campus of State Hospital:
Park Avenue NE between D and Center. The tentative subdivision for development of the North Campus of Oregon State Hospital required construction of a street improvement along Park Avenue NE between D Street NE and Center Street NE. The developer is eligible for credits up to 19 percent of the total cost of the collector street improvement pursuant to Administrative Rule 109-200.
Park Avenue there lacks sidewalks, and it's easier to argue for public benefit on Park with the new housing than for continuing to gigantify Cherry Avenue at Park and the Parkway for a car dealership. But the State Hospital project only gets 19% credit. The overall balance just seems off.

I know there was just an update to the whole System Development Charge Methodology, but with our update to the Comprehensive Plan in "Our Salem," the whole SDC program might bear a more thorough reconsideration, both for a more ambitious schedule of variable SDCs and a stricter analysis of private v. public benefit.

There is more on an incremental segment of two-way reversion for State Street downtown. It's just between Liberty and Church Streets, so it's still not a complete corridor. Like the segment between Liberty and Commercial, it also won't have the full upgrade with bike lanes. It's nice, but it's also a small thing. (This previous note, based on an errant City Manager update, jumped the gun a little.)

Finally, in the update on the Legislature, the City's apparently taking a position against any changes on the Opportunity Zones. In the notes on opposing HB 4010:
Disconnects Oregon from the Federal Tax Incentives Established through the Opportunity Zone Program. The bill will not give Oregonians investing in their own communities the same benefits as those who invest elsewhere, or out-of-state investors spending the same money in our communities which would deter investment in our neediest areas.
But it has seemed pretty clear the Opportunity Zone program is something of a boondoggle, and has also seemed clear that Salem's Opportunity Zones are not in fact in our "neediest areas." The City should formally discuss what developments currently hinge on the Opportunity Zones, why they are in fact best left unaltered, and how they actually fit in with our existing policy goals.

Bullets for the rest:

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