For as long as this native Pacific Northwesterner can remember, Seattle
and its scrappier, smaller neighbor to the south, Portland
, have had a sibling rivalry thing going on as the two cities vie to outdo each other in the realms of college football, food carts, and clothing-optional bike rides.
And now that residents in Seattle’s super-dense Capitol Hill neighborhood have had their chance
to spurn the development of shoebox-sized studios in heated displays of NIMBYist outrage, it’s time for Portland residents turn to step up and vocalize their displeasure with similar, dorm-esque developments that have started to pop up around the City of Roses. And not too surprisingly, the main reasons that Portlanders are rallying against micro-apartment developments — or aPodments as one Seattle developer has branded them — is pretty much identical: lost parking and increased traffic.
Writes LifeEdited’s David Friedlander of the furor
over two offending micro-apartment developments, one under construction in Northwest Portland, the other pending city approval across the Willamette in the the city’s Hollywood District. Both buildings are projects of Snohomish, Wash.-based Footprint Investments
which has built a handful of similar developments in Seattle and environs:
We can’t help but think this is another case of NIMBY-itis. Everyone loves the idea of more walkable and bikeable neighborhoods. They love the idea of housing that supports public transportation (both developments are close to transit hubs). And they love the idea of building space and energy efficient housing. But when these ideas include the possibility — not the reality, mind you — of fewer or further afield parking spaces, people seem all too willing to squash those ideas.
Here's some grade-A squashing courtesy Martha MacIver who runs a nonprofit organization located next to the proposed site (currently an abandoned single-family home) of Footprint Investments’ five-story, 56-unit Hollywood development in Northeast Portland: "I thought that's warehousing and we do not warehouse people. That will never fly here. We won't tolerate it,” MacIver tells KOIN News
citing general safety worries and concerns over the privacy of her clients as her main beef with the development. “I'm concerned about parking and traffic in the long run but also during construction. It will be horrific.”
Michele McKimmy, an area resident who showed up with others to protest the planned development last month, echoes MacIver’s anti-micro-apartment sentiments: "It is going to bring more cars and more overcrowding. We need to have discussions on development — not just stick apartment buildings in here because someone wants to make money,” she tells KATU News
. “For the developer to get in and not be required to have any parking? When he may have 56 to 112 tenants living there? He's just dodging the city code like a ninja,” adds protestor Sue Ellen Dolan.
To backtrack a bit, the reason that Portlanders like Dolan, McKimmey, and MacIver are fretting about vanishing parking is due to the fact that Footprint Investments' twin Portland projects, much like Seattle's aPodments and a recently opened micro-apartment complex in Portland’s Pearl District, are not mandated to include resident parking. The exceedingly petite units with shared kitchens and other community-minded amenities (individual units do have "convenience centers" with microwaves and mini-fridges) are considered group dwellings and, as such, do not require a minimum of parking spots due to a loophole in zoning laws. Similar to its brethren in Seattle and other cities, the developments are convenient to public transportation and market themselves as bike-friendly but, inevitably, some future residents — the same folks willing to cram all of their worldly possessions into less than 200-square-feet of living space —will own cars.
A spokesperson for Footprint Investments explains to KOIN that locals needn’t freak out about parking as only 8 percent of tenants in similar micro-apartment developments in Seattle and San Francisco own cars. But what if, once opened to renters, the Hollywood District development proves to be different and a higher percentage of tenants are left scrambling to find coveted street parking?
This is no doubt a tricky, sensitive issue. It's also hard not to sympathize with both sides: Bike- and public transit-centric developments, even when packing residents into fully-furnished sardine cans for $900 a pop, are a great thing. We need more of them. But the act of cramming hundreds of new residents —and potentially their cars —into such a restricted footprint is serious business. The unique needs of each neighborhood and its infrastructure need to be understood and the voices of existing residents need to be heard. And city officials need to listen. And keep in mind that this is Portland, not New York City
. While a micro-apartment development with a dearth of parking spots may work there, it may not work elsewhere for a variety of reasons.
Writes Elizabeth Hovde in an editorial for The Oregonian
in which numerous Portland residents have chimed in with their thoughts on the topic: "I think Portland needs to consider the number of people dwelling in a building and not how many kitchens are inside. After all, not being able to whisk in private does not mean a person won’t choose to own a car and need to park it on already tight streets."
What do you think? Should Portlanders suck it up and embrace these dense, affordable, and car-unfriendly developments? Should the city revisit its zoning regulations? Are you on the fence?