City Council to Discuss Eliminating Off-street Parking Requirements

The Council will hold a work session on April 21, 2021 at 5:00 PM to consider a request by a councilor to explore reducing to zero the minimum number of parking spaces required for new developments. 

A new state law (H.B. 2001) requires that every Oregon city amend its development code to permit the construction of “middle housing” — duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes, townhomes, and cottage clusters — wherever detached single family homes are allowed. Bend’s staff is working on code amendments needed to comply with the law. One proposed change would eliminate the existing requirement for the minimum number of off-street parking spaces for duplexes and triplexes and significantly reduce the requirement for quads. The proposal is controversial, even among members of the stakeholder advisory group working with the staff on the code changes.

Councilor Melanie Kebler wants to go further and eliminate minimum off-street parking requirements for all developments. She argues that parking uses up space that could be devoted to more housing and that households without cars unfairly subsidize those with cars by having to pay for parking spaces they don’t need. She points to low income households, people with disabilities, and the elderly as among those prevented from accessing more affordable housing because they can’t find dwelling units without parking.

Off-street parking requirements have been eliminated in a few larger cities, generally in limited areas, such as those near public transit or downtown cores. Advocates make several claims about the rationale for the change, while critics counter with arguments against this experimental policy. (See list of Pros & Cons.)

A study group of Bend neighborhood association land use chairs investigated both sides of the issue. They looked to cities that have reduced parking minimums for evidence documenting positive impacts on parking and on housing affordability and availability, but couldn’t find any actual data. At this stage, the movement to change city policies appears to be based on claims, rather than evidence. 

What they did find was evidence that reduced parking minimums increase the value of vacant land, which resulted in higher, not lower, housing prices. And, a parking assessment conducted for the City of Bend in 2017 concluded that cities that had eliminated parking minimums, “subsequently experienced developments that under-built parking to such a degree that parking capacity in neighborhoods and/or commercial districts became an issue.”

Resources reviewed by the study group and other information about parking standards can be found at DoesParkingMatter.com/background.

The City of Bend has made reductions in parking requirements since 2006. Policy #39 in the Transportation System Plan adopted in 2020 calls for adjusting parking standards using a data-driven approach based on changes in behavior and parking demand over time. This approach is generally referred to as “right-sizing parking”. Both the State of Oregon and the City of Bend adopted this approach to balance supply and demand and avoid wasting land on unneeded parking spaces.

In the upcoming Council work session, staff will present information on the topic and the councilors can discuss it and direct the staff about possible next steps, such as drafting amendments to the Bend Development Code, which is where parking standards are set. The work session on parking requirements will be prior to the regular Council meeting on April 21st, starting at 5:00 PM. While open to the public, work sessions do not allow for pubic comments. Written comments can be emailed to council@bendoregon.gov

If you have an opinion on how the Council should approach this issue, please let them know. And, please complete the online community survey on parking requirements.

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