Eugene looks at parking mandates: ‘It’s going to be ugly’10 min read
In her final meeting as a city councilor Sept. 28, Claire Syrett offered a grim prophecy.
[00:00:06] Councilor Claire Syrett: I could not resist the irony of having my last city council meeting being on the topic of parking. And I will confess, I am not disappointed that I won’t be part of this council as you all grapple with these mandates and the political fallout that’s going to come along with them. It’s going to be ugly.
[00:00:22] John Q: Staff presented to the planning commission Aug. 23, then offered two briefings to council in September about the new parking rules. On Sept. 12:
[00:00:33] Heather O’Donnell: My name’s Heather O’Donnell. I’m a senior planner with the planning division and I’ll be providing the overview on the state of Oregon’s new rules called Climate Friendly and Equitable Communities or CFEC…
[00:00:46] In 2007, the Oregon legislature adopted a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 75% below Oregon’s 1990 levels by 2050. Oregon is particularly off track in reducing pollution from transportation, which is responsible for about 38% of Oregon’s climate pollution. On Oregon’s current path, transportation pollution will only be reduced by 20% by 2050.
[00:01:15] In addition, the state has found that Oregon has a history of discrimination and racism, including in land use and transportation decisions, which have disproportionately impacted communities of color.
[00:01:28] Governor Brown issued an executive order in 2020 impacting about 17 agencies to take actions to reduce and regulate greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the impacts of climate change. The state adopted temporary rules in May, permanent rules in July, and the final rules were published at the end of August.
[00:01:49] It’s pretty important to acknowledge that these new rules will be a huge lift for the community and for staff. They’re a lot to digest. They’re pretty complex. The effects will be felt citywide. And it’s an unplanned multi-year work effort that the state has directed us to do expeditiously.
[00:02:11] Lydia Bishop (City of Eugene): We’re starting with the most immediate implementation deadline, and those are rules that relate to off street parking requirements, Some changes automatically go into effect Dec. 31, 2022. Additional mandates must be adopted into land use code and be effective by June 30, 2023.
[00:02:29] DLCD indicates that the rules are designed to improve how parking areas are developed to decrease heat island effect, increase walkability, and promote compact development.
[00:02:40] So the rules require cities reduce parking mandates, which are the minimum number of off-street parking spaces required for new development. This doesn’t mean the new parking won’t be built. Parking instead will be driven by market demand and lending requirements, rather than the city dictating how much is required.
[00:03:00] The state’s intent is to eliminate parking minimums to the greatest extent possible.
[00:03:05] There are two options for how we reduce our parking mandates. So the first path is simply to eliminate off street parking requirements minimums citywide. So there would be no parking minimums anywhere. If we do that, then we’re complete.
[00:03:22] The second path is a multi-faceted approach: parking space credits, unbundled parking, eliminating minimums, adding more priced on-street parking spaces, and so much more. And the second option also may only apply to a very small portion of the city, as the rules require eliminating parking minimums within a half a mile of frequent transit corridors, including corridors with regularly scheduled bus service.
[00:03:52] John Q: The state has requirements for electric vehicles and for climate friendly areas.
[00:03:58] Heather O’Donnell: In addition, the state has adopted a goal that 90% of new vehicles sold annually are electric vehicles or EVs by 2035. So the new rules require providing conduit for a portion of their parking, but not actual charging facilities.
[00:04:18] The new rules aim to reduce dependency on single occupant vehicles by requiring cities to designate and zone for what the rules call climate friendly areas. These are urban mixed-use areas: housing, jobs, businesses, and services, higher density, and have high quality walking, biking and transit infrastructure. Downtown may be the only area we need to meet this target, or we may have to identify additional areas.
[00:04:48] Eugene is required to adopt one or more climate friendly areas into our long-range plans.
[00:04:55] Our land use regulations must create a connected transportation network for walking and biking, and residential neighborhoods must allow for what’s called slow neighborhood streets. Land use regulations must also allow low car districts where walking is a primary travel mode.
[00:05:16] Rob Inerfeld (City of Eugene): The new rules require certain jurisdictions including the Eugene-Springfield area to engage in scenario planning, and ultimately adopt a preferred scenario plan of future land use patterns and transportation facilities that together will reduce greenhouse gas pollution from light vehicles while also reducing inequities from past transportation and land use decisions.
[00:05:41] Councilor Mike Clark: Who decided, and I mean, who specifically, that council wouldn’t have this discussion on this stuff until after the rule making was complete. Who decided that we shouldn’t join Springfield and a number of the other cities to sue on this process rather than comply. ‘Cause it didn’t sound like it was an option for us to sue and join the suit and not comply.
[00:06:05] For the members of the public that are watching this, that may find it shocking as I do that this was implemented based on an executive order of the governor. And I believe I’m correct that two candidates for governor would unexecutive-order this and only one would continue it.
[00:06:25] Councilor Claire Syrett: Mike, it would’ve been difficult to bring this conversation to council before the rule making was complete because it was a moving target. And part of the reason the rules changed is because our staff worked incredibly hard to lobby and provide copious amounts of technical information to this rulemaking body to try to convince them, to take a different path, and they asked that the rules be amended, that there be more time before they, that we have to implement them, that we get money to fulfill this unfunded mandate. Right?
[00:07:04] This is a big deal. This is a big deal, what the state is imposing on us. We just went through a big deal with our middle housing amendments, and now we’re being asked to do it again, not by our choice.
[00:07:21] So I spoke before that committee, ’cause the mayor wasn’t available. So as council president and chair of the intergovernmental relations committee, I gave the city’s position around, ‘We need more time. This is huge.’ And I was asked a question by a member of the committee, when people before me, no one was asked a question.
[00:07:41] I was asked, ‘Given Eugene and what you guys are doing, why don’t you want to be leaders on this? Why are you resisting what we’re doing here?’ And I answered: ‘Parking, parking, parking.’ Literally, that is what I said.
[00:07:56] And I said, ‘We’re those people who are going to have to implement this and make the hard choices.’ And the people on this committee, in my estimation, did not recognize the political impact of what they are asking us to do, regardless of how many of us are like, ‘Yeah, these are great goals. We want to meet ’em, right?’
[00:08:15] So that’s where we’re at. I don’t think a lawsuit is the right approach. But we’re not limited from complaining about what we’re being asked to do here and recognize that we’ve had a big huge thing land on us, uninvited.
[00:08:31] John Q: On Sept. 28, more about the new state rules for city parking.
[00:08:37] Councilor Emily Semple: If we sued or challenged it, the timelines would still be in effect. So, we’d have to deal with a suit and writing the guidelines at the same time. Because if we lost, we would still have to do it.
[00:08:52] I’m really concerned about it, but I’m also concerned that this is going to happen one way or another. And there might be a different way to protest without making our life so expensive and taking away from other projects at this time.
[00:09:11] Councilor Alan Zelenka: Claire, in your last meeting, it’s only appropriate we talk about parking.
[00:09:14] Councilor Claire Syrett: Yeah. You’re stealing my first line there, Alan.
[00:09:16] Councilor Alan Zelenka: Oh, sorry. I’ll cross it off and I won’t say it. (laughter)
[00:09:22] I don’t like this for several reasons. One of the things is the unintended consequences of this, where if you don’t provide more parking spaces, that pushes them into the neighborhoods and onto the streets, and we’re just going to create problems over there as opposed to actually solving the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, just by making it harder to park.
[00:09:44] There are some good things in here, but on whole there’s some very problematic parts of this.
[00:09:49] In particular, the timelines and the opportunity within that timeline for meaningful public engagement. I fear this is going to be middle housing all over again where we don’t have any choice, but we un-accurately and unfairly get blamed for imposing this when there’s no thing around that ability to do anything about it.
[00:10:12] Councilor Matt Keating: Our family’s rent is more than Randy’s mortgage. And I could imagine how much more we would have to pay if our parking spaces were decoupled and it gave landlords an opportunity to charge renters even more, should we want to use the parking space.
[00:10:27] So I’m, at this point, a frustrated ‘No’ (vote). Like I’m channeling my inner Betty Taylor saying ‘No’ right now… I’m clearly frustrated and watching my P’s and Q’s ’cause of how upset I am that our hands are tied.
[00:10:45] Councilor Mike Clark: I’d like to channel my inner Betty Taylor a little bit as well and say that much like House Bill 2001, the legislature needs to understand and hear from us our strong request that they act on a larger scale to create reasonable timelines for this work. I wish we would tell the legislature, ‘No, we’re not going to comply,’ and put them in the position of needing to be reasonable about what they’re directing LCDC to do.
[00:11:19] Councilor Randy Groves: I’m extremely frustrated with yet again the erosion of home rule, yet again unfunded mandate dumped on top of our city when we have a lot of really important issues that we need to be working on. This just seems highly inappropriate and it also frustrates me when I hear, ‘Well, the timelines are for the convenience of the state that’s pushing the mandate on top of us.’ I’m not really concerned about how well it works for them.
[00:11:45] I find it ironic that the state cuts cities no quarter on rules that they impose, yet they fail to implement a mandate by the voters under Ballot Measure 110 and have not provided one single treatment center, is my understanding, which was mandated in that vote. And I don’t understand how we are held to a different standard than they are, when they can just thumb their nose at the voters of Oregon and not implement that critical part of Ballot Measure 110.
[00:12:19] Councilor Jennifer Yeh: I wanted to understand our timeline. It has to be done by the end of June. If we want to, we can request an extension. That request has to be in by the end of January. (Yes.) Okay. So my concern here is then that gives us five months after that. Like, how realistic is it to be able to get the work done, to have some kind of meaningful engagement with the community and, and get it done by June 31st?
[00:12:47] City Manager Sarah Medary: I just wanted to weigh in really quickly because of the meaningful process question. That’s a concern I have. We’ve already had a conversation around communications and engagement and how do we do this and throwing out ideas. Because if you think about the amount of engagement we did with middle housing and we get to the end and people still felt like they didn’t know and didn’t really even understand that it was being mandated by the state. You know, we have a heavy lift for people to understand this is a state requirement that we’re responding to in, in a way that everybody gets that word.
[00:13:19] Councilor Jennifer Yeh: My only other piece of advice is, whatever engagement we do do, we’re extremely clear about where you do not have a choice, right? You can tell us, but it does not matter. Our hands are tied and then like the parts where we have a very little amount of choice.
[00:13:35] John Q: The council directed staff to get started.
[00:13:39] Councilor Claire Syrett: Move to direct the city manager to initiate a land use code amendment to comply with the electric vehicle charging and parking climate friendly and equitable community rules, and to apply for an alternative timeline to allow for additional community engagement.
[00:13:54] John Q: The first new parking rules are set to take effect at the end of 2022. With a parting prophecy on parking, Claire Syrett warns the city council:
[00:14:04] Councilor Claire Syrett: It’s going to be ugly.