The chambers of Portland's city council were sleepy today, as commissioners formally enacted the most-controversial legislation it's grappled with in recent months.
In an expected 3-1 vote (Commissioner Steve Novick was absent), council established parking minimums for new apartment or condo buildings of 31 units or more. In doing so, the city rolled back decades of zoning changes that have made Portland a national leader in smart growth policy. Advocates of those policies say the requirements won't substantially help the parking issue, and that the city should be looking toward permitting to manage parking.
The subdued tone of the meeting was a stark contrast from the heated hearings that have marked the debate. Council's first consideration of the matters last week drew a packed house and lasted nearly six hours.
"While I don’t think the package before us is perfect, I do believe it’s thoughtful and balanced and has a clear rationale," said Commissioner Nick Fish, who convinced his colleagues to agree to more-stringent requirements than were initially put forward by the city's Planning and Sustainability Commission.
Mayor Charlie Hales, who last week said of the changes he was "sure we haven't gotten it right," changed his tune today, saying of the exact same legislation: "I think this particular set of code adjustments is the right set of moves to make now to respond to changes that are urgent in the community and respond to some market forces that are more robust than some of us expected."
Commissioner Dan Saltzman, the sole "no" vote, said he wasn't comfortable with Fish's more-strict requirements, and that he's concerned the policies could "move portland backwards as effects its climate action plan.”
The new regulations kick in in 30 days. In the mean time, developers will be free to apply to build parking-free buildings under current law.