This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 2, 2012 11:49 AM. The previous post in this blog was Another note from Chris Anderson. The next post in this blog is Summing up the Smith assault story. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Cars are bad -- unless they're at OHSU

A reader points us to a story from the summer that no one seems to have picked up on. The City of Portland has given OHSU a 15-year extension for operating a large surface parking lot in the SoWhat District. The lot, named Schnitzer after its donor, was supposed to be closed by the end of this year, according to a deal made in 2005. But since OHSU uses the lot for a park-and-ride for the aerial tram [rim shot] up to Pill Hill, among other things, it isn't going to happen.

The official City Hall justification for the extension contains some interesting double-speak:

The applicant is requesting this 15 year extension as the development plans from 2005, which were addressed in the previous Central City Parking Review (“CCPR”), LU 05-125472 PR (Exhibit A.4), did not come to fruition....

The transit-oriented and pedestrian-oriented focus of this neighborhood expects parking ratios for future buildings to be low to encourage less automobile use. It is a reasonable assumption that closing the existing surface parking lot too soon may force the premature development of new structured parking at a ratio greater than what is needed at the time of full build-out. Allowing the existing surface lot to be phased out in accordance with OHSU’s 20-year Facilities Master Plan eases pressure for the future buildings to build to unnecessary parking ratios....

Market conditions have changed dramatically since the date the CCPR was originally approved. The anticipated parking structure has not been constructed nor is it proposed on the near horizon. Accordingly, the phased development plan set out in 2006 has not come to fruition. No new structured parking has been built that could accommodate the demand currently supplied by the Schnitzer lot and therefore the Schnitzer lot now must request an extension....

In this application, OHSU feels it is important to be more conservative in their phased development plan. New development that has come into the District since 2006 could not afford to incorporate any more parking than was minimally needed for that use. For example, the latest OHSU building under construction, Collaborative Life Sciences Building (CLSB), building is proceeding with a Growth parking ratio of .8 spaces per 1000 square feet well below the code allowed maximum of 2.4 spaces per 1000 square feet. OHSU believes it was simply not economically feasible to incorporate any more parking in the structure. The Supplemental parking on the Schnitzer lot was a critical element in assuring that the CLSB could be built with such a low parking ratio.

Let's try to summarize: We can't close this lot, because if we did, someone would build a garage structure. And that might actually ensure an adequate supply of parking in the future. This runs counter to the City Hall car haters' dream of a world without private passenger vehicles. Thus, a surface parking lot is best answer. Besides, OHSU isn't going to build a garage, because they're too cheap to do so. So they get their way.

The discussion makes little sense, but then again, neither does anything else in the SoWhat District. We shouldn't be surprised at the pretzel logic at play here, or the fact that once again, OHSU gets away with breaking its promises left and right. It's standard operating procedure.

Comments (17)

From one perspective it does makes sense... "Rules for thee but not for me and my important friends".

This satement is purely passive voice. Things just happen, but no one does anything (A new City Counsel motto perhaps?). The possible exception sentence being "OHSU feels...." but even that is passive if you think about it.

This is the same stupid city that felt the need to spend hundreds of millions on a Streetcar line to SoWhat (including a $40 million project earlier this year to "raise" and rebuild Moody Street and put the Streetcar tracks in the street as opposed to on an adjacent, "high-speed" separated right-of-way - it was the only section of the Streetcar line where Streetcars could exceed 25 MPH), so that folks going to OHSU could ride an $80 million tram...

...instead of just riding the existing, useful, and popular 8 bus from downtown that stops right at OHSU's (and the VA's, and Doernbecher's) front doors - at no additional capital expense.

Most Portland households drive cars and need parking. It is a fact. They will still do it in the future. That is a fact.

The onus should be on planners to prove otherwise, not on drivers to prove what is clear to anyone with eyeballs and an ounce of common sense.

So wait is this "tram shuttle" not the streetcar? OHSU duplicates service with its own buses because people can't really be expected to take the streetcar if they actually need to be somewhere?

...people can't really be expected to take the streetcar if they actually need to be somewhere?

Doesn't that about sum up rail transit in the Portland area?

If you check the Bojack archives, you will see I called it the "World's most expensive Park & Ride" more than once.

What the H do they need parking for? We built them a $70M parking lot shuttle already.

OHSU duplicates service with its own buses

Yes, so to separate the well-to-do from the masses of dirty, filthy TriMet riders.

At least TriMet consistently puts newer (read: low floor, air conditioned) buses on the 8 line. I don't think OHSU's buses are ADA compliant (they don't have lifts).

This is just another in a long series of f-u's to the neighborhood. ("The tram won't be a park & ride", "Everyone will take transit to the tram", "We'll only need our shuttle buses in the rare event the tram isn't running").

And my friends wonder why I don't believe a single thing I hear from the City Hall/OHSU "team". Ug.

History: In the 9 Agreements signed between the Stakeholders and CoP in 1999, OHSU was suppose to build a 2000 car parking garage on the two blocks just southwest of their OHSU building. OHSU sold the air-rights above the parking for affordable housing costing the City (us) $3 Million.

13 years have passed and no parking or affordable housing. For many years OHSU kept the $3 Million, and now PDC is trying to determine if the $3 Million was ever given back to South Waterfront's UR TIF pool. I'd put a bet on it that they didn't pay any interest for the use of the $3 Million for all these years.

The sentence (paraphrased), "there's no structured parking built, THEREFORE, the Schnitzer lot MUST request an extension" says it all. They use "therefore and "must" like it's the only deduction to be made. And they think we fall for it. Just build the parking structure and the affordable housing on top. Money is no object, right? Plus, surface parking lots in the Greenway Zone, the Central City Plan and South Waterfront Plan is prohibited. And it's not environmentally correct.

I attended the pre-app meeting for this decision last summer. I was the only non-bureaucrat, non-OHSU employee in the room. It was an enlightening discussion. OHSU knows that the planner vision of artifically constrained parking isn't working. They admit that they already have trouble hiring employees because it is so costly to provide regular parking in SoWhat. If they lost the surface lot now they would have an employee rebellion on their hands.

It's also interesting that the publicly-subsidized re-do of Moody was not really a transit project; the street was raised by 14 feet primarily to allow OHSU and future developers to provide tuck-under parking and not have to dig down for the more expensive basement parking. That's a pretty extreme response to a planner-induced parking shortage, and not one that is likely to be replicated.

There is no learning going on by the city, just a constant doubling-down on failed strategies.

Just think about how special SoWa is.

It'll have Tram service, Streetcar service, Light Rail, a ped/bike/ transit bridge, a massive surface parking lot and a bunch of government buildings paying no property taxes, PSU/OHSU elitists and all of it will have to be tax subsidized forever by the rest of the city.

Now that is one fantastic success story.

Until the earthquake. Or the flood.

Until the earthquake. Or the flood.

Portland, a city planned so well we put our primary medical facility (with the top trauma facilities) on top of a hill with only one road up and down that is prone to landslide and is so narrow that if an ambulance is coming up behind you, you don't pull over but speed up; whose downtown district is built atop wetlands and marshes and most of the buildings sit atop rather precarious pilings; whose center is dominated by bridges - only two of which are earthquake reinforced (and one of them, the Marquam, is a bridge that many urban planners want to tear down because it's "ugly").........

In a major earthquake downtown is doomed. Far east Portland (those awful, auto-centric suburbs) will actually do pretty well. The buses will be able to resume service once the main roads are cleared out...but downtown is doomed. The Steel Bridge is a ticking timebomb and MAX will be shut down for years. Who knows if the Robertson Tunnel would survive an earthquake - the Vista Bridge probably wouldn't.

How do we know the planners haven't taken all that into account and are waiting for nature to do the deed so the city and bridges can be rebuilt without cars?

Urban planners have always lived and still live in a make-believe world and I wouldn't put it past them.

How do we know the planners haven't taken all that into account and are waiting for nature to do the deed so the city and bridges can be rebuilt without cars

If they had half a brain cell, they would have planned the Pearl District and South Waterfront to be a car-free zone.

Disneyland is more "green" than Portland is. There's plenty of mass transit (Railroad - powered by biodiesel, Monorail - powered by electricity, Horse-Drawn Streetcar - powered by HORSE, Omnibus, Jitney, Mark Twain Riverboat - powered by biodiesel, "ferries" to Tom Sawyer Island) and no private automobile usage anywhere - yet on any given day there's at least 30,000 people inside the park, all WALKING!

(However, bicycles are prohibited.)

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