Portland’s newest buildings will soon be some of the city’s most bike-friendly.
The City Council has approved a sweeping set of changes to Portland’s zoning code that will require developers of larger buildings — as well as those making major renovations — to carve out space for residents’ bicycles.
In the last two decades, the percentage of Portlanders opting to commute by bike has grown to about 7%. But the city’s rules regarding bike parking haven’t been changed significantly since they were written in 1996.
Tenants said a lack of mandated bike storage had left them lugging muddy bikes into their apartments, occasionally losing their security deposit as a result. Developers who did provide in-unit parking sometimes saw fit to hang bike racks over beds and couches.
The old zoning code wasn’t helping the city reach its stated goal of ensuring a quarter of all commutes in the city would be made by bike by 2035. So, a few years ago, the city Bureau of Planning and Sustainability and the Bureau of Transportation began considering a major update to bike parking code. Those changes were approved Wednesday and will take effect next March.
“The availability and design of bike parking has a real impact on whether people can choose to use a bike to travel around Portland or not,” said Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, who oversees the Bureau of Transportation. “We can't expect people to replace car trips with bike trips if they don’t have an easily accessible place to store their bike.”
The approved changes mean large buildings will now need to have a dedicated bike room, capable of fitting bikes for at least half of its residents. Space needs to be reserved for large bikes and ones that need to charge with electric outlets. All spaces will need to be covered and well-lit.
“The goal of updating the bike parking code is to make sure we have enough bike parking in new buildings, and to make sure the new bike parking is safe from theft and convenient to all types of bikes,” PBOT spokesperson John Brady said. “From road bikes all the way up to cargo bikes.”
Buildings with 12 units or less will still be able to put parking in the apartment, a turnaround from the initial plan to ban in-unit parking outright.
But the city said it “heard loud and clear from the development community” that such a stringent requirement would waste too much valuable floor space.
Developers weren’t the only ones raising concerns about how the city’s desire to increase bike ridership could reduce housing stock. Diane Linn, the executive director of affordable housing provider Proud Ground and a member of the Portland Housing Advisory Commission, had spoken out at City Council last month, saying she was concerned the restrictions could overload those building affordable housing and result in the loss of much-needed units.
In a review of the ordinance, the city said the final changes could still cause a slight increase in the cost of development, and, in some cases, a building might lose a unit. The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability has estimated that the changes could lead to a loss in “net operating income” from the building of between 1% and 4%.
The city also passed an ordinance Wednesday to ensure that the new requirements won’t impact 18 affordable housing projects in the pipeline. That includes nine projects funded through the Portland Housing Bond.