Sunday, November 12, 2006

Condos Without Cars - In Portland

If Portland, Ore. can build downtown condo towers without any parking, why can't Philadelphia? Our transit system is superior and our downtown is denser. Could it be that Portland isn't under the thumb of by a zoning czar who believes there there is never enough parking? Read an interesting account of the growing no parking trend in the New York Times.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Uhhh no, the Zoning Board is simply following the Code, which requires parking. As always, the problem is with the elected officials and their lack of accountability. And for this we have to blame only ourselves.

Don't blame the Zoning Board. They are trying to make the best out of a tough situation. They are the most underpaid public servants in this town. You might not like every decision they make -- but at least they are trying their level best.

9:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First there must be job growth in center city. All of these condo towers notice that people are commuting to the suburbs for work. With the condo market rapidly expanding and Philly’s job market staying stagnant, it makes sense that people moving in may need a car to go back least for the work day.

8:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You've obviously never been to Portland if you're going to say SEPTA is a superior mass transit systeme to TriMet. For a city less than 1/3 the size of Philly, TriMet runs nicer, cheaper and much more frequent trains (TriMet has 15 mins trains on weekeneds vs, 1 hour for SEPTA). They also have a large fare-free zone downtown.

12:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll bet triMet is better funded than SEPTA also.

10:33 AM  
Anonymous Jeff Bladen said...

Has anyone ever heard of a condo that has limited parking for a handful of cars for "community" use? Could work like one of the short term car rental businesses (zip-car, philly car share, etc...) with the fees built into the condo fee or as an add on.

11:45 AM  
Anonymous Dave said...

The least condominium towers could do in Philly is have their parking underground. It is an eyesore in center city to have a surface-level lot or an ugly behemoth parking garage. We are an old city not designed for the automobile despite some people's feelings of entitlement to their car.

12:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In a walkable city such as ours, it's not an issue how close transit lines are -in fact, there's a bus route within a couple of blocks from anywhere in center city. The real issue is whether our laws are based on outdated ideas that benefit automakers and parking lot kings. Have you noticed that every new house has a garage instead of a traditional front door and window? And that for every new garage, two more on-street parking spaces are lost? Who benefits?- the parking lot owners. And while the high rise parking bases of the new condos are ugly (even when covered in rose-colored dryvit on South Broad Street)- the real crime is the loss of our traditional, eyes-on-the-street rowhouse. The zoning code requires 1 car per house- only when building 4 or more units-though developers see the garage as adding to their profit- when in fact it kills the street life and devalues the neighborhood. Not since the mid-50's has so much crap housing been thrown up so quickly- and clearly without the imput of any design professionals. The codes reqiure parking, but the don't require quality.

11:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So City council is making it easier for these mechanized parking garages. That's a good thing, right? Or is it a bad thing?


(this is one link and it has to be pasted together. Can anyone post this as a real link? help?)

3:43 PM  
Blogger rasphila said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:11 PM  
Blogger rasphila said...

Here is the link to the pdf on garages. I deleted my first attempt to post it because it led to a "not found" error for some reason.

6:15 PM  
Blogger rasphila said...

mr. architect wrote:

The zoning code requires 1 car per house- only when building 4 or more units-though developers see the garage as adding to their profit- when in fact it kills the street life and devalues the neighborhood.

This and the rest of his comment are exactly right. And the bad housing isn't just in Center City. There is a housing development along the H bus route in Mt. Airy that makes me cringe every time I go past it. It's just four brick boxes attached to each other, with the inevitable garage door taking up half of the first floor on each house front. The fronts of these houses look like they should be in the back, away from the street. The street where this atrocity is located isn't one of the best in Mt. Airy, which is full of interesting houses, but the development makes a mediocre block into an aggressively ugly one.

6:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, INEPTA is far superior to TriMet, if your metric includes the number of urine-soaked train stations, percentage of employees who would spit on your face before they would look at you, or an amalgamated "inconvenience factor."

Face it Philly: SEPTA is an embarrassment, and a huge scar on an otherwise great city. The whole agency should be scrapped and a model similar to what Chicago uses should be adopted.

11:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

15 min vs 1 hour on weekend? Huh? Only Regional Rail runs once per hour on weekend. The El and Broad St run every 12-15 min. Not sure that was an apples to apples comparison.

5:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lets be clear about something. The building code only governs issues pertaining to life safety. Zoning laws operate on a local level and determine how much parking must be provided for new housing specific to the city it was written in and for. They may be underpaid but they are also under educated about what really makes successful urban living.

However, it is to complex to be simply an all parking or no parking equation; the comment posted earlier about lack of jobs in center city leading to reverse commuting is accurate.

So it’s ok to blame the zoning board for lack of vision, courage and education pertaining to the subject but the “blame” does extend beyond them. For example, those people buying (ie fueling the construction) into the developer driven housing construction should feel like jerks too for not demanding a better product.

Design professionals are far more creative about resolving these types of issues then a bottom line driven profession (your standard developer) with no education or interest in past, present and future housing models.

5:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Without a parking ratio of at least 1.5 spaces per unit, a condo becomes unmarketable, especially in a city where more than 50% of journeys are by car (Manhattan is the only place in America where transit dominates). A big part of the problem in many U.S. cities (and greater Philadelphia in particular) is the imbalance of jobs between the older downtown CBD and newer, cheaper suburbs. Until this imbalance is corrected, condo developers will insist on high parking ratios. It's economic reality, people.

In regards to SEPTA, only City Hall station is urine soaked. This is unfortunate because it's the station most frequently used by out-of-towners, and it obviously gives a bad impression of the system. The rest of SEPTA is actually pretty decent. It's suburban coverage is excellent (one train per hour on weekends isn't unreasonable; many cities, including Baltimore-Washington, have no commuter rail service on weekends at all).

11:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is indisputeable that Portland has a better transit system than Philadelphia. As other commentors have pointed out, the TriMet system runs a large proportion of their routes at 15 minute headways throughout the day into late evening, as well as all day on weekends. Other than our two rapid transit lines, most bus and regional rail routes only approach this level of service during the peak commuting hours.

Portland is also an excellent walking city so this is no excuse for not having a first class transit system.

The real issue, however, is that the quality of transit service is directly related the level of funding provided and funding is related to the level of leadership shown by local elected officials. Both TriMet and SEPTA spend the funding provided to them in a reasonably efficient manor.

But elected officials in Portland have seen to it that TriMet is well funded, in the same way they have tackled many of their other problems head-on. Our elected officials apparently see no incentive to improving zoning or transit or many other important issues. Developing a system of incentives that changes their behavior is the responsiblity of all of us.

10:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Currenlty, less than 2% of Philadelphia's general fund budget is dedicated to public transit (and that's almost double what the city provides to the school district from the same source). It's really sad that many of the city's most important services depend so heavily on state funding when the city has such a high taxation rate. A re-evaluation of spending priorities at the municipal level is long overdue.

5:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't forget the "automatic" 4% pay raise you get when living and working in the 'burbs. Philly needs to remove the wage tax first if it's serious about attracting employers to the city. Til then, urbanites will need cars to have the option to work outside the city where many high paying jobs are located.

6:34 PM  

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