For years, the City of Portland has had an expansive, complex and restrictive regulatory system for parking in the Central City. However, in an effort to promote better utilization of Central City parking spaces, the City is currently considering substantial simplification of its Central City parking code, which hotels may benefit from.

Historically, hotels selling onsite parking spaces to non-guests were potentially vulnerable to zoning code enforcement actions prohibiting rental of those spaces to persons not patronizing the hotel. Because a hotel might not be able to prove that the rental of parking spaces to non-guests was a legal, nonconforming use, predating the City’s extensive parking regulation system, a hotel might be ordered to cease renting spaces to downtown drivers without “business” at the hotel site. Things may, however, become easier.

The proposed parking regulation changes are part of the City’s Central City 2035 planning process. The published draft being discussed by the City’s Planning and Sustainability Commission removes Residential/Hotel as a parking type and instead includes Residential/Hotel parking in the Growth Parking designation. Whereas the existing code requires that Residential/Hotel parking be accessory to the residential or hotel use, serving users of the residence or hotel, Growth Parking is proposed to be available for both accessory and commercial parking at all times so a hotel could, for example, rent its parking spaces to people attending an offsite show or employees of a neighboring business and not risk running afoul of the zoning code.

The proposed zoning code changes also standardize parking ratios for hotels throughout the Central City. As proposed, the maximum parking ratio in the City’s North Pearl, North/Northeast, Goose Hollow, Core, Central Eastside and South Waterfront areas of the Central City will be one space per room plus 1/1,000 square feet of meeting/conference room space, as opposed to the current scheme, where the parking ratio varies by neighborhood.

The draft code also expands the class of uses eligible to obtain Preservation Parking to include hotels.  Preservation Parking has historically been used to permit development of parking to serve existing older buildings, but hotels are limited in their ability to utilize Preservation Parking under the current Central City code. The proposed changes allow hotels with 0.5 or fewer parking stalls per room to apply for Preservation Parking offsite at half the ratio allowed for new hotels.

Extensive public testimony was received by the City’s Planning and Sustainability Commission following publication of draft zoning code amendments in the summer of 2016. The Commission’s last work session to develop its City Council recommendation is currently scheduled for May 2017, after which a proposed draft reflecting the Commission’s recommendations will be forwarded to the City Council for additional public hearings and consideration.  If adopted, the proposed changes will increase hotels’ flexibility in utilizing their parking assets and meeting their parking needs offsite.