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Boise counts bike parking space in apartments towards 60-bike parking requirement at downtown building

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The City of Boise recently dismissed a code compliance case against a downtown apartment building for not building enough bicycle parking space for residents after city staff decided space inside residents’ apartments counted toward the required parking spaces. 

In early August, Colby Spath, a resident of the newly constructed 60-unit affordable housing complex called the Thomas Logan Apartments, filed a complaint with the City of Boise over the secure bike room at the building only having 12 spaces instead of the 60 required by city code. The city opted to dismiss the complaint, noting that planning staffer Josh Wilson made the call that the 60 spaces had to be “within the building” and didn’t need to be designated lockable parking spaces. 

“It was (Josh Wilson’s) interpretation that these spaces could be provided in a number of ways throughout the building and the requirement was not that they all be located in a single secure bicycle storage room,” city spokesperson Lindsay Moser wrote in an email. “Thus, the combination of secure spaces in the storage room and opportunities for bicycle parking within the residential units was determined to meet the requirement.”

Spath says residents being forced to keep their bicycles in their apartments or park them outdoors where they are at risk of being stolen in order to make room for ground floor retail at the complex amounts to “a complete joke “ and “a whitewash political gift to developers.”

“The amount of theft can be easily determined by the space that fulfillment of the remaining bike parking spaces, 48 more, would require and multiplying it by the rent they will charge those commercial tenants that will occupy that same space,” he wrote in an email to city staff on September 8.

“But, there’s more to it than that. It’s the theft of private space from those that keep their bikes in their apartments when they shouldn’t have to. It’s also the possible theft of bicycles by those that keep their bikes locked up outside, which is undoubtedly less secure.”

‘Plenty of bike space’ 

Clay Carley, developer of the building and the neighboring market rent building The Lucy, says there is enough space for residents’ bikes, even if there isn’t enough room for everyone to lock their bikes in a specific locked parking space inside. 

He said the small footprint of the building precludes a bike room big enough to accommodate dedicated parking spaces for 60 bicycles, especially because he said the city zoning requires the building to have retail space on the first floor. He also could have removed some apartments to make way for bikes, but it would have reduced the number of affordable units.

“I know their intentions are really good and they want to encourage biking, but requiring one bike per apartment is very onerous depending on the size and scope of a project,” Carley said. “That one bike per unit is not feasible. They understood it and that’s why they said ‘that’s fine, put them in the garage that’s fine’…The city doesn’t require any car parking, but it requires too much bike parking and in this instance and at that site it didn’t work and that’s why they made an exception.”

The covered bicycle parking area at the Front and 5th Street Parking Garage two blocks from Thomas Logan. Photo: Margaret Carmel/BoiseDev

But, instead of saying residents should store their bikes “within the building” in their apartments, Carley said the bicycle parking space for the building is available for residents to use behind The Lucy, in unsecured covered spaces at the parking garage on Front Street or at bike racks on nearby city blocks. Carley is working on a project to double the amount of bike rack space in the bike room, but he said it still won’t accommodate all 60 units. 

He said he wasn’t involved in the conversations in the pre-application stage to count space inside the apartments as bike parking to meet the requirement, but he has talked to the city about bike parking space and code requirements before. 

“When the city created that ordinance with one bike per apartment, maybe it was the Gibson, I remember having a conversation with staff saying ‘This is really difficult in these constrained spaces’ and they said ‘well we’ll count bike racks outside even public bike racks on the sidewalk, even something that is close enough we’ll count that towards the project’ because they understood the footprint didn’t allow for bike storage.”

A gray area 

Emails about Spath’s code compliance case obtained by BosieDev through a public records request shed more light on the complexities of Boise’s parking code. 

In a September 20 email, Boise’s Design Review Planning Manager Josh Wilson explained the requirements for bicycle parking at the building. Thomas Logan is in the city’s P1 overlay zone, which means there are no parking spaces for cars are required because it’s in the downtown core. And because of the way the code is structured, this means there are technically no bicycle parking spaces required either, Wilson wrote. 

This is a wrinkle in the code because a similar multifamily building located elsewhere in the city would require a planned unit development, which requires a more specific layout of where individual required bicycle parking spaces will be located. He said it’s something the city is looking at addressing as it rewrites the zoning code. 

“It’s a bit of a grey area, and again, one we are working on fixing going forward.”

Mayor Lauren McLean sent an email to Spath about his complaints at the beginning of October, saying she appreciates him pointing out the problem. She said that City Council Member Jimmy Hallyburton talked to her about needing to adjust bike parking requirements in the zoning code and Spath’s complaints make the need to make changes “all the more real and clear.”

“As someone who was on P&Z and on Council, I know I’d expect 60 bike parking spaces on the property if I required 60 bike parking spaces in the application,” she wrote. “And it’s not something I’d considered that from a city enforcement perspective we’d count the bike parking on the street, or space in apartments, as part of that.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the person who signed off on the bike parking requirement at the Thomas Logan Apartments due to incorrect information provided by the City of Boise. It has been corrected to reflect that staffer Josh Wilson signed off on the requirement.

Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at [email protected] or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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