Meet Beaverton, Oregon’s City Councilor, Kevin Teater

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m a city councilor in Beaverton, Oregon, a growing mid-sized city right next to Portland. I moved to Beaverton five years ago to lead our Main Street program, which does a lot of urban design, economic development, and district promotions. I’ve since left that role and run my own business, Streetview Planning, working primarily with rural Main Street districts on their revitalization and historic preservation efforts. Before living in Oregon, I spent my whole life in North Carolina. I will always love North Carolina, but I craved to live in a community where I could bike and ride transit everywhere I needed to go. I’m grateful to have found that in Beaverton.

My grandparents were both in local and state government in Ohio, so I’ve had an inclination for governmental service all my life. Playing Sim City 2000 as a kid probably didn’t hurt! I was in college when I signed up for a course called “Cities of the Future.” I thought it would be about flying cars, skyscrapers, and high-tech design. My world was really rocked by how much our future cities are shaped by much smaller decisions we make every day. I was hooked. Now I believe cities of the future are all about bicycles and density. Man, how things can change.

How did you discover parking reform?

It took me several years after college to find my way into the urban planning field. I started reading Jeff Speck’s book “Walkable Cities,” and it showed me just how expensive parking really is. The more time I spent walking my city (Asheville, NC at the time), the more I realized just how much parking dominated the community. I began to feel more and more frustrated by how disconnected much of the city was from itself. At the time, I didn’t know that the solution was a simple change in development code: eliminating parking minimums. It wasn’t until I arrived in Beaverton that someone asked me, “Have you met the Parking Reform Network?” Right then, I realized that there was finally an organized voice to all the frustration (and hope!) that I was feeling.

What relationship do you have with PRN and how did it impact the lifting of mandates in Beaverton?

Beaverton successfully eliminated our parking minimums citywide just a couple months ago. And honestly, the Parking Reform Network provides a lot of credibility when I am talking about parking reform with other electeds and community leaders. I can send people to PRN when they have questions or would like to do more of their own research. I can ask questions on the Slack channels to other Oregon leaders and parking experts across the world.

When people are scared of making dramatic changes to code that will change the character of the city, I can easily point to other examples from cities (the parking mandates map is awesome) that have already made these changes. I can then say, “Changing code is one step. But the changes to our city will be incremental over time. People can now add a bedroom without the burden of not having enough parking. That entrepreneur can finally open their business because they aren’t required to have more surface area for parking than they do in their store. We are freeing our city to grow organically and thrive long into the future.”

What’s a parking question you wish there was a study or research paper about?

It’s not car parking, but I could probably use more information about bicycle parking and how long-term bicycle parking can be a more effective service for people. What are the barriers that exist for people to use long-term storage areas at transit stations and in office/residential buildings? I believe that it is likely almost completely related to the bicycle street infrastructure around the parking facility. Is it safe, comfortable, accessible, and useful (thanks to Jeff Speck for those terms)? That’s why my desire has always been to design for the city I want to have, not necessarily the city that exists now. But I would love more information anyways.

What’s the most important issue that parking impacts?

Climate. This world is our home. Parking heats our cities, encourages more polluting driving (even electric vehicles are still destructive), and destroys natural habitat. That said, there are other important issues including the financial cost to society for building and maintaining parking and the social cost for how it physically disconnects people and places from each other. 

We need parking reform. We need it everywhere. And we need leaders who are willing to make the decision that will benefit their communities for generations to come.

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