Saturday, February 6, 2016

Planning Commission to Consider Credit Union Drive-through on Division and High

On Tuesday the Planning Commission finally gets to the proposed drive-through for MAPS Credit Union on the odd parcel bounded by Liberty, Mill Creek, High/Broadway, and Division.

MAPS proposed drive-through with access points

Existing conditions at Division and High
It's not a particular site plan review, however, and instead as a more general code change the matter is framed up as
Should the City amend Salem Revised Code Chapter 613 to allow drive-through banks and credit unions as a conditional use in the Broadway/High Street Retail Overlay Zone, and establish design standards for drive-through uses in the Broadway/High Street Retail Overlay Zone?
Theoretically, if this is approved, other banks and credit unions that might wish to locate inside the boundaries of the overlay zone might also be able to put in a drive-through. As a practical matter this seems unlikely, and so the bet almost certainly is that this is a "general" change to approved conditional uses that affects one entity in particular only. As written the code amendments exclude other kinds of drive-throughs like those for fast food or other kinds of retail.

So this seems pretty narrow. (See the previous discussion here for why this isn't a crazy request by the credit union, and instead is pretty reasonable.)

Washington Senate cans State Transportation Secretary

This isn't about Salem or even about Oregon, but an icky stew up north of what looks like sexism, hardball politics, and visions for retrograde transportation policy seems worth registering. Lynn Peterson could very well end up back in Oregon with a meaningful role in 21st century transportation, so this should be noticed for many reasons.


Here's a portion of her not-yet-scrubbed bio from WASHDOT:
Most recently, Peterson served Oregon’s Governor Kitzhaber as his Transportation Policy Advisor where she oversaw transportation-energy policy, statewide transportation funding discussion and implementation of community priorities. She is the former chair of the Clackamas County Commission, where she managed budget-policy direction and resolved long-standing utility and transportation access issues that avoided a development moratorium for a majority of the urban area, allowing continued business growth.

She is also a nationally recognized transportation and land-use integration expert having worked both as a transportation consultant and as a strategic planning manager for TriMet, Portland's regional transportation agency. In those roles, her work resulted in funding for TriMet’s south corridor light rail line and a five-year strategic transit operations and capital investment plan. She was also a transportation advocate for 1000 Friends of Oregon working with communities to develop innovative transportation initiatives; and a transportation planner for Metro, the regional government for the Portland metropolitan area, as a travel-demand forecaster.

Peterson started her career as a highway design and construction engineer at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. Later she specialized in traffic engineering.
She might be just what we need at ODOT. We'll see if the "Draft Lynn Peterson" movement gains steam. It's something to watch.

Friday, February 5, 2016

City Council, February 8th - Marine Drive: Hinky or Helpful?

Council meets on Monday, and they look ready finally to move on Marine Drive.

On the agenda is a report and motion to start purchasing property for Marine Drive in West Salem and bridgehead parcels in the Highland neighborhood on the east side of the Willamette River.

Back in the 2008 "Keep Salem Moving" bond measure (original project sheet here), $3.6 million was allocated for "strategic right-of-way purchases," but these have been delayed by the protracted process for the Salem River Crossing as well as concerns that work might illegally jump the queue in the Environmental Impact Statement process. These concerns seem to be resolved. The Salem Alternative alignment is sufficiently settled now, and work for the collector-sized Marine Drive as it already exists and is named in our Transportation System Plan would be independent formally of the EIS and therefore a proper thing to do now.

Several have argued that this work for Marine Drive would be essentially benign. Trail advocates argued that the right-of-way could be used for a soft trail that people on bike could use as an alternative to Wallace Road. No Third Bridge argued that the collector-sized version of Marine Drive would help alleviate congestion on Wallace Road and obviate any perceived need for the Third Bridge and perceived need to expand Marine Drive into a full OR-22 connector and expressway.

The position here has instead been that we should want to kill the bridge first, and then we can talk about a right-sized Marine Drive. To undertake Marine Drive now would be to initialize and arm a Trojan Horse that will be used to further the Salem River Crossing. It looks innocent, but just you wait.

Maybe that's alarmist hyperbole. Certainty is not possible.

But the fact that in this proposal the Marine Drive part is coupled with additional purchases on the east bank should at least prompt some additional hesitation and consideration by those who have though purchasing the Marine Drive right-of-way was by itself mainly harmless.

Marine Drive south of Cameo St inside our UGB (detail)
The report shows three places where the proposed Marine Drive alignment crosses over the Urban Growth Boundary and is outside of it. South of Cameo Street the proposed alignment is totally within the UGB, and that's where the proposed "opportunity purchases" would be located. The map doesn't show these very well, however, instead concentrating on the northern segments outside of the UGB. This means it can elide details like the impact to Pioneer Village. (Though the purchases right now may only be on vacant parcels or from willing sellers.)

There is also no map showing proposed "opportunity" sites on the east side in the Highland neighborhood.

The map in the report, therefore, is largely silent on what is proposed in the report.

What it does talk about is the tie to Second Street and the passage under Wallace Road. It's a little bit like that's the sugar that makes the medicine go down.

It all just seems a little hinky, that's all.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Salem as State Fief: Expectations for Free Parking at the Capitol

Yesterday on twitter there was a conversation about Portland-area Legislative staff and their expectations for free parking in Salem at the Capitol.

Even a staffer for Senate President Courtney expected free parking at Nordstrom, as well as the Capitol, and seemingly wasn't aware of the downtown Parking Tax subsidizing free parking at Nordstrom and the fact that the Salem Urban Renewal Agency has to backfill for an annual deficit in the Parking District that has averaged $700,000 a year.

August 2014 Report to City Council
As Senator Courtney works on the project for a seismic retrofit of the Capitol, managing the parking during construction and a temporary Capitol site will very important for Salem. Appropriately priced parking and more robust Transportation Demand Management for state employees, including better transit and off-setting start times, will make the disruption much easier for Salem, and will help transition to lower-carbon commuting. These things will also assist with better managing capacity on the Marion and Center Street bridges.

It's a little dismaying to see the disconnect in City of Salem, State, and environmental policy on Senator Courtney's staff. But that's also a sign of how deeply entrenched is our autoism.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Dog Park and Pickleball get the Nod over Pump Track in Fairview Park Concept

Just in time for tonight's Open House at 6:30, the City's posted the latest iteration of a proposal for the Fairview Park.

Revised Concept Map, February 2016
You'll notice right off that a Dog Park prevailed over a Pump Track (area 4). Also interesting are proposals for Sand Volleyball (5), Pickleball (10), and an amphitheater (3).

Ironically - but probably not intentionally - a playground and splash pad is proposed for the footprint of Le Breton Hall, almost as if modeled after the mess at the Blind School.  Is "playground" the new standard replacement for "old building"? Big Sigh.

Le Breton Demolition Permit
The application for the permit to demolish Le Breton was submitted on the 25th and it's very close to being issued.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Healthy Climate rally Tomorrow at Noon

There's not much in the way of Salem news today, but there is some Legislative news of Statewide significance.

Tomorrow there will be a rally at noon for House Bill 4068 and Senate Bill 1574, the so-called "Healthy Climate Bill" (I believe the bills are identical, one for each chamber).

A couple of highlights from the Legislative summary of the bill:
  • Requires Environmental Quality Commission to adopt carbon pollution market by rule
  • Establishes Climate Investments Account within State Highway Fund. Requires that certain auction proceeds be deposited in account for purpose of funding programs consistent with legislative purposes of carbon pollution market
A "Climate Investments Account" in the State Highway Fund might be a good source for investing in better biking on our roads!

And carbon markets are almost certainly better at tapping the "wisdom of the crowd" and allocating resources efficiently than State bureaucracies trying to pick winners and losers via things like the BETC program. Adam Smith for the win here: market discipline + carbon reduction. What's not to like?

(The Oregonian has more on a comparison with a competing bill that was hammered out with the power companies. But it's more of a regulatory approach than a market-based approach, and that is probably less flexible and less powerful. The Oregon Environmental Council also has an explainer on the markets bill. Even if you quibble on the details, there's no harm in rallying for "yay carbon reduction" in general. It's urgent that we intensify our efforts. But if you're reading here, you know that.)

Check it out and consider moseying over on your lunch break.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Urban Renewal Boards to Discuss Second St NW and Portland Road NE

The West Salem and Northgate Urban Renewal Advisory Boards meet this week. WSRAB continues conversation about the proposed Second Street extension and undercrossing, and NGRAB will receive and discuss a substantial report on the Portland Road study and proposed street improvements.

WSRAB

The latest plan map (Dec 2015 in February packet)
The West Salem Redevelopment Advisory Board meets on Wednesday the 3rd, and there will be more talk about the proposed Second Street undercrossing. In the meeting packet are some notes about possible funding:
Budget items to consider (continuing January 6, 2016 WSRAB discussion)
  • Estimated $2 million available to fund projects in FY 2016-17
  • Consultant estimates to construct the under-crossing and extension of 2nd Street NW from Patterson Street NW to the Union Street Railroad Bridge is approximately $8.7 million; extension of 2nd Street NW/Marine Drive NW to Glen Creek Road NW is expected to cost around $5 million to $7 million; Agency Board/WSRAB direction to construct full improvement; detailed cost estimate to be completed in the summer 2016
  • Anticipate around 10% of the project cost, or $1.5 million, for engineering design and construction plans; Public Works Department is not recommending design next fiscal year until additional funding is available
  • Retain URA funds and 2018 bonding capacity could result in around $6 million to $8 million to finance construction
  • January 6, 2016 WSRAB discussion leaned toward focusing funds and efforts on the aforementioned larger projects, but there is the option to utilize around $100,000 in unspecified funds to complete design standards and changes to the zoning code; would reduce available funds for the larger projects.
  • January 6, 2016 WSRAB action to maintain the grant program, without increasing the funds in FY 2016-17
Mostly these are possibilities, options, hypotheticals, so it's not probably worth comment in detail. But do register, I think, the increasing talk of a transportation bond for 2018.

There's also information on the "outreach strategy" for the next formal phase, the "West Salem Business District Transportation Feasibility Study." You may recall from the last meeting ago that some immediately adjacent businesses had commented that they were unaware of the project. So even with open houses and mailings, things weren't getting through the filters of principals at businesses right on top of the proposed project's footprint. The outreach and communication components look to get more attention in this round.

WSRAB meets Wednesday the 3rd from 7:30 AM – 9:00 AM in the West Salem Public Library, 395 Glen Creek Road NW.

NGRAB

The North Gateway Redevelopment Advisory Board meets on Thursday and - Holy Smokes! - there's a ton of interesting details in the meeting packet. Chief among them is a draft list of projects. On the transportation side, they look a little underwhelming, incremental rather than transformative.

The North section and first priority (see map detail below)
It appears that only the north-most third will move forward for serious planning at this time. Other segments are "on hold."