Thursday, April 27, 2017

Design Review for 245 Court at Planning Commission Tuesday

Here's a nice, short thing to observe! The Site Plan and Design Review for the mixed use project at 245 Court Street is at the Planning Commission next week on Tuesday the 2nd and, as these things go, the Staff Report is brief, finds no problematic elements, and recommends a straight-forward approval.

Storefronts along Court Street
A screened parking garage area along Front Street
The whole quarter block from above
There's a five-story, 40-unit apartment block on the corner along Front Street, and a single-story storefront on Court Street and the alley. Along Court Street the apartment block has a leasing office and lounge. All the parking is in back or under the apartment block, and is accessed off the alley. Bike parking is split between private, secure storage inside the building, and public racking in the little courtyard between buildings. At the Court Street sidewalk the buildings greet the street with windows and activity, and the screened parking area is along Front, which is the much less pleasant sidewalk anyway.

Really, you couldn't ask for anything more. This is a terrific project for downtown. (Previous notes, including some history of the now-demolished Safeway building, here.)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

At the MPO: Public Hearing and Final Adoption for 2018-2023 Project List

Today, Tuesday the 25th, our local Metropolitan Planning Organization will hold a Public Hearing and presumably formally adopt the 2018-2023 SKATS Transportation Improvement Program.

SKATS graphic on the TIP process
(comments in green added)
(See previous notes on it hereProject website here.)

The document is a primarily a compilation from ODOT, Marion and Polk Counties, the Cities of Salem and Keizer; SKATS, our MPO, originates no construction projects themselves, and as compilers they are not the primary drivers of what is in and out of the TIP. They do have scoring and prioritizing phases for particular funding programs, and meaningful numbers of projects do get dropped from the "funded" lists. The real opportunity for public comment therefore is earlier in the process during the project application process, when the member entities of SKATS are compiling their candidate lists and submitting applications, and during the vetting processes when the Technical and Policy committees rank the candidate projects in an order of priority.

So it is an interesting thought experiment to consider what level of public comment would be sufficient to substantially alter or even delete a project at this stage. It would seem to require extraordinary proof of error or public outrage.

The Public Hearing then is mostly a formality, and it expected the TIP will be adopted unaltered.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

City Council, April 24th - Three Letter Problems: TNCs and IGAs

Council meets on Monday and in three-letter acronyms the future of transportation is front and center.

Our propensity to be seduced by shiny tech utopianism
(unknown source)
The Public Hearing for ride-booking regulations is on the agenda, and right now the case against them is much stronger than for them.

Earlier this month we saw a study from Denver that found they added congestion and cannibalized transit. The same is happening in New York City.

From Unsustainable? The Growth of App-Based Ride Services and Traffic, Travel and the Future of New York City. It's about Manhattan, of course, but Salem is really only quantitatively different, not qualitatively so. You may say "but Salem's not like a big city" and you will be right of course, but we are facing smaller versions of many of these same problems and are likely to face more of them in the future.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Celebrate Earth Day with a March for Science

The paper's got a ringing endorsement of the March for Science tomorrow. That's nice to see.

They write about the current administration's retreat from knowledge in their claim that "global warming is an elaborate hoax":
Almost five decades after Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. senator from Wisconsin who founded Earth Day and launched generations of environmental activists, it's worrisome that our federal government seems to be taking steps backward instead of forward with the stewardship of the Earth....We hope you'll carpool, walk or ride a bike.
Tomorrow on Earth Day, Saturday the 22nd, the March for Science will rally and march at the Capitol:
Various community organizations will be available to connect with at exhibitor tables. They will be around before and after the rally and march to allow marchers plenty of time to make those connections. Exhibitor hours will be 10:30-1:30

The rally [at the Capitol] will begin at 11. Speakers will include South Salem teacher Jason Niedermeyer and his student Sarah Suh, Kathie Dello - Associate Director-Oregon Climate Change Research Institute, Letha Tawney- World Resources Institute, and Trevor Phillips, a practicing Board Certified Emergency Medicine Physician at Salem Hospital.

Afterwards, we will begin our 1.25 mile march, doing a loop and returning back at the Capitol.
At the Federal level right now, two senses of "know nothing" - as epistemology and as politics - are recrudescent and combine in a dangerous mix.

October 16th, 1922
Here's an editorial from 1922. It's hard to say that history "repeats itself" exactly, but it sure rhymes.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Cherriots to Consider Special MPO Taxing Districts on Monday

Early next week there is a cluster of substantive policy discussion at all levels of local government!

In addition to the City Council meeting, which looks to have especially juicy matters in both the proposed Intergovernmental Agreement on the Salem River Crossing as well as discussion of ride-booking regulations, Cherriots and our Metropolitan Planning Organizations have meetings.

A couple of readers have mentioned that Cherriots meets on Monday the 24th in a "special meeting" for one topic only:
  • Legislative Proposal for MPO Taxing Districts as Part of State Transportation Bill
This subject is also an agenda item for the SKATS meeting on Tuesday the 25th. (There will be a separate post for the other agenda items at SKATS, which is our MPO.)

In the Cherriots packet is an April 13th letter from SKATS staff to MPO committee members:
Of particular relevance to SKATS is the proposal from Senator Boquist about a new excise tax on new vehicles sold in Oregon. The funds from the excise tax would go into a State Infrastructure Fund to be used for congestion/modernization projects in the Portland MPO area and other parts of the state. A 1% excise tax raised $73 million per year. Senator Boquist also supports establishing taxing districts for all MPOs in Oregon, to fund major congestion-relief projects. The Senator's idea is that the state-designated MPO area taxing districts - with an added fuel tax and/or vehicle registration in the district - could produce revenue in order that ODOT and MPOs share in the cost of major transportation projects....

This cost-sharing paradigm is moving forward in cooperation with the Portland Metro MPO area. The Portland MPO is willing to impose on themselves additional fuel taxes and registration fees to pay for half the cost of three major congestion projects (I-5 Rose Quarter, I-205, and Highway 217). The total cost of these three projects is about $1 billion, with Portland and the state each paying half....

In [staff] discussions with the Portland and Central Lane MPO transportation managers, they would like to have OMPOC [ie, a consensus from all Oregon MPOs] support for the MPO area taxing districts.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Main Street Open House at Ike Box on Thursday the 20th

Over at Strong Towns in a note "Cargo Cult Planning," they observe sarcastically that free parking isn't going to save us:
The mall has abundant free parking. If we have abundant free parking we can be as successful as the mall. Let's tear down a large percentage of our city and dedicate it to parking.
This is one kind of main street,
But not the one we need.
Still, from 1937 this remains our ideal - via NYRB
On Thursday the 20th, the nascent Salem "Main Street" project is going to have something of an Open House at the Ike Box.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Climate Change at Film Series on Tuesday

Leonardo DiCaprio talking about Before the Flood
(via St Mary's College of California)
Tomorrow, Tuesday the 18th, the Salem Progressive Film Series will show "Before the Flood."
If you could know the truth about the threat of climate change — would you want to know? Before the Flood, presented by National Geographic, features Leonardo DiCaprio on a journey as a United Nations Messenger of Peace, traveling to five continents and the Arctic to witness climate change firsthand. He goes on expeditions with scientists uncovering the reality of climate change and meets with political leaders fighting against inaction. He also discovers a calculated disinformation campaign orchestrated by powerful special interests working to confuse the public about the urgency of the growing climate crisis. With unprecedented access to thought leaders around the world, DiCaprio searches for hope in a rising tide of catastrophic news....

Before the Flood presents a riveting account of the dramatic changes now occurring around the world due to climate change, as well as the actions we as individuals and as a society can take to prevent the disruption of life on our planet. Beyond the steps we can take as individuals, the film urges viewers to push their elected officials in supporting the use of alternative energy sources such as solar and wind power.
Salem Weekly has more.