Friday, May 22, 2015

City Council, May 26th - West Salem Goodwill

The final recommendations of the "Blue Ribbon" Task Force on the Police Station and Civic Center will lead at Council for most, but others will have much better things to say. (So do read and consider them!) As the City summarizes it in a separate press release:
While the entire civic center complex needs seismic improvements, the task force recommended that the police station should be the priority. Police occupy cramped quarters on the civic center's bottom floor.

The task force has recommended that the city only pursue a bond measure to construct a new public safety building, which would be between 75,000 and 106,000 square feet. It also recommended that the city consider locations outside of the civic center campus.
From our perspective here, the most interesting item on Council's Tuesday agenda - delayed a day because of the holiday - is the proposed street vacation for the Goodwill development at the corner of Edgewater and Wallace.

Proposed Goodwill with First Street alignment in red
First Street there would be vacated
The Staff Report urges approval, but with a few conditions. In the Report is also a bunch of emails with Councilors and the Mayor, disclosed in order to avoid any ex-parte contacts in this quasi-judicial hearing. It doesn't look like there's anything really interesting in them, nothing about why there was opposition in the first place. Mostly they are about the maneuvering between March 9th and March 23rd to get the matter reconsidered after the initial vote to deny. (Maybe you will spot a more relevant detail?)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Salem Rivercrossing Traffic Modeling May be Discussed at Portland Talk Tomorrow

Let's go with the alternate title, shall we?

"Post-Apocalyptic Zombies Ate Oregon’s Post-Recession, ATR Regression."

All about post-apocalyptic zombies
(Mad Max, friends!)
Yeah, so what about that plateau in traffic counts and distance traveled?

Washington State adjusted downward last year
 via Sightline
Tomorrow at noon, Friday the 22nd, Andrew Mortensen of David Evans and Associates will talk at PSU about new Federal vehicle miles traveled forecasting and how this might impact local traffic planning.
A summary of FHWA’s new national traffic trends assessment will be presented, including discussion of varied factors influencing forward-thinking forecasts. Examples of Oregon statewide vehicle miles travelled (VMT) and historic traffic trends from ATR [automatic traffic recorder] stations in the Portland urban region and greater Willamette Valley will be highlighted. VMT, population and income data will be noted with implications on local transportation planning. [italics added]
Readers have suggested that we might read "greater Willamette Valley" as including "Center and Marion Street Bridges."

The talk should be webcast at noon, Friday the 22nd, and later archived, and you can stream it by the big button on the PSU site.

N3B's latest chart on the traffic counts
It seems doubtful that there would be any new data from actual counts. N3B has been scooping up and tabulating this faithfully!

But what could be very interesting are the "forward-thinking" conclusions the Federal Highway Administration might be drawing from the data.

It seems possible that realism might be starting to drive a wedge between Federal forecasting and our own local forecasting. A disjunction here could have implications for the adoption of the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Salem River Crossing.

If you have an interest in the traffic modeling that theoretically and ostensibly underpins the "purpose and need" for the Salem River Crossing, this talk could be relevant and more than a little interesting.

Grand Theatre, Starkey-McCully Block, Preservation Awards at Historic Landmarks Commission

Tonight the 21st the Historic Landmarks Commission meets, and mostly it's full of very nice things.

Proposed sign over the High Street entry
You may recall the matters of the Grand Theatre renovation and the Starkey-McCully block renovation.

The staff reports are out, they recommend approval, and truly it looks like there's nothing further to say further about these terrific developments downtown. (Grand here, Starkey-McCully here.)

So that's great to see.

Between renovations at the Salem Arts Building, the McGilchrist & Roth buildings, the Grey building with Amadeus, and now these two - we should pause a moment to appreciate the clustering and passion at this moment in time. There's some fabulous restoration and renovation work going on in downtown right now. Hopefully that can continue, and other buildings and storefronts in turn get the TLC they deserve. Our stock of downtown buildings is a wonderful resource and with adjustments to streets and sidewalks, our downtown can become the vibrant and more prosperous center we all want it to be.

Looking south on Commercial at Court, May 1913
Jaywalking hadn't been invented yet!
Annual Historic Preservation awards are also on the agenda.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

State Street Connections Could be Next with Minto Bridge Groundbreaking

Almost certainly you will have heard about the groundbreaking ceremony for the Minto Bridge.

(If not, it's at 3pm in the amphitheater at Riverfront Park on Thursday the 21st.)

The fencing has been up and actual digging already well underway, so strictly speaking this is an after-the-fact ceremony and not actual first spade of dirt.

But it's still nice.

So the next piece of the puzzle will be to create better walking and biking connections along State Street and crossing the busy urban highways of Front, Commercial, and Liberty.

The Downtown Strategic Action Plan
recognizes the importance of the natural
connection down State Street (in purple)
Fortunately the State Street entry to Riverfront Park is going to stay open, but after construction for the bridge is complete, the new "park parcel" looks sure to become at least in part an extension of the parking lot. That will mean more cars.

But families will want also to be able to walk and bike from close-in neighborhoods like Bush, Englewood, Grant, and Highland, through downtown, and into Minto Park.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Planning Commission to Consider Proposed School and Zoning Change

Zoning is on the agenda at the Planning Commission tonight, the 19th, and it's a fine example of our "exclusionary zoning" scheme.

Market and Commercial site, via streetview
The school district wants to consolidate some programming into a centrally located building. The proposed site's zoning, however, doesn't allow for "Basic Education" in a "Commercial Office Zone." That's an excluded use.

The site in question has been vacant for a bit and is on the southwest corner of Market and Commercial Streets NE. Nearby businesses include Truitt Bros. Cannery buildings and the Chamber of Commerce.

The School District proposes to consolidate Community Transition Programs, which serve "adult students with disabilities who have completed high school with a Modified or Extended Diploma or Certificate of Attainment," but who need additional skills or training; as well as the Literacy Center that is part of the Barbara Roberts High School.

The District says
[S]tudents [in the CTP program] arrive and leave school by school bus or on rare occasions are transported by a family member...students in [the] Roberts High School programs currently arrive at and leave the school by a variety of means. 40-50 are driven in private vehicles, and about 40-50 take public transit. Fewer than 10 students drive themselves, and a similar number use a bicycle.
Some additionally walk, but as the site locations are changed, they may not be able to walk and will use other means.

While the building site is centrally located, "centrally" in this context may have more meaning for cars than for non-auto travel. The immediate north-south streets, Front, Commercial, and Liberty aren't really very congenial for travel on bike or on foot: Front lacks sidewalks and bike lanes and has the treacherous railroad tracks; Commercial and Liberty are a one-way couplet, essentially an urban highway, and though they have bike lanes and sidewalks, they aren't very friendly, and are not rich with east-west crossings.

Especially for Grant and Highland neighbors, connectivity isn't awful, but for those who must come farther, perhaps a site nearer the transit mall would be even better.

But that's not really that important of a detail, especially since the numbers of students aren't that great, and presumably the District has other good reasons to consolidate program locations. (There are lots of other factors in play here.)

The interesting part here is the rigamarole the District has to go through because of our zoning system.

Seriously, why wouldn't you allow an alternative school to use a commercial office building that has languished for a while? Is there any serious case to be made against this?

(The Staff Recommendation is for approval and to advance the ordinance change to a first reading at full Council.)

This situation is an excellent argument on the surface for so-called "form-based codes," which specify building type and form rather than use of a building. They focus on what the thing looks like rather than what you can or cannot do inside of it.

In this case, a low-rise office/warehouse building - a box - that has been vacant for a while seems like a reasonable thing for an alternative school. They won't pollute, they won't create industrial noises, they won't hold parties at midnight. Seems like a very low-intensity use.

And making the School District apply for a regulatory change seems like a dumb level of red tape and city ordinance.

Part of our problem with creating walkable and bikable neighborhoods and commercial districts is our "sort and separate" exlusionary zoning, which tends to inhibit useful adjacencies and creative reuse of existing buildings.

The Planning Commission meets tonight, Tuesday the 19th, 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM at City Hall in Council Chambers.

(There is also the extension of the "Unified Development Code" clean-up project, which identified 52 additional issues that were not "policy neutral" and need further debate and possible change. These have been dormant for a bit, and I guess we will see something from staff perhaps later this year.)

Friday, May 15, 2015

Two Bike Rides Sunday! Research Focus or Family-Friendly

You probably already know about the field trip to Portland for research on bike boulevards, but if you're in town on Sunday, there's another option!

Location of Portland Bike Boulevards:
Concord, Holman, Going, Klickitat
via Metro Bike There map
The Keizer Iris Festival is offering a short bike ride to Spong's Landing Park at 1pm on Sunday the 17th.
The course is flat on a low-traffic route. The ride starts and ends at the parking lot at Cummings Elementary School on Cummings Lane in Keizer. Coordinator: Hersch Sangster 503-390-8024
Spong's Landing is an historic ferry site, dueling with Lincoln across the river! So there's also the legacy of 19th century river transportation, something we don't much think about today.

Bike Boulevard Field Trip

Car-free section of NE Klickitat in Portland
Photo: Scott Batson/PBOT - via BikePortland
If you're feeling more adventurous, don't forget about the trip to visit Portland's network of bike boulevards.

Woodlawn neighborhood, 1894 Portland Paving Map
(The yellow indicates graded, but not yet graveled, sections;
everthing else is dirt/mud. Note also the streetcar line!)
The trip is also on the afternoon of Sunday, May 17th. The trip assembles at Upcycles on 909 NE Dekum St., in the Woodlawn neighborhood, at 1:30pm.
We'll tour the Concord, Holman, Going, and Klickitat Neighborhood Greenways with a Traffic Safety Specialist who can tell us about the design elements used in the creation of bike boulevards.
Woodlawn and Upcycles location today
City of Portland neighborhood greenway map

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Northwest Hub Moves into Old Safeway on Broadway and Market

The news has been embargoed for a bit now, but they're finally going public!

New Home of NW Hub
An old Safeway at 1230 N Broadway
Salem's home for recycling bicycles, Northwest Hub, has moved from the Evergreen Church site on D Street to the old Safeway on Broadway and Market.

This will give them a lot more warehouse and work space as well as possibilities for a retail storefront!

For more on the history of Safeways in Salem, see here.