Critics of the City's proposal have identified important flaws in the public process and also raised questions about the total cost. Remarkably, even in a highly contested set of Council elections, together the candidates have landed on a consensus position that there are problems with the City proposal. So far, so good.
But the critics' own proposal has important flaws of its own.
Two pictures, two perspectives, really sum up the disagreement on the $20 Million proposal for a police station:
Do you see an isolated, car-dependent building next to a golf course and Interstate?
Or do you see a building renovated with great thrift?
|Between an interstate and a highway access road (a stroad)|
the Eugene station is totally car-dependent. Moreover,
it's next to a golf course and country club.
|A repurposed building, acquired and renovated thriftily|
Zooming out a bit, another view is about access in general, environmental and economic justice, and neighborhood livability. On this view, the way a building fits into the neighborhood fabric and wider city transportation networks is an important factor.
The position here has been that starting with a budget and looking at the project principally from thrift is going to get us a cheap, car-dependent, Walmart-style police station that doesn't much help city vitality.
Instead of asking "what do we need?" and "what is good for Salem?" the question by critics has been "how cheaply can we do this?" And Eugene seems to provide the answer.
Eugene had the same problem. How did they solve it?But is it actually "perfect" and is Eugene's hollowed-out downtown really the answer?
They moved their police department out of City Hall into a re-purposed 65,000 square feet building with surface parking spaces. “It’s a perfect solution,” says the Eugene police chief.
The Eugene Police Chief is very pleased with his $17 million new 65,000 sq.ft. building and his 210 secure parking spaces. He says on YouTube it "is a perfect solution". Look it up. He said "ideally they would be downtown" but that would be "twice the cost to achieve".I see a qualification pretty clearly: Ideally, the police station would be downtown.
It's not in fact perfect.
There hasn't been an adequate analysis of the trade-offs in Eugene or in Salem. It's not clear the Eugene solution is so great in any way other than short-term costing.
(And we have to remember that Eugene still needs a new City Hall, so the total bill for the project is going to be a whole lot bigger than $17 million.)
|A healthy Peace Plaza would attract more Free Speech|
But Girl Scouts and Protesters consistently set up on the south side
A public plaza would be a great place, right? But no. No one sets up in Peace Plaza or Mirror Pond because they are lousy public spaces and no one uses them. They're ornamental emptinesses.
Peace Plaza and Mirror Pond look pretty, but they are broken, and a Civic Center project could be an opportunity to fix them. (For more on this see here and here.)
And fixing them doesn't just mean fixing the internal hardware and furniture. It's not like a different configuration of benches and art and lunchtime foodcarts is going to transform the square.
Consistently in Salem we have focused on the atomic unit of the lot and what goes inside the lot. Our land-use questions and analysis are bounded by the property line. We prefer the close-up.
But medium and long views and pattern are important, too. Edges and relationships with other nearby properties are also important, maybe more important. Riverfront Park is great, but it's bounded by a railroad and state highway, and along that state highway there are no inviting storefronts or other foot-traffic attractors.
Similarly, Peace Plaza and Mirror Pond are bounded by the Liberty/Commercial couplet, which is the same size as Interstate-5! There are no attractors on the Civic Center outside of office hours for City Hall and the Library Hours. Peace Plaza and Mirror Pond sit mostly below sidewalk level, out of sight, and offer few incentives for a person to explore.
Ironically, even as nice as Waterplace is, the sidecar building Orupa occupies uses a back entry off the parking lot, and lacks a direct connection to the sidewalk on Liberty. The streetscape, the edges, and sidewalk conditions on Liberty are too car-centric.
|The latest cost estimates on four alternatives |
Maybe at the Work Session they'll talk more about the other three
|Still needs more details|
Instead of settling on a dollar figure first, we should have a better idea of "what does Salem need" and then start asking how much does it cost. Leading with the dollar sign puts the cart before the horse.
Council meets Wednesday the 21st at 5:30pm in the Anderson Rooms at the Salem Public Library, 585 Liberty Street SE. No public testimony is being taken, but SCV is coordinating a presence and you can read more about their position here and a longer FAQ here.
(For all notes on the Police Station and Civic Center project, see here.)