Monday, August 16, 2021

Hope Plaza, Unnamed Tributaries, and Pringle Creek Community at Planning Commission Tuesday the 17th

Continuing with the Planning Commission's busy week, on Tuesday the 17th they will review the plans for Hope Plaza, which generally seem supported and non-controversial, as well as more contested appeals of a Minor Amendment to the Refinement Plan at Fairview for Pringle Creek Community and an approval of a subdivision on Doaks Ferry Road in West Salem.

Hope Plaza

A driveway on Church Street would require
right turns across the buffered bike lane

On Hope Plaza the one interesting item was retaining the driveway on Church Street. I wondered if it could just be closed, but the Staff Report proposes approval for the revised driveway plan, saying that since it reduces an existing two-way driveway to a one-way, right-in and ingress only; since the alley is not wide enough to support two-way traffic and will support exit only; and since City policy is to minimize driveways on arterials and to make access from the lowest street classification possible (Church Street being lower than Center/Marion), the proposal meets all the relevant requirements. So I don't think there is much more to say, even though it might be nice to use the alley more completely.  (See previous notes here.)

No mention of the buffered bike lanes and turning

It is possible, however, to fault the Staff Report for too narrowly focusing on car travel.   Generally, when Staff address "safe and efficient movement...of bicycles" and any "traffic hazards," they do not think very deeply about bike travel, and it would be helpful for the basic template of Staff Reports to drill into more detail on the actual facts of bike travel and not the just the theoretical level that the map shows a bike lane there and "we're all good." The Staff Report does not directly discuss the existence of the buffered bike lane and any right-hook hazard from drivers making right-hand turns across it. It's box-checking, and not any real assessment of "safe movement."

But that is a more general point, and there's a lot of positive in the specific proposal for Hope Plaza, and we should just wish the greatest success for it.

Appeal of Subdivision on Doaks Ferry near Orchard Heights

What level of protection do unnamed tributaries
(A here, and B separately) require?

At Doaks Ferry, the Planning Commission looks to adopt a final order after the record had to be reopened, and then closed again. This looks like an issue likely to be appealed no matter who prevails at this level. The appellants argue that unnamed tributaries A and B of Wilark Brook require a higher level of protection and mitigation than the City and developer currently envision.

via Twitter

Separately, and after the first vote, Commissioner Kopcho argued that the problem with it more generally was the commitment to market-rate single detached housing in car-dependent configurations.

from the July 20th Staff Report

Indeed, appellants had argued just this as a way to protect the unnamed tributaries. But there seemed to be little in the way of regulatory leverage to compel or suggest a change.

The appellants almost certainly have the more virtuous case, but seem unlikely to prevail on the legal, technical details. It will be interesting to follow, and might be relevant in thinking about how we might be more responsive in zoning, code, and procedure to developing facts in our climate emergency.

Appeal of Fairview Refinement Plan Amendments

Three times the cars!

At Fairview, changes to the maximum number of residences for Pringle Creek Community have current residents worried about parking and congestion. They want the bucolic conditions the incumbents currently enjoy to be maintained, with the accent more on green open space than on sustainable urbanism.

There also might be a subtext of anxiety about a new development group that purchased a substantial chunk of the land yet.

Ownership change might be viewed with suspicion

For an ostensibly "eco" development, it is interesting to see the way that concerns for cars and free parking still swamp everything.

If Fairview can course-correct and build in total something that approximates the original vision, there should in time be enough residents and a commercial cluster/hub to support walking, biking, and transit. But the early phases are clearly still very much car-dependent. These are growing pains now, and so then a question is, can we tolerate short-term pain for longer-term gain?

This is a pattern we are likely to see in many places. As we legalize smallplexes and upzone areas, at first there will not be new transit, not be new bike lanes, and everything will remain car-dependent. People will complain about parking. If we respond and adjust for that with more parking or revert with downzoning, then the future walking, biking, and transit will be vitiated. But if we stay the course, the final state will have more robust walking, biking, and transit.

(If we could shift our primary paradigm from free and subsidized parking to paid parking, so many of these problems become manageable or even just go away.)

Again, for our Climate Action Plan and Our Salem, a more forensic history and analysis of the Fairview projects might be very helpful. Both in the development/financial side and the cultural, "neighborhood character" side, problems at Fairview are likely to be repeated when we try to take some of the concepts citywide. Right now we risk repeating too much and are not positioning our climate actions for maximum success. 

The Planning Commission convenes by teleconference on Tuesday the 17th at 5:30pm.

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