Saturday, February 27, 2010

City Proposes new draft Neighborhood Center Zoning

Planning is one of the most important ways to create good transportation. It also has more moving parts and is easy to screw up with unintended consequences.

One of the exciting processes in Salem planning involves the West Salem Neighborhood Plan and the intersection of Orchard Heights and Doaks Ferry.

The map here (full version here) shows in purple some of the envisioned mixed-use zones for the area. There's also hope to put in some schools on the northeast corner.

Not actually in purple, but the first parcel to be in play, is the Bone property.

The Bone estate is on the northwest corner. The city is currently working on a new zoning designation, the Neighborhood Center Mixed-Use (NCMU) Zone, which it hopes to apply to this parcel. The Code Concepts draft describes it:
In the spring of 2008, the City of Salem initiated a planning project to implement the adopted West Salem Neighborhood Plan (Plan) recommendation to create and apply a new Mixed-Use Neighborhood Center zone district. Although planned for initial use in West Salem, the new zone would be available for use elsewhere in the City in the future.
The key values the code seeks to instantiate are
Sense of place
Pedestrian orientation
Compact urban form
Neighborhood vitality
Innovative design
Transit accessibility
Connectivity with surrounding neighborhoods
Accommodation of the automobile
More specifcially, the proposed code treats connectivity and
calls for Mixed-Use Neighborhood Centers to have pedestrian orientation, transit accessibility, and connectivity with surrounding neighborhoods, as well a providing [sic] for auto use. Local street connections and a good system of pedestrian pathways will be important in any neighborhood center. On the Bone Estate property, establishing the required street connectivity would include an amendment to the City’s Transportation System Plan to show the proposed required new street connections.

The city is taking the draft code and code concepts out to three community meetings:
March 29, 2010:
West Salem High School (Commons)
1776 Titan Drive NW
Salem, Oregon 97304
6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

April 5, 2010:
Leslie Middle School (Commons)
3550 Pringle Creek Road SE
Salem, Oregon 97302
6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

April 6, 2010:
Swegle Elementary (Cafeteria)
4485 Market Street NE
Salem, Oregon 97301
6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

The current draft of the code is here. As written the code contains a loose designation of a "pedestrian street" as "routes designated in the Neighborhood Center Master Plan which provide direct access to key pedestrian attractors (e.g., nearby schools, transit, retail areas)." Later it calls for a circulation plan and defines the pedestrian streets:
The Neighborhood Center Master Plan shall include a traffic circulation plan for pedestrian, bicycle, and vehicular movement within and through the site...the emphasis of the circulation plan shall be on pedestrian mobility and accessibility and shall demonstrate an effective and convenient system of pedestrian pathways leading into, and within the neighborhood center....

Pedestrian streets shall be designed to encourage interaction among residents of the development and adjoining neighborhoods. Minimum sidewalk widths of eight (8) feet are required unless otherwise approved in the neighborhood Center Master Plan. Pedestrian amenities are integral elements of the enhanced streetscape design. Amenities such as public plazas, sitting areas, covered walkways, public art, pedestrian scaled lighting, and significant water features (e.g., creek and fountain) shall be incorporated within the streetscape and shall be proportionately scaled to the surrounding walkways, landscaping and buildings. Along all streets, pedestrian scale lighting shall be provided. (p. 23 of January 11, 2010 Public Review Draft - NCMU)
Parking "shall be provided in the NCMU zone pursuant to SRC Chapter 133."

The NCMU code looks promising, but 8-foot sidewalks aren't that much bigger than the current 5-foot minimum! The provisions for bicycles are even more slender, and based on an initial reading, it appears that there's room to enhance the multi-modality of the NCMU even more!

For example, as we saw in the analysis of the Chemeketa Center for Business and Industry building and bike parking, SRC 133 currently provides for inadequate bike parking. The NCMU is a great place for bike corrals! Even without corrals, there should be much more bike parking that SRC would require.

As for the streetscape, there is nothing about bicycle boulevards or other engineering that would make the streets more bike-friendly. Indeed, the connectivity enhancements appear to be largely cosmetic and not substantive.

As we learn more about the NCMU, we'll revisit this in more detail. Stay tuned!

No comments: