Saturday, March 22, 2014

City Council, March 24th - Police Station

The lead, headline grabbing item at City Council on Monday is an update on the proposed Police Station.

The latest cost estimates on four alternatives
By this time, however, you'd think
the City would have talked more about them
But there's not a whole lot to say: The Staff Report is "information only" and it suggests that more outreach, conversation, and debate are desirable, and that no decisions will be made until after the City budget is settled in June - though it does continue to insist that the Civic Center site is best and recommend against allocating money to study in more depth any other alternative sites.

Hopefully Salem Community Vision will publish more of their analysis, which has been regrettably thin and cocktail-napkinish. At the same time, however, it has shown a remarkable resilience in the face of the City's refusal to engage it directly. You'd think that if the City was certain or really enjoyed a preponderance of evidence, they would be able to dismantle quickly the competing SCV critique.

But they haven't!

In the Staff Report is stuff like, "The City's first priority is providing public safety to all areas of Salem and locating away from the geographic center of Salem would reduce effectiveness and operational efficiencies."  Well, maybe that's true about the center, but by this point in the debate, the City should have articulated a more robust argument for a central location. It remains just talk, an unproven assertion. Moreover, the O'Brien parcel, the first alternative in the clip above, is totally centrally located, no farther from downtown proper than is the Civic Center. So why is that site so bad in light of the SCV critique? The City's arguments are looking weaker and weaker - even if the SCV arguments have on their own gained no additional strength.

Still, if there's a way to save $10 or $20 million, that's 167 or 333 additional pedestrian medians (@ $60,000 each) we could install or a handful of our smaller bridges to seismically retrofit!

So head on over to SCV for more. I'm sure there will be a good bit of talk over the weekend. (For skepticism about the SCV proposal, see all notes here.)

Yes, too Late to Improve the Nursing Home

Proposed Marquis Care Facility on Boise Site
The financing for the nursing home at the Boise project has changed in some important ways. It is now a "project grant" rather than a "project bond.":
After further review and analysis of the process and requirements to undertake a Project Bond, the City of Salem (Purchaser) has determined that other forms of urban renewal tax incentive financing, including a development agreement and conditional grant of project generated tax increment funds, are more efficient and less cumbersome methods of providing development incentives for Seller's North Block property. An amendment to the Purchase and Sale Agreement will be presented to the City Council on April 14, 2014. The RDURA Plan amendment is following the premise of a Project Grant....

The estimated market value of the Development is $4.5M and the Project Grant estimate is up to $750,000. In addition to the Development, 175 residential units are proposed on the South Block and a 40,000 square foot office building is proposed directly east of the Development.
Two neighborhood associations, Grant and CAN-DO supported the grant, and the Downtown Advisory Board also supported it unanimously.

(Two interested parties recused themselves from the DAB vote.  It seems relevant that the site of the meeting was the offices of  the architect team for the project, CB|Two, and CB|Two's Principal was presumably one of those who recused themselves. On the one hand it might have been useful to be able to show building renderings and plans to the Board. On the other, it might be more difficult to vote "no" in the offices of the architect team, and the City should probably hold votes like this at a more neutral site!)

In any case, if the grant is for both the nursing home and the four-story office building, this doesn't seem like a subsidy out of line with the merits of the project.  And it seems pretty clear this is a done deal and there is no opportunity for a better occupant than the nursing home.

Additionally, as a related item on the agenda, there is a vacation for the old right-of-way with an at-grade RR crossing that was created when it seemed that State Street would need to be closed to auto traffic. I think this is of purely procedural interest at this point.

Travel Salem Misses on Walking and Biking

Even the Gresham Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center
sees the value of bikes!
Travel Salem is presenting a couple of reports, and the more interesting one is the Strategic Plan for 2014-17.

While it highlights things like "Research[ing] creative niches (e.g. chess tournaments, robotics, tattoo) as well as primary feeder markets," it is silent on walking and biking! In fact, text searches for a variety of walking and biking words suggests the whole family is absent in the document! (Do you know otherwise?  Have you found a walk/bike word?)

The Bridge as Ornamental Emptiness on the Riverfront
At the end of the Plan is this lovely image of the Union Street Railroad Bridge, but there are no people in sight, no one using it or on the river, and its whole reason for existence is unaddressed in the document.

If the Union St RR Bridge is a tourist attraction big enough to feature in the report, maybe folks should be talking about why and who are its users! And what about the prospect of a bike park in Wallace?

Proposed bike park in Wallace (proposed Marine Dr in blue)
Other Stuff

Adoption of the rest of the Unified Development Code. This is certainly interesting, but far too big to comment on here. (Anyone followed it in depth?)

McKay Park Master Plan. (Some previous notes here.)

Adoption of the Morningside Neighborhood Plan. (Some notes here.)


Jim Scheppke said...

SBOB, I think you are being unfair to Salem Community Vision (full disclosure: I am a member). SCV really does not have a "proposal" for a new police facility. We just think it should not be built on the Civic Center campus for a number of reasons, most having to do with the exorbitant cost of doing so. Alternate sites have not been evaluated for several years. The City staff in the staff report that is going to Council next Monday night is claiming that it would cost $50,000 per site to evaluate alternative sites, and for that reason we need to hang with the Civic Center site. Nonsense! There are many qualified individuals in this town who would volunteer to sit on a site selection committee and evaluate all possible sites and pick the best one to meet our needs. My neighborhood association, SCAN, passed a resolution calling on the City to convene such a committee. I hope they will listen.

Susann Kaltwasser said...

Glad that you agree with SCV that the City has not come up with good answers to the community's questions.

Delaying the decision to move forward is not in the public's best interest.

Now that the City has admitted that the Civic Center and the Library is not safe in an earthquake, delay is not a good idea.

I hope that the Council will show some leadership and get the project onto a path that will lead to a successful bond. Right now, the voters are full of doubt not only about the costs and the location of the police facility, but also those that are making the decisions.

Instead of getting to work finding good answers, some just want to blame those people who asked them.

Susann Kaltwasser said...

Unified Development Code was way too hard to follow! Even though the City tried to be innovative and put the meetings on CCTV, it was not possible to actually watch them for most of us because of technical issues. I know of only one citizen who actually attended all of the meetings. He reported that while they claimed to not be changing anything but cleaning up the language, there are in fact a lot of subtle and not so subtle changes in the rules....most to favor the developer at the expense of existing neighbors. I guess time will tell, since no one is able to mount a cogent argument. Salem Land Use Network was trying to follow the process and was having good discussions, the Planning administrator pulled the plug on the process claiming it took too much staff time. So, it goes....

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Well, at this point I remain very skeptical of the magnitude of savings SCV claims is likely. And the the buttons don't say, "appoint a site selection committee." Instead they say, "Yes, $20M Police Facility." Isn't that a proposal?

At the same time, the City isn't persuasive, either. So here a kind of agnosticism rules for the moment.

For that reason, delay and more debate seems more appropriate than rushing into an incompletely articulated vision of a $20 million facility.

(As for delay, if the probability of a quake is high in the next 50 or 100 years, the probability of that same quake occurring in the next year or two of delay is not so high. That's a trade-off for developing a better plan. I don't know exactly how to assess that in an mathematical, actuarial sense, but it doesn't seem so awful.)

On the UDC, it was, as you say, supposed to be "policy neutral," but it does seem like some changes in policy have crept in, and it's nearly impossible for someone not an acolyte of the process to follow.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Wait, maybe I do know the math.

N3B is starting an excellent series on earthquakes and the Third Bridge, and they say 1 in 3 chance of a big quake in the next 50 years. So if that's a 33% chance in 50 years, that's 1.3% chance of the quake occurring in the next two years. (33%/25 years)

So if we delay for two years plans for a new police station, a cost is an increase of a little over a percentage point in the likelihood that the quake will happen before it would have if we just proceeded now.

Do readers agree with this math?

Jim Scheppke said...

Here's the source for that projection of Cascadia earthquake risk:

It's actually 37% for a big quake off the coast of Newport, if you want to refine your math.

Curt said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

It seems the mayor and councilors agree the Salem Community Vision proposal is insufficiently detailed to be credible. From the article in the newspaper today:

"Architect Geoffrey James, who spoke on behalf of Salem Community Vision, offered an alternative proposal with a price tag of $40 million — sparking a heated exchange with both Councilor Laura Tesler, Ward 2, and Salem Mayor Anna Peterson.

Tesler and the mayor repeatedly asked how James arrived at his number.

“I fail to understand how a price could be placed on seismic upgrade repairs without engineering studies,” Peterson said."

Of course the Mayor would be interested in defending the city's own position (and the city's own proposal might also be subject to the same criticism that it needs more detailed engineering studies), but the principals of Salem Community Vision should really provide more detailed criticism instead of just saying the same vague thing over and over.

If they want the city to respond to dialogue, they also should respond.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Briefly, can we avoid personal attacks please? Please "debate policy and not people"! Thanks.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Re: 37% v. 33% - That doesn't affect the rounding (tenths of percent per year) and I'm sure remains within the error bars of the estimate. (And thanks for the citation!)

So here's an idea about how to talk about the probabilities: Let's say the probability of the quake in the next year is 1%. Each year that increases by 1%. So over the next 5 years, the chance of the quake is 5%. In 50 years, the chance is 50%. And in the next 100 years it is essentially a certainty.

Using 50% over the next 50 years and saying the probability increases by 1% a year won't meet the standards of scientific conversation (which require the 37% figure), but it is close enough for our own conversation and planning purposes. And it avoids a pesky decimal, one that might offer false sense of precision anyway.

What do folks think?

Curt said...

Anonymous is simply reporting what went on at council. That report speaks to why the city isn't able to "quickly dismantle the SCV critique". SCV has a $20mil. proposal (according to the emails I get), then when pressed for details, SCV "doesn't really have a proposal" and we never get to discuss policy. George Orwell called this political tactic "doublethink". Pointing this out is not a personal attack, it is an accurate description of the dialogue that just occurred above. Just like myself and the other neighborhood leaders that have had the courage to shine sunlight on the numerous and provably false statements SCV has spread are not personally attacking SCV, we are just highlighting the record. If SCV doesn't like people pointing out these falsehoods they should stop making false statements. If we had more public involvement in this issue no doubt more people would be comparing their statements to the city record and come to the same conclusion. It some ways this is resembling a debate over creationism v. evolution.

I don't know how get through this, SBOB doesn't know how to get through it, so its not really fair to expect the city to know how to get through it either.

These are the same questions I asked SCV when they brought their resolution to SCAN. When SCV asked SCAN to sign their resolution, they refused to even agree to the facts they have put on their FB, the city website or anywhere else. SCV failed to offer any supporting facts which is why their numbers were stripped out of the resolution. This includes reference to Eugene's police station, which the board agreed is not relevant to Salem.

A larger committee with more diverse representation would be a good opportunity to shore up support for the project. Though according to OR ethics laws (that's a policy!), SCV representatives have likely eliminated themselves because their vocal public opposition to the Civic Center option. They have prejudged the issue and therefore cannot be relied upon to make an unbiased decision based on all the available facts. Though they could sit on the committee as a non-voting member.