Saturday, May 24, 2014

City Council, May 27th - part 2, State Street Study

At Council on Tuesday is also a solid TGM grant application (see here for part 1, the terrible one).

It's not perfect of course. The good news on studies is that they generate groovy visions for the future. The bad news is that initial enthusiasm often then struggles to translate to meaningful funding on meaningful timelines.

Study churn is a way of life here in Salem.

Nevertheless, every study starts with a blank slate, with every opportunity for the future and for action.

Overview of proposed zoning changes for NEN
This one is an opportunity to continue with a different vision for State Street.

Last summer the City adopted the recommendations of the Downtown Mobility Study, and this summer Council is adopting them formally into the Transportation System Plan.  Among the recommendations are making State Street two-way and making it into a complete street for all users, as a family-friendly bikeway.
State Street Family-Friendly Bikeway
Meanwhile, the NEN-SESNA neighborhood plan is looking at the next section of State Street, from 12th to 25th.

State Street Corridor as Mixed Use Zone - streetcar scaled!
And the City wants to drill into more detail than the neighborhood plan permits.  From the description of the project, which is worth an extended citation:
Through the Looking Forward neighborhood planning process, Northeast Neighbors (NEN) and Southeast Salem Neighborhood Association (SESNA) have identified many transportation and land use barriers that make the State Street corridor uninviting to pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists. The street, for example, lacks sufficient bicycle and pedestrian facilities and amenities that are called for in the Salem Transportation System Plan for major arterials. Improvements to the corridor, however, have not been advanced due to the street's constrained right-of-way and the desire not to acquire property or raze any buildings.
Approximately the current four-lane section
(via Streetmix; these are not part of the project description)
There are also significant land use issues that make the State Street corridor unattractive, auto-oriented and unwelcoming. Several vacant or underutilized properties are located on State Street, in addition to numerous surface parking lots and parking areas in front of buildings. These conditions detract from the overall vitality and attractiveness of the corridor and tend to discourage walking. Much of the development on State Street is also single-story, single-use buildings, which do not create a vibrant environment. Zoning in this area makes it particularly difficult to develop mixed-use buildings.

Given these identified challenges, one of the proposed recommendations in the draft NEN-SESNA Neighborhood Plan is to revitalize State Street as a vibrant, mixed-use corridor that encourages pedestrian activity, is safe and attractive, creates a distinctive sense of place and serves as an asset to surrounding neighborhoods.

Expected Outcomes: The State Street Refinement Plan will result in draft code amendments that will revise an existing mixed-use zone, or establish a new zone with simple design standards, to encourage pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use development on State Street. The new or revised zone will be developed in a manner that allows it to be applied to other areas of the city where pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use districts are desired.
One idea for a complete street for all users
The Plan will also result in alternative street cross sections that illustrate how the constrained right-of-way on State Street can accommodate facilities and amenities to make pedestrians and bicyclists feel welcome and comfortable. This could include wider sidewalks, street trees, bike lanes and other improvements. The cross sections and other transportation-related proposals will be recommended to the City Council for adoption into the Transportation System Plan.
What's not to like!

(It's also worth pointing out that the way the zoning discussion is coordinated here with the transportation/road discussion makes this, unlike the bridgehead proposal, a fine example of "transportation and growth management.")

Other Stuff

A work session for Monday, July 14th looks interesting.  "Planning Salem: Discussing a Long-Range Planning Work Program" could be an interesting discussion in light of the proposed Third Bridge.

A lot of folks will be discussing the possible renewal of the downtown Economic Improvement District. There will be a Public Hearing on the assessment that funds the EID. Salem Weekly has a discussion, as did the Statesman.

Maybe most important is the City Budget. (Except the staff report on the hearing is bare bones, with a one-page summary of the budget!  Since that's not something we follow closely here, others will have to comment on it.)

The Urban Renewal Agency Budget is just as thinly documented. (Maybe it's reasonable not to have the full budgets in each of the packets - but they should at least include links!)

The Cultural and Tourism Promotion Advisory Board Annual Report isn't all that interesting from here, but maybe a few things are worth noting. The Board advises on a budget of around $3 million, most of it coming from the transient occupancy tax. Director of the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association and co-Chair of the West Salem Neighborhood Association, Kenji Sugahara, has recently joined the Board. That was news. In the FY 2015 budget, there's significant 6-figure support for Travel Salem and for marketing the Conference Center, as well as nearly $40,000 to market softball tournaments. Supporting Bike Tourism isn't on the radar yet, but perhaps Kenji will plant that seed. There's also $80,000 budgeted for a city festival, hopefully timed for the opening of the Minto Bridge - imagine a supercharged Sunday Streets connected with that!!!

And I think that's a fine positive note on which to end.

(There's a few other odds and ends that might be of interest, but others will have to comment on them!)

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