Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Economic Opportunities and Housing Needs Analysis - More 20th than 21st Century?

The City's kicked off an interesting study hampered by a bad acronymic name!

Who would blame you for tuning out the "Goal 9 Economic Opportunities Analysis (EOA) and Goal 10 Housing Needs Analysis (HNA)"?

The EOA-HNA (how do you say this, the "EE-OH-AH, HUH-NUH?) nevertheless is interesting and possibly important because it is working the whole jobs/transportation/land-use/housing nexus. It remains, of course, to be seen whether it is a "shelf study" only or will result in funded policy actions.

But at maybe the largest city scale possible, it's looking at the shape of the city in space and also in time. And it's worth your attention and thought.

The official description:
The purpose of the EOA-HNA project is to analyze population, employment and market trends, and develop strategies to provide a sufficient land supply for housing, commercial and employment purposes to meet that need over a 20 year period. It is our intent to produce a work product that goes beyond the statutory requirements for an EOA and HNA and provide recommendations to enhance the relationship between the City's land use and economic development programs, address demonstrated housing needs, identify market trends and target industries, incent job growth, and inform policy decisions regarding residential, industrial and employment lands.
One of the first memos is out, and the summary of the February 27th meeting has several interesting bits.

The "opportunities" in Salem are the usual suspects, but the "barriers" are worth a mention - both for moments of agreement, and for issues to contest:

  • Salem has too little land for affordable and multi-family residential development. The City’s lacks sufficient flat, inexpensive land to develop for affordable housing. There is substantial opposition in the city to both infill residential development from established homeowners and to re-zoning land for multi-family housing.
  • The hills create constraints that reduce residential development capacity, both for partially vacant land and for vacant land. The Regional HNA identified a substantial amount of partially vacant land in the south hills of Salem. Some of this development is relatively expensive housing, where there is little likelihood of development of new housing on partially vacant land.
  • The City’s zoning standards, permitting, and development process create barriers for residential development. The City’s development standards lack sufficient flexibility to allow for development of a broader range of housing types. For example, the City’s policies should include a buffer zone that allows for a mix of higher-density single-family housing types and low-density multifamily housing types, such as townhouses, duplexes, and triplexes. In addition, the City’s policies should allow large-scale mixed-use-development.
  • The City’s zoning standards create barriers for commercial development. The City’s zoning standards for some employment zones (i.e., IC) should allow more flexibility in the types of uses allowed.
  • Salem’s annexation process is a barrier to bringing land into the city limits. A key barrier to new development is Salem’s annexation process, which makes it very difficult to annex land within the UGB into the city limits.
  • Salem’s business climate and economic development policies make the City less attractive for some businesses. For example, the City is perceived as preferring to attract “clean” businesses, which discourages businesses that are not considered “clean” from locating in Salem. In addition, there is too little certainty about the City’s long-term economic development vision and implementing policies, which discourages the location of new businesses in Salem.
  • Salem lacks sufficient trained workers to meet the needs of businesses. However, there are several educational institutions that businesses and economic development professional’s can work with to provide training opportunities that meet businesses’ needs.
Downtown Surface Parking Lots in Red
Parking Garages in Solid Brick Red
On-street parking stalls not included
click to enlarge (1 mb total, 1874 x 1114 px)
If we weren't so hung up on temporary car storage, we'd immediately be able to bring a lot more land into interesting, vibrant, and profitable use. We really need to get into analysis how unproductive is land used for temporary car storage. Once they've delivered a person, the cars just sit there for hours or days generating no additional value.

What are "unclean" businesses?  In an era of climate change and environmental degradation, is a preference for "clean" industry actually so problematic? The costs of industries that require clean-up later are externalized in analyses like this, and if we are going to talk about dirty industry, we need to make sure we talk adequately about the real costs of that industry, actuarial costs that might include health outcomes measured over decades, for example.

Talk about annexation depends on cheap transportation, cheap car storage, and the growth ponzi scheme of subsidized infrastructure. Growth on the edges is almost certainly not sustainable in light of declining tax revenues and unfunded maintenance liabilities.

Salem topographay - Oregon LIDAR
While the hills are important - why is the river not mentioned?  That's a huge constraint in Salem, and we're arguing right now over a $1 billion dollar bridge and highway because our land uses and development don't adequately take account of it. In fact, all our bridges, including the ones over creeks, are a constraint, and their unfunded future maintenance and seismic stabilization is a meaningful un-accounted for demand on local budgets.

Zoning is also a problem, too often used to support NIMBYism, stasis, and low-density, unwalkable development that requires more car storage. It's a self-consuming circle!

Overall, if this preliminary discussion sets the tone for the study as a whole, in many cases a thorough set of 20th century assumptions is behind what should be a 21st century analysis, and this may compromise the study going forward.

The group met again last week, and hopefully more meeting materials will be published and a better advance notice of meeting dates and times. Check out the project page for more information and links to the project documents.

There doesn't appear to be a list of the Advisory Committee Members, but here's an attendance list from the second meeting.  Councilors and Council-candidates figure prominently, it's worth noting (also, it doesn't look very diverse, by income, ethnicity, or gender):
Committee Members Present: Sheronne Blasi, Rich Fry, Mike Erdmann, Larry Goodreau, Mark Grenz, Diana Lace, Jeff Leach, Jim Lewis, Eric Olsen, Chuck Bennett, Warren Bednarz, Daniel Benjamin, Mark Grenz, Alan Sorem
Staff Present: Lisa Anderson-Ogilvie, Eunice Kim, Glenn Gross, Kelly Kelly
Consultants: Bob Parker and Beth Goodman, EcoNW Consultants


Jim Scheppke said...

Three of the four Chamber/Realtor/Home Builder candidates for the City Council are on the Advisory Committee. Don't kid yourself. The fix is in.

Unless Salem voters are smart enough to vote for Tom Andersen, Scott Bassett, and Xue Lor, we are just going to get more of the same pro-development, pro-home builder, pro-realtor policy in Salem.

Susann Kaltwasser said...

Thank you for this blog post. You hit the most important aspect of this committee square on. That is the poor make up of the advisory committee and the lack of public visibility.

Essentially this is the Salem Comprehensive Planning process in bits and pieces. The first 'bit' was overhauling the UDC (urban development codes). Almost no one paid any attention to that process because it was too long and drawn out and way too technical for even a land use fan to follow. Myself included. Neighborhood Associations were all but left out of the process.

Second phase of that process and even more important is the 'bucket list.' This was a list of issues that need to be discussed that will result in major changes or police positions in Salem. Again, this is not going to be an inclusive process it appears. I have contacted the staff person in charge and asked if NA will be included and she hedged in her answer to say it was yet to be decided.

Yet to be decided!!! OMG! The City has yet to decided IF they are going to include NAs in major revisions of the development codes!

When you see this extremely important issue of the study of housing needs also have few NA people (and only ones with either a clear personal agenda, or clear business agenda) it is clear that the City has no intention of including representatives of the people who will be living in Salem into the planning process. Well, except to give them a chance to testify at CC and be ignored.

The deck is loaded against the average person. We are here just to be pawn in the bigger game of making money for the rich. Developers have taken over the Council, the Mayor and the City staff. If we do not elect better people that represent the broader public view we would have a chance to make Salem a viable sustainable city.

I hope that people can be alerted to not just 'follow the proceedings' on this and other key issues, but to show up, speak up, and be insistent that we will not tolerate this kind of treatment.

Salem Community Vision you can be sure is going to be working on this. I hope that the Bike Community and other interest groups will also come forward and move from watchers to participants.

Laurie Dougherty said...

I'm not a fan of big corporate developers riding roughshod over a community, but the problem I see is revealed in the statements about barriers, a lot of which come down to resistance to infill and dense, mixed use, multi-family development. The real problem is NIMBYISM and NIMBYISM in this context is just another word for "what the people want."

If we are not talking about breaking down the barriers to density, infill and mixed use development, then we are not talking about sustainability, and we're going to get more and more sprawl and a billion dollar third bridge to deal with it.

Talking about sustainability will mean educating the public about what a city is and how it works rather than just giving the people what they want.

Susann Kaltwasser said...

About a decade ago I was on a similar committee. We discussed how to increase urban density within the UGB. We concluded that there were two ways to go about it. One is the "soft" way. The other the "hard" way. The hard way is to rezone property for more multifamily development. The soft way is to encourage or perhaps even require that every corner lot with in a subdivision that is over 9,000 sq ft, be a duplex. This not only addresses the need for higher density, but it also fills a need that is growing in our area for investment properties. People like the idea of living in one part of a duplex and renting the other part.

Another soft strategy we discussed was allowing 'granny flats' or smaller houses on larger lots. These small houses are currently not allowed in Salem, but there is growing desire for them.

The last thing that we discussed was to allow for residences to be above businesses in many districts. We actually looked at what this might look like in such areas of Salem as Lancaster Drive .
By implementing these soft strategies you can increase the capacity within the UGB without needing to expand the boundary into farm land.

Of course, in the end the City decided to take the traditional approach and just re-zones hundreds of acres of land from RS and commercial to RM.

I hope that this time around this committee looks at better solutions.

Susann Kaltwasser said...

OMG! I just realized that this committee wasn't a decade ago...it was in 1995...geez! how time flies!

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Thanks for the history, Susann!

Alas, if the "soft" approach had been adopted and enthusiastically implemented in 1995, we'd be having a much different conversation today!

But now, if we start in 2015, corner duplexes would do very little towards creating walkable neighborhoods. A corner duplex still fundamentally affirms a car-dependent neighborhood.

Lots of these smaller-grained "soft" tactics should be employed and embraced, like making ADUs legal and incentivizing them, doing a better job with second-floor residences above commercial districts, etc, but in order to accomplish the larger goals, bigger strategies that scale in significantly larger ways will also have to be employed.

Some of these larger strategies will require "big" developers with access to capital and commensurate desires for profit. Good things often aren't cheap, and as Laurie suggests, one of the problems with some of the populism in Salem right now is things like Climate Change require unpopular solutions and solutions that scale can't always be crowd-funded or executed in "we the people" fashion.

Rather than condemning all developers (and affiliates), we should be seeking out those that are doing interesting things and working on partnerships rather than adversarial relations with the whole class of them.

A casualty of the "police palace" rhetoric, for example, is forgetting about all the great work CB|Two has done - like Waterplace and Broadway Commons. They are not the enemy, and their work on the Civic Center project does not deserve some of the overheated complaints.

Unknown said...

How about putting up housing where the cars are now?