Sunday, October 26, 2014

City Council, October 27th - Work Sessions

Maybe the most interesting items on the Council agenda for Monday aren't actually on the agenda itself. Before the meeting is a Council work session on transit, and for the week after they've announced another one for the Third Bridge.

We need to talk more about the ways
transit and the bridge are related
in the total mobility equation

Work sessions

Joint Work Session with Salem Keizer Transit ~ Monday, Council Chambers, 5:30 p.m.

Discussion of Oversight Committee’s Third River Crossing ~ Monday, November 3, 5:30 p.m.

The matters will be kept separate for the moment, but maybe at some point they will cross and start to be more integrated as we talk about increasing human capacity in mobility instead of treating mobility as solely hydraulic autoism. In any case, maybe the third bridge session will have more realism about funding and about seismic retrofits. Maybe. Hopefully.


Buried in an update on Council Goals is this spin on the failed TGM grant application for the bridghead districts:
The City applied for funds through the Transportation and Growth Management Program to undertake refinement planning in the vicinity of the bridgeheads. While this request did not receive funding in the 2014 round, a future request should be more competitive as the region moves forward with the required land use approvals for the preferred alternative. Furthermore, the need for this refinement planning will likelv be included as a mitigation action in the Final EIS.
Is this just completely delusional, or does the City know something about the land use approvals that we do not?

Other Items

A couple of fee related things

The bulk of public comment is associated with the proposed new fee schedule for "utility service rates (water, wastewater, and stormwater)." One person writes: "You are raising water costs to the point where people will stop watering their plants/lawns. "

Mostly this is outside the purview of the blog here, but it should be pointed out that we overuse water in similar ways we overuse parking and drive-alone trips: Because they aren't priced correctly and there aren't the right pricing signals to help govern usage. We have the luxury of devoting large surface area to ornamental and non-native, even invasive, grasses. Given the likelihood of drought and climate change, we will almost certainly need to have water priced in ways that make us more careful about its uses. In southern, drier states, lawns are increasingly problematic, and that is going to come north to us.

Also on the garbage fees could be rising and they might help fund street maintenance:
Adjusting the solid waste management franchise fee from 5 percent to 7 percent is anticipated to provide approximately $400,000 per year in additional General Fund revenue, increasing total estimated solid waste franchise revenue to $1.5 million. If the franchise fee increase is approved, City Council has the authority to apply the additional revenue to a variety of City programs and services including, as recommended by staff, transferring the additional revenue to the Transportation Services Division for street maintenance.
But while we need the funds for maintenance, this also is also only a partial solution because it doesn't sent a pricing signal on road use. Instead it sends a pricing signal on refuse - which isn't necessarily a bad thing: Tax/fee what we want less of, etc. But still contributes to janky and inefficient markets where there are disconnects between information, incentives, and usage.

Our neglected sidewalks

There's an update on the sidewalk rehabilitation program.

(click through the report to see sidewalk map larger)
There's a good map in it, showing the pattern of working outwards from downtown on pre-1992 sidewalks. The program has about $600,000 a year. We just spent $10 million - or almost 17 years worth of this program - on widening Wallace and Glen Creek for cars. In the report is also a reminder that much of the program has been redirected towards ADA compliance, especially for corner curb ramps.

It's a striking statement on our priorities.

Sidewalk at Boulder Creek is deferred
(railings for Clark Creek culvert in foreground)
There's also a planning decision on the second half of the Boulder Creek office buildings. Once the plans are more fleshed out there might be more to say, as this was only a preliminary change in zoning decision, but the salient fact here is that the developer has given the City a fee in lieu of building sidewalks on the first phase, and will do so presumably on the second, because the City will be widening 12th Street here and a sidewalk now would either get trashed or fully destroyed.

The planning commission approved the deletion of a sidewalk connection for a apartment complex way out on Cordon Road. The County position, the main grounds for the deletion, is interesting, mostly not in a good way:
We have received Request For Comments on a Modified-Partition Application to remove a City Condition of Approval stipulating construction of a pedestrian route extending from the development to Miller Elementary School, said school located at 1650 46th Place SE. Approximately six months ago Multitech Engineering initiated contact with the MCPW Engineering [working on an adjacent parcel] in an effort to secure access for such a path across a County-owned Reserve Strip situated at the southern terminus of Clydesdale Drive SE. After careful consideration by staff and with Board of Commissioners involvement, we responded to their request with a written denial, citing valid concerns over the safety of children making their way through the adjacent· undeveloped and thickly-vegetated parcel that is known for its indigent population and illicit activity....[hobos and riff-raff!]

MCPW Engineering would also argue against routing children onto Cordon Road as a route to Miller Elementary School due to Cordon Road traffic volume and speed. If an alternate route through residential neighborhoods cannot be secured, another option may be a path to the northeastern portion of the subject property, leading onto Old Macleay Road. Sidewalk and/or a paved shoulder would need to be constructed along the west side of Old Macleay Road in order for that option to be viable.

Those suggested pedestrian improvements on the west side of Old Macleay Road should connect to existing' sidewalk that begins approximately 500 feet north of the subject site. Further reasoning to direct pedestrians to Old Macleay Road is the pending development of the nearby 1.39-acre triangular piece of property to include a convenience store (SPR14-10, 1500 Block Macleay Road), which will be a draw for pedestrians, including children.
I have not followed this case closely, as it is so far out on the edges that no amount of sidewalk can save it from being hopelessly car-dependent and full of vacuums that lack eyes and ears, but the County position still looks like something of a run-around; and in the end, no one may be tasked with creating a sidewalk connection. Maybe the proposal for Old Macleay Road makes sense, but I am dubious. The attitude against hobos and other riff-raff also brings to mind the Munkers-Rickey path connection. (Do you know this part of town? Maybe you will have a better sense of it.)

"Debate" over Munkers-Rickey St path improvements
showed how far we are
from path connections as an assumed baseline.

Other Reports and Updates
This contains a "report" on the airport, most of which is a report on the aggregated activity of all the small airports in Oregon, not an analysis of Salem's airport in particular. It does say that there are 630 airport related jobs with an average salary of a little above $50,000 a year. (But what's the median?) But for comparison, the State has over 20,000 employees, the school district and hospital have more than 4,000 employees, and if the 630 were considered a single firm, it wouldn't put them anywhere close to the top-10. Norpac alone has many more (not as high paying, of course.) This could be evidence that investing in the airport is not a good strategy and that, as many suspect, the investment benefits a disproportionately small number of people.

(Too often our updates don't have any assessment metrics, you know? Sometimes, maybe often, they're just a blizzard of factoids, seemingly designed to overwhelm with irrelevant detail. It would be nice to have something more critical with a view towards increasing the effectiveness of programs. The airport is vulnerable, so it's not surprising that the report is more evasive than informative. Because politics.)
Not much to report here, but it's good to see the Union Street bikeway discussed a little in the context of a housing strategy for the north downtown area. Though it's just a single detail, it is a meaningful connection in the transportation-land-use nexus.

Planning Decisions

Old ice manufacturing facility planned for wellness clinic
An extension has been granted for the project to create a wellness clinic on Front St in the old ice manufacturing building at D Street. Hopefully this redevelopment will happen, as the area is a little languishing. The adjacent Union Gospel Mission development will add an interesting wrinkle, and hopefully will not dampen the wellness project.

(See two more of them above in the sidewalk discussion.)

Other odds-and-ends

The Grant Neighborhood is applying for a grant to fund a Cultural Heritage Resource Inventory. (Really, who thinks this sounds better than a "historical inventory"? It makes it sound a little kitschy, like communist kitsch! What is our version, "pioneer kitsch" or "Methodist mission kitsch"?) In the packet is a report with some strategic goals from a forum and workshop. But they're all about tourism and tourism "products"! There's nothing about the ways old buildings and places are valuable to residents who might just live among them and not wish to consume them as packaged "products."

Salem Heritage All-Star Goals
The goal of better documenting history in the Grant Neighborhood is valuable, of course, but this stress on packaging and product doesn't seem like the best path for historians and preservationists and neighbors to head down. Though the influence is not direct, the tendency still colors the way, for example, that we deal with things like Howard Hall. If we can't package Howard Hall as a "market ready cultural-heritage tourism product," then it doesn't deserve to be saved? This is wrong, wrong, wrong.

Softball fields, proposed bike park, Marine Drive and Bridge
Councilor Clem wants to look into expanding the softball fields at wallace marine park, and he also notes that "any plans for expansion of the softball complex should incorporate
the planned construction of Marine Drive NW" - which of course is part of the Third Bridge. Sure looks like Marine Drive would be a huge constraint on any expansion!

Councilor Tesler wants to look into a Sustainability Commission formally, but as we have noted here, there's plenty of policy language already on the books for sustainability, so what we need is not so much a new advisory committee, but just better compliance with existing policy. The City already has plenty of "advice," it's the obedience part that's a problem! Additionally, we can't fill the seats on our existing committees, so why would we add another? This doesn't look like a proposal that will make a substantive difference.

Finally, in what seems like an excellent example of bureaucratic red tape and absurdity and comedy, there needs to be formal Public Hearing on a Land Use Code Amendment Regarding Goats for Vegetation Removal ~ Monday, November 10. This isn't even Chickens: The Sequel, since this is a temporary use for goats, not the "permanent keeping of livestock."  If you know a compelling reason this is not dumb, please drop a comment!


Walker said...

It's not dumb because you need a public hearing to change the code. What was dumb was whatever is in the code now that prohibits a Rent-A-Goat operation.

Anonymous said...

Ha ha! The City already has a "market ready cultural-heritage tourism product"!

From a press release this evening:

"Grant Neighborhood Heritage Calendar Available - 10/28/14
The Grant Neighborhood was designated as Salem's first Heritage Neighborhood by the Salem Historic Landmarks Commission (HLC) in May 2014. This program was established to help encourage Salem neighborhoods to learn about their history and provide them with an opportunity to engage in a positive way with the City's historic preservation program. The program is currently funding two projects for the Grant Neighborhood, a Neighborhood Calendar, and an Architectural Design Handbook.

The Calendar features professional photographs of residential homes, streetscapes, churches, and neighborhood projects as well as interesting details, historic facts and trivia about the neighborhood. The Calendar is currently for sale for $15.00, just in time for Christmas shopping!

**Proceeds from sales will fund the next Grant Neighborhood project**
(Make checks payable to City of Salem)
Calendars can be ordered online at: GRANTNEIGHBORHOOD.ORG/CALENDAR or by the attached form.
Please contact us for pricing on shipping more than one calendar or for mailings outside the Salem/Keizer area"