Friday, July 10, 2015

City Council. July 13th - Council Goals, Uber Ordinance, Fairview Demolition

Council has an interesting mixture of items on the agenda for Monday. New Council Goals, Uber and other vehicle-for-hire regulations, and details on more demolition at Fairview lead the way.

The oldest building at Fairview, Le Breton hall,
is not slated for demolition, and it's the one we should preserve.
Though Fairview is not the most important topic, it is the most interesting. Last summer four of the cottages in the "crescent" were approved for demolition, one had already been lost in a fire, and this summer three more are going to go.

The Crescent seems destined to become a park
(revised reuse plan, comments in red added)
The cottages have already gone well into the "demolition by neglect" zone, but it's unlikely that anything else could have been done.

The comparison with Howard Hall at the Blind School is helpful. For one, the Fairview project has been going at it for a decade. Unlike the pro-forma RFP effort the Hospital made, the Fairview project has made efforts over many years to repurpose the buildings. They tried, and is hasn't worked out. But there's nothing dishonorable about the failure.  "Pick your winners," they say, and it's more important that some buildings are preserved well than than all buildings preserved in a suboptimal configuration. No one to my knowledge ever tried to make the argument that all the buildings at the Blind School were worth preserving. Howard Hall was the last example of a building at the Blind School, and even apart from any special properties it might have had by virtue of age or the architect, it was worth preserving as the last instance of a type. By contrast, there are still many buildings left at Fairview. A school is using one, Pringle Creek is using five that I can think of, and both Sustainable Fairview and the Olsen development may use others. Rather than demolishing everything all at once, demolition here is going piecemeal, largely on an as-needed and gradual basis. The one that seems most important, Le Breton Hall, the very first one built, remains standing and has much better street frontage than the buildings on "the crescent," which are oriented more internally. Howard Hall was on the corner of Church and Mission, and it seems likely that corner orientation would have been attractive eventually. It was also far more urban and walkable than Fairview is at present. There are many reasons to accept the demolition at Fairview as different and largely benign than what happened at the Blind School.

Procedurally, this was a "minor amendment to the Fairview Master Plan," an administrative decision, and it doesn't seem necessary to escalate or ask for a more protracted public process.

Parks and Recreation Advisory Board March 12th
Though the park concept had seemed rejected at Council a year ago, it remains alive in some sense. Back in March the Parks Board got an update. About 25 acres are in play and the park would be designated both a "neighborhood park" and a "community park." As Community Parks draw from a larger area, they add parking lots and restrooms, and can add things like sports fields or disc golf courses, picnic shelters, dog runs, or splash fountains. (A curious note in the minutes says that HB100 was signed in Le Breton. Do they mean our landmark land use and planning bill, Senate Bill 100?)

Council Goals

We finally get a look at the new edition of "Council Goals."

A couple of the goal clusters as well individual goals are worth noting here:
A Well-Planned Community - Provide our community with opportunities for artistic, historic, cultural and recreational pursuits and preserve our community's natural environment
  • Pursue opportunities to improve overall bicycle and pedestrian connectivity, and plan for and develop bicycle boulevards or other bikeways
Vibrant Economy - Create the environment and opportunity for smaller traded sector businesses and local companies to retain and expand in Salem and foster strategic partnerships to grow jobs and income, attract visitors, and conduct strategic recruitment of traded sector employers
  • Pursue opportunities to improve overall transportation system and enhance mobility by working with ODOT on seismic upgrade for existing bridges and improving traffic mobility and flow at specific high-volume intersections: (A) northeast corner of Ferry and Liberty (Convention Center cross walk); (B) Union Street at Commercial; (C) Kearny and Bush at Commercial; (D) Owens at Commercial [italics added]
Intersection improvements for Union and Commercial
I worry that there is tension here between the desire for more hydraulic autoism, especially at Union and Commercial, and connectivity for people on foot and on bike, especially the Union Street bikeway with a new traffic light at Union and Commercial. This is something to watch. It would be terrible for the "traffic mobility" goal to trump and undo or seriously compromise the bikeway project.

The whole "Council Goals" document is worth reading, as these will be specific projects or high-level policy that Council will direct Staff to pursue. The goals also touch on the State Hospital, on Boise and the South Waterfront Urban Renewal Area (including a chunk of Commercial just south of Mission), and other redevelopment target zones. The Salem Rivercrossing itself has fallen out of the goals curiously, but the "bridgehead district" study, which has failed to win one grant already, remains. (For comparison, here's a note on the 2009 goals, as well as the documents for 2011 and 2013.)

Uber and new Vehicle-for-Hire Regulations

The proposed vehicle-for-hire and ride-booking rules look like the City has decided for a more regulated market rather than less. They include:
  • Yearly vehicle safety inspections
  • Increased commercial automotive and general liability coverage
  • Requires City background checks on drivers
The Staff Report further notes,
It is anticipated that maintaining the requirement for City-conducted background checks may pose an issue for some transportation network companies.
It would not be surprising if Uber and Lyft mount a spirited attempt against the "City-conducted background checks."

Overall the package looks like it seeks to push the new school ride-booking companies in more taxi-like directions, especially in regard to provisions for safety. The question of insurance has been especially troubling: If you are on bike or on foot, and are hit by an independent contractor operating as a "vehicle for hire driver," will there be a coverage gap? The increased coverage requirements looks to answer that question.

Other Stuff

There's a brief update on the Streetlight fee.

There is additional information on the candidates for the Planning Commission, and Council will select two of them. Expertise and thoughtfulness vary greatly. Candidates seem pretty auto-centric, though. On transportation planning, one person writes:
Fairview Industrial Dr. (as designation of that tech area), and the land on which the Kroc Center was placed, are examples of good land use and transportation planning.
Another writes:
Bicycle boulevards are another interesting movement the city is experiencing currently. While I support the idea, I have serious doubts to the market need for this infrastructure.
The responses are worth reading in full.

(Also appointments to the Downtown Advisory Board and West Salem Redevelopment Advisory Board.)

The Avenging Angel of Autoism
likes to see all the people trapped in cars!
The Public Arts Commission has a report and work plan for the next year. That might be worth returning to in another post. Can we escape what seems to be the prevailing model of filling or decorating voids like the "sculpture garden" at the Conference Center and corner bulb-outs? Can art be more integral and less after-thought, and oriented more fully to the primacy of the walking experience?

So there's a Minto Island Conservation Area Management and Conservation Plan in addition to the Minto-Brown Island Park Master Plan. Apparently there was a 30-day comment period from May 19th to June 20th. (Didn't seem very well publicized.) Council will receive an update on the former, which is required as part of the BPA Conservation easement and terms of purchase for the north-most part of the Boise land on the island.

Parcel to be acquired for Fisher Road extension
And notes on property acquisition for the Fisher Road extension at Market Street. The project will be funded by Transportation System Development Charges, and maybe that's worth thinking about more. Don't the SDCs come from new development? How does this project relate to new development? This will also make the exit from Fred Meyer more difficult. This is just a lousy stretch of road, both for people in cars and people not in cars, and is not far from where the Crosslands were killed.


Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

There's a long piece in the New Yorker today on the Cascadia Subduction Zone quake. Inserted a link in the "council goals" section.

Anonymous said...

Ah, I see that the person who thought the Kroc Center exemplified "good land use and transportation planning" was appointed to the Planning Commission.

And perhaps also that it was something of a pre-arranged deal -

Anonymous said...

Uber has abandoned the Salem market, at least temporarily:

"The Future of Salem

Despite your support, Salem city leaders haven't been open to the kind of change and innovation that Uber brings so we have paused pick ups in the city."

The Salem Uber page has also been taken down:

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Thanks, Anons, for the updates!

Via BikePortland, here's a discussion of insurance and Uber in Chicago.