Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Planning Commission likely to Delete Walking Path at Golf Course Redevelopment

A couple of interesting items on the Planning Commission agenda this evening.

One is for the State Street project.  Commissioners Fox and Fry will be appointed to the State Street Corridor Plan Advisory Committee.

Given Commissioner Fox's interest in State Street, that sounds like a great idea!

Walking path alignment in green at arrow
City of Salem zoning map
There's also a proposal to rezone a proposed apartment complex at the former Battle Creek Golf Course site. Most of the details don't seem very relevant here, but one detail is.

Same area from the Staff Report
In the first image you can see a strip in green on the border of the proposed development. That strip is zoned "public amusement," and a previous condition for the development had specified a walking path along this strip.

The applicant proposes to delete this requirement and to satisfy the walkability requirements of the development by the sidewalk along Waln Drive, skirting the southern perimeter of the development.

As you can see from the scale, this superblock is over 600 feet north and south, and well over 800 feet east and west. The proposed path had been nearly in line with a portion of Madras Street and was a logical connection towards Commercial.

The long deflection to the south along the city sidewalk will not be "good east-west public pedestrian access," but will be inferior and out-of-direction access.

Deleting this path is a bit of an anti-walkability move.

Site plan east of creek: lots of parking lot
At the same time, this area is already hopelessly car-dependent, and since the path would terminate at present in a dead-end, and would require additional construction to connect to Commercial Street, it's true that it would not be useful for some time and on the surface might seem pointless.

Aerial view, approximate path location in white
But there is a tax lot apparently already corresponding to the path segment to Commercial, and so it doesn't seem impossible that it would be a dead-end for long. The City, however, may not have adequately planned for completing the path.

Three story block (typical)
(It is also worth mentioning that this is the kind of cookie-cutter, autocentric apartment block site plan that neighbors of the State Hospital fear. And it's true that something like this would degrade rather than enhance that site.)

Only second and third tier priority bike projects nearby
and nothing in the project site itself.
via Bike Element of the TSP
During Bike and Walk Salem, the update for walking and biking to the City's Transportation System Plan, the immediate area was not threaded by any conceptual bike routes or sidewalks. On the west, there is a low-priority family-friendly bikeway proposed, but at least in the current scheme this is a third-tier, remote kind of thing.

The primary impetus for deleting the path seems to be the neighboring development to the immediate north, whose back patios, already constructed, would be too close to the path, with an insufficient set-back. Additionally, path construction would take out some trees that constitute part of the all-important buffer between the parcels.

On balance, from here it seems like the move to delete the path is unfortunate, but it's not like the path would actually provide high-quality and critical connectivity. The entire redevelopment of the former golf course, which I think started first with the school (see notes here and here), seems to have focused on a path system on the perimeter of each subdevelopment, on using walkways as part of borders and fencing, rather than focusing on walking connectivity as integral. In other words, it uses sidewalks to divide rather than sidewalks to connect. So it seems like, apart from the streetside sidewalk system, there was a high-level renunciation of walking connectivity from the start. And maybe there didn't really need to be, since the area is so car-dependent. (Or maybe it could have benefited from a master planning process like the Fairview project.)

If it seems like digging in and demanding high-quality walking connectivity at the Fairview and the State Hospital redevelopments is worthwhile, here at this site it does not. "Pick your winners," and this probably isn't one of them.

What do you think?


Susann Kaltwasser said...

Whenever possible I prefer a grid-like development where streets all go though and you have no cul de sac. That said, paths to provide connectivity generally do not live up to their intended purpose in that they provide access, but are often so narrow and lack visibility that they become paths for crime. The advantage of having connectivity is outweighed by the fact that these paths are generally not lit, are narrow and have places for people to hide and jump out at people, and are not easily policed.

In fact pathways are so bad that in many places neighbors eventually try to remove or close them. I wish that this were not the case because they can provide for much better walking and bike routes. I have been involved as a NA chair in working with neighbors to remove several paths/walkways in my east Salem area due to fires, rapes, thefts, vandalism, beatings, and escape routes for theives.

This apartment complex will be much safer if outsiders are not allowed to go directly through the area as well.

The walkway along the street provides for eyes both by neighbors, passerby and police. It will be lit and will be much safer even though it might take a minute or two longer to reach the main arterials.

Jeff Schumacher said...

Be afraid of the narrow dark path!!! And be afraid of outsiders passing by your residence!!!

Unknown said...

Thanks Breakfast on Bikes for bringing items like this to our attention. It is probably best to delete this path requirement in this location. But, it's very sad to hear that we are removing pathways in our neighborhoods due to crime and/or fear of crime. Walling ourselves in and shutting ourselves off to "outsiders" only creates an illusion of security. Hopefully we can work to find ways to create open, well-lit corridors in our neighborhoods that are safe and family friendly. Easier said than done, I know.

Mike said...

The problem isn't the path it's the whole design. I absolutely hate these pos style apartment complexes with parking lots. This could be redesigned to look and function like a traditional apartment development with a street grid and on-street parking. But we consistently see these pods that will become run-down ghettos in 20 years. But the developer and builders will be long gone.

Unknown said...

I agree. The developer is driven purely by economics. If you showed him a design that cost the same, had the same number of parking spaces and units, and was more pedestrian friendly, he or she would do it. But, they spend even less time and money on design than they do construction (in relative terms).