Friday, November 20, 2015

City Council, November 23rd - Update on Council Goals

Yesterday in comments about the "pass" the City has taken on the latest round of ConnectOregon lottery funding for any biking and walking projects, it seemed like an important factor in this was the lack of a larger Citywide strategy for improving non-auto travel.

At Council on Monday is an update on Council Goals, and the grounds for this assertion is pretty much all right there!

Here's the one goal in italics and the corresponding "update" on walking and biking:
  • Pursue opportunities to improve overall bicycle and pedestrian connectivity, and plan for and develop bicycle boulevards or other bikeways.

    The Central Salem Mobility Study (2013) and Bike/Walk Salem (2014) plan identified potential bicycle and bicycle and pedestrian improvement projects throughout Salem. Currently several of these projects are underway including: construction of improvements at the Union Street at Commercial intersection, designating a bike lane on Church Street (Trade to Union) and High Street (Trade to Marion); and planning work for the Winter Street Maple bike-friendly corridor.
This is far from "nothing," of course, but it is more tactical and local than strategic and citywide. It's not a vision or mission, it's a small cluster of discrete projects, all framed up more as amenities than as integral pieces in core mobility. You might say that Council Goals is not the place for a big vision, and you would probably be right. But it still expresses our prevailing "small game" rather than a "big game." As long as this kind of thinking characterizes our approach to walking and biking, we will continue to have a short pipeline of projects developed for grant opportunities and as well as for internal City funding opportunities, and we will continue to have multiple gaps at the joins of discrete projects. It guarantees we will struggle for complete corridors and networks.

So that's where we are.

Other items in the Council Goals document are also interesting and are worth reading, but there wasn't much new in them. There was one other item of continuing interest, though:
  • Council and Staff are still seeking grant funding for "bridge-head studies and plans for third bridge landings to ensure these areas benefit from redevelopment opportunities."
The State's Transportation and Growth Management grant team decisively rejected an application a year ago, you will recall. The City's hope is Orwellian doubletalk, as the bridge landings ipso facto necessarily will degrade the neighborhoods. There's no benefit, only second-class attempts at mitigation.

Other Topics

If urban trees are a concern, there are two notices about administrative rule-making that follow from the new tree ordinances, including one on street trees (here and here).

The administrative process around the implementation of the Streetlight fund is rather impressive - though maybe not in a good way as it seems like a lot of administrative process for what ought to be a fairly simple matter. Apparently there are 101 requests for about 500 new lights, and a Streetlight Advisory Committee has weighed in with recommendations on how to prioritize and implement. Expecting some instances of neighborhood opposition to new lights, there will also be an appeal process. It's almost like the installation of streetlights is more problematic and deserves more process than the installation of traffic safety countermeasures and traffic calming when people die. There's an ironic disproportion here.

In order to develop the 60 acre "Salem Renewable Energy and Technology Center" out by Sanyo on Gaffin Road, the City is getting a loan from the Oregon Business Development Department Special Public Works Fund. The City won't use any of the loan proceeds until one or more businesses execute a Purchase and Sale Agreement for construction at the site. At that time the lack of up-front funds with the City requires a "credit line" as a way to fund the necessary infrastructure improvements. The purchase funds will then go back to pay the line of credit.

It just seems like there is no way these investments on the edge of the city will ever pay off.

Sanyo Solar, back in May 2013
Back in 2013, Michael Rose wrote:
Five years ago, taxpayers provided more than $42 million in incentives to lure Sanyo Solar of Oregon to Salem. Tax credits, land write downs, grants and other incentives caused corporate decision-makers to look favorably on Salem.

With many of those incentives, however, came conditions. Sanyo would have to hire a certain number of workers, pay them above particular levels and keep them employed for a period of years.

Sanyo’s announcement last week that it is letting go of 52 of its about 200 workers has state and local officials taking a detailed look at their agreements with the company to see if it will continue to fulfill its part of the bargain.

The answer: Sanyo has already satisfied some of the requirements, is likely to continue satisfying others as long as employment numbers don’t decline further and is pledging to keep meeting those job numbers.
From Slate
Even low-rise, mixed-use buildings of two or three stories—the kind you see on an old-style, small-town main street—bring in ten times the revenue per acre as that of an average big-box development. What’s stunning is that, thanks to the relationship between energy and distance, large-footprint sprawl development patterns can actually cost cities more to service than they give back in taxes. The result? Growth that produces deficits that simply cannot be overcome with new growth revenue.

“Cities and counties have essentially been taking tax revenues from downtowns and using them to subsidize development and services in sprawl,” [architect Joseph] Minicozzi told me. “This is like a farmer going out and dumping all his fertilizer on the weeds rather than on the tomatoes.” [italics added]
Our investments in the Salem Renewable Energy and Technology Center look a lot like dumping fertilizer on the weeds.

There is also the update on the Police Station Project.

SCV is devoting quite a bit to it, so you should read their commentary (here and here) and that over at Hinessight. However, I believe some critics continue to mischaracterize and misunderstand the ways the Eugene facility is suboptimal. A year ago, when folks toured the supposedly "perfect" Eugene facility, they found problems with it:
  • Short on parking
  • Unclear site or building support needs for future
  • Didn’t have sufficient funding to do it right
  • Frequently cited: “would rather have had it this way” on tour; lots of clumsy space, wasted space (interior design could be managed much better); layout did not consider adjacencies or workflow
  • Will have continued expense to make building work
  • Weak security features
  • Inefficiency associated with being separated from other functions, scattered around town; no savings with consolidating operations
  • Technological inefficiency, compared to Keizer
  • Hard to manage multiple locations
  • Stuck in building indefinitely
Critics of the City keep harping on the supposed "perfection" of the Eugene site as a model, but it sounds like it's far, far from perfect, and that there are real structural problems with the Eugene model. We shouldn't want to copy Eugene's choice. We can do a whole lot better.

Apart from this, though, they make many other good points. In particular, it is astonishing how the recommended building size has doubled from about 75,000 square feet to nearly 150,000 square feet. The inflation is amazing! Go read their commentary if you haven't already.

Finally, though this has nothing to do with Council, it seems like a good time to remember Roger Shimomura's shows at Hallie Ford earlier this year. It is striking how often the art shown there is deeply relevant. It is one of Salem's great treasures.

Classmates #1, Roger Shimomura
(via Hallie Ford Museum of Art)

1 comment:

Jim Scheppke said...

It wasn't just "some folks" who toured the new Eugene Police HQ, it was the Mayor's Blue Ribbon Task Force and I believe most of the members were biased and looking for the flaws because they want to build a "police palace" in Salem. I think that folks in Eugene, including the Police Department are happy with there new building. The Police Chief down there made a video about it that is worth watching. He likes it a lot. No it's not "perfect." But, bottom line, they were able to provide themselves with a new police HQ by repurposing an existing building (always the "greenest" alternative) for only about $17 million! That's terrific. They didn't have to pass a bond election to fund it. It's debt free. I think we should be looking for buildings to repurpose here. How about some of the old car dealership buildings north of downtown? How about the Statesman Journal building? Like Eugene we should be looking for creative, frugal, sustainable options first, before going straight to a Cadillac option that voters will probably reject.