Saturday, February 20, 2016

City Council, February 22nd - Fairview Demolition and Travel Salem

Council meets on Monday, and while there is no transportation item of great importance, maybe it's worth highlighting a weakness in the City's promptness in turning to demolish Le Breton Hall. On the flip side of things, more positively Travel Salem seems to have a new bikey interest.

Le Breton Hall of 1908 (B1 on map below)
On the agenda is a notice of decision on "A Minor Amendment to the Fairview Master Plan"
to change the designation of Le Breton Hall from a status of "Reuse: Potential Adaptive Reuse with the Option for Deconstruction" to a status of "Deconstruction: Primarily for Deconstruction with the Option for Reuse"...
In the Staff Report there is, perhaps for the first time on this part of the Fairview project, a whiff of the barn and manure pile. Neighbors asked at
what point do a series of individual amendments to the Fairview Plan to allow for the removal of buildings cumulatively constitute a major change to the plan.
More and more of the "crescent" is being demolished
(Kozer is labeled B9, see below for another image)
And Staff replied that a:
minor amendment is any amendment to the Fairview Plan that does not result in a substantial change to the Fairview Plan. A major amendment is any amendment to the Fairview Plan that results in a substantial change to the Fairview Plan. A substantial change to the Fairview Plan is described under SRC 530.025(b)(2) as one that includes, but is not limited to [a following list, which we will omit]...
The action may meet the technical definition of a minor amendment, but the plain sense of it is not a minor amendment, and with the demolitions as an erosion of the values of reuse and recycle, it is not obvious that "the removal of buildings cumulatively" fails to meet this criteria for "major" amendment:

Cumulatively results in a significant change in the purpose, scope, main concepts, goals, policies, or general development guidelines of the Fairview Plan as a consequence of more than one non-substantial change submitted concurrently
If the project was founded on an ethic of reuse, and there's not going to be any reuse, how is that not "a significant change in the purpose, scope, main concept, goals, policies, or general development guidelines"? Thirty demolition permits have been issued here on the Sustainable Fairview "Lindburg Green" project, and there are fewer and fewer buildings for "potential adaptive reuse." As some point this becomes a fiction rather than an actual principle of the Master Plan.

Demolition at the "Crescent"
That's Kozer Cottage (Fred Legg, 1920) with the mural, B9
It's hard to know what to say here. Because of a better location, a realistic case for Howard Hall was easier to make, and even if the City now is starting to cave on process, saving Le Breton seems like a harder task. The end outcome still might very well be the same, and an appeal process might just be fruitless. You have to "pick your battles," and this doesn't seem like a very strong one, however dispiriting is the prospect of demolition and loss.

But as we have remarked before, the speed with which the City has pivoted to "demo the damn thing," is dispiriting, and the City should try harder to find a use for it. The fact that they are now having to do a bit of an interpretive dance with the plain meaning of things suggests that they are no longer clearly in the right.

Travel Salem CEO leads with a bike!
Travel Salem has an annual report to present to Council. In years past it has seemed like they were missing out on bike tourism. Not this year!

Inside is news about developing six touristy bike routes
Especially exciting is news they are working on formalized bike tourism routes originating in Salem.
Earlier this month the Planning Commission voted to forward rule-making to Council for bank drive-throughs on North Broadway. The vote looked straight-forward, a 7-1 decision with the lone opposition coming from the Commissioner who formerly served on the Historic Landmarks Commission, who had themselves struggled with a drive-through for a bank in the downtown historic district a few years ago. This proposal looks much less disruptive, and even if it is not an unambiguously good thing, on balance it looks like a reasonable thing. Fearing disruption to the area with Salem Cinema and Broadway Commongs, the Grant Neighborhood asked that the rules be confined to the southern half of the Overlay Zone, where there is not yet redevelopment. That seems like a fine thing - but as an administrative and procedural matter, would that create two separate overlay zones? Maybe there will be more discussion of that idea. (See here and here for previous discussion at the Planning Commission.)

Housekeeping Matters

There's a housekeeping matter out at the Fairview Industrial Park. Maybe you will see an important detail that makes it important for new policy, but from here it's the history on the Fairview Industrial Zone that makes the Urban Renewal Agency's action on it interesting:
In 1983, the Agency and State of Oregon (State) entered into an agreement to develop 285 acres of previously farmed land owned by the State for the purposes of creating a major industrial and business center. The area is named the Fairview Industrial Park (Industrial Park). On June 25, 1984, the Fairview Urban Renewal Area (Fairview URA) was created to support development of the Industrial Park.

The Fairview URA was developed in phases, eventually growing to 390 acres. CC&Rs were recorded to ensure development was held to a higher standard than the building and zoning code required in the 1980's. The Industrial Park is largely built out with a 2014-15 assessed valuation of $176,384,557, and approximately 3,000 employees.

Salem Revised Codes have evolved, requiring many of the same standards as those contained in the CC&Rs. In cases where the CC&Rs are still more restrictive than the current code, those requirements may no longer be reasonable given the commercial buildings being constructed and the site design (buildings setback from the street). In recent months, developers and owners of sites being developed within the Industrial Park have requested exceptions from the CC&Rs
It looks like the CC&Rs are burdensome, often generate requests for waiver and adjustment, and seem like they no longer are useful. It's hard to see why we would want any CC&Rs in an industrial zone! Some on the Morningside Neighborhood disagree, but a statement of their criticism or public comment was not included in the Staff Report, so it's hard to say how substantive is the critique. On the surface, then, the proposal to end the CC&Rs looks completely reasonable.

A playground at Englewood "squats" on City property!
There's another housekeeping thing with the School District, a mix-up in property boundaries between the School District and the City.
Over the last several decades, the City of Salem (City) and Salem-Keizer School District 24J (SKSD) acquired properties adjacent to each other with the intent of co-locating schools and parks. Due to design changes and site factors, City and SKSD improvements were constructed without regard to property ownership or boundary lines. As a result, both the City and SKSD own, utilize, and maintain assets that are wholly, or partially, located on property owned by the other entity.
Together the City and School District propose to sort them out. This is perhaps little comical. It looks like they don't actually know the value of the property, so the matter at Council is an agreement to find out and to value it at $75,000/acre. No great harm has seemingly come from this state of affairs - no one has bothered with it for years clearly - at the same time, for proper maintenance as well as school security, it's probably good to figure out exactly who is responsible for what.

Other Stuff


Anonymous said...

Don't planners normally want their long term plans to succeed? That seems to be the norm in other cities. Why not Salem?

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Couple of minor notes from the session...

Apart from the matter of the illuminated clock at the Hospital, neighbors are also arguing against the intensity of streetlight illumination for the sidewalk and street on Church Street.

Public Work argues rightly that good illumination helps safety for people walking and biking at night. I have the feeling that people who are arguing that streetlights create light pollution do not themselves walk or bike at night, and therefore have an autoist perspective on the streetscape as an ornamental emptiness no one really needs to use: It is to look at and admire, not to walk through. This may be an issue increasingly to watch. To me High Street along Bush Park is an excellent example of a street insufficiently illuminated for walking and biking at night.

Some Parks Advocates have argued that transfer of "park" land to the School District may cut-off access to facilities that have been improved by drinking fountains, playground equipment and other things funded by grants and volunteer labor. And that these kinds of funding would no longer be available. So it looks like that matter will be postponed to get more people at the table talking and making sure there are no unintended consequences.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Oh, and here's the Staff Report for the Public Hearing next week on the proposed Police Station. There was a work session before Council this evening, but there didn't seem to be anything useful to say about it that SCV hadn't already said. There may be more to say before the Hearing on the 29th.

Here's the sole "proof" for the super-sized facility:

"According to DLR, a right-sized and properly designed police facility and emergency communications center for Salem should be about 148,000 square feet in size to function best in keeping Salem safe. A facility of this size would place Salem within the generally accepted range and at the mid-range of peer communities in the northwest."

This basically begs the question and assumes as true what needs to be proved as true. This is super-shoddy.

SCV will have a whole lot more, I'm sure.