Saturday, February 27, 2016

City Council, February 29th - The Police Station

Council meets on Monday for a Public Hearing on the proposed Police Station.

Though the current thing has a bad case of mission creep and bigger-is-betterist inflation, there's actually a broad consensus on a centrist concept!

Back in November 2011, staff recommended a 75,000 square foot facility and one of the options was on the O'Brien parcel - which in the most recent round of evaluation scored the highest by a large margin. This has been a strong contender and constant from the start.

November 2011

November 2011
This concept also included work on the Civic Center.

There might be quibbles or even real negotiation on some of the details, but in broad outline this looks a lot like the proposal currently advanced by SCV.

As the City's succumbed to bigger-is-betterism, the City has completely failed to make the case that the larger 150,000 square foot facility, doubling the size of the original concept, is necessary
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. Critical functions located in off-site leased spaces could return to a centralized facility with some room to grow with the community for the next 30 to 40 years.
The argument boils down to simple fiat - "because the experts said so." It's an argument from authority only, and a little patronizing. Citizens deserve a more thorough argument, and since the City has not been able to provide one for many months, maybe there isn't one.

At this point, it should not be difficult.

The City should revert to the original concept from 2011, updating and adjusting it as necessary, making sure the Library is included.

This is the center on which everybody agrees and it's the right thing to do. It's no longer complicated. It's a no-brainer. Put this thing to bed so we can turn our attention to other important matters!

For reference:


Brian said...

Nicely put. When I started to write "Salem's New Police Facility: The Best Way to Achieve It" on behalf on Salem Community Vision, and began thinking about how to frame the arguments in favor of a 75,000 square foot facility that included seismic retrofitting of the Civic Center buildings, it struck me right away that the arguments had already been made.

By the same City officials who now are pushing for a 148,000 square foot police facility and no seismic upgrades.

And this wasn't ancient history. Just 2014. At that time they were urging Salem citizens to embrace virtually the same proposal that Salem Community Vision is presenting now.

As this post correctly points out, the only thing that has changed is that different consultants have come up with a different recommended size for the police facility. Now that it has doubled in size, money for the seismic upgrades has been squeezed out of the bond proposal budget.

Anonymous said...

The O'Brien site concept referenced does not offer significant savings over the original Civic Center concept that SCV so vocally opposed. Back then they said that no other options had been evaluated. Now they say it was there all along!

The multifamily vacancy rate in Salem is less than 2.5%. The O'Brien site could be developed with hundreds of units to fill the demand and slow the escalation of rents. Taking more land off the tax roles will just constrain the supply of land even more, continue to drive up rents, and push more development to the fringe.

Brian said...

Anonymous, actually the O'Brien site is quite different from the Civic Center site. The Civic Center site required expensive undergournd parking at $35,000 a space, while the O'Brien site allows for all surface parking at $3,000 or so a space. Also, the Civic Center site would have essentially done away with the Mirror Pond area as it is now, along with creating a "tunnel" effect -- a three story building right across from the multistory South Block apartments. So Salem Community Vision opposed the Civic Center site, while being in favor of the O'Brien site -- so long as a reasonably-sized police facility is built there.

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Brian said...
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Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

(Moderation note: No personal attacks please: debate policy, not people.)

Here's a redacted version of the relevant deleted comment from anon:

"...The difference in price between the two concepts referenced above is about $5mil.--not anywhere near the tens of millions..claimed at the time...

Mirror Pond is an ugly, unloved, unused, and unwanted space. And yes, most cities that are fun, vibrant, healthy places to live have densely developed downtowns with buildings more than three stories high that some would call a tunnel effect (like just about every city in the northwest). Salem doesn't... and its lame. Another despotic public building with a huge surface parking lot will only make it worse.

For good reasons or bad reasons, Council decided against a Civic Center site. That decision is made, and it is "water under the bridge."

It does not seem useful to re-litigate that - for here anyway - even if it seems like a faulty decision made with incomplete or even bad or misleading information.

The choices on the table are:

1) Leslie site or OBrien site
2) Small, medium, or large - 75,000 or 150,00 square feet or something in the middle

Here, the question of street enclosure and "tunnel" effect remains of interest, and will be revisited in the future.So save your thoughts on that! Same for Mirror Pond and our affection for "ornamental emptiness."

We'll come back to those as they impact things like prospects for the State Hospital.

Thanks for reading and for commenting!

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

The piece in the paper today is substantial!

One interesting note in it: The O'Brien site would involve the sale (voluntary or forced) of an occupied building.

"Between the former dealership and vacant lot sits Mill Creek Plaza, which houses about a half dozen businesses, including dentists, lawyers and an investment group."

It will be interesting to see if that is a factor at all.

Brian said...

Anonymous, I want to add that the O'Brien site has been viewed by myself and others in Salem Community Vision as a good location for a police facility since the property became available in 2015. The City of Salem's consultants agreed. As shown by Breakfast on Bikes in several posts, consultants used the O'Brien property as an Urban Redevelopment Site example in a presentation to a work session of the City Council. So it was recognized as a promising police facility site prior to the current DLR Group consultants being hired.