Thursday, August 18, 2016

City Council, August 22nd - Action on the Epping Property?

Council meets Monday, and there's some news about the "Epping property" on Portland Road.

Former Rose Gardens Motel on Portland Road
(See history of motel here)
Council will learn about a proposal
to construct 180 units of affordable multi-family housing on approximately eight acres of land located at 3350 Portland Road (Attachment 1), beginning in spring 2017.
On the one hand, this is great news. Included in the report is a chart from a different report, "Rough estimate of housing affordability" in the Salem area, and it identified a deficit of about 6,400 affordable homes for households that earn less than $25,000 annually.


This is a key parcel on Portland Road, and it will be good to see it redeveloped.

But on the other hand, it's also reasonable to ask whether such a homogeneous concentration of affordable housing is wise. It has seemed like affordable housing dispersed in mixed income neighborhoods has produced better results than concentration. The concentration here looks old-fashioned and not necessarily consistent with the larger vision for the corridor. A few years back, Council dropped the idea of a mixed use project here and changed the zoning. So in that regard this also represents a project of reduced ambition.

Readers who follow housing issues will know better and may have more to say on this and other aspects of the project. (Lots on homelessness and housing at CANDO, btw.)

Some of the envisioned subsidies for the Portland Road project include:
  • $749,000 - North Gateway URA grant for project construction;
  • $400,000 - City HOME funding for the Epping site with $300,000 for FY 2017-2018 and $100,000 for FY 2018-2019 (Applications for these funds must be submitted in December with City Council adoption in May and June);
  • $650,000 - North Gateway URA funding for construction of an internal street into the property; and
  • $100,000 - City HOME funding for the Caplinger Road site for FY 2017-2018
There's also a second project possible out on Cordon Road. It would be 108 units.

Both projects
will target individuals and families earning 60 percent or less of Salem’s median income. A family of four will need to earn $34,320 or less per year to qualify.
There are several more steps before these projects come to fruition, and this is an information report only.

Other items

Another factor here I should have mentioned is just how appropriate is the Epping site itself for affordable housing.

The Epping property isn't very walkable by walkscore
It doesn't rate very well by walkscore, and so rather than abating the need for an expensive car or other costly transportation services, it exacerbates them. Though this is a AAA average, even a clunker car is expensive to keep up, and a huge chunk of the 60% median income.

AAA: Your Driving Costs 2015
Affordable housing should be located at a commercial nexus of essential services so it is at least possible to do a number of errands on foot, on bike, or by transit.

By this measure, the Cordon Road site is probably totally inappropriate, and it deserves a reconsideration and likely pass.

Totally car-dependent

Postscript 2

Totally missed the Resolution to join the Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) Cities Campaign!

From the Staff Report:
The Oregon Public Health Institute and the League of Oregon Cities, with the financial support of Kaiser Permanente, have teamed up to bring the Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) Cities Campaign to Oregon. The HEAL Campaign is designed to help civic leaders create healthy communities through policies that positively influence individual and family decisions related to nutrition and physical activity.

One aspect of the HEAL Campaign is the HEAL Cities Small Grants program, which is designed to support cities implementing HEAL policies....

The deadline to apply for HEAL Cities Small Grants is September 30, 2016. Staff is currently evaluating potential projects that are eligible for HEAL Cities Small Grants, and if Council adopts this resolution, will present a recommendation to apply for grant funding in a staff report to the City Council in September.
HEAL on Land Use

There's lots of "Land Use and Transportation" policy concepts under the campaign, so maybe something interesting could arise out of this. At the same time, the Staff Report is very clear to underline that
The City is not required to make any changes to existing policies, including the Salem Area Comprehensive Plan or its elements, by joining the campaign.
Is this window dressing, or something substantive?

We already have - or already have had:
Each time the project gets spun as something novel and something with unique possibilities to be effective - and each one seems to dwindle into a resounding zero or to crash into some kind of structural barrier.

For example, the 2015 Marion County Community Health Assessment sees no problem with our current level of traffic violence and death:

"achieved the Healthy People 2020 goal"
According to that formal Assessment we have "achieved the Healthy People 2020 goal."

But in the face of these walking deaths in 2015 - not even those in the whole county - is "achieving" that goal even an intelligible utterance?
Watching these health initiatives from the outside, it has seemed like there was a lack of resolve and a lack of seriousness about them at the highest levels of local government and business. Sure, we'll talk about getting healthier, but we're not actually going to do anything significant about it. It's still about isolated individuals and individual choice, and not about changing systems and programming that actually scales up for demographic-level change.

So the HEAL initiative "can't hurt, might help," but it does not seem likely to be very important, in the end, like the others, generating more PR than actual policy and results.


Unknown said...

Neither site is really an appropriate location for affordable housing. I remember reading an analysis about smart growth and Salem that suggested that Salem's affordable housing is nearer to the fringes of the city in comparison to either Springfield or Eugene. That is a problem that neither of these proposed sites solves (especially in the case of Caplinger Rd which is a terrible choice).

Anonymous said...

I think the Portland Rd parcel was the subject of a Sustainable Cities project.

I wonder if the O'Brien parcel downtown would be a better spot for affordable housing. It has a better walk score, for sure.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

(Anon, it's hard to say - but it sounds like you may not be a regular reader or resident? It doesn't really matter, and apologies if I have misread your note, but other debates about which you might not be aware have overtaken the merits of your point, alas.)

Indeed, the Epping property was the focus of a set of SCI projects, as was the O'Brien parcel. (See the City SCI page here for both sets of papers.)

Both have been discussed a great deal in the context of the Police Station debate, and Council chose the O'Brien property for the Police Station, so a housing project there is no longer on the table.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Added a note about the HEAL initiative, also on the agenda

Anonymous said...

This week, as it happens, City Observatory has a note about mixed-income neighborhoods -