Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Lansing-NESCA on Design Language Embraces 90-Degree Turn; Keizer wins TGM Grant

Last week the Lansing-NESCA Neighborhood Plan project met to discuss Commercial development, and some of the findings seemed worth a note. (Presentation here, meeting notes here.)

Among the exercises, folks looked at and rated a grid of design elements for smaller-scaled neighborhood commercial and for arterial commercial-scaled businesses.

90-Degree Turn

Parking in front, parking in back, parking on the side
One of the findings was a preference for what we've called here the 90-degree turn, with parking on the side.

Parking for neighborhood commercial (see third column from left)
  1. Small parking lot to the side of the building (Score: 34)
  2. On - street parking only (Score: 33)
  3. Small parking lot located in front of the building, between the building and the street sidewalk (Score: 26)
Parking for larger commercial development on arterial streets (see fourth column from left)
  1. Parking lot to the side of buildings, and buildings are placed up to the street sidewalk (Score: 40)
  2. Parking is provided on - street and in a parking lot that is concealed behind the commercial buildings, and buildings are placed up to the street sidewalk (Score: 37)
  3. Typical “strip-mall” design, with parking lot in front of the buildings (Score: 30)
Building Disposition/Placement for larger commercial (see first column from left)
  1. Commercial buildings and their storefronts placed up to the street sidewalk (Score: 33)
  2. Commercial buildings and their storefronts placed up to the street sidewalk, also with public plaza and seating areas between the businesses and the sidewalk in some cases (Score: 32)
  3. Commercial buildings placed back, away from the sidewalk . (Score: 16 )
That's an interesting preference. The 90-degree turn has seemed like it was a poor compromise and retreat from a full "main street" style building disposition with parking in back, but maybe it's important that it has some real support. An 80% solution will strong and broad support is often better than a 100% solution with support only from the vocal advocates. So maybe it's worth thinking more about ways to make the 90-degree turn better and to make it more widespread if it is truly something popular and commands more interest than a full "main street" footprint with parking in back.

Vista Place has parking on the side - via CB|Two
Neighborhood Commercial

As for more specific discussion of neighborhood commercial redevelopment, right away there are two candidate sites for a pocket of neighborhood commercial development: The intersection of Sunnyview and Lansing, and the North Campus redevelopment at the State Hospital.

About Sunnyview and Lansing, mobility was central: Neighbors said they need complete sidewalks before neighborhood commercial development can make sense, and also asked about traffic, since cars back up at the intersection. Making it easy for people to walk and bike will reduce pressure for auto mobility, of course.

Early plats show small orchard/farm land clearly
(Heritage and Identity presentation)
As for the State Hospital project, the neighbors mostly still wish for low-density housing and parky nothingness: "North Campus neighbors don’t want noise, light, and traffic."

In an article about the insane housing market in the Bay Area, the Palo Alto Planning Commissioner who resigned because she could no longer afford her own community, identified something about generational transition that also applies here, though in much lower intensity, of course:
We paved over the orchards to make way for the Baby Boomers, and now the Boomers are fighting with Millennials who want to turn one-story strip malls into four-story apartments.
On the map from the July Heritage and Identity presentation, you can clearly see how much of the land was platted for orchards, often in five or ten acre lots, before being further subdivided for housing.

Most of the housing was developed post-war
Again, the terms (and pricing) of our debate are much less intense than in the Bay Area or even in Portland - but the basic structure is the same. We developed orchard land for the post-war generation, and now we need to adapt housing forms for their kids and grandkids, who have somewhat different preferences and who face very different environmental and economic constraints.

If we want affordable housing, if we want vibrant urban spaces, if we want urban forms compatible with the changes coming at us from climate change, we cannot maintain our focus on mid-century style development patterns. It's in no way sustainable.

The State Hospital project is one of our best chances at a new template for a new generation, and we shouldn't refuse it or block it.

Keizer TGM Grant Award

The State has announced this year's round of Transportation and Growth Management grant awards. The joint City of Salem-Cherriots project did not win, but Keizer won a grant for a "Keizer Revitalization Area Plan":
Update, refine and/or replace the planning documents for the area surrounding the Chemawa Road / River Road intersection (River Road Renaissance Plan); the area near the intersection of Lockhaven / River Road (McNary Activity Center); and the Cherry Avenue area (Cherry Avenue Plan).

The project will identify appropriate boundary locations for the areas; include strategies to promote mixed use and transit oriented development; develop design requirements for new developments; encourage increased residential density within these areas; and, will help the city to meet some of its projected employment and residential needs while at the same time fostering commercial development within these areas.

The final plan will be adopted by the city council and will replace the previous documents as determined to be appropriate and will include revisions to the comprehensive plan and development code necessary to implement the plan.
That sounds promising! It's not something we'll probably follow very closely here, but it will be interesting to watch from afar. It would be great to see Keizer really embrace "mixed use and transit oriented development."

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