Saturday, February 18, 2017

City Council, February 21st - More Police Station

Council meets on Monday Tuesday! for a combo Work Session and Special Meeting on the planning for a new Police Station.

Others will have plenty to say about the prospective bond proposals themselves.

A Pulitzer for a piece on the Cascadia Quake
(via Twitter)
Let's look instead at some of the support materials. More than anything, the analytical lens still seems too small. The overwhelming scope of catastrophe in the big earthquake, as well as the scope of all the other needs we need to consider and fund, all still seem elusive.

What has the City done about earthquake?
One of the support documents is a set of answers to questions Council posed to Staff on February 6th and 13th.

The one on earthquake is very interesting:
What has the city done to prepare for the Cascadia earthquake?

Planning for response to a Cascadia-level earthquake has been moving forward across Oregon since the passage of legislation in 2005. With passage of Oregon Senate Bill 2 (2005) a statewide seismic needs assessment was initiated. This assessment of schools and public safety facilities was completed in 2007.

The Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan (NHMP) dated June 2002, ranked a major earthquake third behind landslides and flooding. The NHMP has been reviewed at a minimum every five years as prescribed, and earthquake has ranked in the top three hazards during each review.

In 2002 the Salem Fire Department initiated Salem Community Emergency Response Teams which provide a volunteer component across the city to provide neighbor-to-neighbor preparedness activities.

In 2008-2009, federal grant funding was secured to aid in cost effective seismic retrofits on existing fire stations during the remodels.

In 2009 Salem participated in a State level exercise called Cascadia Peril, which was a culmination of efforts in 2008 and 2009 to provide earthquake exercises at local venues and a final coordinated statewide Emergency Operations Center exercise.

In 2016 Salem participated in the West Coast Cascadia Rising Exercise. This event brought together damage assessment, business partners, transportation route considerations and resupply.
Mostly this is role-playing and glorified duck-and-cover and camping practice, with "exercises" as the most recent activities.

Are we overdependent on surgeons who live in Portland?
It is significant there is nothing about retrofitting the Willamette River or our local creek bridges, about reinforcing the old and historic masonry buildings downtown, about programming for home-owners, about essential roads to hospitals and food. We've pooped into the Willamette three big times this winter. What do we do when our water and sewer infrastructure is demolished in the quake?

Downtown bridges over Pringle Creek and Shelton Ditch
How likely are they to be intact after a large quake?
Maybe this list actually meets industry standards, but from here it looks alarmingly shallow. It looks naive and hopelessly inadequate to the likely scope of disaster. Maybe Council needs to read again Kathryn Schulz's prize-winning piece from a couple years ago, "The Really Big One: An earthquake will destroy a sizable portion of the coastal Northwest. The question is when." (Here is some follow-up, just in the New Yorker.)

Another interesting one is on project management:
What experience does Salem have with managing large projects and how will the public’s financial interests be protected?

The city has a demonstrated track record of accountability and stewardship when delivering general obligation bond fund programs. Most recently, additional equipment purchases and fire station upgrades were made possible with savings from the 2006 Fire Bond and more than 20 additional projects were accomplished with savings from the 2008 Streets and Bridges Bond.
Maybe. The Streets and Bridges Bond was a bunch of small and medium sized projects, with only a few that just met or exceeded $10 million. The cost savings were also a huge artifact of the Great Recession. These "thrifty" conditions do not seem likely to recur in the near term - short of another big recession, of course. This seems like an over-optimistic interpretation of things.

Eugene's Library: At the Transit Center (l) and on a Bikeway
On the Library:
Is there any need to expand the library some time during the life of the expected improvements?

The City of Salem provides residents with 0.60 square feet of library facilities per capita. This metric aligns with other Oregon public libraries serving communities of similar size:

Beaverton: 0.51 Eugene: 0.61 Hillsboro: 0.63

With Loucks Auditorium, dual story time room s, dedicated teen services areas and the forthcoming reading room, the Main Library facility is well positioned to meet the anticipated physical space needs of the community.
I guess the question is just about "expansion," but surely there's a dimension of quality in there.

Eugene Library Foyer and Stairs
So much more light!
(via Shepley Bullfinch)
We seem content with a middling sort of Library. Our Library is dark, inconveniently located away from the transit center and difficult to bike to, and we don't seem very interested in its hours or any kind of branch structure to place it nearer to kids. Our lack of interest in investing in it is sometimes concerning, especially now in this "know-nothing" era in which we find ourselves. Our Library is a little like Cinderella right now, and even if we don't upgrade it aesthetically, a seismic upgrade ought to be an easy decision.

Markion Parkade, City of Salem
Finally, there is a novel claim about parking that deserves more attention. The City claims that the Marion Parkade is actually full:
Marion Parkade has 1,063 parking spaces. In 2016, the number of monthly parking permits sold for the Parkade ranged from 381 to 448, and the number of daily permits sold ranged from 42 to 469. Permit sales volume in 2016 peaked before Christmas at 448 monthly permits and 469 daily permits, for a combined total of 917. Reallocating the 100 spaces eliminated from an onsite parking structure to the Marion Parkade would result in a total of 1,017 permits during the peak holiday season. This would leave only 46 spaces designated specifically for free customer parking, which the businesses pay for through the parking district tax.

Demand at the Marion Parkade continues to rise. Average occupancy (the combination of permitted spaces and occupied free parking spaces) in the parkade increased from 73 percent in Fiscal Year 2013–14 to 89 percent in fiscal year 2016-17.
Our parking garages have plenty of room, only half-full
according to the latest audit
What the heck does this mean? The annual Parking Audit and Report that was just presented to the City says the Marion Parkade is only 47.4% full at peak - not 89% full.

One of these figures must be wrong.

(I'm inclined to think that the figure was arrived at by adding numbers of permits, and not actually counting occupied stalls. Or some kind of double-counting.)

If somehow the numbers are complementary, not contradictory, then we need a much more robust analytical narrative to explain why, as this could have tremendous implications for our current debate on appropriately pricing parking downtown.

In the end, from the tone and and amount of information in the supplemental Staff Report, it's hard to avoid the feeling that the City is still trying to manipulate the conversation in favor of the largest facility possible at the expense of other critical services, and remains uninterested in looking at what is best for Salem generally, how a new Police Station really fits into our city and relates to other needs.

Maybe we need to give up on a May ballot measure, and spend a little more time making sure we have a winning and equitable proposal on the November ballot.

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