Friday, February 24, 2017

City Council, February 27th - Delay at Boise, Library Seismic Deferred

As an expression of our current Zeitgeist, the splitting of a Civic Center bond into multiple pieces looks apt. This Monday Council meets and looks to ratify the decision for a "divide and conquer" approach. They'll put at least two bonds on the ballot separately.
1) Adopt Resolution No. 2017-18 calling for a measure election to be held on May 16, 2017, in the amount of $61.8 million, to finance the development of a new public safety facility

2) Adopt Resolution No. 2017-19 calling for a measure election to be held on November 7, 2017, in the amount of $15.3 million to finance seismic and building safety improvements to the Library
the Library is
an effective symbol
The charitable reading of maximum sincerity is that Council really believes the city will rally behind the Library in November, even in a likely face-off with (or against) a Public Schools bond.

At least from here, the more likely reading is that peeling off the Library work greatly reduces its prospects, and allows the City to bump up the scope and cost of the Police Facility.

At the level of symbol, it is a "Know-Nothing" statement for more Law and Order at the expense of Knowledge. Like it or not, it says something about our priorities.

Bundling and mutually leveraging the needs seemed like the best chance for a right-sized Police Station and for desperately needed seismic work on the Library and City Hall. It also acknowledged trade-offs.

Now we'll likely see a "Yes, but" campaign like Cherriots faced in the fall of 2015: "Oh, we support the Library, but this is the wrong time/cost/tax..."

You might disagree, but it's hard to be hopeful about chances now on seismic work for City Hall and the Library. We will have funded and built years 20-40 of a future Police Station, which will be vacant for the first 20 years, at the expense of a seismic retrofit for the Library and City hall, useful right now. Building extra empty space for future growth to deny other urgent needs is utterly baffling. [Revised for clarity]

Other Things

Past the Library and Police Station, there are several of smaller things of interest.

Delay at Boise

Developers on the Marquis Nursing Home are filing a formal delay on the project.

Several dates will be pushed out for a period of two years. From a revised Grant Agreement with the Urban Renewal Agency:
Developer agrees to use its commercially reasonable efforts to acquire the Land upon terms reasonably satisfactory to Developer, to obtain a commitment (the “Financing Commitment”) for financing of construction of the Project from a lender and upon term s reasonably satisfactory to Developer, and to begin construction of the Project, all on or before March 1, 2016 March 1, 2018 , and, subject to Unavoidable Delays, to substantially complete construction by March 30, 2017 March 1, 2019. For the avoidance of doubt, Developer’s failure to complete construction by March 30, 2017 March 1, 2019 due to Unavoidable Delays shall not be a default by Developer.
It also appears to loosen the criteria for a formal declaration of "default."

The Staff Report notes
The delay in project commencement was due to previously unknown site and soil conditions on the former Boise site, specifically unknown foundation and fill material that was recently discovered. Additionally, time was needed to address engineering concerns that were raised regarding the existing retaining wall along the south side of the site and its ability to withstand the load of the new construction.
Two observations immediately jump out:
  • Is anyone surprised? It has seemed always like there was a consistent pressure or tendency to underestimate the scope of contamination and other problematic site conditions at Boise.
  • This may be evidence that the Urban Renewal Subsidies on the project have been necessary to make the project happen at all. (It really will not be possible to render a final judgement until after the project is done. It may be that the total subsidy is less generous than it has sometimes seemed. Perhaps Park Front will also encounter difficulties.)
Hopefully more will come out about this.

Quarterly Economic Development Update

The "Quarterly update on economic development activities" is still super lame.

For example, about a useful new project of outreach to business, and expanding it from North Gateway to Fairview Industrial, it says:
In late 2016 information was mailed to 67 businesses in the Fairview URA, resulting in 36 direct contacts. More information can be found at
But at that "more information" url there is nothing about the 67 businesses/36 contacts! This outreach is a genuinely good new development by the City, and they hide a real discussion of it.

The report is just blather, a recitation of generalities and nothing very useful for actually assessing business development.

Big Project on Lancaster

There is an information report on a large development on Lancaster, tucked in between I-5 and Lancaster, south of Mission and Home Depot, for
a phased development consisting of (1) a 20,320 square foot warehouse, (2) a 12,000 square foot office, (3) a 24,000 square foot warehouse, and (4) a 12,000 square foot office...
2685 Lancaster Dr SE is a quarry and pond!
It's a quarry and pond now, and so I guess there will be lots of fill, though the matter at hand is only for 43 of the total 155 acres. It will be interesting to see how quickly they phase it, and who the tenants will be.

A Curious House and Lot on Eola

If you live in or often visit West Salem, you might recall this house on Eola Drive at the T-intersection with Kingwood Drive. As part of the road work on Eola, the City purchased it and demolished it.

1890 Eola Drive - Gone!
Now the City says the land is surplus and wants to sell it:
The City of Salem acquired the property located at 1890 Eola Drive NW...on May 16, 2012, for $255,006 as part of the Eola Drive Corridor Safety Improvement Project. At the time of acquisition, the Property contained a single family house. The house was incompatible with the improvements and was razed. Traffic signal infrastructure and a parking pad are currently located on the Property...

Staff completed an in-house opinion of value and determined the unencumbered market value of the Property to be $45,600. As the Property will be encumbered by a permanent easement for the traffic signal infrastructure and deed restriction preventing automobile access to Eola Drive NW, staff has determined that market value of the Property as encumbered is $25,000.
So this lot doesn't have a driveway - and won't have a driveway. There's no on-street parking in front of it. But it's still zoned for single family residential. Is this an opportunity for car-free housing? Does it just get bolted on to someone's adjacent yard? $25,000 for a community garden is much too expensive! What do you do with it? It will be interesting to see.

Defederalizing the Union @ Commercial Project

It's hard to understand exactly what is going on here. Supposedly it's a swap of State funds for Federal funds as a way to reduce cost and red tape:
The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has recently re-established the Locally Delivered State Funded Project Program that provides a fund exchange mechanism to “de-federalize” Federal-aid funded projects with construction budgets under $1 million....

Staff has estimated that approximately $50,000 of total project cost will be saved on the project by eliminating the additional federal reporting and administrative requirements.
That sounds good, but it would be interesting to learn what exactly is being eliminated. It it a way to avoid "prevailing wages"? Are there environmental requirements that are being deleted? And what will now be funded with the portion of the Federal funds - what's the other side of the swap? The lack of detail is just a little fishy!

Last fall there was talk the funds might get allocated to highway work. It seems like they should instead be allocated to another multi-modal project that was not principally aimed at driving capacity.



Unknown said...

We have a new Mayor, new City Manager, and several new councilors. Why would you make assumptions regarding their motivations for splitting the two projects? If you watched the council meeting you would see a sincere deliberation about what the best strategy is to get both of these projects completed.

The Public Safety Facility has been cut by 25% whether the library was appended or not. Vacant space is not in the program. I fail to see how a seismically retrofitted Library would be more urgent than having an operational police force to aid our citizens when Cascadia happens.

I would follow the logic that we have many, many buildings in our community that need to be seismically upgraded. Most of those are our schools.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Who is making the claim that "a seismically retrofitted Library would be more urgent than having an operational police force"? I have never seen that claim anywhere, and certainly have not made it here.

The claim here is that a seismically retrofitted Library should be done at the same time, under the same bond, as a new Police Station and Civic Center retrofit. Together, with no one of them having priority. Co-equal in priority.

Re: "a new Mayor, new City Manager, and several new councilors"

Here: "The charitable reading of maximum sincerity is that Council really believes the city will rally behind the Library in November."

It is not possible to be certain about this. You may very well be right that this reading is best and right.

We won't know until November.

In the meantime, skepticism has seemed more prudent and realistic. In November 2015, Eugene barely passed a five year local option levy for their Library with 53%. Salemites haven't always been enthusiastic supporters of Library services, and the Chamber seems like they are unlikely to be very helpful. Will enough folks see a stand-alone Library bond as compelling? It has seemed like the best chance of funding this Library work was bundling it with the Police and Civic Center. But again, this is opinion, not fact or certainty.

(Your final graf, however, is perhaps discordant with the two previous. If "we have many, many buildings in our community that need to be seismically upgraded" why don't we do them all as thriftily as possible, including the Police Station? That way we can do more of the others also. In a world of limited resources, the Police Station is still sucking up too large a share. There are other prospective bond measures in the pipeline over the next several years, too. Recognizing the needs of schools as well as many other seismic needs in town, plus all the other things, might mean keeping the Police Station on the small side, value-engineering where prudent, and letting the next generation in 20 years deal with a new round of expansion if necessary.)

Unknown said...

Maybe I misread your statement, "Building empty space to deny other urgent needs is utterly baffling." I read this to say the urgency is equal between the two civic services in light of an impending earthquake. I apologize if you meant something different. However, this statement still has errors.

1. No empty space is proposed. This is a misconception pushed by those who disagree with the size of the facility. All are welcome to disagree with the architects, engineers, and police on the size. But, misinformation should be corrected.
2. " deny urgent needs..." This is a false dichotomy. We are not choosing between police and library. Maybe timing can be discussed. Planning for a new police facility has been ongoing for ten years. The Library has recently come into the conversation when a seismic study of the Civic Center Campus was undertaken as part of the police facility planning. At that time the decision was made to move away from a massive Civic Center upgrade due to the immense cost and probability of that bond passing.

Yes, both projects need to be done. Yes, ideally they would be done at the same time and under the same bond. This was the primary topic of the council's discussion Tuesday. Please watch if you haven't already. It may shed light on why the decision was made. And you may still disagree with the outcome.

Let's work to get the Library Bond passed. Chamber involvement may not be relevant. Your questions about the stand-alone bond are legitimate.

Yes, we have many needs and limited resources. Time will equalize the financial limitations. So prioritization has to occur. Schools, where our children spend the majority of their day would become a higher priority than a library but perhaps not higher than essential services.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Edit: revised "Building empty space to deny other urgent needs is utterly baffling."

Will return in the morning for more conversation and debate!

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

With regard to #1 on "empty space":

If we currently have 190 sworn officers, and use the consultant team's own "conservative" estimate of 400 square feet per officer, that yields a current facility need of 76,000 feet.

If we build a facility of 115,000 square feet, that leaves 39,000 square feet of surplus space.

At a growth rate of 1 officer per year, that's room for nearly 100 years; at a rate of 2 per year, that's nearly 50 years!

I realize these are not the current set of assumptions - Council and the Consultants have used a larger ratio per sworn officer.

The claim is not that this is the only or best analysis; the claim instead is that using the Consultant's own assumptions, it is reasonable to look at this proposal and still conclude that it is overbuilt in light of other pressing municipal needs that also require funding.

Regarding #2 on "empty space":

We don't have a good sense in debate - it seems in fact like debate is often framed to suppress - any notion of opportunity cost. If we do more of (spend more on) thing A, we will have to do less of things B, C, and D. We see this spectacularly on the Salem River Crossing. Library or Police Station is not a total dichotomy, it's true, but by doing more Police Station, we will find that we have to do less of something else - though we may not at present know what that thing is.

Unknown said...

400 SF/Officer is the very bottom of the acceptable range. The detailed recommended program can be found here:

Volume 2A provides a breakdown. After thorough review, let me know what should be cut.

Comparison to nearby communities would be a more logical exercise when trying to determine appropriate size.

Population: 37,000
Public Safety Facility: 29,000 SF

Population: 51,000
Public Safety Facility: 41,000 SF

Population: 90,000 SF
Public Safety Facility: 90,000 SF

Population: 160,000
Public Safety Facility: 110,000 - 115,000 SF

The real debate is probably not how many square feet the locker rooms should be. $61.8M may be the more likely point of contention.

John Hawkins said...

Thank you for your thoughtful comments about the proposed public safety facility. I appreciate your willingness to revise previously posted text for clarity. That practice is not always followed in the local blogosphere.
The city council clearly wants to fund library seismic in addition to the public safety building. A motion to put both issues in the same May ballot measure nearly passed. Sentiment on the council seemed to shift after that, based to some degree on public testimony from a citizen with experience in similar bond projects. Her comments about voters' preference for one issue vs. two or more issues on one ballot measure seemed to make a difference for councilors, who then voted unanimously to favor one measure in May and another in November. I think they also wanted to keep the May sticker price for public safety in the low 60s.
Like aterp1, I hope they both pass, and I will support the library work as I do the public safety building. This is not a zero-sum game. A vote for the police building is not taking away anything from the library project.

Rational Urbanist said...

Splitting the measures provides the best chance for success of both....

The $82 mil. measure failed. It seems to me that a $76 mil. combined measure would not provide enough savings or change the tax implications for the average voter enough to get them to change their vote. So would describe this as a proven failure. $15 mil. for City Hall and the Library seems like a very small ask when separated from the police facility.

The size of the facility seems inconsequential...

This debate started with a 75,000 sq. ft. facility which was strongly maligned by Salem Community Vision and others as an extravagant wasteful "police palace". Now we seem to have settled on 115,000 sq. ft. as a compromise--a near even split between the 75,000 sq. ft. starting point and the 148,000 sq. ft. bond proposal. How much more can realistically be saved by reducing the size any more? Not enough to make the bond any easier to sell to voters. Certainly not enough to mute SCV's opposition. Are there any other benefits to reducing the size of the police facility (other than reducing the amount of the bond by a very modest amount)? I don't think so. The remainder of the O'Brien parcel will not be developed with higher and better uses and the it will likely remain empty, unwanted, undeveloped space.

If the Police Bond succeeds it will put SCV in a very interesting position in November. Do they rally their resources to support the bond (and help the City's strategy succeed)? Or do they oppose it out of spite (and risk exposing their position on seismic improvements to City Hall and library as empty political posturing)?

Walker said...

Ok, fine, then let's put the library bond on first, and let the police bond go in November. Since you say it's all the same.

Rational Urbanist said...

Its not all the same. The Police Station is the higher priority.

Rational Urbanist said...

...Though that is an interesting thought. The opposition has tried very hard to conflate the two issues to create the appearance that the City is against seismic reinforcement of their own workspace and the library (The children!!! Think of the children!) Putting this measure first would force the opposition to oppose the very measure on which they have staked their moral claim. I'm not sure they would be willing to go this far (This would mostly depend on if seismic upgrades to City Hall are really their goal or if they just want to obstruct the City). Then, after settling the issue of City Hall and the Library, they (SCV, Salem Can Do Better,...whoever) would be forced to oppose the Police Station on its own merits.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Just in:

"At its September meeting, the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors considered and discussed the City of Salem's proposed bond measure to modernize and seismically retrofit the Salem Public Library.

Recognizing the high percentage of property in Salem that is not taxed, as well as the other bond measures and levies on the horizon, the Board, in keeping with Chamber policy that recognizes how bond measures directly impact business, elected to remain neutral on the library bond measure.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

There was no school bond, that being deferred until next May, and the Library bond passed with about 63% - so it all worked out in the end.