Sunday, June 11, 2017

City Council, June 12th - Parks and ADUs

Council meets on Monday, and mostly they look to be things to note in passing.

Maybe the most interesting thing is news on parks.

Proposed park parcel at the State Hospital Site
in magenta (serifed comments added)
After quite a bit of discussion and negotiation, the City looks to finalize the swap with the School District on some ambiguous park lots on school sites as well as arrange for the purchase of the northwest corner of the North Campus at the State Hospital for a park. Unless somebody comes up with a real shocker, it seems like these have been fully vetted now. It's nice to see the resolution.

Accessory Dwelling Units

There's a Public Hearing on granny flats and other Accessory Dwelling Units. Over on Facebook folks linked to a study of ADUs and parking, and found that ADUs did not create parking problems on neighborhood streets. The site collects other data, studies, and observations about ADUs and looks like a good resource! As others have pointed out several times, ADUs by themselves will not create a large new supply of housing. But as a very gentle, incremental action, they are useful and should be embraced.

There is some resistance to this on other grounds also. One neighborhood in the older streetcar era grid, and interested in exuding them from our historic districts, writes in formal comment,
If the intent is to encourage ADUs as a housing choice, they should be allowed only in new residential developments where all buyers know what they are buying into.
But this is ahistorical nonsense.

245 15th NE (Ashby Coach House of 1892) - via Zillow and MLS
The Clara Patterson Durbin House at 245 15th Street NE smack dab in the Court-Chemeketa Historic District is a "garage conversion"! About it the District Nomination says:
[T]his queen Anne structure was designed by the architect Charles Burggraf as the coach house for the Howard Ashby House....the two structures were sold to Frank and Clemma Durbin in 1898. The Durbins converted the coach house to a residence—perhaps c. 1905, when they also built two small cottages on lots across 15th Street. In 1923, the Durbins had Lot 6 surveyed and created a separate small lot from the 36.6 feet at the north side of the lot. This with the remodelled coach house was sold to Clara Churchill Patterson in 1927, the year the Durbins sold the large house to the Roens. [link added, some internal citations omitted]
Even in our historic districts there is a pattern of the gentle increase in housing, including ADUs and ADU conversions, and we are wrong to try to exclude them today as if they violate some formal "integrity" in a neighborhood. Historic neighborhoods were dynamic, and the urge to ossify them is presentist, not historical.

The Budget

Finally, the Budgets. There will be a Public Hearing on them for the City and the Urban Renewal Agency.

I don't understand how this is being set up. Here's the whole of the information for the Urban Renewal Agency:

The URA recommended budget
That's it. That's all the information the City's made available for a formal Public Hearing! How can you draw any conclusions?!

The information on the City is larger, but also sparse.

I guess the idea is that everything was aired and adequately discussed in the Budget Committee meetings. But why have a Public Hearing here then?

Holding an actual Public Hearing on the budgets with that level of detail is just not possible. You already have to know stuff. This is Public Participation Theater, isn't it?

On the City side, there are several letters supporting a shift in Marine Drive to a more northerly segment and away from the part along Wallace Marine Park and adjacent to Pioneer Village. But if you didn't already know about this debate, you wouldn't be able to find sufficient detail in the materials the City has posted to understand it.

There are going to be some final amendments for June 26th, but the materials here don't say what they are going to be. This is all too mysterious and opaque.

The Conference Center

One interesting thing is that the Conference Center shows a $438,000 deficit in the URA budget (see table above).

As it did in 2012.

Conference Center Operating Loss from 2012

And in 2013.

Conference Center's Operating Loss for 2013
But according to a 2013 report, the Convention Center "has operated in the black from the beginning."

"in the black"? - Conference Center update
How exactly does that work? It sure looks like magic from here. Either the City's misleading on the operating deficits at the Conference Center, or there's some accounting explanation that should get more visibility.

(You may recall that this spring, two of the findings by the consultant in the Strategic Planning process touched on relevant matters:
  • Finding 3. Elected officials and staff do not have coordinated systems to make, implement, and evaluate policy decisions
  • Finding 4. The City needs more staff capacity to implement a coordinated package of forecasting, planning, and evaluation systems)
Bullets for the rest:

Crap. Here we go. Now we have a fully articulated bikes vs. cars theme:

Mischaracterizing a proposal for the Marine Drive ROW
The concept was to bank the right-of-way as a soft path until such time as the collector-sized road could be built. It was a temporary move for an unused resource.

The "diversion" that the West Salem Neighborhood is proposing is for the right-of-way for a fully built "local collector" street - which is an ambiguous descriptor, but means the collector-rated street that is in the TSP, not an arterial-sized OR-22 connector, and a segment of Marine Drive that actually connects today to roads.

WSNA: Purchase and build this, not the south part along the Park
So this will be interesting to watch.


Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Added note on "bike path to nowhere."

Susann Kaltwasser said...

Took a while to dig out the price of the park on the old North Camus of the Stat eHospital. Looks like $231,000 an acre and they expect the purchase to be between 7 and 8 acres. A lot of money for a park that Rep. Brian Clem once said we could get for $1 from the State.

Can some someone confirm that price?

The Master Plan for McKay Park estimated that it would take about $5 million for a restoration of that entire park with soccer fields, baseball and basket ball areas plus bathrooms and a child play area.

If this purchase is made for $1.6 million just for a bare field, I'm not very impressed.

When I was able to get Salem to buy the land for Weathers Park it cost $100,000 and acre and I though that was outrageous.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Yeah, the purchase agreement says "The purchase price for the Property (the “Purchase Price”) is Two hundred thirty-one thousand dollars per acre ($231,000)" and says the total area is around 7 acres.

If Rep. Clem really meant that about $1 - what's changed?

It's interesting the Staff Report and additional materials includes no comment from the Parks Board. Do they also think it is too expensive and would take up too great a share of parks monies?

It had seemed like folks were on board, but perhaps you are right that it is too costly.

Jeff Schumacher said...

You are correct that the Ashby Coach House built in 1892 is a beautiful example of a garage conversion. And with that example, you completely dismiss SCAN's opposition to ADUs in historical districts.

SCAN looked at this issue pretty closely. First, it is clear that ADUs are not a solution to Salem's housing shortage. They may be an "incremental action" and have some usefulness, but their overall value to Salem's housing stock does not outweigh our neighbors' objections to them.

Second, citing a beautiful house that was well cared for and apparently designed by an architect of some note is fine - but there are many homeowners and/or investors that will not be so conscientious when given the opportunity to add an ADU. We think it is important that ADUs should be allowed only when done to a high standard. Obviously that would discourage many from doing ADUs but given that ADUs aren't solving a city-wide problem to any great extent we are comfortable with that trade-off.

Obviously ADUs won't destroy a neighborhood, but neither will they solve the existing problem of a housing shortage. I think SCAN analyzed this issue carefully, and while our position might be overly cautious I would maintain that your position is overly optimistic.

All of that aside, my larger complaint is that the City Council undertook ADUs in the face of incredibly low vacancy rates in Salem. ADUs would barely register as a drop in the bucket compared to rezoning land for more density.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

That's a fair summary of disagreement!

And you are absolutely right that rezoning would have been a much stronger first move than ADUs.

For more on skepticism about Historic Districts, see "Defense against Developer Dark Arts" here, and more recently in Portland a related criticism, "True historic preservation would respect the homes of poor people, too: A state law aims to prevent historic districts from being perverted into a war on diverse housing."

From that latter piece: "History is awesome, when it’s accurate.

That’s exactly why it’s a problem when “historic districts” start being used not to open a window on a city’s shared history, but as a back-door way to prevent changes to the buildings in desirable neighborhoods."

The argument here is that Historic Districts have morphed into attempts to insulate neighborhoods, usually prosperous ones, from change and don't do a very good job of honoring history or responding to the fact that even over primary "periods of significance," the neighborhoods we now call Historic Districts were themselves dynamic and responsive to market conditions and changing demographics.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

And fresh today, over at Strong Towns, "Historic Preservation: NIMBYism for the Rich?"

"Historic preservation is an important objective, but the more we preserve some places, the more our cities feel pressure to develop others. Unless the scale of historic preservation is restricted to those buildings and areas that are of true significance, the result is likely to be an even more constrained supply of housing, which is likely to worsen affordability problems."