Monday, June 12, 2017

First Draft of Lansing-NESCA Plan at Tuesday Open House

The first complete draft of the Lansing-NESCA Neighborhood Plan is out, and they'll be having an Open House on it tomorrow the 13th.

Draft Lansing-NESCA Plan
The first thing that comes to mind, though, is Why? Why do we write them?

The introduction says in part:
This Plan is intended to be used by all those who have interest in the character, livability and future development of NESCA and Lansing, including local officials, neighborhood and community groups, developers, property owners, public agencies and others. Specifically, the Plan will serve as a basis for NESCA and Lansing’s recommendations to any City board, commission or agency. Likewise, City boards, commissions and agencies will consider this neighborhood plan when making decisions or recommendations that would affect the neighborhoods. The City Council may also consider this neighborhood plan before making any final decision about the acquisition, construction or improvement of public facilities in the two neighborhoods....

Goals and policies contained in this Plan are consistent with the Comprehensive Plan and statewide land use planning goals. They, along with the goals, shall be the basis for NESCA and Lansing’s recommendations to any City board, commission or agency. Likewise, they shall be considered by City boards, commissions and agency staff in making any decision or recommendation which would affect the neighborhoods of NESCA and Lansing....

Recommended actions are adopted as support documents to the Comprehensive Plan and serve as policy guides. They are not consistent with the Comprehensive Plan. The listing of recommended actions in this Plan does not obligate the City to accomplish them. The City, property owners and applicants for development, however, are encouraged to consider and incorporate recommended actions into projects in or adjacent to NESCA and Lansing. Some recommended actions call for changes citywide.
All of the language here is couched in advisory terms: "recommendations," "consider," "may consider," "encouraged to consider." "The listing of recommended actions in this Plan does not obligate the City to accomplish them."

There is nothing binding or very strong in all this.

As we have seen when matters have reached LUBA on the prospect of a cemetery path, on parking and trees at the Blind School, and now on the Salem River Crossing, when high-level policy like Neighborhood Plans and Comprehensive Plans are not further instantiated and codified in City Code, there is little or nothing enforceable in them.

So why do we go through all this staff time and public time to create a document that is not effective in any real way? When at a Public Hearing citizens appeal to the policies in a neighborhood plan or in the Comprehensive Plan, when citizens think these policies are serious utterances of intent, it turns out that Council can freely ignore them. They are not seriously intended policy statements after all. Crucially, we don't have to do what we say we're going to do or what we want to do.

So then is the primary purpose of a neighborhood plan to try to shift public opinion a little? Is it mainly a messaging and engagement tool rather than a way to develop actual, enforceable policy?

And if so, then all this time and effort is expended to create a policy document that is totally optional, and isn't this an instance and kind of Public Participation Theater?

The actual role of the Neighborhood Plan as any kind of effective policy statement is murky.

Putting aside the actual effectiveness of the Plan, there are several interesting and valuable recommendations in it:

On Housing
A3.1. The development of lower-density and infill housing, such as duplexes, triplexes, cottage housing, townhouses, and accessory dwelling units, shall be encouraged throughout the neighborhood when scaled and designed to remain compatible with surrounding single-family residential areas. (NESCA-Lansing)

A3.3. The City should establish a new local street standard that would provide an alternative to private accessways for infill land divisions. The new street standard would be a public street that is narrower than a regular local street, and it could be publicly maintained. (citywide)

A3.4. Additional housing should be encouraged adjacent to parks to provide more surveillance of parks by neighbors. (see related policy P.7.3.) (NESCA-Lansing)

A3.5. Mixed-use development, which incorporates both residential and commercial use within the one development, should be encouraged on existing commercial corridors and major streets, such as Market Street NE, Lancaster Drive NE, Silverton Road NE, Center Street NE, and Hawthorne Avenue NE. (NESCA-Lansing)

A3.6. A broad range of housing options should be made available for seniors, such as multi-family residential, mixed-use, and residential care housing (Figure 17). This housing should be located and designed to provide for the needs of seniors, such as close proximity to transit, medical care, and commercial services. (NESCA-Lansing)
On Commercial Development
A4.1 The City should encourage new and redeveloped commercial properties to place buildings up to the sidewalk to promote safe pedestrian access and active pedestrian environments. Off-street parking should be placed behind or to the side of buildings, and onstreet parking should be utilized when available. (NESCA-Lansing)

A4.6 The City should allow small-scale, neighborhood-serving retail businesses, restaurants, and cafes to be located in residential neighborhoods in NESCA and Lansing, provided that potential adverse impacts on existing homes such as noise and traffic are mitigated. Such businesses should be limited to streets that are designated as arterials or collectors in the Salem Transportation System Plan and to locations where existing transportation issues have been addressed. For example, neighborhood commercial uses could be located on the vacant property at the southeast corner of Lansing Avenue NE and Silverton Road NE, or on property at or near the intersection of Lansing Avenue NE and Sunnyview Road NE (Figure 21). The design of neighborhood businesses should be compatible in scale and design with the surrounding residential neighborhood. For example, existing homes could potentially be reused as small-scale businesses. (NESCA-Lansing)
On Transportation

The whole Transportation chapter has some solid items, and is worth reading in full. Here are several excerpts:
P5.2 The City should enhance D Street NE and Sunnyview Road NE as key east-west pedestrian and bicycle routes by installing or improving pedestrian and bicycle facilities as identified in the TSP. These routes should connect to nearby destinations such as the commercial area on Lancaster Drive NE. NESCA and Lansing consider these improvements priority projects for their neighborhoods. (See related policy P11.2 and related action A11.2) (NESCA-Lansing)

P5.3 Continuous north-south pedestrian and bicycle routes should be developed to and through NESCA and Lansing to improve connectivity between destinations inside and outside of the neighborhoods. Destinations include neighborhood schools, Chemeketa Community College, downtown Salem, the Kroc Center, and commercial areas. (see related action A10.2 and related policy P4.2) (NESCA-Lansing)

A5.1 Improvements to bicycle and pedestrian facilities on D Street NE should be prioritized over improvements for vehicular travel. This should include installing buffered bike lanes where space allows. (see related action A6.1) (NESCA-Lansing)

A5.8 The speed limit should be reduced on Hawthorne Avenue NE north of Sunnyview Road NE and on key bicycle and pedestrian routes. (NESCA-Lansing)

A6.1 D Street NE and 23rd Street NE should not be widened to accommodate more vehicle traffic. (NESCA-Lansing)
The Open House runs from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 on Tuesday the 13th at Salem First Church of the Nazarene, at 1550 Market Street NE.

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