Thursday, August 10, 2017

LUBA Tepidly Remands SRC Decision back to City

By now you will have already heard that LUBA remanded the Salem River Crossing UGB expansion back to City Council.

The decision, however, is not a strong one, and it is interesting to see the autoist bias expressed in affirming procedural and technical details.

If the "spirit" of the law is to reduce drive-alone trips, LUBA makes no attempt to evaluate by the intent or spirit of the law, and instead finds that any fig leaf for compliance will do in order to protect autoist interests.

The matter that has seemed most interesting here is the question, "what does it mean to 'implement' something?"

LUBA finds that the need to implement things other than highway expansion first "is not as absolute as petitioners argue." They also find that as long as the benchmarks or standards are vague enough, there is nothing to challenge.

On "implement" and Policy 1G

On benchmarks
As a consequence, our advocacy task is to beef up our standards and benchmarks. For example, our milquetoast adopted standard is bike lane coverage on 70% of designated streets by 2030. Apparently a more solid appeal procedure would have pointed to a specific failure to meet this or other adopted standards.
Adopted benchmarks - Comprehensive Plan
We simply have to beef these up. You may recall the obstinacy of the City in resisting better benchmarks in a tug-of-war with DLCD between 2002 - 2009.

I don't know how much of a nefarious motive to ascribe to the City in that battle, but the basis of LUBA's decision, and apparent inability to find more strongly for petitioners, is in no small way the direct fruit of the City's obstinacy. The City adopted standards so low and weak that there would never be a way to find that they City had failed to meet them. Independent of and prior to the SRC process, the City planted the seeds for this over a decade ago.

The City could embrace these standards more passionately
If we want the City to make better decisions, and if we want more solid legal mechanisms by which to hold them accountable, we need to have better benchmarks and standards that directly express in tangible and measurable ways we seek to "reduce reliance on the SOV."

Right now we have way too much fudge factor, greenwash, and fig leaf.

Back to the LUBA decision, it is interesting that even as they admitted the City's process was "a very compressed period of time," no adopted procedure required the City to give more time. 

On the time-line
LUBA was also not interested in a critique of traffic modeling. Because the traffic model is a black box, it would have taken quite a discovery and analysis process to meet their requirement to "point to any evidence that contradicts or undercuts the city's traffic model." We know there are in general problems with it, but apparently LUBA demands a very detailed understanding and critique of its guts. And right now the modelers protect it and mystify its operations and outputs, and that kind of critique is not possible.

On traffic modeling
So those are some first impressions. The decision is not yet posted to LUBA's website, and once it is, this post will be updated. As more people have a chance to read it and discuss it, perhaps there will be other things to say.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The LUBA decision is now on their website...