Saturday, February 10, 2018

City Council, February 12th - Low-Income Housing

Council meets on Monday, and there's a cluster of items involving low-income housing.

But is Fisher Road Walkable Really?

The Urban Renewal Agency proposes to buy a building for low-income housing on Fisher Road. (They also propose to enlarge the nearby Urban Renewal Zone around Portland Road with an exquisite gerrymander in order to secure additional funding.)

4107 Fisher Road NE
From the Staff report it looks like the property's developer was distressed and unable to finance completion:
The Salem Housing Authority (SHA) has identified a 19,336 square foot multi-family building located at 4107 Fisher Road NE (constructed 2014) and adjacent 0.58 acre parcel of vacant land located at 4075 Fisher Road NE (Property) (Attachment 1) as an affordable site to acquire for housing using. Using a “housing first” model, the building will house and offer comprehensive services to residents....The building was built to house a senior citizen population in 19 suites on three floors in addition to a full commercial kitchen and first floor flex space, but was never occupied. The Property is within a mile of education, grocery, and medical facilities, and within walking distance to bus lines via walking and bicycle paths along major roadways.

The building is 80% complete, with the second and third floors in roughed-in condition and ready for finish work. The elevator shaft is in place, but requires installation of the elevator car and mechanicals. SHA plans to complete the finish work and convert the building to 38 single-room occupancy units with one restroom for every two units. SHA will seek resources from Oregon Housing and Community Services to finish the building and pursue a land banking tool for acquisition of the vacant land.
"walking paths"? - via Streetview
I-5, Lancaster, and Silverton Road together isolate this site
(Salem bike map: Bike lanes in blue; low-traffic streets in green;
yellow, orange, and red for increasingly high-stress roads)
But Fisher Road is zoomy and unfinished. You might remember that in their recent "Needs Assessment," Cherriots recommended passing on restoring service for Fisher Road because of "the lack of sidewalks," which you can see in the 4100 block of Fisher Road above. Back in December Council received a report on speeding on Fisher Road. And last year a drunk driver struck and gave fatal injuries to Sandra Hill while she was getting her mail on Fisher Road in a segment farther south also without sidewalks. Walkscore rates this address as "car-dependent" (but likely overrates its bikeability; the bike lanes are flat, but streets are zoomy). Fisher Road is problematic, uncomfortable, and even dangerous for those not in cars. The nearest east-west connection on Silverton Road totally lacks bike lanes. Lancaster has bike lanes but it's terrible.
Fisher Road: Needs Sidewalks
This is an example of the way a City rhetoric of "walking and bicycle paths along major roadways" is insufficiently related to facts on the ground, instead floating freely as words with their own autonomous being, likely derived from lines and crow-fly distance on a map, or from driving instead of actually walking or biking for first-hand knowledge. It's abstract and theoretical, not empirical.

So on the one hand, any housing is useful, but on the other hand if this address really is going to be part of an effective "housing first" strategy, more consideration ought to be given to how those without a car will actually get around. This is still too much of an expression for compulsory autoism. We exile people to the car-dependent edges instead of putting them at the comfortably walkable center of useful things.

Council will also approve the first round of low-income housing property tax exemptions:
  • Four Oaks Housing, 1051-1099 23rd Street SE,
  • Oakhill Associates, 3837 12th Ave,
  • Sunnyslope Associates, 1000 Cunningham Lane, and
  • Wallerwood LP, 1150 Waller Street
More Disconnects on Transportation?

As part of the Portland Road project, the City proposes to buy a wedge of land on which a car dealership had been operating. The parcel is between Portland Road and Silverton Road at Pine Street. The City proposes to pay $1.2 million for it.
The northern portion of the Property is the site of the proposed Pine Street NE extension related to the potential realignment of the Portland Road NE/Silverton Road NE intersection. The location of the intersection improvement and the Property are located within the North Gateway Urban Renewal Area and the Pine Street extension is listed as a project in the Urban Renewal Area Plan. When the Seller was completing due diligence to sell the Property, the Pine Street NE extension was discovered to be a hindrance to the marketability of the Property. The Seller contacted the City and requested that the potential right-of-way be purchased and removed from the Urban Renewal Plan or the entire property to be purchased.

The Urban Renewal Agency proposes to buy an awkward wedge
The idea of realigning the Pine Street intersection is concerning. By straightening out Pine Street to be more in line with Silverton Road, that will likely make Pine Street even zoomier. (I see "rationalizing" the intersection the same way the Charlie Foxtrot at Front, Commercial, and Division rationalized that intersection.)

At the same time, on the Winter-Maple bikeway, we are trying to calm and slow elements of Pine Street.

From the final Winter-Maple Bikeway recommendations
These two moves appear, on the surface anyway, to be at cross-purposes.

As a related digression, a reader sent along this interesting map and table. At next week's meeting of the Oregon Transportation Commission, ODOT is formally presenting on "2017 Oregon Traffic Safety Performance Plan" and in the presentation is a top 10 list of most dangerous city streets.

Salem is Second Worst!
Oregon's Ten Most Dangerous Cities for Speed Related Crashes
(Inset and yellow highlight added)
ODOT presentation to OTC
And Salem is infamous at Number Two! (ODOT and the OTC are unlikely to take real action, as that would mean driving less often, driving shorter distances, and driving slower speeds, very little of which ODOT and the OTC seem willing to contemplate in serious and systemic ways.)

Other Matters

More positively, back to Council agenda, there's a report about sole-source bidding on the Railroad Quiet Zone projects:
The original cost estimate for UPRR work was $1,122,337. The final actual cost was $701,527, which is 37 percent below the original estimate.
This work was done well after the peak of the Great Recession and is probably not just the artifact of unemployment and depressed construction activity. So that successful outcome from non-competitive bidding is something to note.

On the update from the Legislative Committee, there is no specific mention of the Cap & Invest concepts. Last time out on January 8th, Council adopted a non-specific endorsement of greenhouse gas legislation ("Establishing ongoing, comprehensive and robust program partnerships and commitments to the support of reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in our community"), and this time they are not following-up with any specific comment on specific bills. That's a somewhat disappointing omission and refusal on the next step. Council does formally support appointed, rather than elected, transit boards. This bill would give Cherriots greater flexibility on funding mechansisms.

Looks like we'll be getting a new piece of public art, this time to commemorate the bottle bill of 1971. There is no location or artist yet designated, but the Oregon Environmental Council is donating $15,000 and the City will chip in another $15,000.

It's hard to know what to think of this. The last two murals, Mirror Maze and Waldo Stewards, cost $25,000 each. According to the Register-Guard,
The 2016 and 2017 mural effort, called the 20x21EUG Mural Project, has spent about $57,500 in public funds on 11 large public murals and 15 smaller pieces of public art, according to the city. An additional roughly $25,000 was provided by businesses or other private entities in money or goods.
On the one hand, it's true that we undervalue art. So maybe it is mean and cheap to question these amounts. But on the other hand, it sure seems like Eugene is getting a much higher return on their public art monies.

And bullets for the rest:


Susann Kaltwasser said...

Councilor Hoy has been working on making Fisher Road safer, and there will be a few changes coming. Two new stop signs along the section from Silverton Road and Sunnyview. But no new sidewalks and that is disappointing because of all the trucks that use that road.

It is going to get worse too because next year the City plans to put through the connection of Fisher Road to Market Street, coming out in front of Fred Meyer. This has been on the books for some years and while it was not really supported locally, it was part of the old plant to restore the connection when I-5 was widened in the 1990s. Staff said it is needed so delivery trucks can use Fisher Road and avoid Lancaster Drive.

Some wanted to have the project delayed or reconsidered and use the funds to put sidewalks on Fisher Road. City staff refused. So, now it is unclear how and when this street will be upgraded.

Sad to see that a much needed improvement of sidewalks for safety is put behind making a connection that is not urgent can make the area even less safe due to more trucks.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Here's a brief note and map from 2015 (down at the end of it) on the Fisher Road connection Susann references. Market Street there is just an absolute charlie foxtrot with all the width, speed, ramp connections to I-5, and Fred Meyer ingress/egress. It is also very near where the Crosslands were killed.

Unknown said...

Why is the City of Salem so keen to have delivery trucks use Fisher Rd instead of Lancaster? We should focus on keeping trucks out of residential areas especially off dangerous roads like Fisher.

This is a problem in Northeast Salem in general. When we lived on Park Ave we saw the same thing. Between Market and Sunnyview the street has no sidewalks and consists entirely of houses and apartments. We regularly saw trucks driving down the street and traffic regularly exceeded the posted 25 MPH speed limit.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

At Councilor McCoid's request, Council reconsidered the Lone Oak Road Reimbursement District. Hinessight has some additional commentary. The issue will come back, and there might be more to say when it reappears on the Council agenda.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

CANDO has more on the Fisher Road housing project:

"SHA plans to complete the building (80% complete in 2014) and convert it to a 38-unit single-room occupancy (SRO) facility for those in need of permanent supportive housing....SHA, Salem Health, WVCH (the local CCO) and North-west Human Services are discussing the possibility of putting a medical respite care facility on the first floor of the Fisher Road facility....Currently, Salem Health can sometimes cover the cost of a few days stay in a motel room, but otherwise must discharge homeless patients to the street."