Sunday, March 25, 2018

City Council, March 26th - Fenced Superblock on the old Lindbeck Orchard

Council meets on Monday, and they'll be reconsidering the creation of a Lone Oak Reimbursement District.  That's already got attention and debate, and at Council it'll certainly get more. But an approval for a fenced compound with apartments above Orchard Heights Park is a little odd and worth some comment.

The north-south axis is longer than 600 feet
and the project needs more east-west connectivity
(comments in red added)
This is the old Lindbeck Orchard site, and there have already been a couple of rounds of development. This latest is for 31 buildings and 322 apartments arranged in a ring on a private drive and parking lot, all enclosed by a fence. It looks like a kind of gated community. Between the fencing and the lack of public streets, there are questions about connectivity.

Enclosed by a fence
On fencing, it remains a sad feature of the project that it will be closed off to the sidewalks and neighborhood by a fence. It may be that we should consider adjusting code on complexes whose entries face inner parking lots rather than the public sidewalks and streets.
702.025(a)(2) – Safety Features for Residents.
(A) Fences, walls, and plant materials shall not be installed between street-facing dwelling units and public or private streets in locations that obstruct the visibility of dwelling unit entrances from the street. For purposes of this standard, “obstructed visibility” means the entry is not in view from the street along one-half or more of the dwelling unit's frontage.

Dwelling unit entryways face interior to the development site, not towards the abutting streets, therefore, this standard is not applicable.
But it's not just visibility that's an issue. The fence and its relation to streets leads to a question about superblocks and connectivity.

844 by 572 feet on Linwood and Orchard Heights
The decision gives perimeter dimensions that appear to violate our intent for street connections and gridding:
The subject property has approximately 844 feet of buildable frontage along Linwood Street NW....[and] The subject property has approximately 572 feet of buildable frontage along Orchard Heights Road NW...
According to SRC 803.030 (a):
Streets shall have a maximum spacing of 600 feet from right-of-way line to right-of way line along one axis, and not less than 120 feet and not more than 400 feet from right-of-way line to right-of-way line along the other axis.
There are several exceptions to this, and it may be that Orchard Heights park constitutes such an exception. Still, text search of the decision finds reference only to 803.035 and not 803.030, and it does not look like this approval criteria has been addressed directly. All of the analysis is about driveway spacing, not about street spacing.

At the very least, the spirit of our street spacing requirements is violated by the length along Linwood Street. The whole of the north-south axis for the project is much longer than 600 feet, and it seems like there should be a public street oriented east-west connecting with Linwood so there are two block faces on Linwood shorter than 600 feet. The other axis is longer than 400 feet. (It's also true if you rotate the analysis 90 degrees; along Orchard Heights there is also the park, so between Westhaven and Linwood is more than 600 feet. But it's connectivity with Linwood that seems more important.)

Neighbors had asked whether "The applicant should acquire right-of-way and construct a street connection extending Harritt Drive NW to Linwood Street, providing another road connectin onto Wallace Road NW." The City said that requiring the acquisition of right-of-way was excessive.

But what about a public street connection to Harritt Drive (or to the park) internal to the development, needing no acquisition? And if this is not in fact necessary, why isn't there a section of analysis in the approvals that addresses the matter of the 600 foot limit? We don't allow cul-de-sacs with this spacing, why a gated and fenced apartment complex?

This seems like a real omission.

Zooming out a little on traffic, the City's really digging in on a posture of "You don't want a bridge? Fine, we'll show you life without a bridge!"
1) Several of the comments received objected to the amount of additional traffic the proposed development will add to an already congested area and suggested that issues with traffic congestion on the existing bridges be resolved before any new development is approved in West Salem.

Staff Response:
The cumulative impacts of development in West Salem has been thoroughly discussed in the Salem River Crossing Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Until additional capacity is added over the Willamette River, West Salem will continue to have traffic issues on Wallace Road NW. The Marion Street and Center Street Bridges are the “bottle neck” that everyone must travel through to get to the east side of the Willamette River. There are currently over 100,000 vehicles per day that cross the bridges, many of those vehicles are commuters that live or work in other communities and must use these bridges to get to their destinations.

Wallace Road NW through West Salem is under the jurisdiction of the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT). Any major improvement to increase capacity along the corridor would need to be clearly identified in the Salem Transportation System Plan (TSP) and in Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Governments Regional Transportation System Plan. Currently, the plans identify the extension of Marine Drive NW as a project to help with capacity issues, but do not identify any other improvements to Wallace Road NW.

Halting development in an area of the city would require City Council to declare a “Moratorium of Construction or Land Development.” The State of Oregon has a specific process that local jurisdictions must follow in order to enact a moratorium. Oregon Revised Statute (ORS) 197.505 describes the manner of declaring a moratorium and the time limit associated with a moratorium. The law also requires that housing and economic development needs are accommodated as much as possible....
This part follows and is hard to understand. Some punctuation or words seem to be missing:
[W]hen land is developed, case law (Nolan and Dolan) prohibits the City from assessing mitigation that is not commensurate with their impacts. The traffic impact for the proposed development does [not?] warrant the suggested off-site improvements, dedication and construction of a street connection extending Harritt Drive NW, or a portion of Marine Drive NW is not a condition of this development.
But generally it seems to say, "our hands our tied."

Our whole framework of personal property, individual impacts, and public impacts on the commons is unbalanced right now. It seems likely that until we develop a more robust analytical scheme statewide for externalized costs, we will not be able to adjust "Nolan and Dolan" to accommodate true proportionality. Part of it is inadequate math. We attempt to apportion "proportionate" costs as if they were always linear, along stright-line curves, and we are not able to account for stair-step functions or other discontinuities entailed by the completion of large projects. Time is also a problem. As long as we insulate property from network kinds of effects, both positive and negative, we defer their consequences to some indeterminate future time. When we don't also adjust for life cycle costs, this ratifies part of what Strong Towns calls the "growth ponzi scheme." Ultimately, this case law seems exactly to create the "tragedy of the commons."

That's a big topic and not something to solve here, but it's real background noise that distorts our ability to solve city problems.

Previously on the Lindbeck parcel: March 2012, February 2013, March 2013, December 2017.

Lone Oak Reimbursement District

From January, Proposed Reimbursement District
On the merits, the proposed Lone Oak Reimbursement District and what has led to it are obscure, difficult to understand, and contested. (Some previous discussion here.)

The City seems to have mishandled previous conditions of approval, perhaps even shooting themselves in the foot, and there is also a disagreement with a developer over prospects for a nearby golf course. The legitimate question about how best to fund a section of street and a small bridge over a creek is swamped by other factors and other disputes. This particular question is in part a proxy conflict for other debates.

Altogether, any viable solution is certain to be a compromise and imperfect. Given this, the proposed Reimbursement District seemed reasonable, a way to move forward. But maybe Council will land on a better solution. At the very least a more responsive and fully explanatory Staff Report would be helpful. If the City screwed up, it should say so clearly. The whole thing is super murky, even a little shady looking.

Elsewhere there is much more detail:
Other Items

1 comment:

Susann Kaltwasser said...

Linbeck development is going to be a fire trap. You might call it connectivity, but with only one main entrance for 330 units, is just downright dangerous.

I lived for years in a subdivision with only one exit for 3 city blocks. All it took was one event near the entrance to the subdivision and you had no way out. It could be road work, a medical emergency or even a fire and you were trapped. You might be able to walk out, but since there was no bus service for another 6 blocks, you were essentially trapped.

I wouldn't want to live in an apartment complex this large without another exit. While it is true we have built these kind of complexes before, it should not be allowed these days.

Another reason to revisit our multifamily housing code.