Tuesday, March 6, 2018

City Scores Own Goal with Goodwill Driveways off Second St NW

On Wednesday the 7th, the West Salem urban renewal board, WSRAB, meets, and in the meeting packet is an interesting letter from Goodwill regarding the prospect of a grade separated crossing of Wallace Road along Second Street. It is especially interesting because as written the letter is silent on known City intentions back in 2015, deciding for whatever reason not to reference them, and by design or by accident suggesting it may not have know about them. It also does not endorse those intentions today, more-or-less concern-trolling them.

February letter on undercrossing
The letter and the current conversation it references is especially interesting because when the project was at the planning commission in 2015, the difficulties were foreseeable (and earlier here and here):
As you know, the West Salem Business District Action Plan is proposing a below-grade undercrossing here. But since it is not yet official in any adopted plan, the approval conditions for the Goodwill have to proceed behind a veil of ignorance. So we are likely to find ourselves in the absurd position of having required Goodwill to build at significant cost an at-grade roadbed and access point on Wallace only to find the City tearing it out after a decade or less.

I don't know what the legal and administrative answer is here, but from an ordinary citizen's perspective, this is stupid.

If we think we're going to build an undercrossing here, any work that is required of the Goodwill development should be useful in the future and be oriented towards that project - not something to be wasted by built-in obsolescence and planned demolition.

Or, if the redevelopment project with the Goodwill promises to render the undercrossing impossible, then we should give up that project immediately.
 Driveway locations on Second Street NW
(not part of letter or packet, but from 2015 Staff Report)
Goodwill indeed built the project for a particular kind of freight access off of Second: "We cannot overstate the importance of truck access from 2nd Street to our loading docks. The entire facility was built with this access in mind..."

Goodwill: Overpass = "unworkable"
But back in 2015 the Staff Report and formal City decision included notes on the prospect of a crossing and changes to Second Street. "If this recommendation advances to adoption, construction of the grade separated intersection will require...elimination of the easternmost driveway from the development onto 2nd Street NW."

The problem of the crossing was known
(City of Salem approval, December 17th, 2015)
And here we are edging closer to "the absurd position."

This was totally, 100%, something we should have anticipated.

It's something of a self-own, an own-goal.

The City unnecessarily complicated the project for a connection across Wallace along Second Street. The City should have insisted on better safeguards for the likelihood of a grade separated crossing, and Goodwill should have anticipated this outcome in their design. Even though there are words here, in action both parties proceeded as if the grade separated crossing was not going to happen. A better design could have accommodated both Goodwill's needs for freight access and a future crossing of Wallace Road.

Also in the meeting packet, the proposed urban renewal budget for next year now includes $1.5 million to "Initiate design of 2nd Street NW improvements and the crossing with Wallace Road NW following Agency direction regarding whether the concept is an over or under crossing." So it looks like they're moving forward with something, even though there's still a lot of uncertainty about what it will be exactly.

The uncertainty is compounded because although the City did not insist Goodwill account for the likelihood of the grade separated crossing, the City is trying to act as if the Salem River Crossing is going to happen. Uncertainty for one, but certainty for the other? The stances should have been reversed!

Plans for Second Street, Edgewater, and Wallace Road are all messed up because the City is trying to accommodate in overt ways, and sometimes in more silent or even secretive ways, the general plan for the SRC here.

If the City would just ditch the foolishness of the current SRC plan, better configurations for Second Street, Edgewater, and Wallace would likely snap into focus. The current mode of "trying to have it both ways," with and without the SRC, is leading to unfocused planning and messy outcomes like this with Goodwill. It probably also increases degree of difficulty for the Congestion Relief Task Force.

(See previous posts tagged "Edgewater District" for more on the history of the grade separated crossing concept and discussion of the Goodwill project.)

WSRAB meets Wednesday the 7th from 7:30 AM – 9:00 AM in the West Salem Public Library, 395 Glen Creek Road NW.

Planning Commission

There's also a bit of a rhubarb at the Planning Commission tonight, Tuesday the 6th.

You can see the gaps in the street connectivity,
especially along the north-south streets.
Back in January, Council received an information report on an approval for a subdivision on a parcel behind the old Vista Post Office and St. Barbara's Cemetery.

The project is premised on a sale of the land, and that transaction has gone sideways. The seller has appealed the approval of the development.

Concurrently, a neighbor is also appealing it from straight-forward NIMBY perspectives.

The City's official position on the contested sale is a kind of agnosticism:
The City is not weighing in on that dispute. The Planning Commission does not have the authority to make decisions regarding the land sale contract....

[I]f the tentative plan is approved and the result of the arbitration between the applicant and property is that the agreement had terminated and the applicant does not have the right to purchase the land for the approved subdivision, the tentative subdivision approval will expire and the development will not proceed, especially since in order to record the final plat of the subdivision in the County Deed records, the plat must bear the signature of the land owner.

Alternatively, if the tentative plan is approved and the result of the arbitration is that the agreement is still valid, completion of the sale could occur and the applicant, as the new land owner, could then proceed with completion of the project and the recording of the final subdivision plat.
It had seemed obviously prudent to delay until the dispute was resolved, but this is not how things go, and apparently it is not at all obvious. So that was interesting to learn.

The other appeal is not very interesting.

Between Holiday and Nohlgren, a new Doughton would be useful
The transportation claims in the appeal are all about an exaggerated sense that 38 new lots will cause a tremendous increase in traffic. It also focuses on problematic east-west connectivity for walking and biking along Salem Heights as a substandard collector street. (It's pretty rustic and rural!) It's true that Salem Heights here lacks sidewalks and bike lanes. But the real benefit in the project is not primarily any new east-west sidewalks or bike lanes. As it is, the old street cross section offers traffic calming. A new one with sidewalks will also be wider and zoomier. (Be careful what you ask for! It may be that existing conditions are not unambiguously inferior.)

A Tier 1 priority bikeway here on Nohlgren/Bonham
No, the benefit is new north-south connectivity along low-traffic local streets. Between Holiday and Nohlgren, there is no connecting north-south street, and completing a development here will create a new local segment of Doughton, which will help with low-traffic north-south connectivity parallel to Liberty/Commercial. In fact, the proposed bikeway, a "tier 1" priority, could be shifted to Doughton, avoiding the tricky hill of Nohlgren/Bonham, and the busier streets of Salem Heights or Hansen, and instead drop to Mountain View on Boice. It would also align more directly with the section on Winola. Even if shifting the bikeway to Doughton does not find favor, more options is valuable regardless.

So any argument about the development degrading walking and biking is specious. And while the upper estimate of 300-some new trips generated by the development might sound like a lot, they will easily be absorbed by the street system. Neighborhood bikeways are recommended for low-traffic streets of no more than 1500 trips per day, and collectors accommodate considerably more. 300 or even 400 will be an increase, but not a dramatic one.

On balance a development here will be positive for walking and biking, and since it's all single-family development, it will not be much of a change from the surrounding neighborhood.

It's a routine kind of in-fill development, and there are no real reasons to delay or otherwise hinder it.

The Planning Commission meets at City Hall in Council chambers at 5:30pm on Tuesday the 6th. 

1 comment:

Susann Kaltwasser said...

The standard calculation for trips per household is 10 trips per day. So a 38 lot subdivision would be calculated to be 380.

Seemed high when I first heard the trip rule, but in fact with a two car-family being standard and when you count each trip away from home as 2 because they come and go for one trip, it actually seems reasonable.

Mom takes the kids to school and that is 2 trips. Then she goes and gets them in the afternoon, and that is two more trips. Dad goes to work and that is 2 more trips. Someone takes the kids to some event and it is 2 more trips. Now, just one person has to go on an errand and now we have 10 trips for that house. When you think of it that way, it is amazing to think it is only estimated as 10 trips per household!

Regarding the West Salem plan update, my prediction is that neither the 2nd Street project nor the bridge will happen. But you can be assured that millions of dollar will be spent on both.