Saturday, March 9, 2019

City Council, March 11th - Momentum for Congestion Relief Task Force

Council meets on Monday and they'll consider a resolution introduced jointly by SRC foes coming together for unity on the recommendations of the Congestion Task Force.

From 1937 this remains our ideal - via NYRB
Salem Reporter had a story earlier in the week on this, "Salem councilors Kaser, Lewis to file rare joint motion to start planning congestion fixes."

The resolution specifically calls out 4 of the 17 concepts:
Our motion directs staff to specifically initiate the following actions as soon as possible:
  1. Solicit a recommendation from SPRAB (Salem Parks and Recreation Advisory Board) regarding a parking and walk/bike/shuttle service at Wallace Marine Park;
  2. Send letters to ODOT requesting approvals for actions involving its roadways;
  3. Send letters to Cherriots regarding actions involving the downtown circulator feasibility study and trip reduction programs; and
  4. Send a letter to SKATS requesting City participation in updating the regional Congestion Management Process.
But only the first of them, on the Parks and Recreation Board and Wallace Marine Park, is under direct City control.

On the others, collaboration with - and presumably funding from - ODOT, Cherriots, and SKATS is necessary, and so letters of "request" must be sent.

The politics on all this may be a little tricky. After making one great decision that was so very unpopular in certain circles, maybe Council feels like they have to mollify a little. So maybe stacking a second set of difficult and even unpopular decisions right on top of the "No Build" decision does not seem prudent at the moment.

But if we are simply going by effectiveness, three letters of request may not be the most effective measures.

There are things the City can do by itself, right now.

And at the top of the list is parking reform. See more on that here and here. The Missing Middle Design Standards process also proposes a reduction in parking minimums. So there's slow progress on this.

We should lead with parking reform
But we should also talk more about the contradictions we hold on parking. From the Missing Middle Design Standards proposal:
The on-street parking requirements have been identified as one of the larger impediments to building multifamily housing in Salem, particularly small-and medium-sized developments. Parking is also identified by neighborhood associations as being one of the major issues with multifamily developments, both unattractive parking lots on the development site and spillover parking into the neighborhoods. The proposed code changes strive to balance the need to provide a reasonable amount of parking on-site (both to serve the development’s residents and to limit impacts on the surrounding neighborhood) with the need to reduce barriers to providing multifamily housing. [italics added]
If large parking lots are unattractive and impede new housing, and if we don't also want spillover parking on neighborhood streets...maybe we need to drive less and employ fewer cars?

Back to the letters of request, the resolution does add that
We further move that within 45 days staff provide a report to Council detailing a plan of action for implementing the recommendations, progress on items underway, and any additional next steps Council should take to further the recommendations.
Maybe in the end it's not so important that three of the four lead items are requests. The action plan proposed here would have more discussion and develop a better sense for effectiveness, staging, and politics.

Massachusetts Transportation Head, via Twitter
But overall, we need to talk more about "driving less" as our chief "congestion relief" strategy. This dovetails with our needs on greenhouse gas reduction.

Former NYC Transportation Head
on the gendered nature of our autoism, via Twitter
 There doesn't seem to be a whole lot to say about other things:
  • There's a new set of Legislative positions, including a strong "oppose" on SB 652, which seems to be a partisan, pro-SRC tit-for-tat Introduced by Senator Boquist (R-Dallas). The bill tries to kneecap funding for the seismic retrofit on the Center Street Bridge. It's just odd.
  • KMUZ personality and city advocate Ken Adams looks to be appointed to the Citizen Traffic Advisory Committee. On social media he's been talking a lot about walking, biking, transit, and parking, and that looks like a good appointment, especially as the committee now may be looking more at crosswalks in addition to adjudicating parking difficulties.
  • There's a new site plan, with modifications to keep more trees, for the 111-unit apartment complex on Wiltsey Road. Staff Report also suggests a few new conditions. It looks to be heading towards approval with modifications.
  • More funding for the downtown Sobering Center, $1.1 million in Urban Renewal Funds. "Because funding necessary to operate the sobering center is not anticipated by March, staff is recommending an Oregon Health Authority grant received by the City for capital costs for the sobering center be returned and that sobering center capital costs be paid for through an amended urban renewal grant." CANDO will probably have more to say on this, but it looks like a recognition that things have not gone according to plan.
  • A new 8-stall bathroom by the picnic Pavillion in Riverfront Park and an application for a State Parks grant for partial funding.
  • And the regular vagueness in the Economic Development Report. It has a new verb! "During the quarter staff outreached to more than 24 small and medium-sized businesses, including 10 mature businesses and 14 startup businesses, with a traded sector focus."
  • Not at all on Council agenda, but perhaps interesting to think about: How many big capital fund projects are going on right now with area non-profits: Union Gospel Mission, YMCA, Center for Hope and Safety; and then difficulties at ARCHES, SKEF. Probably there are others. It seems unlikely that funding will come together for all of these; Salem's just not that big and not that wealthy. And if we go back to the decision the YMCA made a decade or more ago to yield to fund-raising for the KROC Center, we may find the Salvation Army project sucked too much out of the local charitable donations capacity, and harmed things downtown. There's a set of mismatches on ambition, need, and local funding capacity.

1 comment:

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

CANDO indeed has comment on the funding for the sobering center, and they are mostly positive about the swap in funding sources and the conditions associated with each:

"[I]t makes perfect sense for the City to replace the OHA grant with urban renewal funds and eventually acquire MWVCAA's building. It relieves the pressure to complete a poorly planned and "financially unattainable" sobering center project, while allowing MWVCAA to complete a costly building rehab."