Much of the protest and criticism of the development is a proxy for neighborhood dissatisfaction with speeding on the current "unimproved" state of Salem Heights as a rural-ish road without sidewalks and bike lanes.
In the rebuttal materials, the consulting traffic engineer talks about speed. And there is a real problem here. "Speed data alone is not evidence of a safety problem," they write. Because the crash rate here is below average, they conclude the corridor is "safe."
|15% of drivers go well over the posted 25mph here|
This is a structural blind spot in our traffic engineering. It ignores the number of people who choose not to walk or bike or even drive on the street because they feel unsafe. There is a subjective element that has been completely erased in our hydraulic autoism and the attempt to model traffic after fluid dynamics and physical sciences. People in cars feel safe enough to speed. The definition of safety has a strong autoist bias here.
The consulting engineer goes on to say,
...even if the existing speeds on Salem Heights Avenue S were deemed to constitute a documented traffic problem, the proposed subdivision would need to contribute to the traffic problem in order to trigger the need for a Traffic Impact Analysis.They are right that the proposed development is too small to trigger the TIA, the north-south connections will be a benefit, and the neighbors are misdirecting their fire.
Still, there is a problem here, but it's not the development. Speeding on Salem Heights is a real problem, and the City should face this squarely. Slow the cars.
Additionally, the neighbors have proposed traffic diversion on one of the streets, allowing for walking and biking through, but denying car travel through it. City Staff seem to be very resistant. This is a concept we need to talk more about. Maybe here is not the right place for it exactly, but more generally, if we are going to start taming cars, we will need more diversion to prioritize non-auto travel. The City should take this suggestion more seriously.
|Final pie chart from Our Salem: It's all about the cars|
|Oil Train Fire - via KVAL and Twitter (2016)|
The big item on the agenda will be the Public Hearing on proposed new revenue sources, and others will have more to say. (Addendum: some public comment asks whether the proposed sources are progressive enough and therefore fair. Low-income people may be taking on a disproportionate share of the new fees. The City should also give a better accounting of all the tax abatements and subsidies we hand out - like on the 260 State Street apartments.)
Bullets for the rest:
- The Refinement Plan for "The Woods" at Fairview was approved. See here for previous notes. (Update: This has been appealed.)
- The plan for MAPS' new bank building on Division and High was approved. And previous notes here.
- Approvals for an 84-lot development out south on Lone Oak Road.
- The Urban Renewal Agency looks to approve $749,000 in grant funding for the mini-apartments on State and Commercial. The Nursing Home, Park Front, Court Yard all got $749,000, and this seems to be now the standard subsidy. We need housing downtown and while these will be market-rate, they will be on the low end of market rates (hardly "affordable" still of course). Given the existing way we handle these things, and duration this site has been empty, this seems unobjectionable and consistent with downtown goals. (Postscript: I forgot about the Multiple Unit Housing Tax Incentive Program. Holy smokes, the subsidies are stacking up here. I hope the City's not giving away too much. The Staff Report should have discussed the cumulative effect. For all previous notes on the project, see here.)
- A new plan for Secor Park (next to Crossler School), replacing the 1995 plan.
- Since the Legislature passed a statewide law on plastic bags, the City is considering repealing the local ban and conforming to the statewide regulations.
I live on Salem Heights, near the crest of the first big hill west of Liberty, and I can confirm that speed on the road -- particularly at night -- is an issue. Folks routinely accelerate full steam all the way up that hill, and hit the top doing 40 mph (or more). The neighborhood walkability is horrible as a result.
A few well-placed speed humps would help considerably, but long-term residents have said the City hasn't been responsive to those requests...
The City's really allergic to traffic calming and prioritizes through-put and speed - and as people complain so loudly about congestion, it is easy to see at least some of the reason why the City has been resistant. But traffic engineering doctrine's all effed-up, also.
(Added more on the 260 State Street project and its subsidies)
(Added a couple more brief updates on Fairview and the new revenue proposals.)
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