Sunday, September 8, 2019

City Council, September 9th - Salem Heights Resolution and Fairview Appeal

Council meets on Monday, and the appeal of the plan for "The Woods" at the Fairview project will get the most attention.

There is also progress on a new sidewalk on the slope along Rosemont Avenue in West Salem as it goes up the bluff.

Rosemont sidewalk, retaining wall, pipe barrier fence
On Rosemont the sidewalk has been deteriorating, the old pipe barrier is rickety and has been hit by drivers several times, and the retaining wall is sinking. The whole thing needs work. There is also the enormous intersection with Piedmont, and the total effect surely induces speeding, hence the impacts to the pipe barrier. Council will approve acquisition of right-of-way and easements for the project.

Though we are on the 2020 CIP now,
this last appears in the 2018 CIP
Hopefully they will also include speed calming treatments and appropriate separation between cars and the sidewalk so that speeding motorists cannot crash the sidewalk easily. But the entry in the 2018 CIP does not appear to include any of these things. This is also an example of the disconnect between the way funds are programmed and the actual year of construction.

There doesn't really appear to be a whole lot new yet on the Fairview appeal. (See previous notes here.) New comment may be published by the City, and we'll update this post if it is especially interesting. The Morningside Neighborhood Association did offer one criticism that echoes something here: The Plan and the City should "assure the pathways are accessible and usable by the general public." The private streets and total effect is more like that of a gated community, and there likely needs to be more attention given to real connectivity that ordinary people will in fact use, not merely lines on a map that are theoretically available to everybody, but which as built will feel exclusive and gated to most people.

Salem Heights

Finally, Council looks to affirm the Planning Administrator's decision for the Salem Heights project called "Wren Heights." (Previous discussion here and here.) It doesn't look like Council is sustaining any of the claims made in the appeal. From here that looks correct; the appeal was not on very firm grounds.

But in the report affirming the Planning Administrator's decision, there are a number of things wrong with the general framework that makes this the "correct" decision.

One of the neighborhood requests was for speed humps on Salem Heights because there was a documented speeding problem. The City responds, "because Salem Heights Avenue is a collector street speed bumps are not allowed."

That's a sign of how utterly effed-up is our approach to urban speed. The road is not designed to induce and enforce the appropriate speed; people routinely feel comfortable speeding. But because we have standards for the classification, for an abstract type, we are impotent to make design changes for speeds, what people actually and concretely do. So we have standards for an idealized system that ignores reality. Theory over actuality.

15% of drivers go well over the posted 25mph here
And yet we have this bizarre system borrowed from the physical sciences of volume/capacity, crash rate, all kinds of other metrics supposedly rooted in actual behavior.

Here's another incoherence in which idealized types rather than real behavior drives planning and Council action:
City Council acknowledges that Salem Heights Avenue does not currently meet collector street standards, however City Council cannot consider it as one classification of street for purposes of determining whether a TIA [traffic impact analysis] is required while considering it as another classification for purposes of applying standards or requiring specific improvements....

Though Salem Heights does not currently meet collector street standards, City Council cannot ignore its classification under the TSP [transportation system plan] and apply a standard that applies to a lower classification of street. In order to apply a different standard to Salem Heights, the TSP would have to be amended to lower the classification of the street from a collector street to a local street. Additionally, City Council concludes that SRC 803.015(b)(2) does not apply in this instance, because the evidence shows a lack of documented traffic problems, and that the development will not significantly contribute to existing traffic, based on the current accident rates, traffic volumes, or speed.
And still, there are in fact documented traffic problems! Alas, because of our 85th percentile doctrine, and the lack of crashes, we do not consider 35mph in a 25mph zone a "problem."

Our hydraulic autoism is structurally incoherent, oriented for the hegemonic dominance of cars and car travel. It's about the power of autoist interests to dictate the ways we use our streets, and not about any "neutral" description or "science" of transportation and the multiple ways people use streets.

On the barricade/diverter concept, which seemed to have value on the merits, the City dismisses it on procedural grounds:
The appellant’s request to barricade Doughton Street would be a substantial modification to the application and therefore could not be considered as part of the current application. Additionally, conditions are used to bring an application into conformance with a standard or policy. City Council found that requiring a barricade would take a proposal that currently complies with adopted City policy and codes and change it to a development that does not comply....

The proposed subdivision is making connections to all four existing streets, including Salem Heights Ave S. City Council finds that the current proposal meets the connectivity standard of SRC 803.035(a) and placing a barricade at Salem Heights would not meet SRC 803.035.
SRC 803.035(a) does not specify auto connectivity, however:
Local streets shall be oriented or connected to existing or planned streets, existing or planned schools, parks, shopping areas, transit stops, and employment centers located within one-half-mile of the development. Local streets shall be extended to adjoining undeveloped properties for eventual connection with the existing street system. Connections to existing or planned streets and adjoining undeveloped properties for eventual connection with the existing street system shall be provided at no greater than 600-foot intervals...
Here also there is autoist bias, and it may be that we need a more sophisticated analysis of connectivity, especially in light of reducing drive-alone trips. If we want to reduce drive-alone trips, why is everything oriented towards enabling drive-alone trips? Do we have a people-centered theory of connectivity that does not insist auto connectivity is the only kind that counts?

Separately, in the report is also an explicit discussion of property values. As we talk about affordable housing and changing our zoning, this is an issue that should be discussed head-on, not in side glances and dog whistles.
Effect on property values is not a criterion under the Salem Revised Code for granting or denying a tentative subdivision approval. The proposal for single family residential development is consistent with the “Single Family Residential” Comprehensive Plan Map designation and RS (Single Family Residential) zone of the subject property. As described above, SACP goal E.b (Residential Development) aims to provide housing opportunities for a diverse population. As such, while SACP goals encourage a diversity of housing property values, the Salem Revised Code neither directly nor indirectly regulates such property values.
All in all, as the City and citizenry consider new revenue sources and consider an update to the Comprehensive Plan, this project and the state of Salem Heights Avenue might provide a convenient case study by which to make the issues concrete and specific.

Bullets for the rest:


Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

(Edit: Swapped out photo of the Rosemont sidewalk with a better and more recent one.)

Anonymous said...

Looks like it's getting appealed to LUBA -

Anonymous said...

And it has been dismissed at LUBA -

"the parties stipulated to voluntary dismissal of this appeal"