Friday, January 24, 2020

City Council, January 27th - Parking and Housing

On Monday Council will hold a formal Public Hearing on the proposed "missing middle" code revisions.
This code amendment revises the Unified Development Code (UDC) to update Salem’s design and other related standards for multifamily housing. The purpose of the amendment is to help meet Salem’s housing needs by removing barriers to the development of multifamily housing while ensuring that new development is compatible with neighborhoods.

The proposed code amendment would create more flexibility in how multifamily design standards could be met, create a new set of limited standards for multifamily housing projects with five to 12 units, remove three- and four-family projects from the definition of multifamily housing to ease the development of projects, simplify the review process for projects that cannot meet the City’s design standards, and reduce parking requirements for multifamily projects.
Because there are already processes for a subsequent round of amendment to code (between compliance with HB 2001, Our Salem on the Comprehensive Plan, and a Climate Action Plan), it has seemed best to adopt these as Staff recommends forthwith and to move on to planning the next iteration. They are "good enough" and we should not fuss too much over them just now.
Housing for people? Or housing for cars?
via PDXShoupistas
And in that next round, we have to talk about our Parking Mania more. Our public talk right now is dominated by the problem of homelessness. And if we are going to make real progress on housing for everybody, we have to reckon with the ways we have prioritized housing for cars over housing for people.

Though the example assumes high land costs, the idea remains:
Housing for cars makes housing for people more expensive!
via PDXShoupistas
And since our cars create the majority of our greenhouse gas pollution, and are solely responsible for congestion, reducing our reliance on cars neatly dovetails with our housing goals.

We should lead with parking reform
In so many ways, and across so many policy conversations, we need to center parking reform.

"a city where everyone happily pays
for everyone else's free parking is a fool's paradise"
(via Twitter)
And, interestingly, the Hospital has a request in for free parking.
Salem Health is requesting a permit fee waiver for 57 on-street public parking spaces for the 30-month duration of Salem Hospital campus improvement project.

The permit fees to close 57 spaces for the 30-month project total $256,000. Salem Health is proposing to pay one month ($8,550) of permit fees to help offset the City’s administrative costs. The parking permit fee revenue from the spaces is a General Fund revenue.

The City does not have a history of waiving parking permit fees for construction projects, nor does the City have a policy or program for reducing or discounting permit fees for closing parking spaces.
As part of their request, the Hospital includes a "mitigation plan." Here is part of that:

This a not a TDM plan!
Council should think very seriously about whether starting to waive parking permit fees for construction is wise. If they are inclined to do so here, they should ask for an actual TDM plan with specifics and measurables and not this vague, hand-wavey hope for one.

Councilor Hoy has sponsored a request for a Speed Zone review on 17th and 45th Streets.
Council has recently heard a number of complaints from residents about speeding and inattentive drivers throughout the community. Council is also concerned and saddened by the numerous pedestrian fatalities in the community. It is well understood that distracted driving combined with speed is a lethal combination.
This sounds good! A review of the posted speeds will allow the City to petition for reductions. (But we must also remember that engineering dogma on 85th percentile speed may suggest raising speeds to accommodate actual driver behavior, so this process will need watching and community advocacy.)

A minor item is a project - mainly a sidewalk - on Boone Road. (See previous notes on this section of Boone Road.) It's a little odd.
In 1983, property owners of 1515 Boone Road SE agreed to improve the abutting portion of the street when the City determined there was a public need for the improvement.
The City has now determined there is a public need. But 1983! Holy smokes. Two immediately adjacent parcels are being developed, and it makes sense for the project to span all three lots and to be done at the same time. The owners have probably kinda forgot about this, and may be surprised to see it now. There could have been a generational transition, even. (In some ways this might be evidence that the UGB is plenty big. If it has taken nearly 40 years for this sidewalk and the associated development, that means there has not been pressure to develop.)

Apartment blocks in blue; private drive and parking lots
off cul-de-sacs; single detached homes line D and Park
As an information item, Council will see the Planning Commission's approval for the apartment complex at the State Hospital. (Previous notes here.) Look at all that parking!

There is also an information item on approvals for a 26-unit mixed use project by the Sunnyslope shopping center. (You may recall a nearby project in 2015.) It replaces a mid-century strip mall that was perhaps a little charming in its antiquity, but did need updating. The current proposal has two commercial buildings on Liberty, and then recessed back is a midrise mixed-use block with 26 apartments. It's right at a major grocery store and on transit, and this is a good place for this kind of thing. It is at least partially walkable and would not require a car for all errands or for all commutes.

Is this really Zena Church? (Travel Salem plan)
(Update: It's Oak Grove Church!)
Bullets for the rest:
  • The City's Audit. There are probably things to so, and folks with accounting backgrounds should dive in. 
  • The City's Legislative Priorities includes statements on climate and greenhouse gas emissions, and these are so nice to see now.
  • Travel Salem shares its annual report and plan, and it's hard to know what to think. It's so full of jargon and hype. One photo in the plan (just above and compare with this one from the same photographer) says that it is an aerial of Zena Church, but where's the cemetery? The real church has three windows on the side, but the church in the photo has four. The steeple, roads, fence, and nearby buildings don't look right, either. You may recall the weirdness of the downtown bike map they published. (Here, here, and here.) Too often utterances from Travel Salem do not look like they are from someone who lives here deeply, who thinks about and knows the area. They aren't rooted. Travel Salem does not seem to operate as well as it could. Do Salemites really get value from it?
  • The Historic Landmarks Commission shares its 2019 report and 2020 plan. See previous notes here
  • And there is the non-binding Memorandum of Understanding with the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde to "identify tribally-significant areas in the City, commit to consultation on City projects on significant sites, and mitigate adverse impacts upon known archaeological sites...[and] to develop education and outreach projects and programs to share the Tribe’s history and connections to Salem and the Willamette Valley.  Specifically, the City will proclaim November as Native American Heritage Month and the Historic Landmarks Commission will develop activities with the Tribe to honor Native American Heritage Month."


MrT said...

On the positive side, the NCUTCD had proposed changes to the MUTCD that will recommend lower speed limits in urban settings. These changes are probably still a year or two out.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Here is "18B-RW-03" for Setting Speed Limits on backing away from a strict application of the 85th percentile doctrine, the proposed change to the MUTCD I think you are referencing, and a previous related note about some related work on reclassifying streets and appropriate speeds.

But as you say, the changes are not yet.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

The City formally announced the continuation of the Public Hearing on the Multi-family Housing code changes:

"The public hearing on the proposed code changes resulting from the Multifamily Housing Design project has been continued to February 10, 2020.

The City Council continued the hearing following testimony from the public on Monday, January 27. The Council raised several issues, including:

- Minimum parking requirements
- Balconies facing single-family zoned properties
- Bike storage requirements
- Picnic tables

Staff will prepare a report that discusses these issues prior to the public hearing.

NEN in particular had submitted comment asking for secure bike parking in apartment complexes of 13 or more homes.

That would be nice, but it might be better to fold that into another, more general round of upgraded bike parking code.

ELNA objected to most of the parking proposal.

There will be more to say when the new Staff Report comes out.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Salem Reporter just published one of Ron Cooper's photos - and it just happens to be the mystery church. It's Oak Grove Church. Same four windows, picket fence, adjacent orchard.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

BikePortland has news on ODOT's process for changing speed zone evaluation, "The outdated and dangerous 85th percentile rule is dead in Oregon."

The OTC approved new administrative rules in March, but on the consent part of the agenda they were only identified as administrative rules in general, and I missed this.