Friday, March 20, 2020

City Council, March 23rd - More on State Hospital Redevelopment

Already today the headline is that at Council on Monday the City will pull the employee payroll tax from the ballot on account of the pandemic and crisis.

Here the main item of interest is the information report on approvals on the subdivision plan for the single detached housing along D Street and Park Avenue on the former State Hospital parcel.

Single detached homes line D and Park.
Apartment blocks (blue) on interior compound.
The apartment complex had already secured approval, and last Monday Council was going to consider a single-lot TIF for it. But the virus blew that up, and we will have to wait to learn more about this part of the total concept.

But since the project is mainly conceived along a suburban model, with a auto-oriented apartment complex set on a parking lot and compound, rather than a more urban model with a street grid and missing middle housing or streetcar apartment blocks, the enclave turns its back on the neighborhood. With connectivity a problem, one of the requirements is cruciform footpath system that basically quarters the whole.

At D Street the footpath will align with the west side of Icel Court.

Footpath connection to D Street at Icel Court
On a note about the prospect of a connection through the IOOF Pioneer Cemetery - which does not appear on Council agenda, and may have been postponed wisely for any of several good reasons - a commenter said:
[P]athways like this are trouble. I have been responsible of leading the effort to close 3 walkways so far and am working on the 4th. The idea of 'connectivity' is fine in theory, but in practice when you have poorly designed pathways, it is very dangerous. We have had assaults, fires and vandalism in walkways. The problem is that they are not usually well lit. But even those that are well lit, they are still dangerous if there is not a clear view to them from cross streets. Any kind of vision obstruction where someone is going essentially down a blind alley, it is very dangerous. A person needs to see and be seen to be safe.
While the idea making connections looks good on a map, the details really matter, and I am not sure at all that this footpath system will be very useful and feel inviting to anyone who doesn't live in the compound. It's not a true public throughway.

And if we are going to warehouse affordable housing, if the proposed TIF district is really to create a 20th century "project," and not to create a mixed-income neighborhood with the affordable units sprinkled invisibly among them, then the footpath system will likely be even more problematic. The owners of the houses on D and Park will surely build high and opaque fencing on their back yards, and I just don't see how this thing is being positioned for success. For the neighbors who called for single detached housing on D and Park, they may have got the letter of what they wanted, but I am not at all sure they will be getting the spirit of what they wanted.

Also on the agenda is a report on recent tree code violations and the likely inadequacy of our current fines. The City notes that
ten SRC Chapter 86 code violations result[ed] in civil penalties totaling $8,750. Of the ten, all but two have been paid in full....[but] the Urban Forester has determined the total value of the 19 trees lost as a result of the ten violations is $107,220.
This is background for a May 18th Work Session, and it is certain there will be more talk and analysis. Tree advocates also will have more to say.

In a set of budget adjustments, there is news on the prospect of a new City Hall customer service plan as the City looks to use the space opened up when Police move to the new Station, and a shift on the Climate Action Plan's "home."
The Climate Action Plan was originally budgeted in the Community Development department. This transfer moves the budget authority to General Fund Non Departmental to align the budget with the current approach to the Climate Action Plan.

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