Friday, March 6, 2020

City Council, March 9th - New Urban Renewal Area?

The City is proposing a new Urban Renewal Area for the former North Campus at the State Hospital.

Council meets on Monday, and a novel approach to Urban Renewal, including a name change, looks to be developed.

Apartment blocks in blue; private drive and parking lots
off cul-de-sacs; single detached homes line D and Park

Proposed TIF District = apartment complex
The proposal to "Initiate creation of the Jory Apartments TIF District on the former Oregon State Hospital North Campus" is interesting, and deserves great thought and analysis. It might be a worthwhile project. It might also be a boondoggle. Apparently because of changes to state law - but also because of changing cultural norms - we aren't calling them "Urban Renewal Areas" now, but are calling them by a more neutral term that recognizes the funding mechanism as a tool apart from any other goal or value, "Tax Increment Financing District." That seems reasonable if also jargony.
The proposed Jory Apartments TIF District will create more affordable housing in the community. The TIF District is proposed on a portion of the former Oregon State Hospital North Campus to incent additional affordable housing as part of a proposed mixed-income development. The proposed TIF District can serve as model to encourage affordable housing in other areas of Salem.

Without incentives, developers are unwilling to build affordable housing projects. The City Strategic Plan identifies increasing affordable housing options as a top priority. The Salem Housing Authority (SHA) has a waiting list of 6,000 individuals and families in need of affordable housing....

Staff will return to the Urban Renewal Agency Board with a development agreement outlining details of the expected property tax rebate program....The Board will approve the incentives and the signing of a development agreement containing those incentives and a commitment by the developer to produce the affordable housing units. 
The fact that it would be a district captive in some sense, devoted to the needs of a single developer and project, should give Council pause. Shouldn't there be some element of competitive bid or other competitive element to ensure that it is not merely a giveaway? The City may be giving up too much leverage in a negotiation.

You might recall a comment highlighting a study that found opposition to new housing frequently keyed in on perceptions of unfair or disproportionate developer profits. A single lot TIF District targeted to a single developer, all to be negotiated privately seems like something of a problem in that regard.

Council should insist on greater transparency here.

The need for housing is tremendous. Again, this may be a worthwhile experiment. But Council should approach it as an experiment and include robust reporting and decision points for course-correction. The Staff Report recognizes at least some of this, with an unusually detailed plan for public comment:
The proposed plan is also made available for public comment through tonight’s meeting and at the March 24, 2020 Planning Commission meeting.

Following the comment period, the Urban Renewal Agency will hold a public hearing to consider adopting the Jory Apartments TIF District. The public hearing and first reading of the ordinance are planned for April 27, 2020 and the second reading is scheduled for May 11, 2020. The Urban Renewal Agency Board will accept the TIF Plan and Report at either the May 26, 2020 or June 8, 2020 meeting.
(There are a couple of documents with the Staff Report and there might be more to say on them over the weekend.)

Fantasies of flight
Also on the agenda is a 600+ page Airport Business Plan as an information item.
The report is being shared now as an information item and will be discussed on March 16, 2020 at a work session on economic development.
Apparently, because we have accepted Federal grant monies, we have obligated ourselves to airport expansion?
Increasing Airport fund revenue is critical for two key reasons. As a recipient of federal grant funds from the Airport Improvement Program, the City binds itself to several grant assurances for twenty years each time it accepts a federal grant. Included in those grant assurances are the requirement for the airport to be as financially self-sufficient as possible, to operate and maintain its airport facilities in a safe and serviceable condition, and to maintain, repair and/or reconstruct its pavements to ensure useful life is maximized. Failure to meet the requirements of federal grant assurances places the City in a position of possibly paying back all or some of the several grants the City has secured in the past twenty years. Since 2000, grant awards total approximately $15.0 million. Federal grants require a 10% local match, which is funded out of the Airport fund and, on occasion, the City’s General Fund.
There is a section on Carbon Monoxide,
but nothing on Carbon Dioxide
The document will take some reading, but a keyword search for "greenhouse" (as in greenhouse gas) and "carbon dioxide" turned up zero hits.

Local air travel contributed a small amount of emissions
When the greenhouse gas inventory was published, I was surprised at the apparent small contribution of flight to our greenhouse gas emissions. It may be that fussing over the airport is not the best advocacy at the moment. Cars are the big factor without question. Nevertheless, Council should insist that we include greenhouse gas in any analysis of airport expansion. We should not set up carbon reduction efforts to fail when we grow emissions on a new project.

Four areas highlighted with changes (red and yellow added)
Wow, the remodel at South High is big. Neighbors have filed an appeal on the approvals. That'll take a bit to understand, but they are concerned with traffic impacts especially. It will take some reading to understand any real problems posed by "infiltration." The new lower parking lot empties onto Howard Street between Summer and Davidson Streets, and neighbors are a little anxious about speedy youth and jaydriving. (And, not relevant here but interesting perhaps, Davidson is a funny street, nearly built over a culverted Clark Creek.)

There may not be any net gain in parking stalls. however. There also appears to have been some changes to the distribution of bike parking. There might be more to say later.

In any case, they've already scraped the grass from the lower practice field inside the running track, and the Historic Landmarks Commission accepted the video proposal for "mitigation" on the demolition of the old Leslie Junior High.

Howard St was Washington Street in 1892
Numbered north-south streets also
(1892 map at the Mill)
Here's another view of the Tuxedo Park addition on which the school was built.

The Nullifiers won this one - Register Guard today
historical commentary added
(picking up the story in the "Salemaesman Journal")
And there is an "update" on Legislative positions, but it is drenched in bitter irony and is a moot report now.

CANDO has an analysis of a proposal for a day space that would provide votes for a new sit-lie ordinance.


Susann Kaltwasser said...

At the ELNA meeting a planner for Willamette Town Center was giving a presentation on future development plans. One suggestion was that they look into adding some housing where the old Sears store was and that they could build up with housing above the main floor. The idea has some appeal. They said they are exploring options because 'looking ahead we don't want to overlook an opportunity' as trends in buying evolve. At which point a suggestion was made by Councilor Hoy that perhaps they should have a chat with the City about creating a TIF zone like they are 'doing' (suggesting it is a done deal) for the Jory Apartments.

I like the idea of housing at the mall, but I am leary of the TIF unless it is tied to very low rental rates. Way too often 'affordable housing' is still not affordable to most people.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

That is interesting about the mall! As for the TIF District, as you suggest, it's all about the details. It may be done well, or it may be a boondoggle.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

The City has a notice/update on the proposed TIF, and in it they say:

"the developer intends to develop and maintain 10 percent (24 units) of the multi-family units for individuals earning an average of 60 percent of the Area Median Income."

There looks to be more at Council on April 27th.