Friday, July 17, 2020

City signs onto Crypto-NIMBYism from League of Oregon Cities

I'm not sure how far to dive into this right now, but Michael Andersen of Sightline, whom you might have seen quoted in the recent Salem Reporter piece on the German Baptist Church project in Grant Neighborhood, earlier this week shared notes he made on comment offered by the League of Oregon Cities, and cosigned by the City of Salem, on the rule-making for HB 2001 on housing choice and missing middle housing.

"revisit...current approach" or maintain exclusionary policies?
Scholia from Sightline's Andersen on LOC letter
that Salem signed onto
The State is trying to make it easier to site and build more abundant middle housing, and the City has endorsed efforts to make that more difficult. The City is participating in the League's attempt to drape and retard the effort with a kind of "city's rights" argument, saying that the State should not preempt local regulation.

If the City had shown they could actually make progress on this, the argument for subsidiarity might be proper. But the underlying desire is for more exlusionary zoning and exclusionary neighborhoods. It's "don't tell me what to do, because I don't want to do it."

The letter follows from this statement
of Legislative "policy statements"
(at Council last Monday)
At the City of Salem, opposition to preemption in general have been in Legislative policy statements for a while, so it's not like this is something totally novel or unexpected. But it is something that deserves more discussion. If we are serious about climate, if we are serious about anti-racism, if we are serious about more housing and better housing affordability, why are we offering static and resistance to the State's rulemaking effort for more and easier middle housing?

Why do we not lead with values instead of leading with self-interested bureaucratic process as if bureaucracy itself was the end? The end is fairer housing, and since local self-determination and home rule has failed to bring this about, we have the State intervening. The City should welcome the State's clarity.

We also have Our Salem in process, and as imperfect as that is, it's not finished and we don't have any kind of formal statement that the City of Salem opposes the policies the DLCD is contemplating. What we have is inertia, and that is the primary ground on which opposition to middle housing stands.

Indeed, the current trend in Our Salem is likely not to be enough. The "Neighborhood Hub" at the moment does not seem robust enough, and the four scenarios from earlier in the year were not in fact differentiated very strongly.
Andersen also linked to a discussion of Seattle zoning and their "urban village strategy," which appears to be very similar to what we are seeing in Our Salem.  He says it shows "the limitations of transit-oriented upzoning (it's not bad, but it's not enough)."

On a smaller scale,
this looks a lot like our approach in Our Salem
- via Twitter
What is "enough" is a fundamental question here. If we are serious about climate, if we are serious about anti-racism, if we are serious about attacking our housing problem, what are solutions proportionate to the scope of the problem? Right now, most gestures offered as "solutions" are small, fiddling with the margins, tiny incrementalisms that do not scale in ways that make a structural difference and are often more symbolic than substantive.

Since the City has found it difficult to enact housing policy, the City should welcome the State's effort. This also frees up the City to stop fighting that battle and to turn its attention to other exigencies. We have many urgent problems, and if government at one level can make progress on one of them, we should get out of the way and work on something else.


Anonymous said...

Ha! You scooped Salem Reporter a little -

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Thanks for the link. It's always interesting to read a pass at the same material from "both sides" traditional journalism. Obviously there is more advocacy and commentary here from a perspective, in contrast with "the view from nowhere."

Anonymous said...

Curious - is it just the City Manager who decides to sign on to letters like this? Or the Mayor? Or did Council decide to support this crap letter?

Rick said...

The city council votes on the legislative agenda. There is a council subcommittee that reviews bills that could impact the city and makes a recommendation to the council to support, oppose, or be neutral. In this instance council would vote on what position to take regarding the LOC letter.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

I see I should have been more explicit in saying that this letter, and any direct comment on the rulemaking, did not rise to the Council agenda, and followed from more general policy statements instead. Sorry for the lack of clarity.

Walker said...

You ask: “If we are serious about climate, if we are serious about anti-racism, if we are serious about more housing and better housing affordability, why are we offering static and resistance to the State's rulemaking effort for more and easier middle housing?”

I suggest that there is a sign error in your question — Salem is indeed serious about climate and racism and housing “affordability” — Salem is deadly serious that it wants to do nothing about climate other than give lip-service, that it is in deep denial about its racist origins and how they continue to echo through the ages and are fully functional today, and of course they are with 99.99% of the well-to-do (housing owners) who universally claim to believe in the concept of affordable housing but who really only do so if three conditions are met:

1) Nobody builds any housing me that costs less than my home;
2) My taxes don’t go up;
3) The value of my house goes up.

Anything that is perceived as violating any one of the three critical conditions means “Screw that, give me “neighborhood character” everytime.