Saturday, August 8, 2020

City Council, August 11th - Broadway, Cemetery, Grant School

Council convenes on Monday, and there are three interesting transportation items on the agenda.

Broadway at Pine Street and Counting Lanes

Deceptive language:
Edgewater at Rosemont with four lanes, not three
One of the items concerns the intersection on Broadway at Pine Street:
Shall Council authorize the City Manager to execute the Intergovernmental Agreement with the Oregon Department of Transportation for Right-of-Way Services for the Broadway Street NE at Pine Street NE Improvements Project?....

The Broadway Street NE at Pine Street NE Improvements Project will modify the left-turn signals to protective permissive (flashing yellow arrows); reduce the four-lane roadway to three lanes with a center turn lane between Salem Parkway NE and Pine Street NE; and install a right-turn lane on the northbound leg of Broadway Street NE at Pine Street NE
The City is using deceptive language for the project. It requires a very elastic notion of "reduce" to say that the City will "reduce the four-lane roadway to three lanes with a center turn lane...[and] a right-turn lane." When you count the lanes on a nearly identical cross-section on Edgewater at Rosemont in West Salem, if you count the center turn lane as a lane, you should also count the right-turn lane as a lane, and that yields a total of four lanes (the in-bound, opposite direction lane is assumed).

By including a right-turn lane in the project, this is no longer a 4/3 "reduction" from four to three lanes! It is instead a 4/4 equivalent and no net reduction on this segment.

For more on that, see the note from last month here, "City Poised to Oversize Broadway at Pine Street; Engineer offers Counter."

Cemetery Connection

Councilor Nordyke proposes some next steps on the prospect for a connection at the Cemetery between Candalaria and Fairmount neighborhoods. (Mont/mount is confusing with Rosemont and Fairmount!)
I move that City Council direct staff to submit a report to City Council that provides additional information regarding two potential pedestrian paths linking Candalaria and Fairmount neighborhoods between Hoyt Street S and Rural Avenue S: (1) a path through Pioneer Cemetery that connects the two neighborhoods; and (2) a path connecting the two neighborhoods that includes City View Cemetery. The report will include a summary of the issues, constraints, and options for the two potential paths. The report will also provide planning-level estimates of the costs of constructing the two paths not including potential expenses related to acquiring property or easements. During the course of their research, staff will discuss the two options with representatives of City View Cemetery and Pioneer Alley, LLC, and summarize the results of these conversations to Council in the report.
I read this as buying time and negotiating space while still working to move the project forward. I'm not sure there is much more to say at this particular moment, though it is interesting there is no reference here to the prospect of any Urban Trails Implementation Plan.

Tree removal apparently knocked over
a monument earlier this week. (More here.)
Though as a footnote, we should give more visibility to the ways that cars, trucks, and power equipment, even mower blades, cause more than merely incidental wear-and-tear on the cemetery. As we assess harm and prospective harm to any cemetery, we should be sure to put the harms and wear from motorized sources in proportion to the wear-and-tear caused by people on foot and on bike.

See most recently on the cemetery connection here, "The Problem of the Cemetery."

Bus Parking and Trees at Grant Elementary: Underpriced Parking is the Root

Proposed bus pullout on Cottage Street at Market and Gaines
(comments in red added)
The Grant Neighborhood has appealed the School District's plans for the Elementary School. It's hard to get the measure of the real problem here.

First, the Neighborhood letter of appeal has overwrought and overcompensating rhetoric that makes it seem a little suspicious.
We have never wanted to fight the District or the City on this. We are friends and allies. A long public record of our attempts to seek mutually-beneficial solutions is on file with this case....We hope it doesn't come to a conflict; our resolve to find a solution is strong...Again, we invite the City to join Grant Neighborhood and the School District in analyzing, problem-solving and forging a viable alternative. Without all three parties at the table with sleeves rolled up, the odds of an alternative solution vetting successfully are greatly minimized. With good will and diligent work, elegant solutions are always attainable. If one partner must do all the work, the outcome is determined by hurdles and technicalities rather than a mutual vision for the common good.
Inside of all that, it might also be true that the School District is a little (or a lot) uncooperative and unresponsive. But there's a kind of entitlement in the Neighborhood Association expectation that the School is going to enter a protracted negotiation with them. Should a Neighborhood Association have this kind of veto power? (We are seeing the same problem with the DevNW German Baptist Church project.)

On the merits, apart from style and feelings, I keep thinking that there's got to be more to it, but I think that in the end it boils down to one thing: Parking.

This is a fight over seven to nine parking spots
The neighbors across the street on Cottage Street, some of whom are very active in the Neighborhood Association and other civic groups, resent the loss of "their" free on-street parking. I really think that's it, the main beef. It's about a proprietary claim to on-street parking and everything else is secondary and mainly a screen for that issue.

The Neighborhood Association also suggests smaller trees and a little wider pavement will promote speeding, but is that really a problem between Fairgrounds and Market? Is there really a long enough segment to speed up and zoom? Maybe there is, but the NA cites no evidence.

Does the segment between Fairgrounds and Market
really have a speeding problem?
Additionally, this streetcar-era grid has alleys, and some of the houses enjoy garages and parking areas accessed off the alley. In the streetview image, you can also see some people parallel parking on the margin of the alley.

In the alley west of Cottage between Market and Gaines
there are at least two cars parked and visible
The fact that this area has an alley system vitiates some of their criticism about the loss of parking. Even if it is a "low-garage" urban area, it has an alley for car storage and car access! That's a feature, not a bug.

All in all, given the larger importance of the school, the potential for a loss of on-street parking and associated inconveniences for the Cottage Street neighbors seem small and minor.

As a solution to the conflict, the "neighborhood" - and I think we should read it to mean specifically "neighbors on the west side of Cottage Street between Market and Gaines" - proposes instead that all the bus traffic should be on Winter Street. (But what about the neighbors on Winter Street and people who would like to use the low-traffic Neighborhood Greenway?)
The NA proposes a driveway on Winter Street
Maybe this Winter Street is a good idea. There's not enough detail really to evaluate it, and the School District doesn't include their own critique. The City gives a procedural response:
[T]he City may not delay or deny approval of a proposal that meets all applicable criteria to allow more time to explore alternatives. The suggested bus loop on Winter Street NE would likely require removal of a significantly larger street tree and would require the applicant to submit a new Class 3 Site Plan Review application, a Class 2 Driveway Approach Permit for a new driveway on a local street, and possible zoning adjustments. It would place the bus parking and ingress and egress area for the students in an area already used for a solid waste service area, bicycle parking, and vehicle parking, potentially requiring significant modifications to the existing features to provide a safe crossing for the students utilizing the buses. The applicant [24J] has not provided staff with a response to the Neighborhood Association’s assertion that the proposal would provide adequate turning area for buses.
Zooming out a little we should consider how our costly parking mandates screw up urban school siting and skew expectations for parking. From the Staff Report:
The existing school parking is nonconforming with respect to current code requirements of two spaces per each of 19 classrooms. The current proposal involves no increase in the number of classrooms and does not require the school to provide the current requirement of 38 off-street spaces.
Really, we should not require urban schools to have large parking lots, and the conflict here over street parking is evidence for underpriced parking. If the street parking were priced correctly, the free lot one block to the north of the school, provided by Salem Alliance Church, would be attractive and used more, and residents might appreciate the alley system more strongly. All of these problems stem for our autoist commitments to "free parking" and "every public parking spot is precious."

Maybe it's true the School District hasn't been friendly or accommodating enough, but in the end we are talking about a proprietary claim on public space for "my parking," and as we shift our thinking on transportation for the 21st century and its Climate Emergency, Council should think very hard about any inclination to overturn the approval under the guise of "every public parking spot is precious." We have to get away from underpriced, free parking we simultaneously overvalue as precious.

If it is so precious, let's price it as precious. If it's not so precious after all, let's have less of it and not fret about reductions.

Demolished and gone now for four years or so
Former Salem General Hospital - Maternity Unit, 1980s
(Salem Library Historic Photos)
And just in passing, Salem Hospital is partitioning the old General Hospital site into two lots in order to market them separately.

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