Council convenes on Wednesday the 24th in a Work Session jointly with the Planning Commission to consider the draft Vision and Plan coming out of Our Salem.
The draft Vision and Plan occasioned here some critique, and that elicited some counter-critique.
|Oregon, too: Sunday the 13th in the LA Times|
Over at Hinessight in a post rightly arguing the plan needed to center climate more, Planning Commissioner Michael Slater contested a couple of things:
[Conversion] of a significant quantity of commercial space to mixed use is a bigger deal than people recognize. In fact, creating mixed use space and more land-use flexibility (so that services and consumers are physically closer together) is the biggest GHG reduction tool in the land use policy toolkit. Unfortunately, the Breakfast on Bikes author did not recognize that point. He also skipped over the significant increase in multi-family zoning. As for converting from stroads to boulevards, I agree. What's missing from Breakfast on Bike's critique is that the city has approved and partially funded a plan to do just that in Commercial. It's called the Vista-Commercial Corridor project. It includes wide sidewalks, buffered bike lanes in both direction, a new signalized pedestrian crosswalk and a dedicated bike signal where Commercial and Liberty spilt.
The Value of Mixed-Use Zoning and Place in Larger Narrative
Since the value of mixed-use projects is so axiomatic for the breakfast blog, it did not seem necessary to say more about that and perhaps that was a mistake. In fact, there is not so much disagreement here really.
In saying here that the draft proposal leaned too much on Commercial Street and Lancaster Drive, it wasn't also saying "don't do that." It was to say we should do more and that the mixed-use and upzoning should be distributed more widely, not confined so narrowly to the busiest of Salem streets. (We'll consider this in relation to the proposed R4 zoning in another post.)
That might be an artifact of the fact that there is a difficult politics here, and the rhetoric in the plan has to serve the politics as well as serve as an explanation of the plan.
One of the elements in the politics is that the way this plan is envisioned to flow into an HB 2001 compliance plan is totally elided. That is a necessary sequel, but in the world of the plan itself we are going to agnostic about it and pretend for the moment we don't know anything about it as a sequel.
So some of the criticism of the plan here is criticism of its silence on any HB 2001 compliance (a silence that always been overtly stated and never hidden it should be noted), and it might have been an error not to say more about that. The plan is presented as an end, but in fact it is only a moment, a big moment to be sure, but a moment in a still developing process and narrative, and I would like to have more explicit discussion of how it is envisioned to be a part of that larger picture of HB 2001 with middle housing and our forthcoming Climate Action Plan. The politics, alas, probably work against having this discussion formally. But without understanding the Vision and Plan's place in relation to those, we have to evaluate it in isolation, and it comes up short. And even if we have to take HB 2001 compliance off the table, we could wait for a Climate Action Plan.
Empirical Data Missing
As it would be nice to have more discussion of the way this plan would be a moment in our transition on climate and also the way it relates to middle housing reform prompted by the State legislation, it would be nice to have more discussion of existing mixed-use areas and how they do or do not function.
|Two similar projects compared|
990 Broadway and State Street Study
We have a new project going forward on Broadway that is at least superficially similar to a hypothetical project discussed as not feasible in the State Street Study a couple years ago. What about any differences here? Are they significant?
The new State Street mixed-use zoning doesn't seem to have prompted any new redevelopment, the new zoning on Edgewater also seems to reinforce the monoculture of medical clinics, and redevelopment downtown remains a struggle.
|This project for Belluschi Pond was abandoned|
Commercial-Vista Corridor is not a Stroad-to-Boulevard Conversion
A more substantial disagreement with Slater is on the significance of the Commercial-Vista Corridor projects. The Commercial-Vista Corridor plan is not at all a stroad-to-boulevard conversion. It retains key stroad characteristics and merely adds better bike lanes and some new enhanced crosswalks, and one length of sidewalk that is just basic remediation, no more. The corridor plan is limited to a short section of "middle" Commercial, also, and does not go the length of the proposed mixed-use zoning on Commercial or any length on Lancaster. The funded projects the City has in the queue are limited and partial - incremental improvements to be sure - but not at all the full conversion to a boulevard that would be appropriate to swaths of new mixed-use projects.
So we'll argue that point here much more strongly.
Scenarios and their Influence on Current Proposal
Going back to the scope of mixed-use rezoning, it is interesting to consider three of the scenarios we saw earlier in this spring. At that time they seemed too small and modest, and combining them seemed like a useful thing.
|These did get combined into a ambitious scenario|
|(This key is not very helpful or clear|
as information design)
It looks like the downtown area drew mostly on scenario C rather than scenario D. Skyline and Liberty drew a little on scenario B, but appear to be scaled back.
Is Change Equitably Distributed?
There may be an argument that the draft Vision and Plan keeps the greater Sprague area around Skyline and Liberty too insulated from change.
|Have we insulated one quadrant from change?|
West Salem also seems a little insulated from change. Especially with the contentiousness of the failed SRC, more discussion of how this proposal reduces driving in West Salem would be helpful. (The misguided notion that vehicle delay is a good indicator is a problem in this light.)
|Is the amount of change|
equitable for West and South Salem?
Close-in streetcar gridded areas like the Bush Park-Gaiety Hill, Court-Chemeketa, and Grant neighborhoods are mostly exempted from change also.
Both West Salem and South Salem have hills and fragmented street grids, and geography is part of this also.
Politics might seem to require silence on all this, but in order to understand the logic of the Plan it would be helpful to see more explicit discussion of these areas.
Scoring the Vision and Plan on the Indicators
Even with flaws in the modeling, we need to see an assessment of the current proposal.
Why doesn't the draft Vision and Plan as published include scoring consistent with the scoring we saw earlier? We should be able to measure it by the same standards we measured the others so we have an apples-to-apples comparison. (Previously see theses notes, here, here, here on that scoring.)
|Here are the indicators|
Altogether, one of the problems with the Vision and Plan is that we are asked to evaluate it more by our feelings and preferences, and less by higher level values and metrics. Does it really do what we want it to do? Maybe we'll decide the plan is truly wonderful, but at the moment there is not enough information for more considered judgement.
There is also more to say on the new proposed R4 zoning and on the Neighborhood Hub concepts, and maybe other things also. There's lots to think about in the Vision and Plan! So there will be more posts as here and elsewhere we all continue to absorb and grapple with the plan.