In order to "protect" existing single detached housing and "neighborhood character," the vision offered by Our Salem in the new draft plan concentrates too much on already busy arterial streets and does not do enough to leverage our system of smaller, minor arterials and collector streets.
The main place this is visible, seemingly the project's "one big idea," is in the way the project team took a "mixed use paint brush" to the major corridors of Commercial Street and Lancaster Drive and changed the color on the existing zoning outlines. This is not by itself a bad move, but because it is an isolated move, it looks like warehousing new projects on streets that are already busy, unpleasant, and polluted.
|Focus on "major corridors"|
|(This key is not very helpful or clear|
as information design)
Even with mixed-use conversions, is this massive cross-section on South Commercial ever going to be friendly for walking?
|Is Mixed-Use by itself going to help with this?|
An important missing ingredient, then, is a boulevard conversion for Commercial and Lancaster. The proposed change from commercial to mixed-use zoning needs to be accompanied by a stroad-to-boulevard conversion in the streets. Otherwise they will still be oversized for autoist primacy and still very zoomy. Boulevard conversions also add medians for street trees and improve tree canopy. They prioritize local travel on the margins at calm speed and give through-travel the center.
|A Nelson/Nygaard proposal from the helpful|
Stroad to Boulevard tumblr
(gone now, alas, but see Strong Towns here)
By contrast at a much smaller scale, the Neighborhood Hub concept is undernourished, still too much of a small idea and even trial balloon. In the body of the plan, it says the hubs are "distributed" but it's not really clear where. The actual locations are hard to find on the high-level overview maps.
|This is not very helpful, too notional|
In an appendix, however, there is a list of them, and they seem too few, too small, and crucially are disconnected from any affiliated upzoning that would create the necessary number of nearby residential customers to support them. They are almost certain to need a greater penumbra of nearby residential density of customers to work. (See "Climate and the Neighborhood Hub Survey" for a little more on this.)
|Potential hubs in an appendix|
Adjacent to the vast swaths of mixed-use conversion on Commercial and Lancaster there is also this question of penumbral upzoning. (We have seen this also on the State Street Corridor study, where the transition to single detached housing on the alley remains abrupt and we do not nourish the envisioned mixed use development on State with gradual upzoning three and four blocks north and south. This new study should also consider why that plan has not yet jump-started redevelopment on State Street - do we have the right strategies in place? If not, more of the same is not going to work.)
|Not wrong, but is it the right lead goal?|
More generally, on transportation, the main goal is procedural, "complete streets," and not actually any actual and measured result of transportation or behavioral change. If we intend to tie this new plan to climate, the goal is changing transportation patterns for safety and emissions, not just changes to infrastructure. The infrastructure is a means to the end, not the end itself, and it is possible that changes to infrastructure by themselves will not create enough new walking, biking, and busing trips.
In our planning there is a repeated pattern where we confuse a sign of a thing, or a means to an end, for the desired thing and end itself. Look we have a complete street! Never mind that it's not yet being used completely. If we build a complete street, and few walk, bike, and bus on it, why is that? What more do we need?
|We must have more definiteness|
|Are neighborhoods really this fragile?|
The idea that our neighborhoods are fragile and need protection from parking, from traffic, from poor people, or the wrong people, or from commercial encroachment, or whatever, is key to the exclusionary way we have constructed privilege and reduced housing options in neighborhoods, and we need to look at this more closely. It is a mid-century, autoist paradigm that no longer serves our 21st century exigencies of climate, housing affordability, and justice. (See also "Defense against Developer Dark Arts" on the way we have used historic districts especially for this.)
|The rhetoric of "protection" is two generations old|
The 1983 Grant Neighborhood Plan
This restriction on more widespread change may seem necessary in order to secure consistent support for passage of any new zoning and plan, but it also vitiates and enervates the plan, making it too modest, too small, too ineffective. As a preliminary matter, too, it does not set up any Climate Action Plan or HB 2001 compliance plan for optimal success.
Council and the Planning Commission will next Wednesday have a formal Work Session on it, and there might be still more to say in another pass at the plan before that meeting. There are, of course, several other dimensions to the plan, and you will find other angles of interest.