Friday, October 9, 2020

City Council, October 12th - Managing to a Goal on Climate

At Council on Monday Counselor Andersen offers an excellent resolution with an important adjustment on the current approach to our Climate Action Plan

He says

I move that the City Council adopt the following goals as part of the City’s Climate Action Plan (CAP):
• By 2035, Salem’s greenhouse gas emissions shall be reduced to 50% of the citywide greenhouse gas emissions for the baseline year of 2016, and
• By 2050, Salem should be carbon neutral.

Our Salem models only an 18% reduction
for 2035, and we need something closer to 50%
Global Warming Commission and Our Salem
(Notes in green added, graphic swapped out)

Though the chart from Our Salem (bottom half of image) lacks time labels, they model conditions in 2035. (Why the project team didn't label every chart is a mystery; this is not good information design.)

The "preferred scenario" out in draft form right now appears to offer about an 18% reduction from current conditions. The difference between "current trends" for 2035 and that preferred scenario is negligible, well within any rounding error or margin of error.

Any scenario worth preferring would have greater reductions, and adopting a set of carbon reduction targets helps greatly with planning for that and achieving it.

In every way we need better metrics, and Councilor Andersen's resolution is a meaningful start on that.

At the same time, the climate goals our neighboring cities do not very often have teeth in them. One way that Salem could make our plan superior to have a clear plan, a flow chart even, for what happens when we miss intermediate targets. Do we have escalating actions that will kick in when we miss on early rounds of measurement?

This is a great step and Councilor Andersen deserves enthusiastic support. (And if at the end of the process we want to refine those numbers, we can always do that, but without a goal to structure our beginnings, we're just flapping and posturing. We do not at this point have to determine that Councilor Andersen's proposed numbers are the right and final ones for us. We just need a target for our start.)

The Pandemic really dominates everything

There's a report on the Strategic Plan, the "2020 Annual Community Report," but it does not seem right this year to dwell on it. Under "Safe Community" they rightly devoted a large section to the Pandemic. Maybe when we see how next year shapes up, it will be appropriate to take a closer retrospective look at this.

The Pandemic also shadows this year's Community Satisfaction Survey. Almost certainly because of depressed traffic volumes, "road infrastructure" fell off the list of "most important issues." A third bridge is on it, but in a very secondary position. (It's important also to note that "the margin of error for this survey is +/-4.9%")

With Pandemic traffic volumes, roads of less concern

Last year the survey split walking and biking, but this year they lumped them together again. That is unhelpful.

Walking and biking lumped together

They also ask very specifically about driving across the city, but ask only very generally about walking and biking. When we have a bike commute rate of only 1% or so, it's so very hard to believe that two-thirds of Salemites are ok with biking here. It just doesn't add up. We should split out walking and biking separately, and we should also split out recreational biking on park paths from utility cycling for errands, work, or school. If we ask about "drive across the city in rush hour" we should ask about "biking to work" or "biking for a gallon of milk" or something roughly equivalent.

Walking and biking in general vs drive across city

For more see notes:

Finally, there's a Council call-up and review of the Planning Commission's decision to approved ODOT's request to rezone the 2400 block of Commercial. The Staff Report

recommends that the City Council reverse the Planning Commission's...decision and deny Comprehensive Plan Change, Neighborhood Plan Change, and Zone Change....

In approving the change, the Planning Commission had asserted

The property’s lack of suitability for multiple family development due to its location near incompatible uses and along state highways, and its small size which would make it cost prohibitive to develop.

But this is exactly the kind of land Our Salem's preferred alternative envisions for mixed-use and multi-family conversion along very busy arterial corridors. We are tending towards saying this kind of property is very suitable for multiple family development. Our Salem, in fact, proposes a large cluster of new mixed-use designation immediately to the south of the site, and the current multi-family zoning is more consistent with that than the light industry of shops expansion.

Our Salem proposes a large cluster
of mixed-use zoning immediately south

Parking crater on State Street at Airport Road

ODOT should be able to find other, better land for their shops. They have a vast expanse of parking lot at their existing compound on State Street and Airport Road. Something still just doesn't add up here. See previous notes here.

 Bullets for the rest:


Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

A reader pointed out an error in the interpretation of the chart from Our Salem. It is unlabeled for the year (as are all the other comparison charts), and the criticism of this part of the chart was misguided. In a different place, the "preferred scenario" and its modeling is identified as for the year 2035. And that makes a difference for this discussion.

I swapped in a new chart with different labels and three new paragraphs to account for the error and revised take on the chart. The larger point remains the same, but one of the detail criticisms was in error and has been removed.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Via FB, Councilor Andersen published more in the way of an introduction, asserting reasonably that the Task Force needed a more specific high-level goal and that they should be working out the details, not making the goal itself:

"Some time ago I moved, and the City Council agreed, to incorporate an environmental component of Our Salem and to start the process of adopting a climate action plan for the city. This is beginning. I am one of three Councilors on a nearly 50 member task force to help the city move toward a climate action plan. This task force is composed of persons representing all aspects of Salem’s life – environmentalists, 350Salem, business leaders, environmental justice/equity advocates, people of color, and other who will broadly represent all Salemites. But the group needs a goal to work toward; it should not be setting the goals – the City Council should."