Thursday, February 11, 2021

City and State Diverge on Complete Neighborhoods in Greenhouse Gas Assessment

After the Planning Commission's meeting earlier this week on the proposal to update the Comprehensive Plan, a reader pointed out a very interesting mismatch.

City and State with very different
counts of "complete neighborhoods"

A year ago, the Department of Land Conservation and Development presented an assessment of the extent of "complete neighborhoods" in each metro area. Salem was in the low teens, 11% in 2010 and projected for 13% in 2035. (The chart here, and a very brief discussion in the Staff Report.)

Three quarters of a year later, last fall the City published an analysis in Our Salem that 65% was the current extent.

That's a difference of a little over 50%. 

11% vs 65%!

Half the city is a huge gap in the assessment. 

There are some small differences in the areas under analysis as Our Salem does not embrace the full area of the MPO, but any difference should be more in line with a rounding error, nothing like the magnitude of 50%.

The City and consultant team should explain this difference in more detail. It is likely that the City has used a definition of "complete neighborhood" too generous and broad, and that it doesn't actually point to something we would agree is a walkable, bikable, complete neighborhood, one that doesn't require the use of a car for most errands and trips. Certainly 65% has not seemed like it actually reflects our lived reality in most parts of the Salem.

It is possible that the City should scrap their assessment and simply conform to the State's, as increasing numbers of administrative rules will employ the standards and definitions used by DLCD.

If they do not want to conform to this standard, they should hit pause and publish a more detailed analysis of their own scheme. 

Council should not adopt the current plan with the current analysis. Without more explanation it is nonsensical and insufficient for any big decision.


MikeSlater said...

The difference between the City's complete neighborhood category and the State's definition of mixed-used neighborhoods is causing some confusion, esp. since the first has little bearing on GHG reductions and the latter has a significant impact. I asked City staff about this at last night's Planning Commission meeting and followed up again today with the City's Planning Administrator.

I was told that the City's complete neighborhood category is not at all the same as the state's mixed use neighborhood. City staff believe the public voiced a desire to have complete neighborhoods and so that is included that category as a benchmark and organizing principle in the proposed comprehensive plan. Neighborhood hubs are a complement to the complete neighborhood concept.

The City does not have a measurement or benchmark that coincides with the State's mixed use category. As the document points out, Salem and other cities need to get to 30% of their population living in mixed-use, transit-accessible neighborhoods by 2030 in order gain meaningful GHG reductions through land use. It would seem wise for the City to adopt that goal and provide information to policymakers and the public on how are going to achieve it.

While the City has not been explaining its effort using the same language as the State, they are in fact pursuing strategies to achieve exactly what the State is recommending. As I've pointed out before, the City has rezoned huge sections of our major and minor corridors as mixed use. The fact that many of these mixed use zones overlay Cherriots core transit network is not an accident.

The Our Salem plan, which will be refined over the next 10 months, is a significant break from the suburban development model Salem pursued for many decades and builds on recent land use changes such as permitting ADU's and eliminating parking minimums for multifamily dwellings in the core network. The preliminary version makes liberal use of the primary tool available to us in land use for reducing GHG emissions: mixed use zoning.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

It's not possible to be definitive on this point at the moment, but when you say
"the City has not been explaining its effort using the same language as the State, they are in fact pursuing strategies to achieve exactly what the State is recommending" you are reading the City's efforts and analysis much more charitably than seems warranted.

Come on, 50%? That's a huge difference! Not just some minor detail to be absorbed by slight differences in terminology or intent.

There is a non-zero chance you will be right in the end, but it will not be surprising if things are actually otherwise. The preponderance of the evidence is that the current draft Our Salem vision does not go far enough.

Susann Kaltwasser said...

If just having a bus that comes into your area is meeting the criteria of being complete, then we are in dire straights. I live in a subdivision that is about 3 miles from the nearest commercial zone. There is a bus stop one block away from my house. No one ever uses that bus to go to the commercial zone. Why? Because the bus only comes once an hour and does not go anywhere you might need to go to in Salem unless you get a transfer. Getting to work could easily take an hour. This area is relatively well off. People just get in their car and go wherever.

The lack of walkable commercial areas means this neighborhood is not complete. This is West Salem's situation. Pretty much 2/3 of West Salem is not walkable to a business. Our Salem needs to address this situation to be meaningful.