The City announced a revision to the neighborhood hubs for Our Salem. The way the information is presented, it does not appear we are to register very much other than that the City killed some. It would have been more helpful to see them isolated, and not on a map already cluttered with detail. The information design here really buries the matter.
|Deleting 21 proposed hub sites - City presentation|
Here they are isolated - but even this was a view the City never presented and had to be created by deselecting a bunch of layers in a map, and the most recent version of the map has layers collapsed so you can't deselect and isolate individual changes.
|The proposed hub sites in February 2021|
There is also little explanation with the announcement:
View Proposed Changes to Neighborhood Hubs
We have made changes to proposed neighborhood hubs based on community input and analysis. Those changes include:
- Reducing the number of proposed neighborhood hubs by nearly two-thirds
- Adding restrictions to the types of uses allowed in proposed hubs and adding additional standards
Any overarching goal of reducing emissions or any kind of holistic view do not seem to be driving the deletions. Instead, NIMBY sentiment and neighbor complaint appear to be driving the changes.
|LTE opposing hub, June 2021|
Writing in opposition to one proposed hub, a neighbor claims "there are so many options available when it comes to accessing essential businesses" in the Laurel Springs area, on the back side of Candalaria as it slopes down to River Road and Croisan Creek. They also claim a hub would "encourage...loss of community and compromise safety." Something like a coffee shop, a classic "third place" and gathering place, would promote a loss of community? This is not-so-coded exclusionary sentiment.
The claim about "so many options" is also largely false. Here's the walkscore for the Laurel Springs hub that is proposed now for deletion in response to the criticism. Especially because of the hilly topography, it is car dependent. Sure you can hike to French Press or LifeSource, but it's an urban hike.
|Walkscore for deleted Laurel Springs hub|
The City has evidence available to contest many of the criticisms of the hubs, and they choose not to use it.
One relevant metric the City did not include is any index of income, property values, or lot sizes around the hubs retained and hubs deleted. There might be something of a correlation there.
At the same time, even the earlier, larger set of hubs seemed still too much an ad hoc placement and insufficiently grounded in an analysis of emissions reductions.
By how much do they help us reach the goal of 50% reduction by 2035? Or are they largely ineffective symbolic action? How likely are they to be developed in reality as opposed to being just marks on a map? (Some have argued for a kind of zoning determinism, that once a lot is rezoned it will necessarily develop that way, but instead it seems more likely that most lots will not in fact change use or change structure type for some time. Mass demolition will not accompany rezoning.)
I do not think the hub concept as the City currently understands it and proposes to enact it is very helpful, so I do not want to argue that this round of deletion is by itself some great loss. Whether the final plan has 34 or only 13 proposed hubs may not be very critical. We don't actually know how important they might be.
I want instead to suggest that this deletion is a symptom of our lack of seriousness. Because the City and project team have not yet modeled a plan that shows us meeting that 50% reduction, and shows how the individual changes contribute to that reduction, including the hubs, we are just fiddling around with minor and largely symbolic changes on the margins.
Truly, adjusting the seating plan and deck chairs on the Titanic.
Previous discussion of the hub concept:
- "Climate and the Neighborhood Hub Survey" (The irony of a note about a comparatively wet and cool summer in July of 2020 before the awful Labor Day fires is just sad now)
- On the frame of hubs and corridors, "Our Salem Vision and Draft Plan Relies too Much on Arterial Conversion to Mixed-Use"
- "We may Need more Neighborhood Hub Sites out of Our Salem" (with some historical notes on hubs)
- "Expansion of Proposed R4 Live-Work Zoning Tucked into New Draft: A Footnote" (also on hubs)
- Criticism from Seattle of the hubs and corridors model, "Problems with Seattle's Urban Villages might Prompt more Thought on Our Salem"