Sunday, August 15, 2021

Proposed Code Changes, with City to end new Drive-Thrus Downtown, at Planning Commission Monday the 16th

Dang, the Planning Commission has a full plate this week. On Monday the 16th they've got a formal Work Session on some interesting proposed changes to zoning and the development code, and on Tuesday the 17th they will review the plans for Hope Plaza, which generally seem supported and non-controversial, as well as more contested appeals of a Minor Amendment to the Refinement Plan at Fairview for Pringle Creek Community and an approval of a subdivision on Doaks Ferry Road in West Salem.

We'll start with the Work Session (agenda here), and discuss the others for the 17th in a separate post.

Right off there is a terrific detail in the proposed amendments! The City wants to end new drive-thrus downtown. (It's surprising that single detached houses aren't already prohibited there.)

Prohibit drive-thrus downtown

Remember this from last September?

You may recall this image of a drive-thru coffee shack outside of downtown soliciting business by donating to wildfire and smoke relief last year.

There was no sense of any irony that the prospect of donation induced more carbon pollution as cars and their drivers waited in line - that it would add to and not mitigate the indirect cause and intensifier of the fires. 

In downtown itself, you may recall the new drive-thru at the new coffee shop that replaced the Barrick Funeral home on Ferry and Church, as well as the abandoned plan for a new bank and drive-thru where the Nishioka building is now on Commercial and State. And several other voids in the downtown fabric.

Two-thirds was demolished for the bank
The shell of the other third is today a drive-thru
January 1st, 1911 (image from 1864)

View today with the Moores Block shell painted red

One notable void is the drive-thru next to Pioneer Trust, which before it was gutted had been part of a group of buildings, the Moores Block, from the 1860s.

There are many reasons to end new drive-thrus. They induce car trips, they degrade sidewalk life and walking pleasure, and they are nearly the lowest form of land use. And, of course, if we are going to be serious about climate in a Climate Action Plan, we will need to stop building these things.

Ending them downtown is a good step in the right direction.

Do we need more pervious paving systems?

Another proposed change would require driveways be paved. But with increasing attention to the heat island effect, shouldn't we be more open to driveways that use pavers with grassy interstices, or even just start tolerating cars on lawns? The way we understand driveways has the function of making larger and more expensive lots necessary for the display and storage of cars; they encode ideas about class and wealth. They are also an indirect subsidy for cars and driving. Generally we should be more critical about the way we instantiate and subsidize our autoist systems.

The bike parking requirement, on the other hand, is helpful, and less costly than the provision of paved driveways.

Provisions for new transit stops

It is interesting to see a proposal to "require the construction of transit stops...when a transit stop has been needed in connection with a proposed development." If we require provisions for driveways and off-street parking, also requiring provisions for a transit stop is very fair.

Clarification at Fairview

Some of the matters in Tuesday's appeal on a Minor Amendment to a Fairview Refinement Plan, as well as other appeals and debate on previous refinement plans, appear to be echoed in some proposals to "clarify the relationship between the Fairview plan and refinement plans." Things have got a little squishy there, and all parties will be helped by greater clarity and precision.

There are a lot of other interesting details in the Work Session, among them are changes for compliance with new State middle housing rules and an expansion of urban poultry-keeping and small livestock, and they may not all get the attention they deserve.

The Planning Commission teleconferences at 5:30pm on Monday the 16th.

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