Saturday, December 11, 2021

City Council, December 13th - Misunderstanding Degradation in LOS Analysis

Council convenes for the last time in 2021 on Monday, and they have a technical fix for a Comprehensive Map Amendment process that is worth more attention.

Strong Towns on design, comfort, and safety

The problem the fix seeks to solve in fact evades the larger matter of our autoism, and if an amendment like this is necessary, and given the exigencies of our climate emergency stronger action will be necessary in the future, the City is missing an opportunity to rethink the autoist hegemony of Levels of Service analysis. The Oregon Highway Plan policy references "avoid[ing] further degradation," as if the primary "degradation" was congestion and not tailpipe and carbon pollution, brake and tire dust pollution, and the lethality of car speed and power. Cars, their speed, and their pollution degrade the walking, biking, and busing environment, even the living environment, but the OHP only considers the supposed "degradation" to drivers in congestion and delay. There is enormous autoist bias here.

From the Staff Report:

The Salem Transportation System Plan, Street System Element, Policy 2.5, establishes the performance standards for operation and design of City streets. This includes the provision that the City shall allow its existing streets and intersections to function at a Level of Service, LOS E, where traffic volumes generally are approaching or at 100 percent of the street’s effective capacity.

The code amendment proposed in Ordinance Bill No. 17-21 establishes a threshold for when a major plan amendment would fail to meet this adopted performance standard. The Regional Travel Demand Model is a broad model of transportation performance and as such, has a lower level of precision than would be provided through a more detailed and focused traffic engineering analysis....

These provisions [omitted] are modeled after the Oregon Highway Plan, Action 1F.5 (Attachment 3). Action 1F.5 establishes a threshold for small increase in traffic and recognizes a calculated v/c ratio that is within 0.03 of the adopted target as consistent with the target.

The threshold for significance also mirrors the City’s adopted standards for when an increase in traffic would trigger a traffic impact analysis. These standards, contained in SRC 803.015, require a traffic impact analysis when a development will generate 200 or more daily vehicle trips onto a Local street or Alley, or 1,000 daily vehicles trips onto a Collector, Minor Arterial, Major Arterial, or Parkway. Using the lower threshold of 200 daily trips accounts for major plan amendments on any classification of street.

In addition, establishing the proposed thresholds for significant effects on transportation facilities is consistent with the community’s input during the Our Salem project. Specifically, the proposed thresholds would allow the City to accept small increases in traffic without needing to consider potential road widening as mitigation. Community input during the Our Salem project generally prioritized bicycle, pedestrian, and transit improvements, and safety over road widening. In addition, the City anticipates updating the Salem Transportation System Plan after the Our Salem project is complete, and that update is expected to include a review and prioritization of bicycle, pedestrian, and other transportation improvements to advance the goals of the Our Salem project.

LOS A = an anti-place, LOS F = love
Confessions of a Recovering Engineer

Instead of adding a Ptolemaic Epicycle here, why don't we throw out the whole LOS and volume/capacity scheme of analysis for urban streets, and replace it with more human measures of place-making and of mobility for all users. 

The fix at Council just digs in on an obsolete and harmful paradigm.

Other Items

Tentative efforts at Police reform continue to trickle in. There's a report and assessment of the way our police respond to people threatening self-harm and suicidal violence. It is a little odd, however. The consultant appears not to have the people in crisis in mind primarily, but the goals of municipal indemnity in mind: "CSM has conducted a myriad of responsible and legally defendable investigations, evaluations, and statistical analyses...." 

The consultants are four retired LEOs, one of whom managed a SWAT team in Portland. There were no advocates for patients or people in crisis on the consultant team.

This matters generally, but also specifically, as the report stems from a lawsuit. From the Staff Report:

In 2012, Salem police officers were dispatched to a residence where a person (Chase Hammer) was reported to be experiencing a mental health crisis, threatening suicide and in possession of a handgun. A confrontation followed and Mr. Hammer was fatally shot.

The City was later sued by the Estate of Mr. Hammer and his family, where a settlement was reached. The Salem Police Department has worked to meet all of the terms of the settlement agreement. The final step of this agreement is to have outside specialists review the Salem Police Department’s response to suicide calls for a 5-year period. The assessment is being made public and presented to the Salem City Council in accordance with the agreement.

The Consultants conclude: "Assessors found most responses to suicidal individuals were consistent with best practices throughout the United States."

Nonetheless, Council should look at it carefully.

Garage doors facing Commercial St.

Though the Chief's presentation last month to Council highlighted the word "inclusive" as expressed on the new public art in front of the station, even titling the presentation "trust building," in back the paint scheme on the garage doors facing Commercial street strikes a rather different note. There is tension here that Council might need to consider more closely.

Rehab and reuse in SF

This past week the San Francisco Chronicle featured a story about a seismic retrofit, rehab, and reuse of a brutalist icon in Berkeley. The Public Art Commission is presenting their annual report to Council, and one of the items is the 50th anniversary of City Hall and looking forward to its seismic reinforcement. The Portland chapter DOCOMOMO features City Hall in the Civic Center complex and the photo they lead with shows some of its rhythmic vitality. They also included it on a tour last year.

from the DOCOMOMO tour in 2020

I do not like the Civic Center and find it brutal - not just brutalist in the sense of raw, exposed concrete, but brutal in a harsh, charmless, and ugly, even punishing way. It is anti-human, a fortress, forbidding and uninviting. Peace Plaza and Mirror Pond also are not places for gathering, and do not function as intended.

Maybe if in the bond we don't go too cheap for the seismic work and rehab, the architect team can introduce some humanism into the building and its immediate surroundings.

The building is historically significant in Salem, and in another 50 years its style will likely seem quaint. It probably deserves preservation efforts, though designation on the National Register could make useful modifications more difficult. We should consider more deeply how its Corbusierian setting in a park, set back away from the sidewalk, robs it of vitality.

We should not be afraid of interventions that make the building more useful and friendly, even if they disturb some imagined integrity and purity of the original brutalist concept. We should value function and warmth over aesthetic originalism.

On the art itself in Salem, see previous recent notes here. Guidance of Youth will surely be a topic in 2022.

Bullets for the rest:

1 comment:

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

I should have included links to a couple of FB discussions on police reform, both contesting the Chief's claim that the police are "woefully" understaffed here. One on November 19th, the other on the 26th.

A subtext for the report on response to people in suicidal distress, and to other instances of people in crisis, is whether a CAHOOTS-style response team is better or we should instead staff for armed law enforcement response.