Saturday, July 23, 2022

City Council, July 25th - Our Salem and new Climate-Friendly Rules

Our Salem is already a little outdated. On Thursday the 21st the LCDC (the board) approved new administrative rules on climate and city planning formulated by DLCD (the State agency).

Cover of the Staff presentation to LCDC

Some of the rule changes will supersede or modify policies and code for Our Salem, which Council looks to enact formally with a second reading on Monday.

From the DLCD press release

I guess the benefit is now City Staff get to point the finger at the State when people complain, so in there is political cover in that sense. "Our hands are tied."

But it's also disappointing the City isn't following our Climate Action Plan and going further on their own. (See a little more on the passivity and reaction in "Climate Action Plan Committee: Transportation and Passivity.")

I am sure Staff will come to Council later with an update on another set of code and policy changes to bring Salem into compliance with the new rules. It will be interesting to learn where exactly are the new inconsistencies. There is also an explicit set of new tasks the rules assign to each city and area. (The chart is too abbreviated to be very legible, and obviously there will be more to say about it later - but it gives a holistic sense of more work to do.)

Salem area compliance tasks

In the meantime, at Council for Our Salem the second reading is broken up into four pieces:

Staff identify next steps:

  1. Update the Transportation System Plan to align with the updated Comprehensive Plan
  2. Update the Comprehensive Parks System Master Plan to align with the updated Comprehensive Plan
  3. Coordinate and implement strategies in the Climate Action Plan
  4. Conduct a new Economic Opportunities Analysis
  5. Conduct a Goal 5 inventory
  6. Develop a Housing Production Strategy

And to this we will add a seventh, which itself contains multiple actions (see chart above): 

7. Update everything for compliance with the new Climate Friendly and Equitable Communities rules.

Additionally, as part of the tweaks Council made to the final package

City Council voted to approve the Our Salem project on Monday, July 11 with the following revisions:

  • Remove the proposed neighborhood hub on Brown Road NE
  • Remove the proposed map changes north of Orchard Heights Road NW (west of Grice Hill Park)
  • Only rezone the northern half of the properties at 3486 and 3266 Orchard Heights Road NW to Mixed Use-II
  • Rezone 255 College Drive NW to Single Family Residential as opposed to Multiple Family Residential-I
  • Direct staff to schedule a separate public hearing to consider rezoning properties along Commercial Street SE roughly between Superior Street and McGilchrist Street to Mixed Use-II
  • Direct staff to address traffic issues on Wallace Road NW - including the Congestion Relief Task Force recommendations - in the upcoming update to the Salem Transportation System Plan

Most of these are nits, details that don't really matter.

Commercial Street will have more significance, and that's an interesting discussion from SCAN. There will be more to say later.

The last item on Wallace Road and the Congestion Relief Task Force is definitely more systematic.

The Congestion Relief Task Force arose out of the failure of the SRC. It was a compensatory consolation prize.

But we have seen that 53% of our emissions come from driving, and in Scenarios 1 and 2 our Climate Action Plan calls for:

6. The rate of residents walking and biking has doubled.
7. Transit ridership has quadrupled.
8. Vehicle traffic coming into and out of Salem has declined by 40%.
9. Traffic within Salem has declined by 10%.

The exact mix will vary in reality, and number 8 in particular seems out of whack and isolationist relative to number 9, but what is clear is we need less driving, fewer trips and shorter trips when drives are made.

Bittersweet benefit (earlier in July)

But the whole framework of "congestion relief" in which driving is made easier and more convenient is out of date. Even the bullet points from that DLCD press release talk about moving away from "subsidizing driving" and "focusing on motor vehicle congestion."

Short term actions (yellow and red notes added)

Instead of reducing the time-cost of car travel, we need to reduce all the costs of other kinds of travel. And we need to figure out how to be ok with increasing time-cost and increasing dollar-cost of car travel. Car travel needs to be the choice of last resort, one tool in the toolbox, not default and first resort! Currently everything is looks like a nail, and we hammer everything.

Of the near-term recommendations from the Task Force, those in yellow need more emphasis, and the items in red need to be reconsidered as anti-pedestrian.

The whole needs a reassessment in light of our need to drive less. Congestion relief is no longer a useful paradigm.

See also at Sightline, with particular emphasis on parking. (The new "climate friendly areas" cities will need to designate and plan for will be especially interesting to learn more about, but these pieces don't much discuss them.)

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