Thursday, May 24, 2018

New Construction v. Rehab

Revised: January 2019

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

Derby Building, circa 1957
When Council recently approved a grant of almost $600,000 in HOME funds for a new, low income, multi-family housing project on Marine Drive in West Salem, no one asked why that project was chosen over the less-costly Oakhill/Sunnyslope rehab project.  

When the Community Services and Housing Commission, who recommended funding the Marine Drive project, met to discuss the issue, they gave it very short shrift.  They seemed to feel the choice was obvious:  the rehab project won't "add new housing." 

To some, the choice is just that simple.  New construction is always better than rehab, because it "adds new housing."  They forget that housing is not permanent and can be lost to gradual deterioration, especially rental housing.

The Oakhill/Sunnyslope rehab project was ready to begin this summer, and the new construction project on Marine Drive required additional financing and wouldn't begin for at least another year.  It also cost more.  Point is, new construction is not always better, but depends on the particular factors and circumstances involved.

Take UGM, for example.  The rehab potential of the current Men's Mission has been maxed out for a very long time, and everyone agrees they need a new facility.  Similarly, the Lighthouse Shelter on Front Street no longer meets the needs of the homeless community, due in large measure to design limitations that make it unsuitable as a low-barrier shelter.  But, should it be renovated or reconstructed (torn down and built up), maybe some place else?  Another difficult choice was Yaquina Hall, which the City has decided to rehab for low-income housing, even though a tear-down, build up project would have been less costly and yielded more units.

Across the country and globe, communities have learned the hard way what happens when they take for granted their existing low-income housing stock.  In CANDO, for example, there was once the Derby Building at Court and High Streets, which was home to the Senator Hotel, which opened in 1928 with 111 rooms, 32 with tubs and 24 with showers.  Neighborhood Services staff recently gave CANDO a file of old newsletters, published between 1991 and 2008, which chronicle, after a fashion, the decision to demolish the Derby Building to make way for Courthouse Square and an off-street transit mall.

By the early 1990s, Marion County had owned the Derby almost 20 years, using the northern part as offices, along with the Mid-Willamette Council of Governments, and renting out the southern half to low-income individuals through the Marion County Housing Authority.  Over time, it seems, the County/Housing Authority had allowed the property to decline (only minimally maintained), which contributed to an increased vacancy rate, and, by the 1980s, the project was in the red.  An article in the Statesman Journal on the Senator Hotel reported that, in 1982, one-bedroom units ran between $84 and $149, or between $216 and $384 in today's dollars.  In one three-month period, the Housing Authority lost $7,000, about $18,000 today. 

In 1991, John Winter, chair of the CANDO board, reported serving "as a representative...on the Joint Development Committee...studying the feasibility of developing the Senator Block for a combined Transit Mall and County Office Building", and that CANDO, "along with other members of the committee[,] continued to question the Senator Block location and were successful in getting the Transit District and the County to rethink this proposal."  Reasons were not stated.

In 1992, CANDO reported:

The City Council has authorized the purchase of the Monterey Apartments, located at Ferry Street SE.  The apartments were damaged by fire last summer and vacated.  The building has been boarded up and will be kept that way for up to six months... 

During the six-month holding period, the City will investigate the possibility of using the building in the proposed Transit District project.  In this project[,] the Transit District would acquire the Senator Hotel from Marion County and clear the site for an off-street transit terminal.  Clearing the site would delete the low-rent housing in the "Derby Building" (the corner portion of the Senator Building) [sic].  The Monterey Apartment building would serve as a relocation site for Senator Hotel residents. 

Several other options exist.  The original suggestion was that the building can be rehabilitated for low-income public housing.  CAN-DO, the Downtown Development Board, and the Salem Housing Advisory Committee opposed such a project due to the high renovation costs.  The Housing Advisory Committee felt that the money could be better spent in building less costly housing in the area.  If the Transit District project does not materialize this option may still be considered.

The City could choose to demolish the building and use the land for surface parking by the City or resell the property for parking by others (perhaps First Methodist Church)... purposes.

There are a number of good alternatives for the building and land but none that everyone agrees upon.  Low-income housing is needed, by rehabilitation of the Apartments would be expensive and not necessarily desirable for long[-]term housing.  The one recommendation that was repeatedly voiced by the public at the February 3 City Council meeting was that something should be done to remove the blight of the current Monterey Apartments.         
In 1993, CANDO board chair Jim Adams reported, "the future of the Monterey Apartments is an ongoing issue...[t]he City...proposed renovating it for low-income housing.  CAN-DO opposed the plan because of the high cost of renovation per unit.  The City abandoned the plan and is currently seeking private development of the property."

In the end, the Monterey was reduced to a surface parking lot, which it remains today.  As for the transit mall project, the 1995 newsletter states, "District officials have been studying alternate sites for years.  The recent preferred location, the Oddfellows Building, has proven very controversial." 

By 1996, the "Senator Hotel block" had been selected as the site of a new county office building and transit mall.  That year's newsletter makes no  mention of the Senator Hotel residents, or any relocation plan.  In 1997, the Derby was torn down, and its remains trucked to back side of Minto-Brown Island Park.

The point of the story is not to second-guess these decisions, but to illustrate how communities sometimes make choices they might not have been made had they understood fully all the costs/implications of their decisions.  The newsletters during this period reflect more concern over youth hanging out downtown and getting into trouble than they do over occasional problems with "transients."  Nowhere in the newsletters is homelessness is even mentioned.

DHSTF 6/13/18 Agenda
Today, however, twenty years after the demise of the Senator Hotel and the Monterey Apartments, hundreds of CANDO residents are living in the streets.  Many are ill, many are addicted, and many are "trespassed" or otherwise barred (by age, criminal record, mental health, or intoxication level) from accessing a limited number of shelter beds.  The number of day shelters and shelter beds has dwindled, though the number of homeless has not, and CANDO has been divided over plans to expand capacity, and whether to adopt a "sit-lie" ordinance aimed at excluding certain homeless individuals from downtown.  Although housing is being built downtown, none of it's low-income.  A downtown task force is preparing to recommend "homeless solutions" to mitigate health and other problems created by so many residents living in the streets (at left), but they will not include housing.  Those "solutions" will be in addition to the downtown sobering center the City plans to open in 2019.  On the "positive side", the City's Homeless Rental Assistance Program (HRAP) has been a success, and will be funded through June 2019, and homelessness has made it to the top of the list of community concerns.

Most likely, allowing the number of people living in the streets to grow, year after year, has cost the community far more than it would have cost to keep them housed.  It's not second-guessing to observe we as a community could have, should have acted sooner, and need to do more.  Projects must involve both rehab and new construction, and whatever the projects cost, they will cost more later than they will now, and they will cost more when we get into big fights about them (e.g., the fight over the design of the new police facility).  So, let's be thoughtful and far-sighted in our approach to these problems.

4/28/19 Update:  Susann Kaltwasser recalls that

Salem had at least 3 SRO hotels downtown up until about the 1970s...the Bligh was on State Street just off Liberty. It burned down and since has been a parking lot. The Senator Hotel was replaced in the 1990s by the Marion Square office building. And the Madison Hotel was torn down for the Cinnabar Movie Theater. The rooms were very cheap and in very high demand. I knew the managers of the Bligh and they would rent 'sleeping rooms' for 50 cents a night. Essentially they were former hotel rooms with two or three bunkbeds in each room with each person getting a small cupboard.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

5/15/16 Minutes


Members: Deb Comini, Craig Volz, M. Bryant Baird
Organizations: Denyc Boles, Salem Health
City and County Representatives: Allen Dannen, Public Works Department; Brady Rogers, Neighborhood Enhancement Division; Steve Bellshaw and Darren Mumy, SPD; Councilor Cara Kaser
Guests: none

The regular meeting of the CANDO Board of Directors was called to order at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 15, 2018, at the First Christian Church at 685 Marion Street NE, Salem.  The Chair and Secretary-Treasurer were present.

The minutes of the April meeting were approved by unanimous consent.

Officer Mumy of the Salem Downtown Enforcement Team reported the team would soon be going to seven-days per week coverage and invited questions or concerns about public safety downtown.   

Councilor Kaser reported that the City Council had voted to affirm and modify the hearing officer’s decision to grant of a conditional use permit to UGM, but that she was still constrained from discussing it during the pendency of the appeal.  There will be an analysis of strategies proposed by the Downtown Homeless Solutions Task Force coming out in the next few weeks, which she will forward to CANDO.  The fifth and final Task Force meeting will be June 13. The Citizens Budget Committee issued its budget recommendation on schedule.   

In public comment, Sarah Owens commented that she and Michael Livingston would be going to the Community Health Forum sponsored by area health providers as part of their community health assessment conducted every five years, and advocating for the needs of CANDO members.  She suggested to Councilor Kaser that the DHSTF might want to participate as well. The forum will be held at 5:30 p.m. on May 30th at Center 50+. Also in public comment, Denyc Boles said that Salem Health was working with Councilor Andersen and Church Street neighbors to limit parking on the east side of Church south of Pringle Creek to three hours, and thereby make more street parking available for those using the Let’s All Play playground.  

The board heard a presentation by Deputy Chief Steve Bellshaw and Allen Dannen on the progress of construction of the new police facility on the corner of Commercial and Division Streets NE.        

There being no other business before the board, the Chair adjourned the meeting at 6:47 p.m.

News From the Continuum

Revised: January 2019

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

It's a sign of the times that the Salvation Army, which began as part of the temperance movement and still requires its members to refrain from drinking alcohol, participated in an invitation-only, $100-a-plate fundraising event at Zenith Vineyards last Friday night to benefit its programs for local, at-risk youth.  It's not known how much money was raised.  Salem Health was reportedly a major sponsor of the event.

As far as is known, traditional TSA standards continue to be maintained at the emergency overnight shelter on Front Street through regular UAs and breathalyzer testing of the guests.

Captains Dan and Kim Williams decided to discontinue the transitional housing program last August, along with case management for guests and meal services for non-guests.  For some time, they have  preferred to focus on The Kroc Center, and the word on the street has long been that they are seeking to get out of the business of providing homeless shelter and services; they just want to get out  gradually, so as not to offend the community.  As they say, it's "All About Kids."

On the agenda for last Monday's City Council meeting was approval of the 2018 Annual Action Plan, and disposition of an additional $256,400 ($190,000 in HOME funds, $66,400 in CDBG funds).  See staff report that additional CDBG funds will go to fully fund recommended projects, balance to Grace House, and that the Community Services and Housing Commission will meet in June to recommend allocation of additional HOME funds.  When the Mayor asked how that would be done, Chair Adam Kohler replied:

Chair Kohler:  It will be a fun meeting in June. To be honest with you, these are tough meetings, they really are, and we're making emotional decisions that are impacting people's lives, and so, every time we're done, we're grateful.  So to have more money is a blessing, but it's also going to be a challenge, because there are a couple of programs out there that are in consideration.  The way that it works with our commission is that we score all of our grants, but we use that as a starting point for our conversation.  For example, there was, for the General Funds, we awarded $400,000, with an ask of $436,000 I believe was the difference there, and we tiered it based on the scoring.  So the top scoring one was fully funded, and the lower scoring ones had a little bit of a haircut on it.  We will have to evaluate that, and see if it still holds true for the additional $190,000, because there was a program that wasn't fully funded, that could be fully funded, or Mid-Willamette Community Action Agency could be funded, but that's, to be honest with you, I have to go back and look at what our scores were, the comments of the Commissioners, and...
Mayor: I appreciate you funding Women at the Well...
Chair Kohler:  That was great to hear that, even though it was by email for us, but, the recommendation to fund them was well-received, and we supported that.] 

The "we" that Kohler referred to as supporting the decision to fund Grace House was not the full Commission, but instead, himself and (presumably) his Vice Chair, Kim Lemman, the Executive Director of St. Francis Shelter, a transitional housing program that receives General Fund grants through the CSHC process.  The regular members of the Commission, which include us, were not informed of the decision.

May 4 FB Post
A recent MWVCAA management report claims more than $1.1M "in federal, state and local dollars, public and private" has been raised toward renovating its Commercial Street building, which is roughly a quarter of this year's CPD budget, not counting the $2.1M purchase price at 6% interest.

Appropriately, MWVCAA doesn't think of its new facility as a shelter (which it is supposed to be and what the community desperately needs), but as a "triage facility."  The question is, triage to what?  A housing waitlist?

May 15 NAHRO Monitor
Last fall, the City of Salem was working with area PHAs on a joint plan to submit to HUD an assessment of their progress in addressing “significant disparities in housing needs and in access to opportunity, replacing segregated living patterns with truly integrated and balanced living patterns, transforming racially and ethnically concentrated areas of poverty into areas of opportunity and fostering and maintaining compliance with civil rights and fair housing laws” in accordance with federal guidelines.  This work to develop a fair housing assessment to assist us in "affirmatively further fair housing" stopped cold last January, after HUD Secretary Ben Carson extended the implementation deadline (for more, see here and here).  So, last week, the National Fair Housing Alliance and two groups from Texas of all places filed a lawsuit, challenging the extension.

Why should we care?  Because the process we were about to undertake -- the one that was interrupted when the deadline was extended -- could have, would have, created a conversation about equity and our vision for a collaborative, cooperative process.  That's something that takes time, resources and practice to do well.  That's why it tends not to happen unless, for some reason, communities are "forced" to gather relevant data/information and engage with one another.

Couldn't we do it anyway?  Well, yes, but we won't.  We've asked.  Nobody's being uncooperative, it's just not how this sort of thing is done.  For all practical purposes, we can't do our part to affirmatively further fair housing in this way unless and until HUD does its part.  That's why the lawsuit matters.

At the end of May, HUD announced it was withdrawing the assessment tool and the deadline extension issued last January.  See here for details.

Since May, HUD has continued to do what it can to weaken fair housing rules.  Read about the latest here (bureaucratic perspective) and here (advocacy perspective).

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Council Affirms/Modifies UGM Permit

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

NIMBY Properties
The City Council affirmed the hearing officer's decision to grant UGM a conditional use permit to relocate to the 700-800 block of Commercial Street NE, adopted staff recommendation, and added a  condition to maintain 24-hour public access to a restroom.  The meeting did not run late.

No surprises here.

Christy Wood, whose business is in the same block as the Men's Mission, and who's on the Downtown Homeless Solutions Task Force, considers UGM a good neighbor, and said she would support siting UGM's new facility at its current location if it were feasible. 

The makeshift camps and storage that cropped up over the winter are gone from the Commercial Street side of UGM.

According to sources, this is the result of a new UGM policy that says if you want to take your meals at UGM, you can't be hanging around outside the building all day and night.

1/26/19 Update: UGM has acquired Mike’s Electric at 275 Division NE and BAM Advertising at  255 Division NE, on the south/courtyard side of the building site.  See "Glennie Appeals UGM Permit to Council" (20 April 2018). 

UGM's Executive Director, Dan Clem, reports that the capital campaign, "Hope Has a New Address", is on track with $8.7M pledged/committed/collected towards the total of $15M."

Sunday, May 13, 2018

New City Policy on Coms Funds

May 2018
Brady Rogers, Neighborhood Enhancement Division Administrator
(revised July 2019, see here