February 4, 2015
CALL TO ORDER The meeting was called to order at 3:30 p.m. in the Siskiyou Room, 51 Winburn Way
Regular members present: Pam Hammond, Michael Dawkins, Rich Kaplan, John Williams, Emile Amarotico, Lisa Beam, and Joe Graf
Regular members absent: Dave Young, Cynthia Rider, Marie Donovan, John Fields, and Joe Collonge
Ex officio (non-voting) members present: Sandra Slattery, Bill Molnar, Katharine Flanagan, Michael Faught, Lee Tuneberg, Rich Rosenthal, and Pam Marsh (arrived at 4:25)
Ex officio (non-voting) members absent: Mike Gardiner
City of Ashland Staff members present: Tami De Mille-Campos, and Maria Harris
Chair Dawkins explained that Public Forum would only be for non agenda items and then during the agenda items there would be opportunity for public comment after that agenda item presentation.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
Minutes of December 3, 2014
Williams/Hammond m/s to approve the minutes of 12/3/14. Voice vote. All AYES. Motion passes.
Colin Swales, 95 Coolidge St.
Colin stated he just got back into town from having been away for awhile and he was excited to see the Mayorís State of the City address and his vision which involves what is going on in the downtown area. He said one of the things the Mayor mentioned is that he sees a downtown no longer dominated by cars. He feels this has been missing from this discussion, rather than just adding more parking. He also added that he had submitted to the committee the ODOT traffic counts (see attached) which he been keeping tally of over the years. He has added them into a spreadsheet for Ashland. He pointed out if you look at the downtown couplet the traffic has actually dropped 30-40% some of which can be attributed to high fuel prices. He added how gratified he is to see so many citizens attending these meetings.
Louise Shawkat, 870 Cambridge
Louise read a letter to the committee (see attached)
Andrew Kubik, 1251 Munson Dr.
Andrew said he read the Mayorís State of the City address several times and proposal number 5 pertains specifically to less automobile traffic downtown. He found that interesting and coincidental to the comments that he submitted to this committee on December 8th in response to the December 3rd meeting. He added he would request the committee have another look at those comments that he submitted.
Dave Helmich, 468 Williamson Way
Dave read a letter to the committee (see attached)
Ken Lindsay, 180 Ohio St.
Ken stated he commends the idea of making things not so convenient for cars, not that they should be disallowed but we shouldnít go out of our way to covet them. He said it might help things if there were different sizes of parking spaces (small spaces for small vehicles and large spaces for large vehicles). Another idea would be that the small vehicles would be free and the large spaces there would be a fee for. He added the other thing he feels very strongly about is there is something going on in these new housing developments where the developers can jam the houses a foot or two away from each other and his understanding was that the rule in this town is 10 feet from the property line per story which is clearly not being followed. He feels this is a real issue and the other consequence to that is the roads into those new developments are really narrow, theyíre inconvenient and he thinks they will be a problem if there is ever an emergency. He feels it is very important to stop allowing this.
Bill Heimann, 647 Siskiyou
Bill said he had planned to speak regarding non motorized transportation but that has been well addressed so his concern is that we generate parking but there is no provision for the driver to morph into a pedestrian. For instance when you put in a grass strip next to a parking space and a sidewalk and force the driver to walk over mud, they are likely not going to walk over the grass so the driver is going to turn and walk across the street (in other words a non pedestrian facility). He said when you design parking and you are thinking about the parking in the downtown think about what its purpose is, which is to generate a pedestrian. When you design parking, you need to design more pedestrian facilities and be sure that those pedestrian facilities draw the driver/passengers to the pedestrian facilities. He urged the committee to give that some more consideration.
Executive Committee - Assigned to recommend potential Scope of work amendments
Faught mentioned that towards the end of the last meeting there was a decision made by the group to form an executive committee to work on a new scope of work. This decision was made pretty quickly and after the meeting he received some calls from the members of the committee saying they thought maybe it wasnít such a great idea which he also remembered hearing concerns during the discussion itself. Consequently the executive committee meeting did not occur because of these concerns. He added he also sent them a current scope of work which wasnít covered during the last meeting.
Faught stepped through a few of the items contained in the scope of work. He did say really the only thing that isnít included within the scope of work which has been part of the discussions is land use. He feels the land use discussion had people concerned about how far that might go. He would like to recommend that land use be very limited, possibly just having the Planning staff that attend these meetings share with them when and if a recommendation by the committee doesnít follow the land use rules. That is simple enough but still would allow the committee to stay focused on their task. He added if the committee doesnít think they need this executive committee then there should be a motion to repeal it and/or if there should be anything added to the scope of work.
Kaplan asked what the purpose was in recommending the executive committee. Faught answered the purpose was to develop a new scope of work. He feels once the discussion went into land use people were a little nervous. Kaplan asked about what happens to the subcommittee idea. Faught stated the subcommittees have already been approved by the committee but he heard from people after the meeting that they didnít like the idea of the executive committee. Dawkins added he feels the confusion at the very end of the meeting was that all of a sudden it was starting to look like they were going to end up with 3 or 4 subcommittees and he wasnít for that even though he ended up on the executive committee he wasnít for that either. He added he feels the Mayor did an incredible job picking out a lot of diversity and he is hopeful. In the past few months the committee has gotten to a point where they have some pretty strong feelings and dividing lines and he is looking forward to everyone rolling up their sleeves.
Williams/Kaplan m/s to recommend the executive committee motion be repealed. Voice Vote. ALL AYES.
Discussion: Williams stated he is very much in favor of dividing and conquering and he thinks the idea of subcommittees is a really good idea. He thinks there was some confusion with the public that this executive committee was going to be meeting behind closed doors and not be transparent, which was never the intention. He thinks that taking certain subjects that need to be drilled down into is a good idea to then bring back recommendations to the larger group just like this committee is doing for Council. He added that he doesnít feel this executive committee is appropriate based on some of the concerns that people have. Kaplan stated if the purpose of this executive committee was to look at the scope of work and revise it he doesnít feel it is needed.
Draft East Main Multi-Modal Concept Drawings
Faught shared the concept drawings with the committee. He stated that the Transportation Master Plan is multi-modal and that is one of the tasks of this committee. These concept drawings show a proposal which meets those goals. He pointed out Siskiyou Blvd. and North Main have bike lanes but there is no connectivity through the downtown. This concept would continue the bike facilities through the downtown area. He shared that some of the issues that they had earlier on was how to get through Helman because the traffic signal there is tied to all of the other downtown signals. ODOT was not willing to retime that facility out of sync with the rest of the traffic signals even though our traffic Engineer had a couple of good ideas on how to do that. They actually recommended that the signal be removed. Faught said when he first heard that he was a little worried but Kim Parducci (Traffic Engineer) went to work on this and he really likes her design. He shared that a couple of the advantages of doing this is that traffic counts are low enough at Helman that it works just fine and the breaks would come with pedestrians. They would install a pedestrian flashing light like there is on Siskiyou. On Lithia Way a sign would be put up somewhere in between the fire station and Helman. The sign would say something like ďout of town traffic right lane, downtown traffic left laneĒ. It essentially allows the traffic heading north to flow through and the bikes arenít interacting with the traffic either. On the other side the road diet would just extend on through. Another concern that came up with the road diet was when people were trying to turn at Bush Street there were no turn lanes. With this, the center turn lane would be extended and that would take care of that issue.
He added there are a few things that are being recommended that will be controversial, not just the trees but also some parking that would need to be removed in order for this to work.
He pointed out that he has been meeting with the trucking agencies over the past few weeks and conceptually they like what they are seeing but they are pointing out changes.
He also stated that something he has seen as a problem since he got here is how the delivery trucks back up along East Main right before the entrance to the plaza (next to Mix Sweet Shop). At times you arenít able to see pedestrians stepping out into the crosswalk and for those that are attempting the right turn into the Plaza when there is a truck parked there they canít see so that causes a potential for a rear end collision. He has looked at how this issue can be solved and while still having deliveries into the downtown area. He would propose that the loading zone be moved up further to a safer location and that the area next to Mix be painted yellow to prevent the safety hazard. He would also recommend to the Council that the no parking area be enforced. He pointed out that several loading zone locations were explored and this concept includes a few loading areas which would still be close enough for them to make their deliveries to the Plaza. One of the issues that came up is that there are some trucks that are as long as 67 feet which cannot make a turn into or out of the Plaza so finding a place for those trucks was the challenge. If we didnít have the large trucks his recommendation would be to make the yellow zone a loading zone only but his dilemma is what to do with the 67 foot trucks that canít get in there. Regarding the tree issue he never wants to be the person that proposes taking down a tree. He is really trying to fix what he feels is a pedestrian safety issue while meeting the needs of the downtown deliveries. He is having this conversation with the trucking agencies and as he meets with them he is asking what can be done and one of the questions is whether or not a loading zone is needed for a 67 foot truck. One of the trucking agencies that usually have the largest trucks is Sysco and they have indicated that they pretty much donít bring 67 foot trucks to the downtown which is new information to him. From a staff standpoint he feels we need to study where the trucks are actually loading. He also mentioned that he has been talking to the Engineer and if we can get support for putting a few cameras up then we can monitor the delivery needs. If there arenít 67 foot trucks delivering then there would be no need to create loading zones. One thing he said he learned after meeting with the trucking agency earlier today is that there is only a need for 1 not 2 loading zones there.
Speaking of the trees, there is a Black Oak tree that would not be touched in any of the scenarios. There are 3 Sweet Gum trees and all 3 of those would have to come out if there were 2 loading zones. If there were only 1 loading zone, only 2 of the existing Sweet Gum trees would need to be removed. He knows that for some people removing 2 trees isnít acceptable. He is glad to see this interaction and working through these issues together. If he can talk the trucking agencies into not bringing 67 foot trucks into town then both of those loading zones can go away and none of the trees would need to be removed. He is going to continue to keep working on this with the trucking industry who is very excited to be a part of this discussion.
Faught then stepped through the rest of the map documents. He mentioned part of the feedback the committee got from the University of Oregon consultants is that we have very inefficient use of loading zones so one of the things he is going to be recommending as part of the plan is that all loading zones be eliminated except for the ones that are being proposed along East Main. There would be a permit process available to determine if a proposed loading zone is in the proper place. He has asked the trucking industry where they think the most efficient loading zones will be. He added that right now state law says a truck can park in the middle of the road and unload. This concerns him especially if we go from 3 lanes to 2 lanes as it will cause too much congestion in the downtown. If this plan is adopted he would recommend that City Council adopt an ordinance to prohibit the trucks from unloading in the middle of street through East Main. John Williams asked if Council has the authority to limit loading to certain times of the day. Faught answered that part of what we are talking about is why we have a loading zone that is designated as such all day long. One idea is to restrict the loading zone to a certain time of day (say 4:00 pm) and then during our peak time of day those parking spots become available for all vehicles.
Williams asked if by removing one lane and adding a bike lane along East Main would leave enough room to widen one or both sidewalks to create more of a pedestrian area, maybe areas that restaurants/cafes could use. Faught said the right of way width isnít the same all the way through, it starts out wide and narrows through the downtown. He added, if everyone can agree on a concept then at that point an architect would come in and start doing conceptual drawings to really look at what is the most efficient use of the space.
Fait asked if the loading zones are going to be specifically for commercial vehicles. Faught answered that he is talking to the trucking experts. The ones that are being proposed along East Main (in front of the Plaza) would be for commercial only. He hasnít finished the conversation regarding the others.
Rosenthal asked if the sidewalk across from City Hall is ADA compliant. Faught said he isnít sure because the ADA standards are different. Barber said he isnít quite sure on this particular one because they are several in town that are not ADA compliant. Rosenthal said the reason he asked that is because if there is a sidewalk that is not in compliance with federal statute and the reason is because of those trees, he would recommend the committee takes a look at the problem. He added that nobody would like to see the trees removed but this problem is created by the trees and besides the loading zone issue there is a problem that relates to the committeeís mission which needs to be resolved. Faught said if you walk down that stretch of sidewalk you can see that the tree is causing a trip hazard and we do need to figure out a way to handle those trip hazards. He did say that in context to what he is proposing today, he doesnít need that for the loading zone. He added that as the group looks at the aesthetics they will need to look at whether the sidewalk can be removed without damaging the trees and if so will the trees continue to cause damage to the new sidewalk. The committee does need to have these conversations still but not from the loading zone perspective.
Heimann asked about Oak Street, he noticed on the parking side there are some new bicycle facilities there. Faught said that part of the biking connectivity issue is that there are a lot of bicyclists traveling on Lithia that want to get over to the Plaza so this recommended concept (which is still being looked at) includes a bike lane . He did add this is still a concept in the works.
Swales said most of the big trucks that he has seen usually occur around 10:00-11:00. Before most of the downtown merchants open around 10:00 am most of the downtown is a loading zone on both sides. Yet he has seen commercial vehicles parked in the middle of the street for loading and there are empty spaces all around it. He would like to see some kind of agreement with the downtown merchants and their delivery people to arrange for their deliveries to occur before they open when they can basically have free reign of downtown.
Chair Dawkins reminded the room to try to keep this to questions and not comments.
Faught said part of the data that the committee doesnít have is the merchant piece. While it might be easy to say what time window deliveries should occur, he doesnít know if that is fair and may be a burden. This is why he is working with the trucking agencies because they actually know when the deliveries are happening, how they are happening etc. He said if we arenít cognizant of them then we are doing the merchants a huge disservice.
Hammond asked the Chair in the interest of time if questions could be limited to the committeeís voting and non-voting members for now. She asked how long this plan would take and when would they anticipate doing this because it could be very disruptive to life downtown for a long period of time. Faught stated he understands that it would be disruptive, especially if they do it all at once. If they break it up and do it by block then that would disrupt the downtown for probably 4-5 years. They have talked about maybe doing one side of the street one year and the following side the next year. Theyíve also talked about doing a pilot for a year which would just entail re-striping it down to 2 lanes, just like they did on North Main Street. That way we could make sure it works before investing a lot of money into it. He said there are a multitude of options for construction and the project managers work with the impacted businesses to try to work out the best solution moving forward. Hammond mentioned if the plan includes sidewalks which will require grants, grants take time to acquire which could add to the wait. Faught responded by saying that is why we would want to look into a pilot with just painting. He added due to the fact that we have a state facility running through town there is money available for the downtown. In order to go after those funds there needs to be a multi-modal/beautification plan in place which has been adopted by the City Council. Hammond replied this would be devastating if this dragged on. She recalls how long Blue Bird Park was fenced up and nothing happened and she doesnít want to see that again, this would need to be very well planned. She is concerned with the safety at Helman without there being a traffic signal. She also asked what the net parking loss is. Barber answered it is a net loss of about 18 spaces but there isnít enough information to pin that down at this time but they are continuing to work on that. Lastly, she mentioned she feels we need to make the loading zones fair for the businesses because that could be devastating to many businesses. Faught said for those loading zone issues he would be going right to those businesses affected and talk about how to solve that.
Chair Dawkins reminded everyone that this is still in the preliminary stages. He welcomed comments and said this is the time to do it.
Liza Maltsberger (citizen) informed the committee that not everyone that came regarding the trees is going to get to speak. She stated she understands that this is preliminary and that this proposal is new to the committee. She said in one sense she has an opinion and in another sense she doesnít because she has a goal which is to not remove the trees but she doesnít have an opinion because the committee needs to figure things out that she doesnít yet understand. However, her willingness to make sure the trees are not removed means she wants to help solve the problems that need to be dealt with. She added it is encouraging for her to hear that one option to solve this is to possibly eliminate 67 foot trucks from entering the downtown. She closed by thanking the committee and those that are in attendance.
Chair Dawkins said he had a conversation with Faught and Molnar last week and they feel for the first few months the committee collected the data from U of O and now the committee has sort of reached a dividing point. It is time to go to work and determine if there is a supply or a distribution issue. He added a number of years ago there was an Editor/Publisher of the Daily Tidings by the name of Edd Roundtree. There was one particular editorial that he remembers where the City had decided Siskiyou Blvd. needed to have dividers and plants in the middle. At that time Siskiyou Blvd was Hwy 99 going 1 lane in each direction with parking on each side of the street and a huge amount of asphalt in the middle. Eddís editorial were things like a socialistic state changing the driving patterns of all the Ashlanderís because when you pulled out to these streets with that big piece of center lane you could do 90 degrees rather than 30 degrees and get in front. He thought of all of the things if we actually put up this divider it would work and it ended up working! Then about 40 years later Siskiyou was redone again and some of the cross sections are taken out and again people are thinking it wonít work but it does work. The reason he brings this up is because the committee can decide to do nothing but he really likes what Sandra Slattery said several months ago with the multi-modal and bringing everything together. This is the committeeís vision and their chance to do something.
Faught added as the committee talks about whether there is a need or there isnít a need for parking, he wanted to point out the National Citizen survey that was recently completed for Ashland shows only 26% of the citizens surveyed thought the parking was ok which he found interesting given the work that this committee is doing. Everything else in the survey was rated pretty highly. He said when we had U of O here and they were working on a plan things started to fall apart when they were sort of insisting there was a distribution problem rather than a supply problem. He doesnít feel that the committee has had the debate on whether or not they agree with that and he isnít necessarily in agreement with it as well. If parking is simply being shifted to the residential areas, that isnít a solution he wants to be a part of. There are parts of that plan that he thought were pretty good (2 hour versus 4 hour, restructuring the loading zones etc.). He said there is work that still needs to be done on the street configurations and staff will continue to tweak that and bring it back to the committee. He added that there is enough money to have U of O come back for 3 more meetings and finish up the parking piece of the plan. He thinks there are some parking issues and potential parking structures that the group at least needs to consider. He thinks 18 parking spaces is a lot to take out of the downtown area so the question is how they at least make that whole without even looking at the growth piece. He said once they wrap up the multi-modal piece then they can move on to the fun piece which is determining what they want the downtown to look like. He said the nice thing about having plans is they make you think about things differently. Speaking to Councilor Rosenthalís point, even when they do simple overlay projects all ADA rules have to be met so those are real issues for projects. He said they are likely looking at rebuilding the whole East Main structure, lights, banners etc. He added at some point he would like to hire a consultant to provide conceptual drawings for the committee to see what everything might look like. At this point, his recommendation to move forward is to bring U of O back for the next 3 meetings, wrap up the parking and then come back after that and revisit the 3 lane to 2 lane configuration and if there is consensus on that then they could move forward to the easier parts.
Williams thinks it is a really good idea to explore extending the bike lane through downtown since there seems to be a pent up interest in town to do that. He has heard that from a variety of people and he feels the right people are in the room to talk about the business interests and loading zone issues etc.
Graf said he thinks it would solve a lot of the transportation problems, if it can be pulled off.
Hammond likes the multi-modal piece but the multi-modal part she likes best is the pedestrian aspect because she thinks the sidewalks are unsafe (theyíre not wide enough). She added there are so many issues; the street lights are rotting. Overall, she feels we need a better place for pedestrians to walk. Dawkins asked if this proposed configuration gives her vision of some sort. She responded that it does and that she brought up earlier some of her concerns. She would hate for someone to go out of business because their business was so impacted by this. Beam added that having a 48 foot truck in front of your business all day unloading for the whole 2 block section would be a detriment. The trick is that businesses are turning over in the downtown pretty consistently and so it is hard to say where the loading zone should go now and then a few years down the road something changes. Hammond added there are many things that need to be hashed out in order to make it fair and equitable to all.
Faught said that part of his work that he and staff need to do is once the concept is approved he would need to start working with those impacted businesses but he doesnít want to do that until he knows there is support for the concept.
Beam also feels it is important that they look at creating the bike right of way because there are so many bikes coming from the watershed and the park area and we need to look at how they connect into East Main. Faught asked if the committee is ok with the concept of bringing the bikes through. Beam said they are doing it now so the question is how you can keep that safe for everyone, including drivers and right now we really donít have any space for the cyclists and it is a pretty important piece of recreation. Faught asked if she is talking about Winburn Way. She said yes. If they are going to wrap up around the city building they need to look at how that ties into Oak Street and back to East Main. She thinks there is more bike traffic heading that way than Oak Street. Flanagan stated she agrees. At this point they are riding with the traffic because there arenít bike lanes. Faught added he will bring back the part of the Transportation System Plan that looks at the bike lanes so that the committee can see the comprehensive bike plan because that piece is missing from this concept.
Chair Dawkins asked if there is any fear of having traffic backed up in between Lithia Way and East Main. He also asked if there would need to be another traffic signal at Oak Street. Kim Parducci (Southern Oregon Transportation Engineering LLC) stated they are looking at a signal also on Lithia and then it would basically be a grid system of the downtown area that would all be coordinated. She added, it is a unit now and they would be adding 2 signals to that unit and taking the one at Helman away so that they are all still coordinated and then you are just taking platoons of traffic through so that traffic shouldnít be stacking up.
Kaplan asked about adding additional bicycle parking. Faught said we havenít reached that level of detail yet.
Councilor Rosenthal pointed out that the meetings as of late have been very well attended and it would be a good idea to direct staff to find a different venue that would be more comfortable for the committee and the people in attendance. Beam mentioned the irony is that no one attended these meetings early on. Staff will look to find a different venue for future meetings.
Graf pointed out we hadnít discussed agenda item V-a (University of Oregon Community Service Center return for the March meeting) and as a new member on the committee he hadnít had the benefit of the consultant explain their methodology. He doesnít feel he has enough information to know whether there is a supply problem or a distribution problem. He doesnít know what the supply is or what the demand is. He has read through the documentation and he hasnít come across those answers. He added he would be curious to know how many spaces they actually need to find because what they have recommended doing is taking away 4 hour and untimed spaces and turning them into 2 hour spaces. If the big problem is people who are going to OSF or if one of the parts of the problem are employees who need more than 4 hours at a time and we take away 4 hour spaces the problem isnít being solved, it is creating new problems. If we build a new parking garage that is so far away that nobody is going to use and a shuttle has to be used to get people to the new parking structure that isnít really solving problems either. He feels like maybe he needs to sit down with staff to try to better understand how to make the decision regarding supply versus demand. Dawkins agrees with Graf and said that the committee hasnít necessarily delved into that and determined one way or another. This is part of the conversation that still needs to be had. Faught said Robert Parker (U of O) will need to answer some of those questions and he would be happy to have him do that.
Donna Swanson, 863 Plum Ridge Dr. submitted a letter to be added into public record (see attached)
Donna read proposal #5 from the Mayorís State of the City address. Proposal #5: Reduce the presence and pressure of cars downtown and in adjacent neighborhoods while improving the pedestrian environment and linking the entire town with frequent public transport. She feels the Mayor perhaps has view that hasnít been paid attention to. From what she has heard from the Scientists, global warming is happening and it is happening faster than they ever expected it to and she thinks anything that does not lead toward a low carbon future is a poor decision and she thinks perhaps a parking structure would be dinosaur technology. She hopes that the committee will take this home and think about it because the committee is far down the road to bringing more cars in and encouraging more carbon in the atmosphere.
Flanagan said she feels the meeting was very well run today and thanked Dawkins for being a good chair and reporting well. She asked for a point of order in the room. She understands that thereís the committee and then they are the secondary aspect to that. She asked if the public is now allowed to make comments or ask questions during the meeting. Chair Dawkins said he just took the liberty as chair to do it that way. Flanagan said with all due respect she just wanted to know what to expect for the next meeting. Dawkins said he felt it was important to do it differently this time. He would think we would stick with the format which means that public input would be at the beginning, this one because of the controversy he thought it was a good idea to allow the presentation and discussion before allowing people to speak on the agenda item. Flanagan said she often gets people asking her if they can attend these meetings and speak at the meeting so she wanted to be sure she understood the process. Kaplan said he felt like this meeting was unique in that without Faughtís presentation on the trees there would have been a lot of people speaking during public forum. Some of which may not have made those same comments if they had heard the presentation first. He thinks it worked well for this meeting but may not work so well going forward.
In closing, Faught said we will work on finding a new venue for the next meeting so that we can get everyone participating at the same table.
Meeting adjourned at 5:11 pm
Tami De Mille-Campos, Administrative Assistant