Diversity Committee discusses “downtown”

The Keizer Community Diversity Engagement Committee held its meeting on Thursday, March 2. Three of the nine members were unable to attend.

City Planner Shane Witham testified before the committee about the state-mandated walkable mixed-use areas in Keizer. Oregon uses the term climate friendly. Witham was joined by Josh Mahar, a director with Portland consultant firm of  Kearns and West.

“Think of a downtown,” Witham told the committeee. “Keizer doesn’t have a central core. We have a long arterial—River Road—that functions like a downtown. Keizer is required to study walkable areas and implement a plan by 2024.

On the list of concerns about the project, Witham said displacement factors and risks need to be considered. He cited income profiles, vulnerable communities, precarious housing, housing market  activity and neighborhood demographic changes as topics the study needs to address. “How does the city mitigate these risks?” asked Witham.

A question that will be addressed in the city’s study of walkable mixed-use areas is how might potential walkable mixed-use areas benefit or harm underserved populations in Keizer? Are there groups, communities or organizations that may be particularly impacted.

Witham said an open house is planned for this spring to inform the public of the project and solicit comment. He asked how the city can best ensure the open house is accessible, especially for underserved populations?

As for the state mandate for walkable mixed-use areas, Witham said, “We are not very far off from meeting state requirements.”

Committee member Tammy Kunz had concerns of the impact on schools, especially Keizer’s River Road-Cherry Avenue Overlay District.

Brenda Picazo of the committee said, “Connect with communities. Don’t mimic Salem.”

Mahar said learning from small towns and cities, not big cities, is an important aspect.

Tim Wood, deputy city manager, said walkable mixed-use areas along River Road are a safety issue due to traffic speeds.

In other business the communities heard about the Neighborhood Family Council Initiative at Kennedy Elementary School. The council meets once a month at Salem-Keizer Coalition on Portland Road. The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, March 15, from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

Tim Wood told the committee that $10,000 has been earmarked for Keizer’s 40th birthday celebration in June.