Salem City Councilor “Gets It” on Development

This blog has stated, and will continue to state repeatedly, that what Gallows Hill, the whole City of Salem, the whole North Shore actually, needs most is more housing, more development. This runs counter to the feelings of many neighbors, who would like nothing more than to encase the neighborhood in amber for perpetuity.

The Ward 5 Councilor Josh Turiel gets it, and has been posting lengthy essays on his campaign Facebook page explaining why more development is needed. Too bad he represents Ward 5 (South Salem up to Salem State University and southerly and westerly portions of The Point neighborhood), across the city from Gallows Hill neighborhood mostly contained in Ward 4. We’ll let his words speak for themselves:

We need more housing. We do. Why do we need it? Because Salem has become a very desirable place to live. That genie is out of the bottle and the only way it could go back in would be to reverse everything that’s happened in the last decade. We could have the empty storefronts, no restaurants, no ferry, a shuttered power plant, old, unsafe parks, no improvements to entrance corridors, no train station/garage … Those things could have happened, but over the last decade plus Salem has chosen to improve. … Because of this and the growing local economy, Salem has become a place people want to live. There’s competition for rental housing and ownership. That is driving up home values and prices … I am not a fan of the rapid increase in home pricing.

Having laid out the problem, Josh then covers the possibilities to moderate home prices:

But there’s only three ways out of this inflationary spiral. One is for the economy to crater like it did in 2008 … NO
[The second] is to simply make this city unattractive to would-be residents … NO
The third is to manage things smartly. Smart development.

Having zeroed in on the only choice, Josh goes further by actually laying out some real options for smart development:

Build in places where you can leverage the train to direct commuters there instead of to outlying areas that would generate a lot more auto traffic [transit smart]. Encourage more walking and cycling by improving that infrastructure [health smart]. Modernize traffic signals to be smarter and handle flows better [technology smart]. Enforce existing laws better to deal with overcrowding in college neighborhoods – removing incentives for landlords to maximize profit by renting to big groups of kids and instead to rent to families [zoning smart]. Keep fixing the major corridors to keep the cars we do have moving [traffic smart].

His list of smart options is by no means complete. Not included: removing archaic zoning regulations that ban in-law apartments and infill development, encouraging more to live near family and jobs and not to have to move to distant areas and to spend more time in cars. Not included: consideration of technology advances in transportation (autonomous vehicles, Uber/Lyft, short term rentals like Zip cars) that already have reduced dependency on personal vehicle, which has to be parked somewhere, taking up valuable real estate that could be better used to house people, not cars.

Kudos to an elected representative who is actually thinking through the issues, not spouting rote ideological positions. Others like him are needed.