Our Salem Scenarios: Frequently Asked Questions

A dozen adults around a table placing markers to indicate preferences at an Our Salem public meeting.

The City is in the midst of a multi-year project called Our Salem to update the Salem Area Comprehensive Plan, which guides development in the Salem area. 

Since the summer of 2019, we have been asking the community how it wants the Salem area to grow in the future. Based on what we've heard, we have developed four options – or scenarios – for future growth.

The most common questions and answers about the project are listed below in four categories.


1.       What are scenarios?

The four scenarios developed as part of this project are essentially different options for how the Salem area could grow in the future. The scenarios focus on land use. That means, they generally show where new jobs and new homes could be developed through 2035. They don't show new roads or new trails, and for the most part, they don't show new parks. 

2.       Why are we using scenarios?

Scenarios help us "test drive" different future land use patterns. For example, one scenario shows more new housing on the edges of Salem, while another shows more areas with mixed-use development. By having multiple scenarios, we can test different ideas in the community to better understand what people like and dislike.

Scenarios also help us know how different land use patterns could impact things like the environment, housing affordability, and how people travel around the community. This is done through a planning model that our consultants use called Envision Tomorrow.  

Ultimately, the scenarios will help us develop the vision for future growth in the Salem area. This vision will include a map of how we want to grow as well as priorities that guide our growth.  

3.       How were the scenarios developed?

We developed the four scenarios based on the input we've heard from the community since last summer. We have been out and about, talking to residents, businesses, nonprofit organizations, neighborhoods, and others about their vision for future growth. And we've put those ideas into the scenarios. For example, we've heard that people would like to see a mix of uses along Lancaster Drive, so we're showing that idea in one of the scenarios.

We intentionally did not create scenarios based on artificial themes like corridor centric or dispersed growth or intense infill. Instead, we wanted to test different ideas we've heard from the community in each scenario. That way, we are not asking you to just pick the one you like the best. You can be more specific about liking or disliking a variety of different ideas.

4.       Were there any assumptions built into the scenarios?

There were a couple. The scenarios were generally designed to meet our projections for housing and jobs in the Salem area in 2035. Based on previous studies – the Salem Housing Needs Analysis and Salem Economic Opportunities Analysis – we know we need a certain number of housing units and jobs by 2035. 

To meet state law, we have to plan for that growth. We must accommodate those housing units and jobs. The scenarios help us figure out how to do that – and in the vision, we will do that.

5.       Will one of the scenarios become the vision?

No. The vision will ultimately be some combination of ideas from several, if not all, of the scenarios. There could even be new ideas that end up in the vision. It will depend on what we hear from the community.

6.       Will the vision include things like trails, streets, and parks?

Yes. While the scenarios focus on land use and development, the vision will include the community's priorities on a variety of topics related with growth. Transportation, natural resources, and parks and recreation are among the many topics that will be included in the vision.

Ultimately, those priorities will be translated into goals and policies in the Comprehensive Plan.  For now, they are reflected in draft guiding principles that will be refined based on the community's input.

7.       Explain neighborhood hub.

A neighborhood hub is a newer idea in Salem. It's the idea of having small-scale, neighborhood-serving shops and services within neighborhoods. Think a coffee shop or barber or florist that you could walk to from your home.

It wouldn't be like the large shopping centers on Lancaster Drive or Commercial Street SE. It would be smaller and more tailored to the daily needs of residents. We will continue to flush out this neighborhood hub idea with the community if it continues to be something people support.

8.       Explain mixed use.

Mixed-use development is where different uses like housing, retail, and offices coexist on a property. Mixed-use development can come in different sizes and shapes. It can be vertical, meaning there could be housing above shops, or it could be horizontal, meaning there could be shops in the front of a property with housing behind it.

There are examples of mixed-use development in downtown Salem as well as other areas of town such as Broadway Street NE.

9.       What are indicators, and why are we using them?

Indicators are a tool. They are a way to measure the potential impact each scenario has on things like average wage, housing affordability, and access to frequent transit.

The indicators help us better understand the link between how a community develops and average wages, or how a community develops and how many people can access transit, etc. In turn, they help us evaluate and more fully compare the scenarios to each other.

10.   How accurate are the indicator results?

On a high-level, pretty accurate. On a detailed level, less so.

The indicator results come from a model. The results are not meant to be exact numbers or percentages that reflect what will happen in the future. That is not their purpose. Instead, the indicator results show us how the scenarios compare to each other on a high level.

Here's an example. The indicator "Complete Neighborhood" shows the percentages of households that meet certain criteria such as ½ mile to a neighborhood park, ½ mile to grocery store, and 1 mile to a public elementary school. The model measures those distances using a straight line radius, not walking distance along an actual street route. That means, the results – percentages of complete neighborhoods – may seem high, but the comparison between the scenarios is more accurate. More new households will likely live near a grocery store, neighborhood park, and elementary school in Scenarios C and D than in Scenario A.

It's also worth noting a difference between the model and scenario maps. The scenario maps illustrate high-level ideas. They do this by showing swaths of land being developed or redeveloped into certain types of land uses (e.g., different colors on the maps). The model, however, does not assume that every property that is colored in the scenarios will be developed or redeveloped. That would not be practical. The indicator results, therefore, are based on some of the properties being developed as shown in the scenarios. 

11.   Why are some of the indicators different from Phase 1?

In Phase 1, the community chose 20 indicators. Since then, people have had a lot of questions about how future growth is going to impact transportation, particularly congestion. In response, we asked the Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Governments (MWVCOG) to use their transportation model to help answer the questions. Their model produced several results, including the new indicators on mode split (e.g., breakdown of how people travel), vehicle miles traveled, and vehicle hours of delay. Because we used the MWVCOG's transportation model, we did not run our consultant's separate transportation model that we used in Phase 1.

We did not carry forward a few of the indicators from the first phase for various data reasons. For example, in Phase 1, we measured bicycle and pedestrian use. Specifically, we looked at the percentage of people who were projected to bike and walk to work. In this visioning phase (phase 2), we used the MWVCOG's transportation model, which provides data on travel mode split. It provided trips by bicycle and walking – as well as by bus and vehicle – and it included all trips, not just trips to work like the model we used in Phase 1. We did not want to cause any confusion by having different results for biking and walking from different models, so we just stuck with mode split as an indicator. 

Another example is annual traffic crashes. In phase 1, we used our consultant's transportation model, which produced crash data. That was largely based on historic data for per capita crashes. During this visioning phase (phase 2), we used the MWVCOG's transportation model, which cannot produce crash data.

12.   How can I give input on the scenarios?

You can give input in several ways. You can fill out a survey online – in English and in Spanish – that asks specifically about the scenarios. You can email your ideas, questions, and comments to Eunice Kim at [email protected] or call her at 503-540-2308. You can invite us to your organization's or neighborhood's meeting; we are happy to attend – virtually for now and in person later.

13.   What is the next step?

We will continue getting input on the scenarios – as well as the draft guiding principles and priorities – through the spring and early summer. We initially planned to have a vision developed by the fall, and while that is still the goal, things could change given the current coronavirus crisis. We will keep you all posted. You can sign up to get email updates about the project.

14.   Will the vision be adopted?

We plan to ask the City Council to accept the vision this fall. That won't mean that the vision is officially adopted into the Comprehensive Plan; it will signify that we should continue doing the more detailed work on the goals, policies, maps, and regulations that is necessary to update the Comprehensive Plan in line with the vision.

Ultimately, the updated Comprehensive Plan – the goals, policies, and map – must be adopted by the City Council to be effective.

15.   What if I have other questions?

You are encouraged to call or email Eunice Kim at [email protected] or 503-540-2308.

Contact us

Eunice KimProject Manager
8:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
555 Liberty ST SE RM 305
Salem OR 97301
Follow us
City of Salem