Friday, September 25, 2020

City Council, September 28th - Costco

City Council convenes on Monday, and they will deliberate on the proposed Costco for the development on Kuebler near I-5.

There is a massive dossier on the project. To the litigants, of course, the minutia will seem necessary and useful, but it has also seemed like we have allocated a disproportionate amount of attention to this project and particularly to some parts of it, especially since the goal of critics is not to kill the project, but just to make it a little bit smaller.

  • On jobs and economic development: Amazon warehouse jobs pay much less than Costco jobs, yet so much firepower has been directed at this Costco project rather than the Amazon one.
  • On traffic impacts: The differences between a big strip mall and an even bigger box Costco do not, in the end, seem very significant, and these differences may being overstated by critics of the project.
  • On trees and siting the box: It is surprising how much the "NW Plan," which retains the Oak grove, has been resisted by the development team. It's a big box, and how is the disposition of the box on the site away from Kuebler so important? Give the neighbors the trees and move on.
  • On costly parking mandates: But our minimum parking requirements interfere here with tree preservation, and it is our parking requirements and cultural expectations for plentiful parking, not tree preservation goals, that should be adjusted. 
  • On fossil fuel infrastructure: Additionally, we should be permitting no new gas stations. Why are we building new gas stations?! They will be stranded assets very soon! Isn't this the biggest problem here?

Gov. Brown has signaled she will follow California

Anyway, others will have more to say and will be more informed about it. It just seems like we are missing the forest for some trees here.

Council will take no public comment and this is for deliberations only.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

We may Need more Neighborhood Hub Sites out of Our Salem

Back in 1927, just after Salem adopted its first zoning law, a puff piece, perhaps even advertorial, promoted new housing and development in "the so-called North Salem district," mainly in the area we call Highland now.

March 2nd, 1927

After a long wind-up, the writer says something we recognize in Our Salem and hope for the future:

One distinct advantage of the district is that commercially it is almost self sustaining. Practically every daily necessity may be bought with just a short walk instead of the long trip of 25 or more blocks to the main business section of the city. Whether it being a pound of meat for dinner or theater tickets for evening's entertainment you can get it in north Salem with little inconvenience.

Slightly different hub sites at different times

The piece references what we now call the old Hollywood, the "North Capitol commercial center...[at] Capitol street and Fairgrounds road." 

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Oregon Pulp and Paper Produced First Paper 100 Years Ago

100 years ago Oregon Pulp and Paper, whose facility became the Boise Cascade plant in the 1960s, started up on Pringle Creek at Commercial and Trade. It marked a significant transition from the flour mill to heavier industry (with an assist from old man Bush). With pride, the morning paper bragged about using its newsprint first.

Near the beginning, early or mid-1920s
Looking southwest from Sculpture Garden corner
(Salem Library Historic Photos)

Both papers had tracked it as organizers first petitioned to vacate Trade Street west of Commercial, a process that was contested and took a while in the spring of 1919. Oregon Pulp and Paper was formally incorporated at the beginning of summer in 1919, and construction started shortly thereafter.

March 11th, 1919

April 8th, 1919

A year later in the spring of 1920, both papers were running advertisements for a stock offering. They also wrote editorials promoting the stock for Salemites. There was no fuss or fiction about a hard line between editorial and advertising at this time.

Monday, September 21, 2020

City Council and Planning Commission, September 23th - Our Salem Vision and Plan

Council convenes on Wednesday the 24th in a Work Session jointly with the Planning Commission to consider the draft Vision and Plan coming out of Our Salem.

The draft Vision and Plan occasioned here some critique, and that elicited some counter-critique.

Oregon, too: Sunday the 13th in the LA Times

Over at Hinessight in a post rightly arguing the plan needed to center climate more, Planning Commissioner Michael Slater contested a couple of things:

[Conversion] of a significant quantity of commercial space to mixed use is a bigger deal than people recognize. In fact, creating mixed use space and more land-use flexibility (so that services and consumers are physically closer together) is the biggest GHG reduction tool in the land use policy toolkit. Unfortunately, the Breakfast on Bikes author did not recognize that point. He also skipped over the significant increase in multi-family zoning. As for converting from stroads to boulevards, I agree. What's missing from Breakfast on Bike's critique is that the city has approved and partially funded a plan to do just that in Commercial. It's called the Vista-Commercial Corridor project. It includes wide sidewalks, buffered bike lanes in both direction, a new signalized pedestrian crosswalk and a dedicated bike signal where Commercial and Liberty spilt.

The Value of Mixed-Use Zoning and Place in Larger Narrative

Since the value of mixed-use projects is so axiomatic for the breakfast blog, it did not seem necessary to say more about that and perhaps that was a mistake. In fact, there is not so much disagreement here really. 

In saying here that the draft proposal leaned too much on Commercial Street and Lancaster Drive, it wasn't also saying "don't do that." It was to say we should do more and that the mixed-use and upzoning should be distributed more widely, not confined so narrowly to the busiest of Salem streets. (We'll consider this in relation to the proposed R4 zoning in another post.)

That might be an artifact of the fact that there is a difficult politics here, and the rhetoric in the plan has to serve the politics as well as serve as an explanation of the plan.

One of the elements in the politics is that the way this plan is envisioned to flow into an HB 2001 compliance plan is totally elided. That is a necessary sequel, but in the world of the plan itself we are going to agnostic about it and pretend for the moment we don't know anything about it as a sequel.

So some of the criticism of the plan here is criticism of its silence on any HB 2001 compliance (a silence that always been overtly stated and never hidden it should be noted), and it might have been an error not to say more about that. The plan is presented as an end, but in fact it is only a moment, a big moment to be sure, but a moment in a still developing process and narrative, and I would like to have more explicit discussion of how it is envisioned to be a part of that larger picture of HB 2001 with middle housing and our forthcoming Climate Action Plan. The politics, alas, probably work against having this discussion formally. But without understanding the Vision and Plan's place in relation to those, we have to evaluate it in isolation, and it comes up short. And even if we have to take HB 2001 compliance off the table, we could wait for a Climate Action Plan.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Sidewalk Inventory at the MPO on Tuesday

The Policy Committee for our Metropolitan Planning Organization convenes on Tuesday the 22nd, and there might be just a few notes in passing. They have published this month a map of sidewalks and sidewalk projects on busier streets rated collector and larger.

Sidewalk Inventory

All of the MPO's maps are collected here, some of them current, some of them last updated within the last two or three years.

In the minutes to last month, there's a discussion of the safety trend data, and one note in it really should deserve greater pause and reflection.

Glimmers of understanding
on congestion, speed, and safety

If because of less congestion during the Pandemic there is more speeding and proportionately more crashes, what then is the relation between congestion and safety? There is sometimes, maybe often, a trade-off between congestion relief and safety, and we ought to give this more thought when we have prioritized congestion relief and higher speeds.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

City Council, September 21st - Police Reform

Council convenes on Monday for a Work Session on Police Reform, and it looks perhaps a little restricted, addressing part of the question, about "non-criminal" calls, but totally eliding questions about racial bias, about white supremacy and fascism, and about overmilitarized policing. Hopefully there will be more on those questions later.

Two visions of policing
Front page, Register-Guard, July 18th

Still, even with this more narrow set of questions, it looks on the surface like there is space for a CAHOOTS style program and for other non-armed response to non-criminal calls. So we may see some incremental improvement, if not full reform.

The School Resource Officer program is sure to be a central topic as well as the way we police unhoused people camping and loitering.

It will be interesting to see what informed critics of the Police have to say.

From the Staff Report:

The Salem Police Department is a full-service organization responsible for the safety and well-being of the entire community. The police department responds to a wide variety of community issues, including neighborhood nuisances, traffic enforcement, traffic accidents, welfare checks, suspicious activity, community events and criminal activity.

This work session is intended to discuss how we respond to non-criminal types of calls, options that would be advantageous for this community to have, and the resources necessary for that to occur.

In recent years, responses to calls commonly considered non-criminal in nature have increased dramatically. These include responding to people experiencing emotional distress, people unable to care for themselves due to drug or alcohol use or addiction, and individuals who, for a variety of reasons, have found themselves unsheltered and may be causing disruption or safety concerns as they attempt to find places to stay for a night. As these calls increase, less time is available to officers to establish a presence in neighborhoods and to address criminal activity.

When a community member calls for help, we respond. Sometimes we are the only organization available to respond to many of the non-criminal issues. In other communities, community service agencies may also respond in partnership with or as an alternative to law enforcement. In Salem, our partners do not have the capacity to respond as an alternative to a police response because of the volume of calls.

100 years ago, the Police used "disorderly conduct" charges against some dancing, and if Prohibition was the main driver, race was often also subtext.

September 14th, 1920
At NPR, critic Ann Powers said
The shimmy took America by storm in the 1910s and 1920s, helping to turn the staid choreography of ballroom traditions into something sexier and more vital. As historians like Rebecca A. Bryant have documented, the shimmy was an early example of white performers (most famously in this case, Mae West) claiming an African-American performance style without obviously parodying it, as they did in minstrelsy.

This should remind us that policing and our definitions of crime always exist in history and respond to that history and to changing culture. What we do now doesn't have to be what we do in the future.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Our Salem Vision and Draft Plan Relies too Much on Arterial Conversion to Mixed-Use

In order to "protect" existing single detached housing and "neighborhood character," the vision offered by Our Salem in the new draft plan concentrates too much on already busy arterial streets and does not do enough to leverage our system of smaller, minor arterials and collector streets.

The main place this is visible, seemingly the project's "one big idea," is in the way the project team took a "mixed use paint brush" to the major corridors of Commercial Street and Lancaster Drive and changed the color on the existing zoning outlines. This is not by itself a bad move, but because it is an isolated move, it looks like warehousing new projects on streets that are already busy, unpleasant, and polluted.

Focus on "major corridors"

(This key is not very helpful or clear
as information design)
This might seem like it is a move for walking and transit away from driving, but because it is in isolation it is very limited.

Even with mixed-use conversions, is this massive cross-section on South Commercial ever going to be friendly for walking?

Is Mixed-Use by itself going to help with this?

An important missing ingredient, then, is a boulevard conversion for Commercial and Lancaster. The proposed change from commercial to mixed-use zoning needs to be accompanied by a stroad-to-boulevard conversion in the streets. Otherwise they will still be oversized for autoist primacy and still very zoomy. Boulevard conversions also add medians for street trees and improve tree canopy. They prioritize local travel on the margins at calm speed and give through-travel the center.