Saturday, October 22, 2016

Greenwashing the SRC? Air Quality/Emissions and Energy Analyses may not Match

About the just-completed grape harvest, Chehalem Wines writes:
Our 2016 Harvest began before September, the first time ever on August 30th, and ended one month later, September 30th , never touching October for the first time ever! With this vintage showing earliest-ever Budbreak and earliest-ever Harvest timing and with almost non-existent rain, this could be California! However, it wasn’t all Baja-Oregon in nature, since the heat didn’t bake things as searingly as the last three years....
Note the "first time ever" and "earliest-ever" bits.

Even though the fall so far has been crappy and wet, because the nights haven't cooled off October has still been much warmer than usual here.

October has been 3 degrees warmer than average
via Accuweather
You might have seen this chart floating around, which projects the year-end temperature average based on the January to September temperatures recorded so far. It looks pretty linear, and make it clear that 2016 will be the new warmest year.

It is tiresome to repeat, but also urgent to repeat. We are warming. And the rate of change appears to be increasing.

So it is especially frustrating to read in the latest round of SRC memos an additional note on "Energy Impacts."

Friday, October 21, 2016

ODOT Memo on Highway Plan Policy 1G seems Shallow

Now that the initial comment period has closed, the SRC team is posting a flurry of responses and documents. One of the interesting ones is titled "Salem River Crossing - Oregon Highway Plan Policy 1G - Major Improvements." In it, ODOT claims that
Based on the attached information, it is ODOT's opinion that the Salem River Crossing Project has met the requirements of, and is consistent with, the OHP Major Improvements Policy and Action 1G.1.
So let's look at their case. (The memo is italicized and indented here: Bold italics are in original, regular italics are added. Roman type is commentary and not in the memo.)

As part of the introductory material they write:
Action 1G.1
Use the following priorities for developing corridor plans, transportation system plans, the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, and project plans to respond to highway needs. Implement higher priority measures first unless a lower priority measures is clearly more cost effective or unless it clearly better supports safety, growth management, or other livability and economic viability considerations. Plans must document the findings which support using lower priority measures before higher priority measures.
It seems to me that analysis ODOT offers to support these claims is generally weak and largely not supported:

City Council, October 24th - 245 Court Street

Council meets on Monday, and the Urban Renewal Agency has a one-item agenda, to confirm an Urban Renewal grant for the 245 Court Street project.

Preliminary Concept for 245 Court Street
(Notes added) - via CB|Two
So there's lots to be cranky about right now at the City. But here's some good news.

The Urban Renewal Agency looks to sign off on "$740,000 in Riverfront-Downtown Urban Renewal Area grant funds to partially fund construction costs for a to-be-built 43,000 square foot mixed-use commercial building at 245 Court Street."

Especially in comparison with the Rivers Condos just across Court Street, there's a lot to like about this project:
  • Choices about how to greet the sidewalk are right! The storefronts face Court Street rather than Front Street. The facade at the Front Street sidewalk will mostly be screening for some covered parking tucked under the building. If you have to sacrifice one of the sides to the parking garage, the Front Street side is the right one.
  • There's also a small plaza between the two buildings.
  • The existing Safeway will be modified, basically cut in half for modern storefronts, and not completely demolished.
  • Parking will be accessed off the alley and be screened from the sidewalks by buildings.
Basically this is all you could ask for. (Except for the unrealistic wish for no parking at all!)

And, considering that the City approved a $750,000 grant for a Nursing Home at the Boise site (see below for final approvals on site plan), this is also a better targeting of urban renewal subsidy.

It'll be interesting to learn about any substantive complaints or criticism. Mostly it looks like exactly the kind of project that will enhance downtown.

Pioneer Trust Bank: Mid-rise perfectly scaled here
The 245 Court will be to the same scale
The project is still in a preliminary phase, so there may yet be changes before final approvals. (Previous note here.)

Other Notes

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

McLane Island probably named after John Burch McClane - also Rev. Obed!

For someone with a pretty straight-forward name in English, John Burch McClane's name sure isn't very stable! I've seen Mclain, McClane, M'Clane, McLane; Birch and Burch; and J. B. in addition to all the combinations of John, Birch, and McLane. (I think we're just missing the variations with Mac-!)

So what shall we settle on?

January 21st, 1892 (that 26th is wrong!)
The obituaries agree on John Burch McClane, so that's what we'll use.

The "Island" isn't very Stable either!

An exact citation to prove that our particular McLane Island is named after him remains elusive, so it may not be possible to state that with 100% certainty - but it seems pretty clear, so we'll go with it for the moment. An "island" is associated with him and has been for a while. In addition to giving McLane Island its name, then, he was an important figure in early Salem history.

The island as we know it also looks like it may be a 20th century creation, possibly an artifact of dredging, channelization, and changed stream flows more than a product changes wrought by flooding. But this remains obscure and uncertain. (Somewhere there must be more documentation! We may circle around this in another post or two.)

Chitwood Bar came off Mill Creek in 1915

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

It's Bike Week at Strong Towns - and a Bike Boulevard Update!

This is pretty great. Strong Towns is devoting the week to bicycling.

They write
As a young engineer, I remember attending a seminar that had a brief section on complete streets and traffic calming. I remember being annoyed. I remember thinking it was a waste of my time. I design streets for cars. Bikes are recreation and they belong on trails....

Join us for Bike Week at Strong Towns, as we examine the highest returning investment a city can make: making it easier for people to bike.
That narrative arc from "bikes belong on trails" to "bicycling is the highest returning investment" is a useful one!

It will also be helpful that some - or perhaps most of it - will be written from the standpoint of people who find bicycling as an incredibly useful and efficient urban mobility tool, but who do not also self-identify as "cyclists." That is, they are ordinary people for whom bicycling is a tool, but not the only tool or the primary tool, in the transportation toolkit. It will be written from the "interested but concerned" perspective more than the "experienced and confident" one.

MassDOT Separated Bike Lane Guide
So far they've got:
Check it out!

Winter-Maple Bike Boulevard Project

The Salem Bike Boulevard Advocates sent out a note with an update and the Advisory Committee for the Winter-Maple project:
The planning process for Salem’s first constructed bike boulevard continues. The City of Salem has signed an Intergovernmental Agreement with the Oregon Department of Transportation outlining the work, traffic counts and data compilation have begun, and October brings the first meeting of the Maple/Winter Family Friendly Bikeway Project Advisory Team. Team members include:
Geoff Darling, Chairman, Highland NA
Eric Bradfield, Co-Chair, Grant NA
Sam Skillern, Co-Chair, Grant NA
Bruce Hoffman, Chair, CAN-DO
Angela Obery, Salem Bike Boulevard Advocates
Eric Cardella, Boys & Girls Club
Kirk Seyfert, Northwest Hub Bike Shop
Tim France, Director of Operations, Salem Alliance
Anthony Gamallo, Tansportation Planner, Salem
Julie Warnke, Transportation Planning Manager, Salem
Scott Mansur, Transportation Engineer, DKS Associates
Lacy Brown, Transportation Safety Engineer, DKS
Jessica Zdeb, Transportation Planner, Toole Design Grp
DKS is a familiar face on Salem Transportation projects: They did the Commercial-Vista Corridor Project and are doing the OR-22/Mission Street project underway now. But Toole Design has not been active recently here. Alta has done most of that kind of work. (They were involved in Bike and Walk Salem and in the Cherriots RideShare Plan.) The graphic above from Massachusetts is one by the Toole Group, and they have been more visible lately on some national projects. So that will be interesting to see if there is a difference in perspective or anything meaningfully apparent from the outside.

It's great also to see Salem Alliance Church involved. They generate a lot of traffic in the neighborhood, especially on weekends, and it has often seemed like asking people to try out a once a week commute by bike for worship might be easier than asking for a weekday work commute by bike. They also operate Broadway Commons, which stands out as a great moment in Salem's urban redevelopment. The Church's engagement could be something interesting to see develop!

Finally, getting the neighborhoods fully on board will be important as a strong bikeway will call for some auto diversion and calming, and if it turns out to be too difficult to prioritize biking and walking in meaningful ways on the streets, the bikeway will be less successful and less broadly useful. There will need to be trade-offs, and those will be political, not technical, problems.

ODOT Working on Public Transit Plan - Meeting Today

ODOT is working on another statewide plan, this time for transit:
The Oregon Public Transportation Plan is one of several statewide transportation mode and topic plans that refine, apply, and implement the Oregon Transportation Plan (OTP).

1997 Oregon Public Transportation Plan (OPTP) (PDF)

OPTP development, guided by stakeholders, is expected to take about two years from when a diverse Policy Advisory Committee (PAC) began its work in April 2016. See the OPTP Development General Timeline (PDF) for details. In addition to the PAC, a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) will participate in the OPTP development to advise ODOT on specific topics.

ODOT’s work began with research on existing conditions and possible plan topics. ODOT conducted interviews with a sample of stakeholders from around the state regarding what may need to be considered in the plan. These stakeholders' initial advice is captured in the OPTP Summary of Stakeholder Interviews (PDF).

ODOT’s research on current conditions and opportunities for public transportation included a survey of public transportation providers and a workshop at the 2015 Oregon Public Transportation Conference, See the summary of themes and ideas from the survey and workshop for what was learned. Survey results can be seen in the OPTP Workshop and Provider Survey Summary (PDF).
They're holding an Open House today at the Chemeketa Center for Business and Industry at 1pm. It's probably too late for that, but there's also an online version (from which the slide above is taken).

The fact that public transportation is not an "integral, interconnected component" and that we have to push that out for another 20 years - well, that tells you a lot about where the project is. It would be great to have a lot more urgency and funding behind it.

The meeting is October 18th, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Chemeketa Center for Business and Industry, 626 High Street.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Two Interpretive Questions: Goal 1 for Part or Whole? What does Implement Mean?

In looking more closely at the Findings Report for the SRC actions, two centers of interpretation jump out.

One is whether Goal 1 on Citizen Involvement refers severally and individually to the parts of a process or whether it refers principally to the totality of a process.

The other involves several policies and requires a determination on what the word "implement" means.

Maybe these are grasping at straws and, especially in compressed time frames, it is difficult for interested citizens to discern marginal side issues from central key issues.

But it seems like an awful lot of the case for the UGB expansion right now depends on a particular interpretation of each of these. If those interpretations are wrong, then it does not seem difficult at all to say delay or even a halt is necessary.

On Goal 1 for Citizen Involvement

In the blizzard of documents the SRC team has posted to the City website, one of the most important is the Findings Report. As I understand it, this is most of the formal legal and technical argument to justify the UGB and TSP actions.So it is worth a closer reading. In fact, it may be the most important document to read, as one important avenue for criticism is to contest directly the claims that are made in it.

That right there should be a prima facie case that there must be reasonable time for citizens to read and analyze the document. Citizens need to have time to absorb and respond to it.

Interestingly, its analysis of Statewide Planning Goal 1 wholly avoids this question, and instead focuses on the entirety of the 10 year process. The analysis trades on a slippery notion that the information has been out there for a very long time!

The NEPA process has been 10 years long!

We mailed notice to people
and created a website!

There is a long history of public involvement!
Even though there's nearly three pages of text here, I see it boiling down to this:
Generally, Goal 1 is satisfied when a local government follows the public involvement procedures set out in its acknowledged comprehensive plan and land use regulations. Outreach and citizen involvement have been a central part of the NEPA environmental process for the SRC project for about ten years....

In summary, there has been a long history of public involvement in the NEPA process for the SRC Project....
The question comes down to other rulings and case law I guess. What does "planning process" refer to in this phrase: "Goal 1: Citizen Involvement - To develop a citizen involvement program that insures the opportunity for citizens to be involved in all phases of the planning process."

If it only or mainly refers to the totality, then sure, the NEPA process has been a decade long. That's true. And the recitation of the "long history of public involvement" may satisfy the requirements.

But if it refers to the specific land-use matter at hand, the proposed UGB expansion and TSP amendments, then the process has been very compressed by design and lacks a "long history of public involvement."