Wednesday, August 31, 2016

New Land Use Memo for Salem River Crossing shows how Deeply Unserious We Are

As the Salem River Crossing team gears up for the Land Use approvals and proposed expansion of the Urban Growth Boundary in West Salem, they way they are managing public information is at the very least a little sneaky and underhanded. There's nothing like a commitment to sharing, full disclosure, and public-minded debate.

Fortunately, over at N3B critics have pried some information out of the team.

One of the reports is the Land Use Final Technical Report Addendum. In draft or final form it has not been published to the SRC website
In it is outlined the case for the Urban Growth Boundary expansion.

It's a real blizzard of information, and in order for the public to be able to engage it at the level of fact and interpretation of fact, it should be more widely shared with reasonable lead-time for non-specialists to be able to consider and digest it. It should be shared with reasonable lead-time for City Councilors and other Elected to consider and digest it. If the process is structured so that even City Councilors don't have enough time to read all of it, then the process is probably structured wrongly.

More generally even if, in withholding the memo, the SRC team has still been fulfilling the minimum of legal requirements for disclosure prior to a Public Hearing, as a statement of public-minded interest, it is a sham and a sign of disrespect. It is totally reflective of commitments to a pre-determined conclusion and to "public participation theatre."

Since there's so much to consider in it, we'll start with something small and, in the big scheme of things, a relatively minor detail: Bikes and mobility by means other than drive-alone trips. But we need a point of entry. I suspect there will be more to say in additional posts, and a logical second item is to look at its assessment of Alternative 2A, the concept to widen the existing bridges.

Section 4.3.4 on Bikes

From the Land Use Final Technical Report Addendum, on the next page immediately following table 4.3-4 just above:

100 Years Ago: Twenty mph is Plenty; Whitlocks by George Post; Hops better than Paving

Twenty is Plenty: August 29th, 1916
At the moment I don't have more context for this - like how many people were dying, how fast autos could actually go, etc. - but it is interesting to note that speeding was already a problem in 1916 and an urban limit of 20mph seemed prudent and reasonable.
via Placemakers
Now we tolerate speeds well above 20mph and try to shift the burden for safety from drivers to people on foot: Be cautious, wear bright clothing, and stay out of the way when walking.

The pernicious spirit of demands for high-viz safety gear

Whitlock Vacuum is by George Post

D'Arcy Building from 1916 (September 2nd, 1916)
Designed by George Post
A few details may need to be confirmed to button this up 100%, but this citation from 1916 suggest the entry in the downtown Historic District Nomination for one half of Whitlock's Vacuum needs some revision.

Here's what they said in 2001:
The D'Arcy Building was constructed around 1909 and conveys a clear sense of evolving historical development in the Salem commercial district between the early 1900s and 1950. The D'Arcy Building's upper facade was altered early on, when the building's use changed from a one- and one half-story movie theater to a two-story retail store.
D'Arcy Building on right half of Whitlock's (from 2012 streetview)
Stylistic kinship with the McGilchrist Block
The newspaper piece suggests the building is new construction from 1916, not a remodel of the Wexford Theater or other building from 1909. It is also significant that it was designed by George Post, a fact the Historic District Nomination is ignorant of. Post designed the Carnegie Library, McKinley School, the McGilchrist Building - and maybe others we don't know about. His architectural legacy in Salem is mostly lost and hidden at the moment.

Road Crew Deserts to Pick Hops

September 6th, 1916
There's lots of hop picking ads and news in the papers in late summer 1916, but this note stands out. "The lure of the hop fields called four laborers of the paving crew working on the fair grounds road yesterday."

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Key Bike Boulevard Crossings Stays in Line for State Funding

Our local Area Commission on Transportation meets Thursday the 1st, and the final recommendations in Region 2 for State funding in the 2018-2021 "Fix-it" and "Enhance" program cycles are on the agenda.

Five Crossing Safety Projects
Project estimate is now at $566,220
The Salem proposal for several enhanced crossings, including two for the Winter-Maple Bike Boulevard route, one of them for an intersection where Caroline Storm was killed last year, made the final cut as part of the 100% recommended list for funding.

Our area's 150% list, with 100% recommendation in green
Significantly, after formal scoping by ODOT, the project's estimate was raised once again, having already gone from $250,000 to $380,000. This time its estimate sits at $566,220.

The other recommended project is on Hayesville Drive NE for sidewalks and bike lanes, and outside of Salem proper in unincorporated Marion County.

Monday, August 29, 2016

DAS Ad for North Campus of State Hospital is Interesting

Well, this interesting. While reading some of the paper online over the weekend, this ad for the north campus of the State Hospital popped up. (Have you seen it?)

Ad running online at, 27 August 2016
I had not seen this zoning concept before. It's not something the City or State is doing much to share or publicize, it seems.

The concept is identified in the current RFP as "Highest and Best Uses per Appraisal – NOT a proposed development plan." So it's something buried inside the appraisal, a further development off the Leland study. (The appraisal doc is 473pp, but it has a bunch of other documents appended to it, including the "Framework Master Plan" from 2005.)

It suggests that the City has given up on acquiring the northwest corner for a park, and instead demarcates a smaller center portion on D Street for park land (brown). The northwest and southeast corners are both designated for commercial-office space.

Breitenbush Hall area is marked for mixed-use, and the main area of demolition with Santiam, McKenzie, and Eola Halls, for RM2, high density residential.

The northeast corner is marked for RM1, medium-density residential.

It seems to me that this may miss on the value of the corners, which ought to be the mixed-use zones. The appraisal doesn't appear directly to engage its reasoning for dealing with the corners as it does, so this might be more arbitrary than not. At the same time, if 25th is brought up to current standards for a public street with sidewalks and such, there will be real corners on it. But 25th will still be an interior street, without direct continuation north and south. The corners on 23rd and Park will be more lively, and these seem like they merit greater thought and attention. These corners will be the cornerstone for the project.

As a mixed-use scheme, then, this concept plan still seems more autoist than walkable, an inferior expression of a mixed-use master plan.

The ad redirects to this sales page, and several other reports are linked from that.

The appraisal, for example, also lists other infrastructure requirements:
  • Upgrading frontage roads - $750,000
  • Intersection improvements - $1,000,000
  • Water lines may need to be replaced
  • Onsite wells may need backflow devices and/or other improvements
  • Storm and sanitary sewer needs work, including a new sewer main - $600,000
  • A storm water study is necessary - $25,000
The RFP to my eye reads pretty reasonably. It includes a final section on "Considerations":
Please take these community interests into account when exploring uses for the property.
  • Relationship to context. Development to the north and east of the site is primarily single-family residential. To the west and south are large scale, densely developed medical uses.
  • Multifamily. The City of Salem lacks multifamily land, has historically-low vacancy, and is experiencing rising rents (15% year-over-year increase).
  • Need for open space. Appraiser recommends approximately 5 acres of contiguous park space, fronting on D Street. Others have suggested more.
  • Impact to D Street. Neighbors like the low-traffic nature of D Street; directing most traffic to Center, Park, and 23rd will be better received than driveways on D Street.
  • Employment. Jobs are always welcome.
  • Neighborhood-Scale Retail. Despite the major employer across the street, the vicinity is essentially devoid of restaurant/retail options and lacks commercial-use land.
While these "considerations" don't appear to be binding at all, and if you are inclined to a cynical reading, they could be just empty lip-service; at the same time, if a developer took them seriously, they would be a good and fair-minded guide.

Otherwise I don't know there's anything much here to argue at the moment.

Early plats show small orchard/farm land clearly;
We've planted trees here and cut them down before.
(Heritage and Identity presentation on Lansing-NESCA)
The tree-removal and demolition plan seems defensible, and while some do not agree with it, the criticism of it has seemed overwrought and insufficiently sensitive to the actual challenges of the site, the old buildings set on a mid-century campus away from the sidewalks, and of Salem's housing and development needs. That criticism has seemed to occupy an idealized world too far removed from what actually is. (Other criticism about the lack of public process and master planning has more merit, however.)

It's important also to remember the Dome Building and Yaquina Hall are being saved; the plan truly occupies a central place in the debate about which reasonable people can disagree.

Once a buyer is identified and begins to articulate plans - well, then there might be more to argue!

(For all notes on the North Campus project, see here.)

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Forget Horses, Bikes way more Useful in Catastrophe

It's great the paper published a reminder about earthquake after the catastrophe in Italy this past week.

But to say "it is not an exaggeration to say that transportation by horse will once again be essential" is to miss the actually useful technology that requires a whole lot less care and feeding, and that performs even better than horse.

In Japan after a 2011 earthquake
After Typhoon Haiyan - via the Oregonian
(AP/Aaron Favila)
The paper's even written about them before.

From 2012
While this may not be a primary reason to invest in bike lanes and a culture of biking today, it's certainly a strong secondary reason. The more we bike now, the easier it will be to get around when catastrophe strikes.

Friday, August 26, 2016

ITE to FHWA: In the City, your Hydraulic Autoism is Obsolete!

News of the Institute of Transportation Engineers' critique of the Federal Highway Administration's proposed rules on measuring congestion has been making the rounds this afternoon. That's a pleasant thought to take into the weekend.

About measuring congestion and performance by vehicle delay in urban environments they write:
There is significant concern that by focusing on delay minimization for vehicle travel, the vast majority of which involves SOVs, other modes of travel may suffer. This is especially true of pedestrians and bicycles, which are often accommodated within developed urban areas by reducing the amount of available infrastructure (and thus, the capacity) for SOVs. Even transit-based modes, such as buses, may cause minor to moderate additional delay for SOVs as their usage increases, given the unique operating characteristics of these vehicles. While few would argue that the expansion of these non-SOV modes of travel do not bring with them significant benefits to public health and community livability, these benefits are marginalized by distilling the congestion performance of a roadway down to the sole ability of SOVs to move quickly through the corridor. Such a measure harkens back to the previous 50 years of SOV-centric policy development, and has the potential to reduce (or even reverse) the investment in multimodal transportation infrastructure, for the sake of meeting this performance target. [italics added]
More at People for Bikes, Transportation for America, and Streetsblog.

(For more on hydraulic autoism see here.)


From SKATS' "Comments on the Proposed Rules for 23 CFR Part 490 - National Performance Management Measures":
Subpart E – National Performance Management Measures to Assess Performance of the National Highway System

Our comments on this subpart are focused on the proposed measure for the non-Interstate NHS, section 490.507(a)(2), Percent of the non-Interstate NHS providing Reliable Travel Times. The non-Interstate NHS includes facilities with a wider variety of physical characteristics than Interstates. Interstates are built, for the most part, to a particular standard: Lane width is regulated, medians are present and access is controlled. The non-Interstate NHS, especially as defined after October 1, 2012, encompasses a wide variety of roads that are considered principal arterials. Some are limited access, multi-lane facilities that are designed and operate similarly to Interstates. However, the majority of non-Interstate NHS facilities defined within the SKATS boundary, and likely in most MPOs in the country, provide for the movement of traffic within an urban area including the distribution to lower-order roads. Often these roads have sidewalks and bike lanes and serve adjacent land uses, both residential and commercial/industrial uses, via driveways and other curb cuts. Some roads will have lanes dedicated for the movement of transit vehicles. These roads may be undivided, divided by barriers, or have center-turn lanes. The movements on them are controlled by signals that are spaced according to the functional class of the intersecting facility. Some have speed restrictions during part of the day due to the proximity to a school.

A performance measure that focuses solely on the reliability of vehicular travel time in such a setting is potentially directing investment that could damage the urban fabric of the area and diminish the livability along the corridor. A more nuanced measure is necessary in such situations.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Craftsman-Bungalow Podiatrist Office Proposed for Corner of Liberty and Mission

Things look to be heating up for fall, and there's a bunch of Hearings announced for the Historic Landmarks Commission next month.

Three of the things seem more-or-less routine, but one of them is not.

View from Liberty

View from Mission: Long and Low
At the corner of Liberty and Mission, in an effort to create something compatible with the Historic District, there's a huge Craftsman-Bungalow styled podiatrist office proposed.

Typical proportions are closer to square
The Houses of Grant Neighborhood
It's hard to tell from the elevation sketches, but here's a hot take: Once built, it will be out of proportion, so much so that it may even be a grotesque enlargement of a typical Craftsman-Bungalow form - It looks way too long, and not tall enough for the length, flattened like a pancake.

My gut is that we would actually be better served in this particular place by a building form that is not trying to mimic - and even camouflage itself in - an historic style in order to be "compatible" with the Historic District.

Our Historic Preservation Code, however, tends to the opposite conclusion. SRC 230.035(b)(1)(C) requires that
The design reflects, but does not replicate, the architectural style of historic contributing buildings in the district.
So there's that. But it seems to lead here to an aesthetic misfire.

You might have a different opinion, and it would be interesting to hear from folks who think the vintage 1920s look is actually the best approach.

The site itself has been contested. In 2007 Salem Weekly wrote about the "demolition by neglect" that was underway, and in 2010 the SHINE historical digest covered the demolition itself.

But here we are with an empty lot on a changing Mission Street. There is no reason not to allow a podiatrist office here.

But is trying to ape a Craftsman Bungalow actually the best design solution?

What do you think?

Other items on the agenda, which at least from here do not seem controversial:
Once the Staff Reports come out there might be more to say, especially on the podiatrists office.

The Public Hearing will be Thursday, September 15th.

A Postscript

Statesman, September 27th, 1925
This is nice! A reader sent in a note about another bungalow court (see discussion in comments below). This one is a little hidden, on the south side of Miller Street right at the path connection with River Road. Back then it was "at the corner of John and Miller Streets," but John doesn't go through now (or perhaps never did).