Sunday, March 30, 2014

Bits: More Demolition on 13th; Opacity in City Government

If there's a lot of skepticism here about the "sculpture garden" at the Conference Center, the painting program inside is pretty great. It's a free gallery for citizens - it highlights works in the City's collection - and the focus is strongly regional. It's worth checking out.

House II by Michael Brophy
Hallie Ford Museum of Art
And the paintings aren't all happy, anodyne things.They aren't going to go out of their way to offend or anything, but most of them aren't banal, soothing, decorative things, either. Sometimes they pose questions. It's real art!

One of the paintings is this demolished house by Michael Brophy.  He paints lots of forests, so this is in one sense a scene of a forest transformed, the end of a group of trees (maybe final, maybe not - maybe it's merely a moment in process and will be subject to still more transformation, become fuel or salvaged for example, but I read the ruin mainly as waste rather than as a site of creativity and potential).

Modest Four-Square demolished this week
This house on 13th street between Court and Chemeketa, the former office of a controversial developer, and recently purchased by the Oregon School Board Association, had fallen into disrepair, and the OSBA was issued a demolition permit last Monday. The roofline was sagging and it is possible it truly wasn't worth saving. This week, readers say, it was demolished.

Friday, March 28, 2014

As Courthouse Square Reopens, Remember the Derby Building and Other Old Salem

Courthouse Square reopens next month and a rededication ceremony - a catharsis? emesis? so much more! - will be held on Wednesday the 2nd. The buses return on the 7th.

Here's some images of what was there mid-century.  Mainly it was the Derby building, which housed the Senator Hotel. 

Old City Hall and Derby Building in Distance
(Looking SE-ish from north side of Chemeketa and High)
Salem Library Historic Photos

Thursday, March 27, 2014

An Avenging Angel of Autoism and Ada Louise Huxtable at the Sculpture Garden

Have you seen the new sculpture downtown?

A week or so ago local arts patrons and the Oregon Artist Series reset the art at the Conference Center and installed a new piece of sculpture.

"Cien Años"
Devin Laurence Field
(But I read it as Robo-Nike)
Inside and accompanying it appears to be a new set of posters for the several of the sculptors themselves.

Information Display for Sculpture Garden at Conference Center
In the lower left of the group, one of the plaques appeals to architecture critic and urbanist Ada Louise Huxtable:
Welcome

The goals of this Oregon Artist Series Foundation presentation include:

- To broaden public appreciation of sculpture,
- To expand public awareness of several of the Northwest's finest sculptors and their work,
- To foster an understanding of the processes involved in making sculpture,
- To develop an appetite for fine sculture within the urban environment

"The use of space and sculpture is traditionally one of man's most creative contributions where it counts the most: As a three dimensional part of the functioning city scene and of the activity of life." - Ada Louise Huxtable, 1973
Huxtable died last year at the age of 91.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Latest Pringle Square Plans Show Secure Bike Parking for Residents

Late Friday afternoon last week the latest revision of the Pringle Square plans was approved in concurrent administrative site plan and design reviews. One of the most interesting things about the apartments is they might be the first apartments in Salem with internal secure bike parking!

View from the NE

It's there on the basement level, accessed off Bellvue.

Basement detail: Bike storage and parking for residents
That room also looks like it might be small, but it's hard to say.  One can wish that it fills up quickly and they have to find more room:  That's the kind of problem you'd like to see!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Bike Counters Run into Road Blocks at MPO

Today the Policy Committee for our local Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Salem Keizer Area Transportation Study, meets at noon.  On the agenda is next year's work plan, bike counters, and some project rankings for Federal funds.

Last month the Policy Committee considered a proposal to allocate $22,000 for the purchase of two bike/ped counters, one each for the Union Street RR Bridge and for the future Minto Bridge.

The proposal, representing 0.3% of the $7 million spent so far on the Salem River Crossing or less than half of a single pedestrian crosswalk median for $60,000, ran into resistance and was tabled with a request for additional information. From the draft minutes:
Discussion focused on whether bicycle and pedestrian counters are considered part of congestion management [the broader category of the funding source]. Mike Jaffe explained that the counters provide baseline numbers for comparison to future year counts to determine whether there are changes in biking or walking on the two bridges. Measuring this change gives a more complete picture of travel activity and congestion in Salem. Councilor Dan Clem commented that he would like additional time to confer with his staff before approving or disapproving of the purchase of the counters....Discussion continued related to commuter and recreational use and how surveys would be needed to determine the type of trips (commuting, recreational, other) on the bridges.

Additional discussion...asked if the data obtained would be beneficial in showing need in grant applications and if the information would help in going forward with the Salem River crossing project. Staff responded that counts on the Union Street corridor could be helpful in grant applications for future phases of the corrider [Union Street, as I read it]. Mike Jaffe responded that currently SKATS has good count data for vehicles and relatively good transit passenger information, but there is no on-going data collection of pedestrian or bicycle counts in the SKATS area.

Motion was made...to table action related to bicycle and pedestrian counters pending receipt of additional information...

Councilor Dan Clem asked if bicycle and pedestrian counter information would be incorporated into the SKATS model. Staff replied that count data from only two locations was insufficient at this time for use in the regional travel model.
SKATS staff are coming back with some additional clarification as well as a request for the motion to proceed, but the memo's assertions in support of the proposal are somewhat pallid and don't seem very interested. Counters should be a baseline expectation, immune to politics!  Beginning to install bike counters and moving towards a robust bike count system should be standard best practices at this point. This shouldn't even be an item of policy debate - not to mention how small is the dollar amount as a proportion of total transportation spending.

It seems all too possible that the Committee could refuse the proposal. (But we can wish that they see the two count stations are insufficient for the regional travel model and want to increase the number of stations to the number of data points meaningful for the regional travel model!)

Also on the agenda is a brief report on the technical advisory committee's rankings on the 11 projects submitted for Federal Surface Transportation Program and Transportation Alternatives Program funding in the local 2015-2020 Transportation Improvement Program.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Keizer Rapids Park and Chemawa Road Update; Also, Camas!

In Keizer, Chemawa Road west of River Road got $4 million in sidewalks and bike lanes and other improvements last summer, and the great weather this weekend provided a reason for a brief detour to check it out.

The official project description is "Add bike lanes, curbs, sidewalks, signal at McNary High School entrance. Include rain gardens."

But a few details seem odd. Most curiously, as a dead-end, a road that ends in residences and a great park, and as a road with no through-traffic - why on earth is it signed for 30mph???

30mph seems excessive on this part of Chemawa Rd
Traffic here on Chemawa still gets kinda zoomy, and this segment of road appears to be rated a collector street (Keizer TSP). But even if it does "collect" traffic from the local streets, since it's a dead-end in every way, and since there's a magnificent park and kid-attractor at the principal dead-end, it seems like in spirit it's much more of a local street and deserves lower speeds.

The road is apparently difficult enough to cross that a signed crosswalk was necessary just down the road from the speed limit sign. The north sidewalk just ends here, so a mid-block crossing might be useful to get to the park, which is on the south side - but maybe if auto traffic wasn't so prioritized and the traffic was calmed more deliberately, the crosswalk might not be necessary.

The Crosswalk reads as mitigation rather than integration
The swales are neat and run the length of the road section on the north side.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

City Council, March 24th - Police Station

The lead, headline grabbing item at City Council on Monday is an update on the proposed Police Station.

The latest cost estimates on four alternatives
By this time, however, you'd think
the City would have talked more about them
But there's not a whole lot to say: The Staff Report is "information only" and it suggests that more outreach, conversation, and debate are desirable, and that no decisions will be made until after the City budget is settled in June - though it does continue to insist that the Civic Center site is best and recommend against allocating money to study in more depth any other alternative sites.

Hopefully Salem Community Vision will publish more of their analysis, which has been regrettably thin and cocktail-napkinish. At the same time, however, it has shown a remarkable resilience in the face of the City's refusal to engage it directly. You'd think that if the City was certain or really enjoyed a preponderance of evidence, they would be able to dismantle quickly the competing SCV critique.

But they haven't!

In the Staff Report is stuff like, "The City's first priority is providing public safety to all areas of Salem and locating away from the geographic center of Salem would reduce effectiveness and operational efficiencies."  Well, maybe that's true about the center, but by this point in the debate, the City should have articulated a more robust argument for a central location. It remains just talk, an unproven assertion. Moreover, the O'Brien parcel, the first alternative in the clip above, is totally centrally located, no farther from downtown proper than is the Civic Center. So why is that site so bad in light of the SCV critique? The City's arguments are looking weaker and weaker - even if the SCV arguments have on their own gained no additional strength.

Still, if there's a way to save $10 or $20 million, that's 167 or 333 additional pedestrian medians (@ $60,000 each) we could install or a handful of our smaller bridges to seismically retrofit!

So head on over to SCV for more. I'm sure there will be a good bit of talk over the weekend. (For skepticism about the SCV proposal, see all notes here.)

Yes, too Late to Improve the Nursing Home

Proposed Marquis Care Facility on Boise Site
The financing for the nursing home at the Boise project has changed in some important ways. It is now a "project grant" rather than a "project bond.":

Friday, March 21, 2014

Celebrate Spring by Planting Trees and Shrubs at Clark Creek Park on Saturday

You're tired of meetings and policy, right? It's Spring and sunny!  Why not celebrate by planting things?

Friends of Trees is holding another planting session at Clark Creek Park on Saturday the 22nd.

Clark Creek Park in February 2014 snow storm
Last fall they ripped out the invasives in preparation for
Our Green Space Initiative program will be coordinating two events at Clark Creek Park to plant native trees and shrubs along the creek to provide shade over this prominent south Salem stream. For our first event in December, we will focus on planting larger trees in areas previously dominated by Himalayan blackberry immediately next to the creek, as well as up to two dozen trees in the upland areas of the park. Our spring event will be oriented towards filling in the riparian zone with bareroot native trees and shrubs. We will also be working with nearby private property owners in the Morningside neighborhood - both upstream and downstream from our restoration site - offering free invasive species control and native plants.
It wasn't pretty - but it wasn't supposed to be!

Clark Creek in November 2013, after the blackberry and ivy carnage
The first planting session got rained out, but the rescheduled one seems to have included a kind of Willamette Valley Ponderosa that likes wet feet!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Funny Bike Lane Points to Pringle Square Traffic Flows at Tricky Corner

Last weekend I spotted this dashed bike lane on Commercial between the intersection at Trade/Front and the new bridge across Pringle Creek.

Bike lane on Commercial - Boise on R, City Hall on L
Why is it dashed?

Well, the curb cut for a driveway where the blue loader is parked is a clue.

One-way right-in only driveway off of Commercial Street
There's going to be a right-in driveway (but not, it seems, right-out) for the nursing home and new four-story office building in phase II of the Boise North Block redevelopment.

Trade/Front and Commercial. With dual turns and a large radius corner,
speeds are sometimes too fast.
The bike lane is also functioning as a turn lane here.  With cars taking the turn quickly - in some cases "whipping around the corner" - I'm not real excited about the prospect for right-hook crashes as cars take two right turns in quick succession. The sightlines aren't very long here when you're turning the corner - not like the longer sightlines at the end of a block face when a bike lane transitions with turn lanes as people approach an intersection.  The dashed lane makes sense in the context of sharrows on the previous block of Commercial, but not so much in the context of the dual turn lanes. This may well need to be revisited later.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Art Commission, Downtown Advisory Board, Streets and Bridges, Planning Commission

Whether it's because of spring break coming up or just a general spring fecundity in projects, there's a flurry of meetings this week.

A commenter pointed out yesterday that we totally missed the Planning Commission's look at the proposed TSP amendments on the 18th.  Today at noon the Public Art Commission meets to look at the Minto Bridge and a few other public art projects.  Tonight Council meets to update Council Goals, a discussion postponed from the 10th.

And tomorrow the Downtown Advisory Board meets to look at the Boise Project in a meeting postponed from last week, and the Council Bridges and Bond Subcomittee meets.

(Buried at the end is a longer discussion of the TSP amendments at the Planning Commission.)

Public Art Commission

Where would the art go?
Via City of Salem and Greenworks
City staff will be talking about the nature and scope of the public art that is part of the Minto Brown Bridge project. I believe this is a 1% for art kind of thing, but I'm still working on getting information. Nope, see comment below. The Public Art Commission does not have a meeting packet for this meeting, and they are still getting settled as a public entity. (May update this post.)

There will also be talk about a sculpture project downtown (see discussion here from last month at Council) and a mural.

The Public Art Commission meets today, March 19th, from noon - 2pm in Council Chambers, Salem Civic Center (City Hall), 555 Liberty St. SE.

Council Goals - postponed

Council Goals on Transportation (January 2014)
click to enlarge
City Council meets tonight postponed again to talk about and update Council Goals. It's a high-level policy document that narrows the scope of short-term priorities for Council and City Staff.  The meeting was going to have taken place on the 10th, but was postponed to today.

See the post on Gil Penalosa for one idea on transportation in Council Goals.

The meeting will be at Center 50+, 2615 Portland Road NE, Wednesday, March 19, 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Downtown Advisory Board

Proposed Marquis Care Facility on Boise Site
Last week's Downtown Advisory Board meeting on the project bond for the nursing home at the Boise project was postponed. (See the full discussion here. A new meeting packet has been posted, but I don't think it is materially different.)

The board meets Thursday the 20th from noon to 1:30pm in the offices of  CB|Two Architects, at Waterplace, 500 Liberty Street SE, Ste 100.

Council Streets and Bridges Subcommittee

Proposed bike park with Marine Drive (on left) and bridge alignment
The main item will be a staff presentation on the Marine Drive project in West Salem.  With money from the bond, the City proposes to purchase right-of-way for Marine Drive, a somewhat curvy road that essentially parallels Wallace Road as a by-pass and would connect with OR-22 and a Third Bridge. It would also go through several new housing developments and run through parts of Wallace Marine Park.

The committee meets Thursday, March 20, from 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. in the Public Works Conference Room 555 Liberty Street SE, Room 325.

Other Meetings

The Oregon Transportation Commission and Historic Landmarks Commission also meet Thursday the 20th (links go to discussions from earlier this week).

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Historic Landmarks Commission to Ponder Bridges and Pioneer Homesteads Thursday

So considerably more interesting than blather about pedestrian medians and city transportation budgeting is this week's agenda at the Historic Landmarks Commission.

In Salem Weekly you might have seen the piece about the transformation in process at Geercrest Farm.

On Thursday at the Commission folks from Restore Oregon will be talking about places like the Geer farm - pioneer-era farms, houses, and homesteads.

Historic Preservation League:  Most Endangered Places
Phillips House in middle photo
Each year Restore Oregon identifies a list of "Oregon's Most Endangered Places," and this past year the remaining pioneer homesteads in the Willamette Valley were included as especially at risk.

These buildings from between 1840 - 1865 are often deteriorating, are generally out of the way, and ultimately are irreplaceable.  Once they're gone, they're gone. 

R.C. Geer homestead from 1878 Marion County Atlas
The Geer farm is lucky to have a non-profit and education project behind it. A few other homes have been relocated to Mission Mill or other places in town. The McCulley House is fine example of one that's been moved and restored.

You might remember the folks at Mission Mill put together a nice little map of buildings and places in Salem that date to this period - there might be more than you think, fortunately!

Small bits at NEN and CAN-DO

There doesn't appear to be anything transportation-related of any consequence in the neighborhood associations this week, so here's a couple of bits from previous meetings.

There's talk again about a bike repair station in Riverfront Park and more details on the crosswalk projects.

One thing that doesn't probably get talked about enough here is that the City and State are pretty good at budgeting and planning small and medium-sized projects. (Whether we consider them "good" projects is a separate matter; for the moment, we're just considering accuracy in budgeting.)

It's just the really big projects that are full of budgetary charlie foxtrot. And this is an industry-wide phenomenon (see Bent Flyvbjerg's studies). Big, complex projects go over budget by a lot. No matter what the authorities say, the odds are quite high that a project like the Salem Rivercrossing would go over-budget badly. Smaller and routine projects often come in at or below budget.

With the Great Recession, in fact, we've seen how by count of projects the City has been able to do about 50% more than initially budgeted in the 2008 road bond. By dollar amount the initial project list came in around 80% of budget and because the projects have generally been smaller, that 20% of funds went to 50% more projects.

#2 was omitted, and #s 1, 3, and 4 are funded
from April, 2010 priorities
Back in 2010 the preliminary list of "pedestrian crossing safety projects" contained a number of alternates.

I believe that the Bond savings has resulted in 3 of the top 4 alternates getting funded, and construction will happen this summer. (The median for Fairgrounds at Winter was eliminated with the bike route change to cross Fairgrounds on Norway instead of Winter. The immediate neighborhood did not support the median concept.)

Info sheet handed out recently at NEN and SESNA meetings
NEN

NEN has requested that the island at Center and 13th be done at the same time as the flashing beacon at 13th and Marion. At the moment are apparently separate projects and not scheduled concurrently.

NEN meets tonight, Tuesday the 18th, at 6:30pm in the Salem First Church of the Nazarene, 1550 Market Street NE.

CAN-DO

At CAN-DO, there's talk again about a bike repair station.  From the draft minutes last month:
The board tabled until March a discussion of a possible grant application to the Salem Parks Foundation for a bicycle repair station at Riverfront Park.
CAN-DO meets tonight, Tuesday the 18th, at 6:00 p.m. at First Christian Church on 685 Marion Street NE.

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Rebel ACT at the OTC? Also: Fiscal Cliff and Reallocation of CRC Funds

The Oregon Transportation Commission meets this week on Thursday the 20th, and not surprisingly there's lots of talk about funding.

ODOT's Funding Crunch
There are several versions of this chart floating around, but it's nice to see the "you are here" indicator on it.

It's part of a breakaway attempt down south. You've heard of the "State of Jefferson"? Well, Josephine County, where Grants Pass is located, also has a minor transportation rebellion.  They want to break off from the Rogue Valley Area Commission on Transportation (like our MWACT) and form their own Area Commission. The problem? Too many on the Commission are Jackson County votes and some feel there's an imbalance with not enough Josephine County votes - and with the smaller total pie, fights over the thin slices are growing in vehemence.

I have no idea how serious is the proposal, but as another sign and consequence of our messed-up approach to transportation funding, it is significant and worth noticing.

There's also more evidence that megaprojects matter. Elsewhere long-time bike and transportation advocate Evan Manvel has highlighted another agenda item. In the Federal Transportation Authorization, about $116 million had been tucked away to service debt on the CRC consruction.  Note that's just servicing debt, not an amount for capital construction costs! At an early stage you know that's almost all interest and no principal.

With the cancellation of the CRC, those monies can be reallocated by ODOT for "fix-it" kinds of projects that preserve and maintain.  It's paint, pavement, and bridge repair! So instead of going to banks or investors, it's going to local construction companies for real jobs.  Sounds nice, doesn't it!

In recognition of the funding crunch, ODOT is developing legislative concepts for the 2015 Legislature.  These include a new round of ConnectOregon, some multi-modal funding, and a reallocation of the Jobs and Transportation Act. As you can see these are mostly "placeholders" at the moment.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Be Sure to Enjoy the Cherry Trees this Weekend

Cherries are blossoming and the weekend's going to be sunny! Be sure to get out.

And if you're feeling contemplative, there might be no better time to visit the historic cemeteries in Salem.

Cherry trees in the cemetery
Even when it's overcast the grounds are lovely. (And remember that crazy snow right around the spring equinox in 2012?  The snow + cherry trees maybe was the best!)

Here's Watt Shipp's family monument in City View Cemetery.

Watt Shipp's family burial plot

Watt Shipp (on quad, second from left) in 1898 at Fairgrounds
Notice the huge chainring where Shipp stands!
Shipp (1875-1922) was a prominent racer in the 1890s, then was a bike dealer in the 1900s and even held a patent.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Traffic Cameras Offer Pictures of Actual Congestion on Bridges - Hint: Maybe Not Much!

Oh, boy. It looks like the paper is going to use the new traffic camera information to write "traffic jam" stories.

Story posted at 5:09pm - the image is not timestamped, however
Late yesterday afternoon they posted a teaser story, "Traffic slow near Marion Street Bridge." Only problem is, a single image of "congestion" doesn't say anything about actual delay, about the dimension of time. Basing a whole narrative on a thin slice isn't sound.

Based on a few more snaps, though, it hardly looks like the bridge is actually congested!

(And you have to wonder if pro-bridge advocates are trying to "seed" a story about outrageous congestion. On an email list there's a note about a phone survey going around right now that asks about the Third Bridge, police station and City Hall, the Mayor and Council, and a few other things. The coincidence makes you go hmmm a little...)

5:18pm - two approach lanes have gaps, bridge itself not congested
(all clips from the City traffic camera page)
In any event, between 5:18 and 5:30pm the bridge and its approaches were not congested this that same evening.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Is it too Late to Improve on the Nursing Home in the Boise Project?

Now we come to the more difficult part of the Boise Redevelopment project. Tomorrow, Thursday the 13th, the Downtown Advisory Board will consider the funding mechanism supposedly necessary for the proposed nursing home on the north block of the Boise Cascade property.

Proposed Marquis Care Facility on Boise Site
In the City's report on the purchase agreement for the park parcel, provisions for the nursing home appear to be enumerated among the deal's contingencies.

Project Bond approval as a contingency for the deal
In the contract itself, paragraph 6.3 on the project bond says,
If Seller is unable to obtain approval of the project bond on terms deemed adequate by Seller, then Seller may, on written notice to Purchaser [the City] terminate this Agreement and it shall be null and void for all purposes.
I'm not sure that's exactly a threat, but it certainly is an exit opportunity for the developer. And it looks like it will be very difficult to maneuver to a "no" on the nursing home while keeping the framework with the other elements intact.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

In the Neighborhood Associations: NEN, SESNA, SCAN

Tonight the NEN-SESNA neighborhood plan looks at "commercial development and redevelopment in the neighborhoods (i.e. building site, parking, landscaping, bike and pedestrian access, local business, etc)."

Last month folks met on the airport and Mission Street area, and the meeting notes have more on the old auto dealership site at 25th and Mission:
Jim Green gave an overview of his family’s vacant property on Mission Street, which was formerly an auto dealership. A 4.5-acre portion of the property has been sold to Power Mission, a car dealership, leaving 17.5 acres for sale. He provided a brief history of the property and discussed his family’s efforts to redevelop it into a variety of uses, including a Trader Joes, REI and Panera Bread. Jim said Salem’s demographics as well as difficult site access have made the property unattractive to those and other desirable users. He added that his family has turned down other uses such as a McDonald’s Restaurant and Subway Restaurant and is instead looking to create a destination at the property that enhances the city. His family has met with City and Airport officials about possible uses, including a hotel. Jim also told meeting participants that he and the City would like to see a new road be built that connects Airport Road SE and 25th Street SE; the project is proposed to be added to the City’s Transportation System Plan.
Unfortunately making "a destination" probably means a "a destination for people in cars" and not something fundamentally walkable or something the neighborhood might actually want or need. (Trader Joes has gone in and Panera is going both into South Salem, and REI went to Keizer Station, so it seems that "the problem" is less Salem demographics than neighborhood demographics). It'll be interesting to see how it all shakes out.

The new road is also interesting.  Is this something the City would build as a partial subsidy for development there, or is it something the development would fund and they just need the City to include it in the Transportation System Plan? The proposed road is in a bundle of amendments that'll likely make their way through the process this year.

Urban Highway as Stroad - Mission a couple of blocks west of 25th
Bits on the airport were also interesting:
  • Roughly 36,000 total operations in 2013 (decline over last 7-8 years but on upswing)
  • Airport budget shows a loss almost every year (have reserve funds) but is close to being stable
  • Flooding is a concern (floodplain), particularly if the airport plans to pave more of the property
All meeting notes for the project are here and the full document library is here. Looking Forward, the NEN-SESNA plan, meets Tuesday, March 11th at 6:30pm in Court Street Christian Church (1699 Court St NE).

SCAN

There's nothing specifically on the SCAN agenda regarding transportation, but the Blind School property, Howard Hall, and Hospital's plans for them continue to percolate.

Type D railings, viewing area, and lanterns on Church Street Bridge
Additionally, over at On the Way, Bonnie Hull has a note about efforts to fix up the Church Street Bridge across Pringle Creek and Shelton Ditch. Of all the small bridges from the late 1920s and early 30s in town, and associated with Conde McCullough's style via Salem designer R.A. Furrow, this is almost certainly the outstanding example.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

City Council March 10th - Pilot Neighborhood Heritage Program

Real light Council agenda for tomorrow night.

A new program for Historic Neighborhoods and a proposed grant for crosswalk safety enforcement are among the topics.

Grant Neighbhorhood in Transition:
The lawn and fountain at Broadway Commons;
across the street on Broadway, a renovated four-square house
Probably the most interesting items touch on historic preservation. There's a new appointment to the Historic Landmarks Commission, and a brief report on a pilot program in the Grant Neighborhood.

Do you remember before Broadway Commons?
You might have noticed change in the Grant neighborhood in the last half-decade.  It's a neighborhood in transition.  There are great things about this and there are downsides. (You know, that whole "change" thing.)

One of the tools in balancing the old and the new has been historic districts.  Lately, though, they have seemed less popular because in return for tax breaks, they do impose on home and building owners additional fees and regulatory burdens.  Both the Fairmount and Grant neighborhoods have said "No" to their creation recently. On the other hand, the Court-Chemeketa Historic District has stopped deterioration in the neighborhood and in many ways the restoration of the Buchner House is the poster for its success.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Safeway's Movement in Town Tells us Lots about Salem's History

Well, Safeway was just sold!

Would you be surprised to learn that there was a downtown Safeway for a while in the building where Shryock's is today?

Maybe more than any other kind of store, grocery stores track and index our transportation system and neighborhood development patterns, from the smaller stores of the streetcar era, to the larger stores for the post-war car and suburb, and to the big-box store near the interstate we have today.

Safeway on corner of Court and Commercial, 1938
Salem Library Historic Photos
Behind that stucco-y moderne facade of Shyrock's is a very old building!

For more on this intersection and the buildings nearby, see the note on the Moose carnival of 1913.  And for one of those Cronise scans that you can just zoom and zoom in on, see the image here of the building long before the Safeway, when it was still surrounded by wooden structures.

There were several other early Safeways of a wholly different building type as well, including the motorcycle store at Market and Broadway and the Capital Market at 14th and State. (It's not clear, though, whether they were built as Safeways or were a local chain purchased by Safeway.)

East School (later Washington School), circa 1886
on the current site of the Safeway
between 12th/13th and Marion/Center
Salem Library Historic Photos
And of course the current Safeway replaced one of Salem's first big school buildings, completed in 1886 or 1887.  And that Safeway has been wholly remodeled at least once since it was built.

There are a lot of other grocery stores from the second half of the 20th century, too.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Prospect for Howard Hall Demolition, Movement on the Blind School?

On January 15th the Hospital submitted an application, not yet approved, to remove the historic designation for Howard Hall at the Blind School.

Gone?  Howard Hall at Church and Mission
as well as some 80 trees may be gone soon
The move is obviously a prelude to a demolition permit.

Some details on the proposed historic designation withdrawal
So there were multiple reasons, then, for the Hospital to attend last month's SCAN meeting and to talk about plans at the Blind School.

The draft minutes from the meeting are out, and they're worth quoting in full (though cited here in chunks somewhat reordered).  Interestingly, it seems possible that Howard Hall was incorrectly or inappropriately designated as an historic building.
Howard Hall (cannot be used by Salem Hospital)
  • Howard Hall as a historic property. Kimberly Fitzgerald research indicated that letters written in 1989 and 1990 (State Department of Education) indicated Howard Hall might not be a historic building, but it was designated as such. Not clear if designation (a) follows building ownership (now the hospital) or (b) does the historic designation follow the property. This is an issue to be resolved with regard to ultimate disposition of Howard Hall.
  • Requests For Proposals (RFP) for adaptive re-use resulted in no proposals offered
  • Question: Has consideration been given to using older portion of Howard Hall incorporated into rehabilitation area? No, given existing condition of the building.
  • Question: Has consideration been given to keeping the façade of Howard Hall along Mission Street?
  • Question: Could Howard Hall be renovated to be a Hospitality House? No. Not structured for family occupancy.
  • Plans exist for outdoor space to (1) commemorate School for Blind, (2) provide for outdoor therapy space and (3) provide an adaptive playground for those undergoing physical therapy. Will incorporate curbs, sand, grass, uneven pavement, etc.
  • Adaptive playground will be open to all children; it won’t be fenced in

A previous iteration from last summer:  All about parking.
It's not clear how much the latest plan conforms to this one.
 (Howard Hall in lower left)
In the overall plan, parking remains central:

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Penalosa Video, New Bike Club Initiative, Salemis on Bikes, Parks Maintenance: Newsbits

Gil Penalosa 8-80 Cities Talk

ICYMI - The full talk for Gil Penalosa's visit on sustainable cities for the young and the old.



New Salem Bicycle Club Committee on Safety and Education

In February, the board of the Salem Bicycle Club approved a new club committee and appointed three members.  From the March Spokes:
SBC Safety/ Education Committee: The Salem Bicycle Club actively promotes bike safety to cyclist, local governments’ public entities. Doug [Parrow] is working with local safety agencies, Oregon Parks and Recreation and with Marion County Sheriff’s office to improve bike routes and the enforcement of laws protecting cyclists....Hersch [Sangster] is on the Traffic Safety/Bikeways/Pedestrian Committee and Planning Commission in Keizer and is on the Salem-Keizer Transit Budget Committee and is a bicycle advisor for them. Kiki Sangster is active in doing education on Safe Routes to School with ODOT Traffic Safety and is connected with Salem-Keizer Schools....Doug has an incident report form that will be available through the Club’s website that cyclists can use to report safety related incidents. These reports will help the Committee in reporting and discussing safety issues with agencies and in doing education. Doug and Hersch will develop goals for the Board to review in the future.
More from Salemis on Ray Youngberg

You might remember the story about Ray Youngberg and his great collection of bike memorabilia.  Over at Salemis, Sarah says that she loved Ray's stories so much she had to write a follow-up about Ray's life:
At age 40, he entered the competitive scene again in the veterans age group. He took third in the Oregon state championship one year, second the next, and first place the following year...

He also “got the bug,” as he describes it, to ride from Portland to Salt Lake City again. He made the trip three more times: in 1976, 1985 and 1987. The last time, at age 52, he decided to see how fast he could do it, so he joined the UltraMarathon Cycling Association to help him train.

He started out from Portland City Hall at midnight with a small caravan of vehicles following him. He rode night and day, taking half-hour breaks for sleep every so often. He pulled in to the city hall in Salt Lake City just 64 hours and 40 minutes after he started the route — an official city-to-city record that still stands.
New Parks vs. Park Maintenance

When it was first posted online last night, the headline "With Riverfront Park expansion on horizon, how's the city going to balance caring for older parks?" was much better!

Remember bridges and streets, too!
From the piece:
Salem’s park system is growing. Construction of a $10 million Minto Island Pedestrian and Bicycle Bridge is expected to begin this summer. The city has a pending $2 million deal to buy 3.8 acres of property for an expansion of Riverfront Park.

But as the city pushes forward with its vision of green jewels along the waterfront, could it be in danger of neglecting its older parks?

During discussions about a park bond in 2009, which never made it to the ballot, the city identified $8 million to $12 million in repairs and renovations as priority projects.

“If we have an Achilles’ heel, it’s that some of our facilities are getting old,” said Mark Becktel, parks and transportation services manager. The 2009 estimate of the most needed repairs hasn’t been updated, he said.
Operations, maintenance, and preservation, I tell you! One commenter points out the use of prison labor, a modern "chain gang," in our parks. Some others use the problem as a wedge for criticism of the Minto Bridge.  Still others talk about the proposed Police Station and Third Bridge.

From State of Salem's Streets report
Yes, we're widening roads and expanding capacity when we can't maintain what we already have.

It's a deep problem that money for new stuff is too often easier to find than money to keep and maintain existing things.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

West Salem Urban Renewal Board to see Bond Sidewalk Project

The West Salem Urban Renewal Area advisory board meets tomorrow and one of the items is an update on a bond project for "missing sidewalks and bike lanes to schools and parks."

Gerth at 8th St NW, looking towards 9th and the Boys and Girls Club
Formally titled the West Salem Redevelopment Advisory Board, WSRAB will see concept details on a part of Gerth Street NW.

This section of Gerth Street NW lacks sidewalks and connects to the Boys and Girls Club building adjacent to Walker Middle School. (The club can be seen behind the pickup on the left side of the street above.)

Plan view of sidewalk, curbs, and storm drains on Gerth at 8th
(click to enlarge or see meeting packet)
I don't know anything about the local conditions, but this is interesting because Gerth dead-ends here, and it's hard to see that through-traffic on the street would be much of a problem. This looks like traffic is already calmed and the kind of street it's just fine to walk in - so does it really need this tiny segment of full sidewalks? Or is this a problem area during the very narrow window of drop-off and pick-up before and after school.  Is this a partial solution to what is really a parental auto queuing mess?

It's also interesting as a dinky, one-block segment, orphaned from other connections.

Just Walk: SWAN Announces Daily Walks and Special Walks

The Southwest Association of Neighbors (SWAN) has announced the schedule of neighborhood walks for this coming year - and there's more!

This is great to see. 

Just Walk 2014 posters

Just Walk 2014 posters
The schedule includes:
Weekly Walk Events
  • Mon, Thurs, & Sat 9:30 am: Judson Middle School, Barbara Gordon
  • Mon 12:00 pm: Just Walk! with Project ABLE, 1599 State St
  • Wed 9:00 am: Minto Brown Dog Park, Walk with a City Councilor, Warren Bednarz/Jeanine Stice
  • Walk with Ease (beginning March 12): Salem Hospital Building D, Community Education Center [not sure of the time or recurrence]
  • Thurs 12:15 pm: LifeSource Natural Foods
  • Sat 9:00 am: Minto Brown, last parking lot, Chemeketans
  • Sun 12:15: LifeSource Natural Foods

2014 Special Events
  • Saturday, May 10, 10:00 am: LifeSource Spring Celebration Walk (free barbeque, food, and music!)
  • July Date TBA: Walk with a Farmer at Minto Island Growers
  • Sunday, September 14, 9:00 am: Westminster Presbyterian Church
  • Saturday, October 11, 10:00 am: LifeSource Fall Celebration Walk (free barbeque, food, and music)
That's a walk on almost every day! I like the idea of the "Walk with a City Councilor," though I wish it were on City streets rather than on park land. It would be nice to leverage the walks as a way to highlight missing sidewalks and difficult intersections. Maybe next year. Or maybe a Councilor in a different ward would start another walk.

The prominent placement of the cemetery in the posters is also notable, and perhaps more walking in the cemetery will galvanize citizen interest in a gate on the north side of the cemetery.

Anyway, lots to like!