Tuesday, January 31, 2017

AirBnB and other Short Term Rental Policy at City Open House

Flyer
Wednesday evening the City's holding an Open House on policy for short-term rentals like AirBnB and such. Zoning, friendly neighborhood relations, some basic standards seem to be the focus. Unsaid here, but perhaps also important, is collecting the transient occupancy tax. (A couple years back, CANDO noted that Salem wasn't collecting it, and that it would typically contribute to funding things like Sunday Streets.*)
With the advent of home-sharing websites, like Airbnb, FlipKey, and others, there is an increasing demand by residents in the community to make their homes available for rent by others on a short-term basis.

In order to address this increasing demand, the City of Salem is considering amendments to the Salem Revised Code (SRC) to make it easier for small-scale forms of short-term commercial lodging to operate in residential zones.

Currently, the only form of short-term commercial lodging allowed in the City's residential zones are bed and breakfasts. In the Residential Agriculture (RA), Single Family Residential (RS), and Duplex Residential (RD) zones, bed & breakfasts must receive Conditional Use Permit approval, which requires a public hearing, regardless of the number of guest rooms being rented.

In order to make it easier for residents to rent their homes, or guestrooms within their homes, on a short-term basis, proposed amendments being considered would allow short-term rentals of an appropriate scale to the surrounding neighborhood to operate without a Conditional Use Permit. In order to ensure such activities won't impact the livability of surrounding neighborhoods, limits on the maximum numbers of guest rooms and numbers of guests, minimum parking requirements, standards to ensure safety, and other requirements will be considered.
Here's the flyer.

The Open House is tomorrow, Wednesday the 1st, 6:00 p.m. at the Salem Public Library, Loucks Auditorium.

* Which remains on hiatus as a City-sponsored event. A different group is trying to revive a similar event. The City of Eugene has three staff attached to their Sunday Streets project (not 3 FTE, however), so it remains unclear whether something can thrive here in Salem without any City staff involvement.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Ask for Walking and Biking Projects at Open House for Strategic Plan

Liz Meyer
Right now it probably seems like national politics and national chaos swamp everything. These are dark times. There's hardly any room for anything else in our brains.

If you haven't done so already, consider writing, calling, or visiting our Senators and Representative in Congress.
  • Sen. Wyden - 707 13th St., SE Suite 285, Salem, OR, 97301, (503) 589-4555
  • Sen. Merkley - 161 High Street SE, Suite 250, Salem, OR 97301, (503) 362-8102
  • Rep. Schrader - 530 Center Street NE, Ste 415, Salem, OR 97301, (503) 588-9100
But local politics is where we can actually have the most direct impact.

There are many ways to approach the Open House for the "Strategic Plan" on Tuesday.

It feels right now like there's a flyswatter just off camera
Housing costs and homelessness are sure to lead the way for many.

Community Priorities Telephone Survey (and throughout)
A rational and thrifty transportation policy is another.

Legislative Update, Presession Filings

Following the Legislature this year is going to be tough. It's going to get a little lost between national things and city things. Also, looking back on the past few years of the sessions, following them with weekly updates has yielded too much tedious repetition, and just does not seem all that worthwhile now.

At the same time, there is the possibility of a major transportation package and so some attention will be warranted (not to mention other big topics).

Here's a preliminary list of bills that might be interesting. There don't seem to be any bicycle licensing bills this year in the pre-session filings! Nor were there any other bills specifically about bicycling. No carbon tax or cap-and-trade either. In years past I seem to recall more things of interest here.
  • SB 38 - Looks like a generic funding bill for ODOT. The current project list in it is old and will almost certainly be replaced. Maybe this will be the "transportation package" eventually.
  • SB 426 - Repeals low-carbon fuel standard 
  • SB 557 and HB 2135 - New statewide greenhouse gas emissions goals
  • SB 5530 - an ODOT budget
  • HB 2102 - Looks like it relaxes some of the penalties for DUI convictions
  • HB 2288 - Funding for ConnectOregon
  • HB 2355 - On collecting data on traffic stops and racial profiling.
  • HB 2440 - An attempt to remove HOV lanes on I-5
  • HB 2532 - A proposal for a quantitative scoring system for the STIP, including a requirement for "least-cost planning" (this one looks a little interesting)
  • HB 2682 - A proposal to make it easier for cities to set speed zones and remove the need for ODOT approval (Portland is driving this and BikePortland has an extensive discussion)
Maybe you will know of others. As the session develops, additional topics and bills may be added.

Postscript

Here's a Legislative advocacy event that is relevant!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

About that Memorandum of Understanding with DLCD on the SRC

So yesterday the City announced that the Department of Land Conservation and Development was dropping their appeal to the Land Use Board of Appeals on the Salem River Crossing and Urban Growth Boundary.

The beginning of the Memo of Understanding
It was a negotiated settlement, and the terms of the agreement are set out in a Memorandum of Understanding, which will lead in two or three months to a more formal Intergovernmental Agreement.

So what does it mean?

Superficially it is easy to read it as a bit of a sell-out.

From the City's press release:
the City and DLCD came together to create greater understanding of the issues and identify areas of agreement. These meetings were facilitated by the Governor’s Office Mid-Valley Regional Solutions program, and included the Oregon Department of Transportation.

The City and DLCD agreed on a path forward and to work cooperatively on the issues of transportation choices raised in the appeal.
In the absence of a more detailed explanation, it is not difficult to imagine that the Governor and ODOT together pressured the DLCD to drop the appeal, and this "settlement" was the outcome.

It puts aside the main question: Was the UGB expansion warranted and necessary? and instead shifts to smaller questions about transportation options and demand management, in a context that assumes the bridge is necessary and that the UGB expansion was reasonable.

This reads like an important dodge rather than meeting the difficulties of the case head-on.

Friday, January 27, 2017

DLCD Withdraws from LUBA Appeal on Salem River Crossing - Updated

Here's a cryptic "whiskey tango foxtrot" for you.

Today the City issued a vaporous press release that is difficult to interpret more than in a very superficial way:
City of Salem and Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development Joint Statement

The City of Salem and the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) are pleased to announce that we have reached an understanding on the expansion to Salem’s Urban Growth Boundary and amendment to the Transportation System Plan. This understanding will support our mutual goals to provide transportation choices for people traveling to, through, and within Salem. A well-designed transportation network is vital for a healthy and vibrant community and provides street connectivity and transportation options to serve the needs of our City and region. This agreement will allow us to cooperatively pursue these goals.

The agreement is a result of dialog between the City and DLCD following the City’s decision in December approving an expansion of Salem’s Urban Growth Boundary and amendment to the Transportation System Plan, which allows the City to continue the planning process for a new bridge across the Willamette River. Once constructed, the crossing will provide another choice for people coming from or bound for west Salem, Polk County, and the coast.

In late December, DLCD filed a notice of intent to appeal the City’s decision. As a result, the City and DLCD came together to create greater understanding of the issues and identify areas of agreement. These meetings were facilitated by the Governor’s Office Mid-Valley Regional Solutions program, and included the Oregon Department of Transportation.

The City and DLCD agreed on a path forward and to work cooperatively on the issues of transportation choices raised in the appeal. As a result of this understanding, DLCD is withdrawing their appeal of the City’s decision.

We are committed to working together to further refine Salem’s progress in advancing transportation options in Salem and the region.
Does this mean that the Governor and ODOT pressured the DLCD to cave? That's an easy first reading, but perhaps it's wrong. The lack of detail here is concerning. Things like "areas of agreement" should be spelled out.

The rhetoric of "transportation options" is interesting, though. On the one hand the first "choice" mentioned is about trips to the coast. That's just another word for driving. The statement also talks about the bridge "once constructed," as if the City now had certainty.

But "transportation choice" has also meant walking, biking, and busing.

We should also remember the fight the City conducted with DLCD from 2002 to 2009 on "periodic review." The City did not cooperate and stonewalled. Finally DLCD caved.

So there are several reasons to be suspicious.

New West Salem Brewery Opening this Summer

Xicha Brewing Company Principals
The West Salem urban renewal advisory board meets next week, and the meeting agenda itself doesn't look all that interesting necessarily.

But a map and agenda item whose significance wasn't obvious - something about possible investment and the resulting tax base - turned into a very pleasant goose chase, and led to news about a forthcoming brewery in West Salem.

Xicha Brewing Company looks to open a Latin American influenced brewery and pub in West Salem!

The map in the WSRAB packet led to discovering Xicha
(Xincha logo added, of course!)
It will be located in the flats at 576 Patterson St NW - totally bikeable and walkable for the neighborhood and the close-in hill areas.

Maybe too there are other beer styles and traditions that haven't been worked already by northwest brewers, and that Xicha will be something really new and different. (Do you know cerveza styles in Mexico and Latin America? Wasn't somebody brewing some tepache or pulque or something in Portland? It seems like there are some real possibilities here!)

Here's the website and facebook.

Check it out. They look to open this summer. Sounds like a great addition to West Salem.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Streetscape Concept Starting Point, but not Finished

Over at SCV they're talking up the "streetscape" project from a few years ago. (Part 1, part 2, part 3.)

Unfortunately it has what look like some holes, and while elements from it might be incorporated into a winning proposal for reconfiguring our downtown streets, if it is considered at all a "final" concept, it still could benefit from some refinement.

There's no Family-Friendly Biking Yet

Billed as something that would "make downtown both more attractive, and also more pedestrian/cyclist friendly," it might offer some improvement for people who already feel confident biking in downtown traffic, but it doesn't quite represent improvements for family-friendly cycling. It is a great help that auto traffic lanes would be in some cases reduced, of course, but there are no protected bike lanes for families or people who bike irregularly.

Court Street Concept, June 2013
In fairness, the Downtown Mobility Study's recommendations also retained the angle parking and had no bike lane for Court Street. It doesn't attain "family-friendly" either. But if we aren't going to have bike lanes and we are going to keep all the angled parking, I'd rather have two-way travel lanes than to retain the one-way directionality.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Salem Stumbles in try for Big Jump

You might remember from last fall that the City was preparing an application for the "Big Jump" grant program offered by People for Bikes.

Today People for Bikes announced the final list of ten award winners:
  • New York City
  • Los Angeles
  • Portland, Ore.
  • Memphis
  • Austin, Texas
  • Providence, R.I.
  • New Orleans
  • Fort Collins, Colo.
  • Baltimore
  • Tucson, Ariz.
The City of Salem was not a winner.

This is a disappointment, of course, but not at all surprising. The City's application did not seem very strong or focused. It did not have a real purpose with a clear set of goals, and it also did not follow the suggestions for local match dollars. It looked like it was more for show than for durable action and transformation.

Hopefully the City of Salem will reassess and look to make a stronger showing in future planning and grant applications.

About the winners, People for Bikes says:
Over the course of the next three years, these cities will be laboratories for innovation, ultimately illustrating the ways in which U.S. cities and towns can tap into bicycles to improve the health and vitality of their communities. Each city will annually receive the equivalent of $200,000 in in technical support from PeopleForBikes to support the development of bike infrastructure and programs that encourage biking in a given neighborhood; an additional $50,000 in local matching funds from the city, community partner, or local foundations each year will also be contributed to the program....

The winning cities all demonstrated ongoing commitments to improving transportation, housing, and redevelopment, with both leaders and residents at large mobilized toward change. With the Big Jump Project, PeopleForBikes hopes to accelerate those changes through technical assistance, leadership development, and a network of peer cities and leaders.

Monday, January 23, 2017

2016 Downtown Parking Assessment Discussed on Thursday

The Downtown Advisory Board meets later this week on Thursday the 26th, and the centerpiece of the meeting will be the presentation of last year's parking study.

2016 Downtown Parking Study
It has seemed like they are usually done in even numbered years, as I have collected bits on reports from 2010, 2012, 2014 and now 2016 - though this year's report also has data from 2015. Maybe they're annual - it doesn't matter for our purposes here.

As has been the general case for a while now, the on-street supply in the "retail core" is tight and full at times. At peak it generally exceeds the industry target of 85% full.

"Retail core" on-street stalls are often full
By contrast, the off-street supply in our municipal parking garages is only about half-full at peak, with plenty of room for people and their cars.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Streets are not Just for Cars: Protest Edition

Over at SCV they have a nice series of posts on a comparison of Salem's downtown with McMinnville's (post 1, post 2, post 3, post 4). Maybe there will be more to say later on it.

For the moment, it is not surprising that two frequent objections are
  • How do we accommodate all the through-traffic?
  • What about parking? We don't have enough parking downtown
On Chemeketa - Yes, in the NY Times (via the SJ/AP)
Yesterday we saw in stunning fashion one of the important roles of streets: For freedom of assembly and of speech.

While it is true that assembling in the streets shouldn't have to be considered a primary function of streets, not anyway in a just and well-functioning city and nation, it is an important one, and sometimes may need to supersede car traffic and through-movement.

Our autoism has distorted our sense of what a street is for.

A just theory of civic street function will include many purposes beyond moving cars.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Criticism of Delay on Minto Bridge Overwrought

Yesterday the paper came out with an editorial fussing over delay on the Minto footbridge construction.

January 2017
It led with a comparison: Would you tolerate this, a year's delay, on your home or at your business?

It is not wrong, of course, to be disappointed by the delays, which have stacked a little, actually. There have been several episodes of delay, not all of them even part of construction, and I think we all would like it to be finished.

But a better field for comparison and context might be other public works projects.

And here, for all the criticism we level here towards excessive autoism in design, especially the monstrous overplanning for the Salem River Crossing, the City does a pretty good job with construction management. The City has a habit of bringing in small and medium-sized road and bridge projects on-time and on-budget.

Were there any great problems on the Winter Street Bridge replacement by the Hospital?

Demolition on Winter Street at Shelton Ditch
What about the Commercial Street Bridge replacement by City Hall?

Friday, January 20, 2017

MPO Looks to Have Project List for 2018-2023 Funding for February Release

The Policy Committee for our local Metropolitan Planning Organization meets on Tuesday the 24th, and it looks like they have a draft project list for an important 2018-2023 funding cycle. (Agenda and packet here.)

But First, at the Oregon Transportation Commission

One of the projects that was initially considered for this 2018-2023 cycle, but was later split off and instead added to the current 2015-2020 cycle as an amendment, is a study for seismic retrofitting the Center Street Bridge.

Councilor Andersen at the January OTC meeting - via N3B
Over at N3B you might have seen a terrific note about Councilor Andersen testifying before the Oregon Transportation Commission in favor of it. Formal approval for the project was on the consent calendar for the OTC, so it's not like was in danger and needed much lobbying. Instead, what Councilor Andersen did was show conviction and support from a Salem Elected - not just one of the rabble-rousers! - and give visibility to the fact that the Salem River Crossing project is in trouble and does not conform to higher-level policy goals - like "Fix it First" or reducing drive-alone trips. Hitherto communications on this topic have risen up to the OTC through the MPO and our area ACT from Mayor Peterson and Councilor Lewis, cheerleaders for the Salem River Crossing. So Councilor Andersen's comments were a strong counterpoint from within government. Thanks, Councilor Andersen!

Worth a little digression, I suppose, is that ODOT Director Garrett, shown smiling in the middle of the photo, is increasingly attracting criticism from the OTC.

The other day the Portland Tribune posted an article on the OTC and problems with its relation to the Oregon Department of Transportation, which ostensibly it supervises as its "Board of Directors."

Thursday, January 19, 2017

City Council, January 23rd - Archeology in the Right-of-Way

Council meets on Monday, and it's slim pickin's here. There's only one item of interest.

Current railroads in bold; streetcar and old railroads light
(See also the historic signage at State and Liberty)
The City and the State Historic Preservation Office have negotiated a
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the City of Salem and the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) to streamline the permitting process for transportation and infrastructure projects within the public right-of-way.
A natural question is, Why? Is there a particular "transportation and infrastructure project" the City has in mind?

You might remember N3B's note on Dr. David Lewis' testimony to Council that McLane Island hadn't been cleared as a potential site of significance for the Grand Ronde/Kalapuya people.

There remain outstanding questions about the Salem River Crossing and its archeological assessment. And it is not difficult to be a little suspicious here.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Ride-Booking Advocacy as Indentity Politics

The paper came out yesterday with an editorial in favor of loosening regulations on ride-booking companies.

It's interesting in a number of ways.

via Twitter
 It still can't quite seem to conform to the AP stylebook, which calls for "ride booking" or "ride hailing" and is clear that "sharing" is not what is going on.

Nevertheless, the editorial talks about "Salem's lack of ride sharing."

It talks about "choice" and "competition" but it doesn't recognize the ways that choice is already profoundly constrained for non-auto users and that there already is far from a level playing field. Most of our conversation and debate about ride-booking resolve questions about mobility into autoist configurations and flatten out or eliminate other kinds of mobility.

Mayor Bennett also makes a novel claim that would be interesting to learn more about:
"We have thousands of people who come in to work for the state, I believe they would stay and shop and eat if they could just grab a quick ride and go."
What is going on here? Where is the trip start and end in this concept?
  • Is Mayor Bennett suggesting that state workers should commute by ride-booking instead of their usual mode? Is the start and end at home?
  • Is he suggesting that commuters would book a ride from their workplace into downtown, and then book a ride back to their car, bus stop, or van pool for the return home?
Neither of these seem very likely. Ride-booking for commuting seems very expensive, and the Capitol Mall is not far from downtown, an easy walk. So perhaps he means something else. It's hard to see what problem ride-booking would actually solve in this scenario, and how it would in actuality deliver "thousands of people," or any meaningful subset, to downtown from State offices.

Advocacy as Identity Position

Finally the editorial mentions that "Millennials have made it their own," and perhaps here we are getting to something deeper and more interesting.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

House at Corner of D and Capitol is Story about Early Home Electrification

The symmetry, the large porch support at the corner, and most of all, the gentle swoop and curve in the roofline on the house at the corner of D Street and Capitol Street, across from the State Archives and Parrish Middle School, has made it a perennial object of curiosity. On walks and bike rides, it has always seemed like it would repay much closer study in architecture and in local history.

via the google
Over at her Discover blog Virginia Green had written a note about it, but without more details on the "features more usually found in homes of a sunnier climate," it seemed less interesting than it somehow ought to be.
William G Allen, a prominent Salem businessman who owned Allen Fruit Packing designed this house himself 1920 and had his own crew build it. It is of unusual design with features more usually found in homes of a sunnier climate. Allen and his wife owned it until 1954 when Charles and Ruth Jens bought it. She was the first female psychiatrist on this side of the Rockies and practiced in the house until 1998.
For the Sunday paper, the history column advances a very different story, and curiously has details on different set of features!
The culmination of Frank and Clara Barton’s electrical aspirations was the home they built in 1920. Their electrical dream home was built at 901 N Capitol St., now the law offices of Gerald L. Warren and Associates. It was designed and built with the express idea of demonstrating just how comfortable, convenient and economical a home outfitted with electricity and modern conveniences could be. Every door had a light switch and electrical outlet high enough that no bending over was needed to plug in the vacuum sweeper.

Housed in the basement was an electric bath heater that provided hot water for bathroom, laundry and kitchen use as well as an electric laundry with a mangle and washer. The kitchen appliances included a hermetically sealed oven with insulated walls that retained heat and an economical automatic shut-off. But probably the piece-de-resistance was the electric sideboard in the dining room with glassed-in compartments for a dozen or so small appliances known as table conveniences. A grill, toaster, percolator, teapot, egg-boiler, etc., with plug connections for four appliances at a time. Clara Barton emphatically boasted to a local reporter at the time that “with this convenience, one could sit at the table and cook a meal without ever rising from the chair!”
The story has a number of other twists and turns and is a fascinating slice of Salem history.

Just from some casual spot-checking, the Bartons do show up in the paper there in the 1920s, and so this is probably the narrative we should prefer. (Perhaps the Allen Fruit story belongs to a different house, which still sounds interesting.)

As social history the story is also interesting. It appears that Clara Barton's celebrity as a writer may have surpassed her husband's significance at times, and there are so many angles to consider: The role of credit in the early 20th century, early electrification and consumerism, marriage and domestic roles after the 19th Amendment and early feminism. In addition to their personal story, they seem emblematic of so many other larger forces that shaped the economy and culture. They and the house deserve a longer study!

The house is currently a law office, and who knows how much of the original interior remains, though. There may not be much potential for a closer investigation of its architecture and design, alas.

As you walk around on the North Capitol Mall or in the neighborhood around Grant, Parrish, and North, consider checking it out and thinking about the Bartons.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Update on the Baggage Depot Looks to Correct some History

There's a very nice note on transportation history on the front page today!

Second depot, circa 1913: The north wing had an open canopy
(via Statesman-Journal and Ed Austin)
Capi Lynn writes an update on the research that is part of the old baggage depot restoration going on just south of the train station.

As a meta-instance of media it is amusing, also. On a sheet of newsprint, there is a scan of an old piece of paper, perhaps old newsprint as well, on which the article and photo seems to be printed. (Of course here on the blog, it is another generation removed!) That tactile simulacra is very nice, but the gallery of photos online probably makes that a better medium than newsprint in the end.

But that's hardly important.

1905 Birdseye map of depot area, Library of Congress
Thos. Kay Woolen Mill, Depot, Yew School (L to R)
The research has turned up there are a number of minor inaccuracies that have crept into the stories we tell about the depot and its history! In particular, we have been talking about the wrong number and dates for fires at the depot. They also turned up evidence for a large water tank that we've forgot about.

Similar interpretive panel at the Union St Railroad Bridge
The research will in part go towards a series of interpretive panels that will be part of the restoration. Hopefully there will also be a separate publication with a more detailed narrative as well.

Check out the article!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Man Drives into Home, Kills Sleeping Resident

This is especially terrible. You'd think a home and its walls would offer more protection than a sidewalk or crosswalk. You think you are safe there, but not necessarily.

via Twitter
Cars are dangerous, full stop.

"Dangerous instrumentality" - They knew in 1921!
From the newspaper:
Alan Patrick Jacobs, 54, was driving his 2015 Mercedes SUV southbound on Volcano St SE when he drove off the roadway, according to a statement released by Salem Police Department.

Jacobs continued southbound instead of following the road east onto Sussex Ave....

Srabonti Haque, 36, was asleep in a bedroom of her residence...and was struck [and killed] around 9:25 p.m.
Volcano is a steep downhill and ends in a bulb
with a left-turn onto Sussex
(house and crash site circled)
This will be discussed as some aberrant thing, an exception, but people crash into stationary objects off the road altogether too often. See the extraordinary list here. It's long. Cars are dangerous, full stop.

Urban Freight Corridors and the CMAQ Bonus at the MPO

The Technical Advisory Committee for our Metropolitan Planning Organization meets today, Tuesday the 10th, and there are several items of interest.

At the top of the agenda is something that always seems a little dicey for people interested in walking and biking. The new Federal Transportation law includes something called "Critical Urban Freight Corridors." The magic of, and need for, free-flowing "freight" is constantly invoked to justify hydraulic autoism: Road widening for those in cars and trucks, and second-class facilities on the margins (or not at all) for people walking, biking, or busing.
At the December TAC meeting, there was a short discussion of the Critical Urban Freight Corridors (CUFCs) that ODOT will be defining in Oregon in consultation with the MPOs. ODOT is hosting a workshop on CUFC selection on January 20, 2017. A finalized list will be developed by ODOT by February for submittal to FHWA and inclusion in the update to the Oregon Freight Plan....

The last two federal surface transportation funding acts, MAP-21 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century) and FAST (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation), have increased the focus on freight and related issues. This increased focus has led to additional requirements that DOTs and MPOs must address when developing their long-range plan and short-term funding program. Part of this focus is to define Critical Urban Freight Corridors (CUFC) in each state. During the next two months, ODOT and the MPOs will identify 77.53 miles of roads statewide to be designated as a CUFC. Separately, ODOT will also identify 155.06 miles of roads statewide as Critical Rural Freight Corridor (CRFC). Designation, once submitted and approved by FHWA, will allow eligible projects on these roads to apply for National Highway Freight Program (NHFP) funding, which is anticipated to amount to $73.5 million available within Oregon through 2020.
Several candidates for CUFC designation are listed in a table, and here are some that seem particularly worth attention:
  • Marion/Center St Bridges
  • Salem Rivercrossing aka “3rd Bridge”
  • Marine Dr
  • McGilchrist St (between 12th and 25th)
Others, like Cordon Road and Kuebler Boulevard, seemed obvious and relatively unproblematic.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Lansing-NESCA Plan meets Tuesday on State Hospital North Campus

Tomorrow, Tuesday the 10th, the Lansing-NESCA neighborhood plan, "Envision," is meeting to discuss the North Campus of the State Hospital.

Meeting Flier for January 10th on the State Hospital
On the one hand, this is yet another "meeting" in a series of them that has never quite seemed to blossom into real collaboration and action on the North Campus. More often it has seemed like they were merely platforms for the State to say "here's what we're gonna do," especially as the neighborhood has seemed mostly to want more single-family dwellings and parky nothingness. The City would like a larger property tax base for it, and the State simply wants to unload and monetize it. Getting everybody's interests to align more or less has been a challenge.

But on the other hand, things have not yet proceeded so far that course-corrections are not possible. So each meeting still has "opportunity," even if that opportunity seems more slender than folks might like.

By now you will have heard of the plan to renovate Yaquina Hall for some affordable housing. The City is purchasing it and plans to create 50 1-bedroom apartments ranging from 420 - 650 SF in size. The latest published budget for this has a total cost of about $9.8 million and $195,000 per unit.

Yaquina Hall, 1946 - to be affordable housing
Let's do a back-of-the-envelope comparison to another project going on right now.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

More on 148 North Liberty as Early Fred Meyer

December's storm postponed consideration of the storefront restoration project for the Engelberg Antiks building last month. It's on the agenda for the Historic Landmarks Commission this month. (The agenda and Staff Report's not up yet, however. Here's the Notice.)

Fred Meyer at 148 Liberty St NE,
undated but no earlier than 1938
(Salem Library Historic Photos)
The building remains a small source of fascination, and it is poorly documented in our downtown Historic District. There is a photo from the 1930s or 1940s, but it has not been dated. We can now date it to no earlier than 1938. The local story of Fred Meyer here and of the building itself is a little interesting, and with the help of some additional research by a blog reader (thank you!), maybe we can start to flesh out more of it. Some of it is secure, some is more conjectural. The outlines seem clear but you might be surprised how windy and braided are some of the details!

Here's an annotated clip from the 1926 Sanborn Fire Map for the half block on the east side of Liberty Street between State and Court. In the upper left is the newly restored McGilchrist and Roth block. The Book Bin's building is on the right. The old Fred Meyer is addressed on it as 140 N. Liberty, but today we use 148 Liberty NE.

1926 Sanborn Fire Map
(Comments in red added)
The Historic District uses a date of 1915 for construction, but in tentative way I want instead to propose 1908.

There is an announcement in September of 1908 for a new building and opening of "Ye Liberty" Theater.

Opening Announcement, September 9th, 1908
Unfortunately for us, Salem was a small town, and it was not necessary to give any addresses! People knew how to find stuff.

Shortly thereafter, in 1910, notice about a business in the Roth building next door confirms the location of Ye Liberty Theater.

Friday, January 6, 2017

City Strategic Planning Process too Opaque, Open House on 31st

Because of the winter storm earlier this month, the City's Open House on a strategic planning process was postponed until January 31st.

At least from here the whole thing has seemed a little strange. If Council authorized it, we all missed it. If Council didn't authorize it, it's being funded by some secret slush fund! It probably originates in the City Manager's office rather than from Council. That doesn't mean it's a bad thing, but it's just a little odd. Usually these kinds of things go before Council first.

Significantly, notes from the November SCAN meeting appear to confirm its origin in the City Manager's office:
Councilor Andersen commented on three items of interest 1) City Manager Steve Powers has launched a strategic planning initiative for the City...
So why is it such a secret?

The project's description, too, has seemed murky, with a lesser instance of word salad:
The City of Salem is undertaking a strategic plan to articulate the mission, vision, values, and goals for the organization to help the City sustain delivery of core services as the community and the organization grow and change.
Anyway, they've conducted some of the proverbial "stakeholder interviews" and also a phone survey. (SCV has some video here from earlier in the process.)

A reader sent along a copy of the phone survey results, and there are some interesting findings in it.

Unfortunately, the City has created no project website or document library for it. (When this is remedied, this post will be updated with links as appropriate. Update: Here it is!)

Community Priorities Telephone Survey (and throughout)
Let's start with the "most important issue."

While in aggregate, transportation-related things rank high, the Salem River Crossing itself is not very important, it turns out! (Though of course it is a little dispiriting to see "public transportation" ranked equally as "most important.") "Homelessness" and "housing" are both more important. Elsewhere, "maintenance" seemed clearly to be more important than new roads like the Salem River Crossing. ("Fix it first!")

Thursday, January 5, 2017

City Council, January 9th - Ride-Booking Companies and Monoculture

Last night the Mayor and new Councilors were sworn in. They meet formally on Monday for their first set of actions. Already the Mayor, himself a lobbyist it is perhaps relevant to note, is jumping up to lobby for ride-booking companies. It is a strange priority. Is this really the first, and most important thing to jump on?

Back in 2014, the City tried to apply rules consistently
From Mayor Bennett:
MOTION:
I move that Council direct staff to prepare amendments to the Salem Revised Code to better allow transportation network companies, such as Lyft and Uber, to operate in Salem.

DISCUSSION:
Last year, the City Council considered amendments to the Salem Revised Code (“SRC”) to address transportation network companies (“TNCs”) and app-based technology related to passenger transportation services. Council adopted an ordinance amending the SRC to remove unnecessary regulation, and address the use of a digital, application based, passenger transportation systems. However, the changes were insufficient to accommodate the business model of TNC’s, and as a result that service is not available in Salem.

In order to provide Salem residents with more transportation options, it is necessary for the City to be willing to accommodate different passenger transportation business models. Therefore, I move that Council direct staff to prepare, for Council’s consideration, amendments to the SRC that accommodate the current business model of major TNCs such as Lyft and Uber.
Over at Human Transit, Cherriots' current consultant Jarrett Walker had written "Sounding the Alarm about Uber's Impacts on Transit, and on Cities." He says
cars’ inefficient use of urban space is rarely reflected in the cost of urban driving, and Uber skates through on the same invisible subsidy that all urban motorists enjoy. Transit, which doesn’t enjoy any such subsidy, is unable to properly reflect its efficient use of space in its pricing....

Uber’s behavior often looks like an intentional effort to undermine competitors and thus reduce customer choice — in which case you’d call it predatory pricing — but it doesn’t matter what the intention is. Underpricing is a blunt weapon with zero targeting ability. It mows down everything in its path....

But it’s time to quit discussing Uber and similar companies as though they were improving the world in a permanent way, and as though they will necessarily make cities better for everyone. We already know that’s not true.
The scope of underpricing is breathtaking:
A new analysis of Uber's financial data suggests the ride-hailing company is losing as much as $2 billion a year, with passengers on average only paying 41 percent of the actual cost of a trip.

Parsing a set of three private financial statements that were published on three separate occasions, Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism writes that its clear that for the year ending in September 2015, Uber posted $2 billion in losses on revenue of $1.4 billion....
It seems clear that the overall goal is not "more transportation options" overall, and not here in Salem in particular. The overall goal is monopoly as far as possible: To use underpricing to drive out other "transportation options" and to create a transportation monoculture.

Later, once the investors in ride-booking companies force them to maintain actual market pricing - you know, to make a profit - users of the ride-booking services will find much higher fares. And in the mean time, we may have lost the other compensating transportation choices.

It may be that we have a choice in Salem, and we can choose one of these:
  1. Develop a plan to fund evening, weekend, and more frequent transit in Salem; or
  2. Make it easy for ride-booking companies to underprice the market and to further erode transit or other choices
There are other issues, too:
  • The employee/independent contractor question
  • Fair wages for drivers
  • Adequate background checks for drivers
  • Commercial insurance requirements and coverage gaps for drivers who hit people walking and biking
  • Equity and discrimination in avoiding parts of town or certain classes of names (more here)
  • Fairness and consistency for taxi companies and for ride-booking companies
It is far from obvious that ride-booking companies as they currently operate offer a clear set of advantages for a city like Salem. Mostly they appear to be asking for a regulatory environment that gives them special advantages and unlevels the playing field.

Note that Mayor Bennett asks for "amendments to the SRC that accommodate the current business model of major TNCs." That does not look like much of a negotiation.

Choose wisely, Mayor Bennett and Councilors.

(Previous notes on ride-booking companies are here.)

Other items
  • Details on $750,000 in partial funding for affordable housing and the rehab of Yaquina Hall at the State Hospital.
  • $100,000 for the "code clean up" project in West Salem, associated with the West Salem Business District Action Plan, which will promote better walking, storefronts, and housing and business in the close-in flats of West Salem. (Strangely, it's identified as in Ward 8, but I think it's Ward 1 instead.)
  • At the north end of the Deaf School, folks associated with Capitol Auto Group have got a parcel reclassified from “Community Service - Education” with PE (Public/Private Education) zoning to “Industrial Commercial” with IC (Industrial Commercial) zoning. Out-buildings have already been demolished. This is on a supposed route for a family-friendly bike boulevard to the Kroc Center, and it is slightly worrisome to see more car dealership or other car-oriented business here. One condition of the approval is to construct bike facilities on Cherry, Maple, and Auto Row Streets, but it's not clear how "family-friendly" these actually will be. The conditions also include some intersection widening and new turn lanes for cars, so the area will get worse, not better in some ways for bike travel.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

History Notes at Grant Neighborhood Association

1950 Water Street NE has been vacant and boarded up
The Grant Neighborhood Association meets tomorrow the 5th, and in last month's minutes there's a very interesting note about an old house.
There is a small Victorian house on north Water Street that is boarded and slated for demolition. It belonged to some of the extended family of AC Gilbert. [A neighbor] is working on trying to get it moved to Riverfront Park and the Gilbert House Museum complex.
The meeting minutes don't give an address, but it seems almost certain that it is the house at 1950 Water Street NE, currently owned by the Salvation Army.

As you can tell, it's an old house. The Assessor's Office lists a date of 1860 for it! Even if it's not quite that old, it's clearly from the 19th century. (Update - It's a City "local landmark" and that brief listing says circa 1880, which is much more plausible than 1860.)

It's in a shabby condition, and it needs some love and investment. In the image from a couple of years ago, it doesn't seem to be sagging obviously, so perhaps its bones remain sound.

Moving and restoring it seems like a very worthy project.

Capital City Laundry: Oregon State Library
Also, it looks like the old Laundry on Gaines and Market will finally get a regular use:
[A neighbor] spoke about the Aramark building being transformed into Sparrow Furniture. It will provide services for refurbishing furniture and will provide work and training for new refugees.
The Grant Neighborhood Association meeting is on Thursday the 5th at 6:15pm, in the Library of Grant Community School, 725 Market St NE.