Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Take Sneckdown Pictures Tonight and Post to Social Media!

With the snowstorm coming, it's a great time to think about documenting "sneckdowns" around town.

As you're out and about (but not while driving!), or if you have a view from above, look for intersections and lanes with intact zones of snow that tires and car heat haven't driven off. Those are "sneckdowns," temporary curb extensions and lane narrowings caused by the snow. They are evidence of surplus lane width, and of other unused or unnecessary area in the roadway.

The zones with snow could become bike lanes, wider sidewalks, pedestrian medians or other road space reallocated for users other than those in cars. They are evidence for ways we have overengineered and overdesigned roadways for car travel and for too-high speeds.

Here are two from December 2016:

Court and High from Courthouse square - via Twitter

South Commercial just north of Madrona - SJ video clip
The Commercial-Vista Corridor study already plans buffered bike lanes and narrower auto travel lanes on this part of Commercial.

The snow lines show why these were not only possible but were good ideas.

Many other streets might be good candidates also, and imagery from snowy periods could be presented to City Council in support of requests for reallocating carspace to support safety and to create more usable space for people walking and biking.

UGM Shelter Site, Parking at CANDO; 20 is Plenty at NEN

CANDO

The downtown neighborhood association, CANDO, meets tonight and they've got a couple of interesting items on the agenda.

For context, from the minutes of the meeting last month:
Business owners...expressed concerns about the size (300 beds, 54,000 SF) and potential negative impact of the shelter that UGM is proposing to build at Division and Commercial on community liveability and underutilized Riverfront property values. They said that with four shelters [UGM (men’s), HOST (transitional age youth), HOME (day, minors) HOAP (day, adult) and ARCHES (day, adult, currently not open)], CANDO has “more than its share” of homeless residents already, and suggested the board should take a position. The matter was deferred to the February meeting to allow notice and time to gather more information. (Note: The current site of the UGM Men’s Mission at Center and Commercial formerly had overflow capacity to about 300, but in 2016, the Fire Marshal cut capacity to about 185, where it has been since.)
Also:
City Traffic Engineer Kevin Hottman said he had been asked to convert the 12 or so on-street parking spaces on the west side of Cottage in front of the Willamette Valley Communication Center (595 Cottage St) into employee-only parking spaces, and wanted to know if CANDO had any objection. SPD Communications Director Mark Bucholtz explained that the Center has sufficient employee parking, that generally the spaces under discussion were empty (except Sunday mornings), and that it was for security reasons only that SPD was making the request. The matter was deferred to the February agenda to allow notice.
On this month's agenda in direct response, two motions:
  • "Move that CANDO take a position opposing the request to convert the twelve or so spaces on-street parking spaces on the west side of Cottage in front of the Willamette Valley Communication Center (595 Cottage St) into employee-only parking spaces?"
  • "Move that CANDO take a position opposing the Union Gospel Mission's application for a Conditional Use Permit to allow the relocation of the Men's Mission (Non-Profit Shelter) with expanded capacity to serve approximately 300 persons to the 700 to 800 blockof Commercial Street NE?"
CANDO meets Tuesday the 20th, at 6:00 p.m. at First Christian Church on 685 Marion Street NE.

NEN

The Englewood area neighborhood assocation, NEN, also meets. There is no item on the agenda of great interest here, but in the minutes from last month is a very nice note about increasing traction for a partial "twenty is plenty" campaign! From the "Pedestrian Safety Report":
  1.  [T]o email Peter Fernandez to ask why zone Speed on 17th south State St. is 25 where there are multiple lanes and on 17th North of Market which is narrower the speed zone is 30 mph.
  2. Look at the 20 is Plenty campaign. Report that Salem was taken out of the legislation that allows Portland to implement this rule.
  3. Sidewalks are not ADA compliant. There is an issue of people walking in the street due to the dangerous conditions . Go to Budget Hearing Meetings. City is obligated to fix sidewalks. Advocate for funds. Use a group of people with a strategy to testify. Make front and center.
  4. Enforcement of Cross walk violations is only done when city gets grant money. They will monitor school zones but not crosswalks. Work on changing this perception .
This is all good stuff!

Council has opposed a limited "20 is plenty" since at least 2011
A caveat, however: Back in 2011, which I think was the first attempt by Portland to pass a "twenty is plenty" for local neighborhood streets, the City formally opposed it, and with each iteration at the Legislature Salem did not alter its position. It's not that Salem was somehow "left out" or "taken out" in an accidental omission. Salem never wanted in.

This past session a bill was finally passed and signed into law for Portland, and it is great to see rumblings now in Salem about a change of heart and getting on board with it. Staff may still not favor it, but if neighborhoods lobby for it, and enough Councilors see merit, a top-down and bottom-up pincer movement will overwhelm staff's resistance.

The law doesn't change road design, just signage and enforcement possibilities. But it's a message and hopefully it spurs the start of shifting cultural norms for urban speeds.

NEN meets Tuesday the 20th, at 6:30pm in the Salem First Church of the Nazarene, 1550 Market Street NE

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Council Legislative Committee to Consider Clean Energy Jobs Bill; DAB Next Budget

Council's Legislative Committee meets on Friday the 16th, and they'll be talking about the Clean Energy Jobs bills! They passed out of committee yesterday, and it looks like there's some momentum behind them. It would be great for the City formally to add their support to that. (Mayor Bennett, Councilors Andersen, McCoid, and Nanke sit on the committee.)

Strong endorsement this year by the paper
They also look to be talking about using photo radar for speed enforcement and about changing the way Cherriots' Board is selected.

Agenda and short packet
The Downtown Advisory Board meets today, Thursday the 15th, and they'll be talking about the 2018-2019 Urban Renewal budget.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

New Safe Routes to School Hire Announced for Salem and Eugene

Today the Safe Routes to School National Partnership announced the new Policy Manager for the Salem and Eugene area.

It is interesting that they didn't hire someone who currently lives in Eugene or in Salem, the primary cities in the area of responsibility. That's not necessarily a problem of course. The announcement notes that Becky Gilliam worked at the Legislature, and counts as something of an insider, ready for the lobbying side of things. (Also likely related to former State Legislator Vic Gilliam of Silverton, so maybe more than a little bit of an insider.)

But there might be local knowledge about the schools, neighborhoods, and politics of Salem and Eugene she will need to learn. Still, those are just details. The big picture is that there will be a consistent presence here now advocating and organizing for children and better ways to walk, bike, and roll to school.

From the announcement:
Becky serves as a Pacific Northwest Regional Policy Manager, working to strengthen the regional network in the Pacific Northwest, with a particular focus in Salem-Keizer and Central Lane areas. In this role, she works to increase funding and improve policies that result in improved infrastructure and programs to support safe walking and bicycling for children and families, with focused work and technical assistance in lower-income communities.

Prior to joining the National Partnership, Becky worked for over 4 years in Oregon's State Capitol. As senior legislative staff, she conducted policy research and coordinated introduction of new legislation relating to elder abuse prevention, increased protections for immigrants, and other issues. Becky also has experience lobbying in Salem, where she advocated for client interests in both the legislative and regulatory arenas. Through her time spent working with the Oregon Legislature and state agencies, Becky has established lasting relationships with key decision-makers.

Becky received her BA in Applied Linguistics, as well as Certification in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) from Portland State University. During her time at PSU, she designed and implemented community-based ESL programs for refugee and immigrant populations in Portland.

Becky lives in Silverton, where she and her husband recently completed a DIY home building project, which they now happily call home. Becky enjoys growing food and flowers, traveling, and going on adventures with her hound dog.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

At the MPO: Starting Work on the next Regional Transportation System Plan

The Technical Advisory Committee for our local Metropolitan Planning Organization meets early this afternoon today. There is no important action item on the agenda, but some things to note in passing are a little interesting. Work on the SRC continues despite Council's lack of interest, and there's a new cycle for the Regional Transportation System Plan just kicking off.

In the minutes from last month there is this on the work plan and SRC:
Bob Cortright was present, provided a handout, and spoke re: the River Crossing EIS being ‘on hold’ due to land use appeal and the 2018 deliverable of a Final EIS is not possible at this time. He asked that the language in the UPWP [the work plan] accurately reflect the status of the Salem River Crossing with regard to the land use appeal, and the unlikely completion of the EIS. He also mentioned that the city Salem appointed a task force to consider alternatives to bridge congestion. TAC discussion included how/if the task force should it be reflected in the UPWP and the status and anticipated completion of the EIS. Julie Warncke explained that the task force has started and probably will be done during Summer 2018. It is probably okay to include info re: task force as background, but it will be finished by start of UPWP. The RTSP will likely reflect suggestions that come from the task force work as part of the regional transportation solutions. Angela Carnahan suggested adding language to include mention of the appeal and its possible affect on the schedule – and that its not under the control of SKATS. Dan Fricke indicated that ODOT is working on the EIS but technically not able to publish it until the land use issues are decided. Mike will update the language regarding the deliverables in the UPWP. [italics added]
Here's some latest draft of language from the Work Plan:

Still saying the SRC final EIS will be done this year
I guess on a technicality it says "work...should be concluded in 2018" and does not say the final EIS will be published in 2018. This still seems dodgy and disingenuous.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Downtown Streetscape and Cherriots both hold Open Houses Tomorrow

The second Open House for the Downtown Streetscape project starts tomorrow, Tuesday the 13th, at 5:30pm.

The project team hasn't published any new materials, so there's not much to say yet - other than to continue to push the City for changes to carspace. Until we grapple with the disproportion and zoominess of carspace downtown, our fiddling with the sidewalks will be cosmetic, principally rearranging the deck chairs. This may yield incremental improvement, but it will not yield the enduring, structural change we need.

(See previous notes on the first Open House here and here.)

The Open House will be in the Senator Hearing Room/Courthouse Square, 555 Court St. NE from 5:30pm to 7pm.

Cherriots Service Expansion

At the same time, in a nice bit of concurrent scheduling, Cherriots has scheduled their first Open House for what they are calling "A Better Cherriots." They'll be next door at the Downtown Transit Center in the Customer Service area from 6pm to 8pm on Tuesday the 13th. That's just around the corner at 220 High Street NE. It makes great sense to double-up and hit both of them. (Facebook event here.)

They've got a series of other Open Houses and less formal tabling scheduled all around the city through the rest of the month in into March. You can see the full list here.

(See previous notes on the Needs Analysis here.)

Systems Development Charges

Urban Growth Management (UGM) Plan - Background
City of Salem memo, 1990
Related to the Creekside and Lone Oak Reimbursement District conversations (see also Salem Weekly this issue), a reader sent in some material from old debates about paying for new growth. One of the memos is from 1990, background on an "Urban Growth Management (UGM) Plan" (this is not published to the City website as far as I know):

Sunday, February 11, 2018

City Makes Final Loss of Use Payment to Willamette Queen

Not for sale - yet
Buried in the front-page feature on the Willamette Queen is news that the City has made the final payment on the $250,000 "loss of use" agreement with the Willamette Queen over navigating the slough and the loss of use caused by the Minto Bridge.
The city of Salem worked with the Chesbroughs when construction of the Peter Courtney Minto Island Pedestrian Bridge restricted use of the Willamette Slough and put a crimp in business.

The city agreed to pay them $50,000 a year for five years to make up for lost revenue. The Chesbroughs, who pay $350 a month to the city for moorage at Riverfront Park, received the final payment in January.
That's good news, but the tone's not quite right. Here's what the Willamette Queen said in their letter of August 2011 supporting the agreement and the permit application process (here is the 2014 amended agreement):
This is a letter in support of the application by the Urban Renewal Agency of the City of Salem for a permit to construct a low-span bridge across the Minto Island Slough...Although the low-span bridge will limit access to the Willamette River Slough...we will be able to continue to operate...and understand the benefit the bridge will provide to the community....the bridge will provide an important link in Salem's bike and pedestrian trail system ...[and] will open up Salem's riverfront area, an underutilized amenity in Salem, making it more accessible to the public. We support the Agency's application, and urge you to approve it without delay.
It's not at all clear the bridge put a "crimp" on business. If anything, the bridge increases foot traffic by the boat and increases visibility for the boat. The "loss of use" payments were to compensate for any loss of use, and were fairly negotiated. Because of the framework of 19th century river navigation law, the Queen had enormous leverage over the City of Salem and its desire for the Minto Bridge. There is no reason to think the City underpaid for the loss of use, and there are instead many reasons to think that the City actually overpaid in order to secure an agreement and to be able to move forward in a timely way. An article that makes a claim about a "crimp" should document it, and not merely accept the statement uncritically.

More generally, instead of a feature the article could have been a more deeply researched news piece on how the Queen functions in the full context of the park and what its future might be.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

City Council, February 12th - Low-Income Housing

Council meets on Monday, and there's a cluster of items involving low-income housing.

But is Fisher Road Walkable Really?

The Urban Renewal Agency proposes to buy a building for low-income housing on Fisher Road. (They also propose to enlarge the nearby Urban Renewal Zone around Portland Road with an exquisite gerrymander in order to secure additional funding.)

4107 Fisher Road NE
From the Staff report it looks like the property's developer was distressed and unable to finance completion:
The Salem Housing Authority (SHA) has identified a 19,336 square foot multi-family building located at 4107 Fisher Road NE (constructed 2014) and adjacent 0.58 acre parcel of vacant land located at 4075 Fisher Road NE (Property) (Attachment 1) as an affordable site to acquire for housing using. Using a “housing first” model, the building will house and offer comprehensive services to residents....The building was built to house a senior citizen population in 19 suites on three floors in addition to a full commercial kitchen and first floor flex space, but was never occupied. The Property is within a mile of education, grocery, and medical facilities, and within walking distance to bus lines via walking and bicycle paths along major roadways.

The building is 80% complete, with the second and third floors in roughed-in condition and ready for finish work. The elevator shaft is in place, but requires installation of the elevator car and mechanicals. SHA plans to complete the finish work and convert the building to 38 single-room occupancy units with one restroom for every two units. SHA will seek resources from Oregon Housing and Community Services to finish the building and pursue a land banking tool for acquisition of the vacant land.
"walking paths"? - via Streetview

Give Margaret Jewett Bailey her #MeToo Moment: Ruth Rover and The Grains is Justified Rage

Original 1854 title page
via Wikipedia/Oregon Encyclopedia
(Stuff happens and sometimes it's necessary to revisit things.)

The headlines of this past week have brought back to mind that we have an account of harassment and abuse at Jason Lee's Methodist Mission and in early Oregon we still haven't properly honored and absorbed into our official histories, The Grains, or Passages in the Life of Ruth Rover with Occasional Pictures of Oregon.

Wednesday: Pervasive and enduring
Thursday: Defiant
Friday: Resigns, but still defiant
After her time at Jason Lee's Methodist Mission and other activity in the Oregon Territory, in 1854 Margaret Jewett Bailey published a hard-to-classify book, Ruth Rover. The blurb for OSU's modern edition is typical and subtly discounts it, stressing it as "a novel" and using the lightly condescending rhetoric of "unique and provocative":
This autobiographical novel, first published in 1854, is generally considered the first novel written and published in the Pacific Northwest. Bailey provides a unique and provocative view of many prominent figures in early Oregon history.
It's not just "unique and provocative" like she was stirring the pot and making trouble. That's how we dismiss claims by "difficult" women. The books' claims are likely very true. In this last year of #metoo, it is increasingly clear that we should look past the "fiction" tag of Ruth Rover and believe it as essentially true. The accent should be on autobiography and the default assumption should be that it is true. We should believe Margaret Jewett Bailey. It is unfair not to.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

SW Corner of State and Commercial Heating Up Again?

You might remember from a few years back a concept to redevelop the nearly quarter block lot on the southwest corner of State and Commercial.

Project concept, apparently discarded now,
 for State and Commercial
via Nathan Good Architects
Nothing has been said publicly about it, but it looks like that's off the table now.

A reader sent in an Oregon Business article from a few days ago that discusses a completely different concept:
Cathy Reines of Koz Development...whose Snohomish, Wash.-based company specializes in student housing and what are known as micro-housing units, zeroed in on an empty lot in Salem’s historic downtown for a 140-unit apartment building with ground-floor retail....

The location, at the corner of State and Commercial streets in downtown Salem, was ideal for Reines, who looks for places where there are large student populations or hospital workers, with access to outdoor amenities. Salem Hospital and Willamette University both fit her parameters, along with a walkable riverfront that gives people access to outdoor recreation....

Reines’ partner, Josh Scott, says that infill construction in a historic neighborhood has special considerations, including meeting the city’s design guidelines. Salem, unsurprisingly, didn’t want a flashy or modern “look-at-me” building as infill, Scott says.

His work started at street level, making sure there was a consistent main-floor height with other downtown buildings. Adjacent buildings and those across the street can offer good cues, he says.

“There’s a fine line you walk not trying to imitate, not trying to create that false historic feeling, using proportions and general forms that are found in historic neighborhoods, and letting the modern building be what they are,” says Scott. [link added]
The City doesn't show any new permits or land use applications for 260 State Street, which is the address previous projects have used, so perhaps this is still only in the "talk" stage and not yet a formal project. Maybe it's developer "vaporware"!

In any case, it's something now to watch. It would be great to have something built at this corner, especially housing.

Addendum

Oh yeah, some history...Here's the building that used to be on the corner:

Griswold-Murphy block, 1940 (Salem Library Historic Photos)

Same site today - streetview
And Harry Scott's first bike shop was around the corner and on the alley, on State Street.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Winter-Maple Family-Friendly Bikeway at Planning Commission Tuesday

Winter St alignment, May 18th, 1899
The Plan for the Winter-Maple Bikeway goes before the Planning Commission tomorrow evening, and the City will be asking for an endorsement. (Agenda and Staff Report.)

It's an idea that's been around since at least 1899, and maybe finally it'll have some juice behind it.

Staff recommends approval and endorsement
You may recall the tepid reponse that Bike & Walk Salem got last time a substantial bike plan went before the Commission. In 2011-12, it took three meetings, in December, January, and March before the Commission sent it to Council with a recommendation for adoption.

Back in 2011 the Planning Commission was lukewarm at best
Lots of citizens showed up in support, but the testimony somehow wasn't enough for a speedy and enthusiastic endorsement. Something was lacking. (It certainly wasn't that there were elements that needed further vetting.)

Sunday, February 4, 2018

New Book on Salem Clique needs more on Slavery

Matthew Deady, c1859
Oregon Historical Society
OrHi 63119
In the last couple of years the University of Oregon conducted a thorough reassessment of the legacy of Mathew Deady. Students had called for renaming historic Deady Hall on campus. In announcing the final decision not to rename Deady Hall, University President Michael Schill wrote:
Deady was...a deeply flawed man. He held racist views which I find abhorrent and contrary to the principles of our university. His support of slavery prior to the Civil War cannot be excused....Although Deady’s racist views did not abate after the Civil War, he fully embraced the new constitutional order....Deady supported the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, which guarantee to all equal protection under the US Constitution....Deady does not represent an example of an egregious case justifying overturning the presumption against denaming...[and] I will not recommend that the Board of Trustees dename Deady Hall.
In the same decision, Schill ruled that Frederic Dunn, an Exalted Cyclops in the second KKK of the 1920s, and who had taught at Willamette University between 1895-1898 previous to his time at the University of Oregon, was in fact an example of such "an egregious case." His name was removed from his namesake building, and it has been renamed Unthank Hall.

Matthew Deady was at the center of the "Salem Clique," the name of a small Democratic party machine mostly headed by Asahel Bush during the run up to Statehood in the 1850s, opposed first to a Whig coalition headed by Thomas Dryer of the Oregonian in Portland, to the Know-Nothing party, and then to the early Republican Party in the later 1850s.

Asahel Bush was almost certainly more racist than Matthew Deady, and it does not appear his views evolved the way Deady's changed. We know, for example, about his scorn for the efforts of Rev. Obed Dickinson and his wife Charlotte later in the 1850s and 60s.

Time to think more about Asahel Bush

A reassessment of the legacy of Asahel Bush is overdue. (We also need to know more about his real estate, investing, and banking activities later in the 19th century! He is such a key Salem figure, but hardly known in detail.)

In her new book, The Salem Clique: Oregon's Founding Brothers, Barbara Mahoney leans away from such a reassessment, and without denying the way race and slavery was implicated in our Territorial government and then the debate and drive to Statehood, she may not center it enough. Of Bush in 1862 she writes:
Writing in the third person...[he said] he was "in favor of maintaining the Government at every hazard and to the last extremity. He wouldn't destroy the Government either to enslave or liberate [yes, that word*]; he believes it to be a Government of white men, and if the liberties of that race can be preserved, he regards it of comparatively little consequence what fate betides [the same word]."
Rather than providing the central thesis and focus, this is an ancillary moment.

It seems instead like the machinations of the Salem Clique, starting with sending out Bush to organize the Democratic party from the very start, have at their basis the perpetuation of slavery in the South as supported by the Democratic party of the time, and arranging in Oregon a "Government of white men." Race and slavery are absolutely central here, both in our local politics and in the national political wrangling involved in admitting a new state to the Union.

Slavery isn't backstory or side story, it's absolutely central to the main story, and may indeed be the essence of the main story. (You might recall "Oregon Was Founded As a Racist Utopia," a Gizmodo piece from a few years back that pushes this argument.)