Friday, July 20, 2018

City Council, July 23rd - Safe Routes Applications and More on State Street

Council meets on Monday and there's a lot on the agenda. Revisiting the State Street Plan and approval for applications to the new Safe Routes to School funding program lead our interests here. There are several other items that involve parking or transportation.

So it looks like Staff are dissatisfied with the way the State Street Plan shook out? Not only is the Plan back on the agenda, Staff appear to be hinting strongly for some additional tweaks.

The report says "Staff has provided additional information below for consideration." (hint, hint)

From a previous presentation and earlier round of height reduction
Mostly it's about building height and ensuring with more detail that the proposed changes accommodate both residents of the Historic District's wishes as well as the larger goals to spur redevelopment. The trade-off of a reduction abutting the District and an increase elsewhere seems like a good one.

From the Staff Report:
  • The maximum building height abutting National Register Residential Historic Districts could be lowered to 50 feet in the MU-2 zone to ensure that the lower height applied to all MU-1 and MU-2 properties abutting the Court-Chemeketa Residential Historic District.
  • A maximum building height of 45 feet may or may not accommodate a four-story building that complies with the development standards in the MU-1 zone. Further reducing building heights could hinder the development potential of properties on State Street. It could also result in the development of fewer multifamily units, which are needed in Salem. The 2015 Housing Needs Analysis specifically determined that the Salem area has a projected 207-acre deficit of land for multifamily housing based on a 20-year population projection.
  • Staff conducted outreach to property owners during the State Street Corridor Plan project to discuss the proposed MU-1 and MU-2 zones and how their properties, if rezoned, would be impacted. In those property owner meetings, staff first presented the proposal of a maximum height of 65 feet in the MU-1 zone and later presented the lower 55 feet maximum height. For properties in the Commercial Office (CO) zone, this represented a reduction from the maximum building height of 70 feet allowed today. (The CO zone is adjacent to the Court-Chemeketa Residential Historic District between 14th and 17th streets). Staff did not propose a lower height of 45 feet when meeting with property owners that could be rezoned to MU-1 or MU-2.
  • The overall maximum building height in the MU-1 zone could be increased to 65 feet, as previously proposed by staff, to offset a further reduction in height to 45 feet for properties abutting National Register Residential Historic Districts. This would help ensure that the MU-1 zone retained its overall development potential, aligning with findings of the economic analysis conducted as part of the State Street Corridor Plan project. That analysis found that there is more momentum for redevelopment in this western half of State Street due to its proximity to catalyst areas such as Willamette University, the State Capitol, and downtown.
Still, even with putting all the parking in back so there's no mass there to cast a shadow, the project team earlier in the year showed a four story development of the sort that is desired, but still didn't pencil out.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Congestion Task Force to Meet Friday, Discuss Preferred Options

The Congestion Relief Task Force meets on Friday the 20th, and they'll be looking at an analysis that has winnowed down the solutions packages to a pair of preferred choices. The Task Force agenda is to make a decision, presumably to confirm the preferred choices, and advance the proposal for more detailed study. (Summary of the packages here, longer presentation here. This is the first time the materials have been posted meaningfully in advance, and it is nice to be able to review them.)

There appears to be consensus on restriping existing bridge decks to add an additional auto travel lane at the cost of sidewalk on Marion and sidepath on Center bridges. The sidewalk on the Marion Street Bridge is so narrow, even though some people do use it, it's hard to see many really feeling much of a loss. The sidepath on the Center Street Bridge is a different matter, and though the Union Street RR Bridge has better air and better views, the Center Street Bridge is a more direct connection to Wallace and Edgewater, and speedy cyclists often prefer that. But if the crossing of Wallace along the Second Street alignment is a part of the package and trade-off for closing the sidepath, the loss of the Center Street sidepath is defensible.

Eliminate sidepath for new auto travel lane

Eliminate sidewalk for new auto travel lane
There are new proposals (or maybe just variations on previous proposals, depending on how you look at it) to widen Front Street and Commercial in downtown along with two key intersections.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Capital Manor Expansion to Demolish Entire Street of Housing

You might remember the move to vacate Paradise Court NW or the approvals for the Planned Unit Development at Capital Manor in West Salem.

Or you might not. They had seemed like ordinary expansion for a retirement community and an ageing population, and did not seem to merit much attention.

But holy smokes! There's a flurry now of applications for demolition permits on Paradise Court. And it's not merely the case that Capital Manor is expanding onto land that was undeveloped or under-developed. Paradise Court looks like an actual neighborhood.

Crush all the houses! Paradise Court NW
via Streetview (from 2014)

Earlier this month: Apps on 29 demolition permits
via City of Salem (partial list)
From the land use approvals
And Capital Manor has filed applications for flat-out demolishing an entire street's worth of what look to be mostly duplexes.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

NEN to talk North Campus of State Hospital; CANDO on old Greyhound Station

CANDO and NEN meet this week and there are several items of interest on their agenda.

Northeast Neighbors, the Englewood/North High area neighborhood Association meets Tuesday the 17th and they have a very interesting item of citywide significance:
  • Mountain West, Richard Berger, Conceptual drawings for OR. State Hospital property.
This is adapted from an earlier Mountain West Proposal
for the North Campus. (Comments in white and red added)
I have not been following NESCA, the neighborhood to the east of NEN, and it turns out they've had a lot of discussion of it recently.

Though there doesn't appear to be an executed sale yet, everywhere you turn it's talk about Mountain West, as if they are the only ones negotiating with the State now. So this makes it look like we are heading towards a more cookie-cutter three-story walkup apartment complex rather than a more urbane plan with generious "missing middle" types and more mixed-use on Center Street. This is looking like monoculture and big parking lots. (Of course the neighborhood wants monoculture at the other end of the scale: abundant single-family housing.)

Here is an excerpt from the February NESCA minutes with more:
North Campus Update (Darrin Brightman, DAS)
The North Campus project will be proceeding without the segments that face onto Center Street. Currently working on designs for street improvement, with RFPs out for bid. Until this is completed, the sale of the property can not be closed. Darrin reported DAS hopes to have this completed by June or July. At that time DAS can then proceed on contracts with Mountain West (4 parcels), the Housing Authority (Yaquina Hall), and the City of Salem (D Street Park). Darrin mentioned that the D Street park property has not yet been officially transferred to the City as it can’t be finalized until the street improvement designs are completed, probably June or July with the rest of the property. Darrin also provided information about the Dome Building repairs that are being done (roof, etc.) Corrections would like to paint the building to match the “J” building and the South Campus. As the building falls within NESCA and is on the historic register, they are unable to proceed with changing the paint color without the approval of NESCA. A motion to allow Corrections to change the paint color from the current cream color to match the South Campus buildings was made, seconded, and voted on. Motion passed....
A new paint scheme for the Dome Building indeed
(See notes from April)
The complete removal of the walnut trees on 24th was brought up and the question was asked if this is a possibility for the North Campus walnut trees. Darrin said that the 24th Street trees were the responsibility of the hospital administration, not DAS. DAS learned of their removal at the same time as the rest of us. He said that the North Campus trees will likely all come down EVENTUALLY as there is disease in some of the trees and those trees will need to be removed sooner or later. But, he stressed they will not be done all at the same time as was done on 24th and, when a tree (or trees) is taken down, there will be succession planting. He was unsure of the type of trees to be used as replacements but believed the plan is to use White Oak.

Richard Berger: Mountain West
Richard said that the same basic plan as presented to NESCA in November is still in place. The question was asked if the “integrity of the single-family homes” stated for D Street has been given any consideration as was requested for the single family homes on Park Avenue. He said there has been discussion and we will have more opportunities to discuss it before any actual construction is started. They are hoping to begin construction sometime in early 2019.
So I don't know. It's the sinking feeling of disappointment and having to see reduced ambition.

Hopefully there will be a more definite proposal made public soon.

NEN will be the best opportunity for the latest.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

City Council, July 16th - State Street Study and Public Hearing

Council meets on Monday for a special meeting and formal Public Hearing on the State Street Corridor Plan. There is one item only on the agenda.

As new comment has come in, mostly it's a rehash of support or opposition, trading more on sentiment than fact or probability. There's a lot of fear and anxiety around change.

A couple of new items might be worth noting, however.

The current study repeats a lot of themes!
With their formal letter of support, SESNA cited a 1995 study that shows the pent-up, long-standing desire for a better State Street. I hadn't seen this called out before.

A group of Salem Area Realtors seems to echo this, but crucially they display our autoist incoherence, supporting the zoning changes but not road design.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Save $2M? Ditch the Costly Structured Parking!

City wants to use $2M in Urban Renewal Funds
The City's been a little stingy on posting updates more detailed than breezy "building buzz" videos on the new Police Station, so it was interesting to read the article about the value engineering and proposed new funding. (They finally posted the basic plan and survey results. The construction cam has seemed to be stuck for several days now, and is not updating.)

One item of context left out is that on the $100 million road bond in 2008, the City consistently secured bids under budget. In total bids seemed to come in at about 80% of the budgeted amount. This 20% gap allowed the City to rope in a bunch of smaller projects and by count (not by dollars!) added about 50% more projects.

That was smack dab in the middle of the Great Recession.

Now things are different, and it's no surprise that we see the opposite in this latest bond project.

Maybe there's a story of mismanagement or error here, but at the moment this does not seem to rise to that. Instead it looks like a story of the cyclical vagaries of our economy.

Moreover, the value engineering and proposal to use Urban Renewal Funds to fill a gap actually look to be within the range of things on which reasonable people can disagree.

From the paper:
As city officials try to make the place more useful to locals, the largest chunk of the July request — $1,197,000 — is poised to pay for a big community room at the station. Other expenses include public restrooms ($398,000), a plaza ($250,000) and artwork ($240,000), bringing the grand total to $2.085 million....

Officials had earlier allocated $4.3 million from the area's urban renewal fund for street improvements, such as opening portions of Division Street NE and Liberty Street NE near the facility to two-way traffic....
It is not outrageous to think the community room, public restrooms, plaza, and artwork in the public space (not anything on the interior!) could meet standards for urban renewal funding.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Death on Foot: Too Much on Distracted Walking Canard

There's a classic "balanced" piece of "he said, she said" journalism on walking deaths in the paper today.

It comes from the Detroit Free Press, and it really exemplifies how difficult it is going to be to get incisive reporting on autoism. Is a paper in Detroit going to go all-in on a critical approach? And more generally, given how dependent are newspapers on car advertising, would they be willing to upset key advertisers?

So it starts with an "expert" saying it's bad actors. It's people. Cars are safe.
the answer to it is really social patterns, you know, having very little to do with cars. Because cars are so expensive.
What? The safety features primarily benefit those inside cars, not those outside. This conflates safety for drivers and passengers with safety for other road users. It also conflates safety with the signalling functions (even conspicuous consumption) of our car purchases and the system of wealth checks we use to weed out non-car owners from jobs and housing.

Focusing on bad actors behind the wheel is just another form of victim-blaming.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Ice-Skating Pond at Court and Liberty Leads Old-timer Recollections in 1918

Was a pond: Looking east on Court Street from Liberty, 1912
(Composited from this high-res and this low-res image;
though they were scanned separately, clearly they are a pair.
Salem Library Historic Photos)

July 1, 1918
Back on June 29th in 1918, Salem held a Homecoming for old timers in Willson Park. Organizers had sent out a call for people with automobiles to pick up attendees, mostly elderly, at the train station and ferry them around town.
The first was the automobile excursion about Salem to the visitors changes that have taken place since they moved away....Mrs. Hallie Hinges Durdall, who as a girl delighted the men and women of Oregon with her songs, appeared before them again Saturday, and many said that her voice had lost none of the richness of years gone by.
There is a thirst, maybe even a desperateness, in the nostalgia and wish to show off hometown pride. The background of World War I seems to give a different mood to the festival relative to ones from just a few years earlier, which have seemed less fraught and more playful in news accounts.

July 10th 1918
Some who could not attend the homecoming later sent in some of their own memories, and one of them was later published in the paper several days later (links added).
BUSINESS CENTER OF SALEM WAS ONCE A FINE SKATING POND
Charles Bagley Recalls Some Incidents of Boyhood Life In Capital City

There was a nice little pond extending from about where the Roth grocery is now located, diagonally cross the street toward the Meyers' department store and then on across Court street including the present location of the Steusloff meat market. The skating was fine on this pond along in the early '60's and Court street was such a slough that a bridge was built connecting the Meyers and Steusloff corners. A. N. Moores had the time of his life skating on the Meyers corner and he well remembers the wooden bridge across Court street at the Meyers location.

Charles B. Bagley, who is with the department of public works in Seattle, was an old timer in Salem, dating his residence here from 1852 until about 1860. Regretting that he was unable to attend the Homecoming recently held in Salem, he writes Mr. Moores in part as follows:

Monday, July 9, 2018

Change at Fairview, Tour Gaiety Hollow: In the Neighborhoods

Well shoot. Yesterday's news that the Managing Partner for the Lindburg Green project at Fairview had passed away seemed sure to bring other news, and it turns out some of that news was already discussed at the Morningside Neighborhood Association. They meet on Wednesday the 11th, and in last month's minutes there's information on the transition:
Richard Berger, with Mountain West Investment Corp., announced his firm's plan to develop a 180 unit multi-family apartment complex on (Sustainable?) Fairview land (Sam Hall's group.) They plan to name it "The Grove at Fairview" in deference to the many trees the design is intended to save. This will be a three-story design, and will be exclusively for rental occupancy. It will be of similar design to the new "Fairway on Battle Creek" complex developed on the old Battle Creek Golf Course. It will have amenities such as a clubhouse and a swimming pool for its tenants. Questions posed: Does the plan/design address Reed Road impacts? Some discussion ensued on the topic, including use of System Development fees, and the planning process.
This makes the whole southeastern half of the former Fairview project, the part paralleling Reed Road, look pretty cookie-cutterish.

Simpson Hills July 2012 Refinement Plan (detail)
Here's part of the last public plan for the Simpson Hills project (about which I have not written much since it was more conventional and less interesting than the other projects at Fairview). It's got a ring road system enclosing a compound, "streets" that are really just pieces of parking lot, and walkup apartments in various configurations. It remains very autoist.

The piece just north of this at the top of the map would be part of the "grove," and its pattern appears to be heading towards something like this Simpson Hills project.

Presumably a new refinement plan will need to be approved and at the Planning Commission we will get to see the new concepts in much more detail.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Managing Partner of Fairview Project, Sam Hall has Died

Lindburg Green and the other projects at Fairview
(from the most recent refinement plan)

This is sad news to read in the paper this morning. The Managing Partner for the Sustainable Fairview project (most recently called "Lindburg Green," I think) has passed away.

Sam Hall died earlier this month.

The project has sometimes struggled, and it currently has seemed stalled, but it remains a very worthwhile one, and hopefully the remaining partners will find a way forward to continue.

Hall had a life rich with other endeavors of course, and you should read about those things, too.

The obituary ends on a very nice note:
At Sam’s request there will be no service. Instead, he asks that anyone who would attend a service think of him and do something kind for someone else. The family requests no flowers.
(For previous notes on Sustainable Fairview and Lindberg Green see here.)

Saturday, July 7, 2018

City Council, July 9th - The Ravine

Council meets on Monday, and though there are a few small interesting local issues, the most important item is Councilor Andersen's resolution against family separation at the border and detention facilities for children. It also affirms Salem's approach as an "inclusive city."

Much less urgently, but interesting historically, the Mayor has also a proclamation commemorating the establishment in Astoria at the Finnish Socialist Hall of the Sikh Ghadar Party, which advocated for independence from British rule in India.

About it the Oregon Encyclopedia says
In the spring of 1913, East Indians formed the radical nationalist Ghadar Party in Astoria. The meeting was held in the Finnish Socialist Hall, reflecting the important ties and comradery East Indian activists had, in Astoria and elsewhere, with socialists, radical labor organizers, and Irish, Finnish, Mexican, and Chinese nationalists....

The word ghadar translates as mutiny or revolution, and it indicates its adherents’ strategy. With the outbreak of World War I, four to five thousand men left the West Coast for India. Joined by men from the Philippines, Singapore, and beyond, they aimed to persuade the long-serving Sikhs of the British military to mutiny and thereby spark an armed general insurrection to end British rule.
"Finnish Socialist Hall" is not a phrase I ever expected to see celebrated at Salem City Council!

What's next? Songs to fan the flames of discontent?! Holy smokes!

(And this at the same time the City's taking a hard line as they negotiate a new labor contract. During the Strategic Planning process, and again affirmed during the latest budget cycle, there was talk about the structural imbalance between revenue and expense for the City. To contain costs is understandable. Still, when we are celebrating meetings at the "Finnish Socialist Hall," maybe there are some disconnects or irony in all of this.)

Culvert where path crosses the Ravine at Bush's Pasture Park
There's a Memorandum of Understanding "with the Mission Street Parks Conservancy to enhance and manage certain defined landscape areas of Bush’s Pasture Park." This Conservancy is a successor to Friends of Bush Gardens in order to widen the scope a little to embrace Lord & Schryver's Gaiety Hollow home and garden, Deepwood, and Pringle Park. Focus areas like the Rhododendron and Rose gardens are known outside of the volunteers and gardening circle, but one area that's not widely known is "the Ravine."
the Ravine is actually a small depression that channels an intermittent spring from its origin near the upper pasture 200’ downhill to an informal amphitheater. It marks the southern end of the more cultivated garden areas of the historic park. This miniature “valley” holds a great deal of promise. The Conservancy, along with landscape designer Ron Miner, is working to enhance this area.
This is just at the south end of the playground by the barn and gallery. There is also a second seep a little south of that. Both are partially marked with bark mulch, and the second one also has a couple of rocks and a drain grate on the east side. The main one has this culvert the path crosses. The bowl formed by the pasture along High Street and the underlying geology that leads to the spring is all very interesting, and it will be nice to see what is done with the Ravine.

Theres also an intergovernmental agreement with ODOT on reimbursements for commercial truck inspections.

Otherwise, the big item is next week on the 16th, when the City holds a Public Hearing on the State Street Corridor Plan.

Friday, July 6, 2018

High Street Traffic Calming and Trees at the Hospital

Do you know anything about the "Drive like your kids live here" signs that have sprung up on High Street near Bush Park?

Though of course the underlying autoism remains problematic, it is nice to see more visibility to traffic calming, and perhaps even something of a campaign. Is it a spontaneous thing or is there a group behind them?
 
Sign on High Street at Cross near Bush Park
High Street has always seemed like a strong candidate for a traffic divertor to slow traffic and redirect people off the "High Street bypass" and back onto the Liberty/Commercial couplet, which they are trying to avoid. There are elements of road design that can help!

Speed Radar on Sunnyview
The City has also piloted a stronger signage program. Back in 2015 the City installed four of these speed radar signs around town. They announced plans to add a fifth (and sixth) on Fisher Road recently.

But you know what we haven't seen? I don't believe there has been any public formal assessment of the signs presented to Council. Has the City conducted speed studies since the signs were installed? What difference have they made?

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Jessie Breyman McNary killed 100 Years Ago in Auto Crash

Jessie Breyman McNary
(undated photo, Oregon State Library)

July 4th, 1918
100 years ago Jessie Breyman McNary's death in a crash on July 3rd, 1918  was unusually notable and front page news. She was married to a major Oregon politician and her own family, the Breymans, were important figures also. (See "The Breyman Sisters-in-Law" for some on women in the family.)

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Migrating Vineyards as Climate Hedge, Eugene Steam Plant Project - Newsbits

A couple years ago there was a flurry of vineyard land sold to California buyers. The Kendall-Jackson empire was the most notable participant. There were others also.

in 2016
The article about the sales, as did the piece celebrating 50 years of local Pinot Noir in 2015, missed an important part of the story, however.

in 2015
Finally, a piece in the Sunday paper today addresses it a little. "Wineries seek hedge against climate change." It was off the AP wire, and was about a global trend, and not specifically about Oregon and the Willamette Valley.