Monday, May 20, 2019

Marion Car Park has a Fancier Pedigree than we Thought

Well, we might think that we have an accurate count of buildings associated with Pietro Belluschi, but that would apparently be wrong. Hiding in plain sight is a minor building with ties to him.

Marion Car Park from inside the Conference Center
Guess what?! It's a Belluschi!
It looks like the Marion Car Park, which will be demolished, was designed by Belluschi's firm. A brief note from November 1950 says it will be "of modernistic lines...[and] designed by Pietro Belluschi, Portland architect."
November 14th 1950

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Mystery of the Asylum Cemetery Continues

Apparently fake? No burials found in 1959 off-site
after the headstones had been moved
from the hospital grounds
(Salem Library Historic Photos)
In the City Manager's update this week, there's a note about new complications for the housing project at Yaquina Hall on the former North Campus of the State Hospital.
City and Salem Housing Authority staff have been working with DAS on acquiring Yaquina Hall and the park property. The Oregon Department of Administrative Services’ environmental review process for the North Campus required archeological and historic review. The consultation has resulted in information that the area to the north of the Yaquina property was once a cemetery. It has been requested that DAS perform ground penetrating radar testing to determine if there are any human remains in this area. DAS has retained a consultant and this work is expected to be completed by June 30. Given the historic and archaeological issues, the earliest the City can close on the Yaquina and park properties would be January 2020. We will have a much better understanding of the options, requirements, and timelines at the beginning of July after the ground penetrating radar work is completed.
The best available information has been that the Asylum Cemetery was fully decommmissioned. In 1991 the Willamette Valley Genealogical Society published a booklet, "The Asylum Cemetery, 1883-1913, Salem, Marion County, Oregon," and historians work off this end date of 1913. There were additional stories in 1959 about a trove of headstones off-site, seemingly disconnected from any burials (image at top), but at that time no new information suggested there were still burials in the ground.

Cremains in the new Columbarium
(OSH Memorial Pamphlet)
Subsequent rounds of research this decade for the Columbarium at the hospital did not turn up evidence that the 1913 date and decommissioning was in error, though there will still some gaps in the record for burials and people. (Update: The gap is very big: There are over 1500 burials unaccounted for. See comment with reference to Oregonian piece.)

Friday, May 17, 2019

First Presbyterian Observes 150th Anniversary this Year

While we consider the prospect of the IKE Box moving the former mortuary building across the street, their prospective new neighbors had their own move in 1958 and this year are celebrating 150 years as an institution.

Moving First Presbyterian Church, October 1958
(Salem Library Historic Photos)
100 years ago, First Presbyterian celebrated a 50th anniversary. It and an entirely different church building was front page news. A piece on May 12th in 1919 notes that
on May 15th this church was established in Salem with a group of 20 charter members...[it was] organized in 1869 as a United Presbyterian church, with Rev. T. J. Wilson as its first pastor, but in the year 1872 it changed its denominational affiliation.
On the 16th they counted more than 200 people at the celebration.

May 16th, 1919
The church building in which they were celebrating during 1919 was built in 1894, and in 1928 when the congregation built their current church (yet on a different site!) the old Presbyterian Church became a Lutheran Church, whose successor is St. Mark Lutheran, whose current church is one of the great mid-century modern buildings in Salem.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

HLC Should ask for More Time and More Public Conversation on Alley Names

The Historic Landmarks Commission meets on Thursday the 16th, and they've got several items of interest.

Bar, saloons, and brewing are important!
Eugene Eckerlen is a candidate name.
(March 23rd, 1909)
The most compelling item is the Main Street Association's proposal for alley names.

Downtown alleys proposed for naming
And what is clear from the Staff Report on the research and naming ideas is that the whole thing is rushed, at least the public portion of it. The project is a good one, but it needs more time, more research, and more public participation. There's no need for a "Boaty McBoatface" kind of popular input (and subversion), but the project needs to cast a wider net of people and ideas, and develop a slate that has actual and broad appeal. In the present list, there is a risk of confecting a sign-board, Potemkin set of notions about the city and its history. The process is also cliquish and too top-down right now. City Staff have been involved since last summer, and only now is it going public. This is bad process, and it should be opened up.

HLC should not give its assent to this first draft for a slate of names.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

415ppm and a Bust for the Bike More Challenge

A little buried in the paper this morning is a thin column with news that we've hit the latest round increment of terrible, 415 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere.

On the front page is a pull quote from Governor Brown during her address to the Salem Chamber of Commerce:
The harsh reality is future generations will judge, not on the fact of global climate change, but on what we've done to tackle it.
Those are fine words, and true enough.

But passage of the cap and trade bill will be far from sufficient. It's merely a baby step, and we will have to do more, much more.

For starters, the Governor and ODOT will have to renounce planning for more driving. There's no way we hit our climate goals with increases in driving.

This kind of disconnect is pervasive.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Looking Closer at Project Applications for 2021-2026: At the MPO

The Technical Advisory Committee for our local Metropolitan Planning Organization meets on Tuesday the 14th, and they're in a moment of process: they've got discussion on the agenda, but no big action items.

However, the minutes from April's meeting show one of the giant, almost structural problems at the MPO: The problem with driving and greenhouse gases. There's just no explicit awareness of the contradiction and trade-off, even among the technical staff.

More and faster driving? Or less Carbon pollution?
The Great Impasse (from the April minutes)

The MPO is just in deep, deep denial
The facts are out there, and at least they could say, "we know driving is the biggest driver of local greenhouse gas emissions, but because people are so attached to driving, we are not going to do anything about it. We are also not going to tell the public very much about how driving is a problem. We cannot discourage driving. We looooove driving."

We're just doomed, aren't we.

As part of the discussing and vetting process, in the packet are some additional questions on the project applications for the $15 million or so in funds from 2021-2026. They'll be discussing these and making a preliminary ranking.

Here are some of the more interesting bits.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

City Council, May 13th - Minor Updates on OSH North Campus and UGM Shelter

Council meets on Monday, and this week it's the formal "information items," rather than action items that are of greatest interest. Status reports on the North Campus of the State Hospital and on the new UGM Shelter lead the way.

Proposed path system at the North Campus
They're just lines on a map
At the North Campus of the State Hospital, the Planning Commission approved the first development. It will have single-family lots on Park and D, but no driveways on Park or D, and the interior streets with cul-de-sacs will function as an alley. The multi-family portion will just have a parking lot system, and the provision for "pedestrian connections" looks problematic. Once it is built out, we will mourn the fact that the grid breaks down and there will not be a full set of interior streets. There will be lines on the map to "connect" Center and D Streets, Park and 25th, but these will not be very effective, and will be a set of Potemkin connections instead. If you are walking in the neighborhood, you probably won't feel "invited" onto the path. Instead, you will skirt the development and keep on Park, 25rd, and D. Streets signal "public space" in a way the path system does not, and the paths will look private, even though there will be public access easements.

North Campus: These amended conditions look hinky
The total effect will be for a compound, and the project does not appear headed to a vibrant outcome.  It's dull.

UGM will retain the green cottage, but demolish the other two
(via Streetview)
The Planning Administrator approved some changes to the UGM Shelter project on Division and Commercial. Two lots that had been excluded, with a century old cottage and a boxy storefront, will now be purchased by the UGM, and they needed to be folded into the site plan. Plans indicate the cottage will be saved, but the storefront demolished. The way the project greets Division Street looks nice and human and reasonable. Hopefully the businesses will be able to move and will not be adversely impacted. (Update: It's been appealed.)

Friday, May 10, 2019

Greenhouse Gas Assessment points to Cars

The City's published the full draft greenhouse gas inventory, and it's all about the cars.

55% from transport - but only 1% of that 55% from the airport!
It was interesting to see the airport's contribution. I wish they'd added in the prospect of commercial air service.

But at the same time, it may be that it's more important right now to focus on the cars, not on the planes.

There's also more on why they consider the incinerator such a small source of CO2. So again, like with planes, it may not be very important to focus right now on the incinerator. (As a separate matter, heavy metals and other poisons might be a reason to transition away from it, but CO2 is not a strong reason right now.)

The incinerator is a very small source of CO2
Here's the revised pie chart with the proportions. It's all about the cars.

55% from cars, 1% from garbage
The draft report card is less easy to summarize. It is manifestly partial, very much a first draft and work-in-progress. The yellows indicate areas in which we have not articulated a target or standard by which to judge. These require more refinement to be useful.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Downtown Parklets Pilot is Underwhelming

Have you had a chance to check out the two pair of parklets downtown?

On Liberty Street, exactly the size of a parking stall
It's great to see the City employ a "tactical urbanism" approach to pilot a concept for which there had been some hesitation during the Sidewalk Study.

On Commercial street, four stalls worth
Even so, over on FB a note about the parklets occasioned nearly 100 comments and lots of emotion.

We have a climate crisis, we have a City budget deficit, we will have an algae problem in water supply again, and in a classic expression of "the color of the bike shed" what really gets people worked up is the temporary loss of 6 parking stalls on low-demand block faces.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Our Salem and GHG Assessment Holds Open House Wednesday

Today we have articles about a Spring heatwave and new news about the sixth Great Extinction in earth's history.

(the Oregonian)
On Friday the Eugene Register-Guard ran a piece about changes to whale movements and tide pool ecosystems in California.

Climate's affect on Tide pools and Whales
(Friday's Register Guard)
But making connections and threading climate through the whole remains elusive. Stories remain siloed and disconnected.

On Saturday stories about youth (and their future) and cap and trade legislation jostled against a story about our thirst for air travel. But the story was silent on increased emissions from air travel.

But no connection between airports and emissions
(Saturday's SJ)
It should be alarming that our desperate thirst for commercial air service is seen as an unambiguously good thing. But while "grad rate remedies" are important for parents and school board members, they do not loom over the future quite like climate.

Back in March
It would be "just great" for the adults to improve graduation rates and to trash the world those graduates inherit and attempt to inhabit.

Our Salem - Is a Climate Action Plan a Solution?

Last month the Advisory Committee for Our Salem met and received a presentation with some preliminary findings on greenhouse gas emissions as well as on other "indicators." On Wednesday the 8th, the City's hosting an Open House for the materials.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Places for Bikes City Ratings Ranks Salem Low Again

This morning Places for Bikes released their new City Rankings, and Salem stayed the same.

No surprise: Not so good (full scorecard)
Last year we were at 1.5 stars. This year we are also at 1.5 stars.

Interestingly, Eugene jumped from 1.9 to 3.4 stars.

Eugene makes a big jump this year, led by "acceleration"
This probably reflects some changes in formula and methodology, but it also reflects the "acceleration" assessment, which jumped from 0.6 to 3.8.

That seems like a little bit of overcorrection. It's not clear that things in Eugene have changed that much in one year.

So there's still a sense in which this is an evolving set of metrics, and further iterations will continue to refine it.

At the same time, the big picture is correct: Salem's not doing a very good job.

We are not meeting our targets (Our Salem)
There are some recommendations in the report and these might be interesting to visit in more detail later in another post.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Revised Missing Middle Housing Concepts Whiff on Parking

The City finally published the presentation boards from the April 30th workshop on Missing Middle Housing, and the way they are handling parking is going to doom the project to ineffectiveness.

Require 1 space  per unit even on triplexes

But these 3- and 4-plexes don't have parking!
Here are the posters and code concepts.

If we want missing middle housing to be as affordable as possible, and if we want to encourage more of it, insisting that large portions of a lot be allocated to car storage is inefficient and costly, and will hamper development of these.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Vick Bros Sell to Watt Shipp et. al., who form Valley Motor Company

In the Bicycle Week ad for 1919 we saw Watt Shipp's name among the other bike dealers in Salem. Shipp had built a general sporting goods business and diversified into blasting powder.

April 23rd, 1919
In 1919 Shipp made another move. Like Otto J. Wilson a decade earlier, Shipp decided to sell automobiles.

In April the Vick Bros decided to focus on tractor sales and this required a move to Portland. They sold their Ford dealership on High Street to a partnership that included Watt Shipp. The new dealership's name was Valley Motor Co.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Promotion for Bike Week in 1919 Smaller than in 1918

Tonight there's a workshop on the missing middle code concepts, but the City hasn't published anything new on them. With the new website, they seem to be publishing fewer of the technical memos that are the basis for the presentation materials they then publish. More and more of the information is being filtered, presumably with a view towards shaping the outcome in definite directions. The new website might look better, but as a total source of information it is in so many ways inferior.

The workshop is at the Library, downstairs in the Anderson rooms, at 6pm today, Tuesday the 30th.

"Ride a bicycle": National Bicycle Week ad, May 7th 1919
So we'll talk a little about bike month. There's a real shift in tone in the "bicycle week" advertising from 1918 to 1919.

Half-page ad, May 8th, 1918
There was a lot more in 1918! A full page ad on May 4th, and this half-page ad on May 8th. In 1919 there is only this quarter page ad.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

SKATS RTSP Map is Helpful, also Overwhelming, and Maybe Buggy

As part of the public outreach and as prelude to an Open House on May 1st and the Public Hearing on May 28th, our local Metropolitan Planning Organization published earlier this week a map of all the planned projects through 2043.

They want comment.

It's like ALL the projects!
Tell us what you think!

Salem-Keizer Area Transportation Study (SKATS) invites you to comment on the 2019-2043 Regional Transportation Systems Plan (RTSP). Comments will be accepted from now up to the public hearing scheduled on May 28, 2019.

The Regional Transportation Systems Plan (RTSP) provides a comprehensive, long-range look at the Salem-Keizer region and how to meet the anticipated transportation needs. Projects that have a reasonable certainty of being funded and address mobility and safety needs and enhancements to the regional system or provide new service are identified in the plan.

Draft documents are available on the MWVCOG website, and there is an interactive map of the projects where you may enter comments. An Open House will be held May 1, 2019 from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. at the MWVCOG offices located at 100 High St SE, Salem, Oregon. We welcome your feedback.

The Policy Committee will receive all comments and hold a Public Hearing at noon on May 28, 2019 at their monthly meeting (at MWVCOG offices). For more information or to comment, contact Ray Jackson at or 503-540-1607.

Thank you for your interest!
The first window over the map itself says:
Welcome to the SKATS 2019-2043 Regional Transportation Systems Plan Interactive Map!

The map of draft RTSP projects will open in a new window and allow the viewer to see the location and details about each project or program.

You may leave a general comment by choosing "General Comments" and you may leave comments on any of the individual projects by choosing them from the list. You may also indicate your favorite projects by clicking on the heart icon below the description.
The Map is Overwhelming and Hard to Grasp

So what to do with this thing?

It's a strange thing, however, and aside from the big list in the sidebar, one of the first things to notice might be the colors: Lime green, yellow, and red. What do these mean?

There is no further legend on the map, and it's not obvious what these mean.

Something is not quite right here:
A 2007 project in a 2019-2043 plan?
One of the green segments, one on Portland Road, says it was to be built in 2007. (Since the map was published and that clip taken, this date field appears to have taken out of the sidebar display, and it makes you wonder what it means.)

But if you click on all the green things, they are all "ITS-Signals," so it looks like the colors represent a category of project (and not a go-caution-stop traffic light scheme!):
  • Green: ITS-Signals (technology)
  • Red: Roads and Bridges
  • Brown/orange: Bicycle and Pedestrian
  • Lavender: Transit

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Monster Cookie, Bike More Challenge, Scenic Bikeways Anniversary: Wheeling Season is Here

The weather looks dry and temperate, and it's time for the Salem Bicycle Club's Monster Cookie, the first big ride of the season this Sunday, the 28th.

Monster Cookie, 2011
If you bike regularly, you'll already know about it.

If you don't, it's a metric century - 62 miles - through the rolling hills of French Prairie out to Champoeg and back. Some people only do half of it, from Salem to Champoeg, and get picked up at Champoeg.You could do the second half, from Champoeg to Salem, also. This year they'll also use the Winter-Maple Bikeway through town and much of the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway also.

Day-of-ride registration ($40) opens at 8am on the Capitol Mall Fountain and plaza. A last minute decision is ok! That's the best way to wait and assess the weather if you're not an all-weather rider.

And always remember Governor Geer, who rode his bike out to Champoeg on May 1st, 1900, to set in motion the establishment of the historical marker and then the park!

And City Councilors do the Cookie, too! (And Councilor Andersen often bikes to Council meetings and for other City business - see below for more in the City's lack of institutional commitment, however.)

Prepping for the Monster Cookie, 2015
(Councilor Hoy on left in helmet, via SBC)
Bike More Challenge

One of the items on the recent update to City Council on the work by the Congestion Relief Task Force is a recommendation to "develop and implement commute trip reduction programs."

The Bike More Challenge is one of the biggest and best and funnest around the state, but the City's participation has been very lukewarm, practically invisible. Both the City of Salem proper, and our businesses, haven't really got behind it. Mostly it's State agencies. So it will be interesting to see how this year goes, especially with the City of Salem.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Capital Improvement Plan at Budget Committee Tonight

The Budget Committee meets this evening and they'll hold a Public Hearing on the draft 2020 five year Capital Improvement Plan. (Agenda and packet here.)

There's not a whole lot new in this iteration of the plan, and so just a few comments. (Here are longer notes from last year, and much of that remains current and relevant.)

Funding is inflated with a BUILD grant and drops off for 2022
Maybe the City's been tipped off in private, but publicly I'm pretty sure the City has not yet been announced as a winner of a BUILD grant for the McGilchrist project. The current Federal administration has also reconfigured it from the TIGER program to have a much greater emphasis on rural projects. You can see the green dots in the map of the most recent awards. As the program currently operates, McGilchrist may not be a strong candidate.

Columbia River and Coos Bay got awards last year
In any case, on other programming like ODOT's ARTS, STIP, SR2S, or the City's own SDSs, STREC, URA, projects don't get included in the Capital Improvement Plan until funding is committed. So why is the City repeatedly wishcasting on McGilchrist? They keep doing this! It looks like an attempt to inflate the numbers, really.

$15 million makes the project list seem a lot bigger
And you could see a reason why. Without a bond measure, the transportation projects are really falling off after 2021. The gas tax is not enough. The City should talk about that more. Auto user fees are not sufficient. We subsidize driving. Even a small new local gas tax wouldn't be very much.

On most other items there's just not very much new to say.

Monday, April 22, 2019

SKATS to Release Public Draft of 2019 Regional Transportation System Plan: At the MPO

Our local Metropolitan Planning Organization meets on Tuesday the 23rd, and they have two big drafts to consider. They'll look at the formal work plan for the coming year, and they'll release the formal public draft of the 2019 Regional Transportation System Plan.

The Work Plan

Just a few things to notes in passing on the work plan.

The section on the SRC has not been updated since the Council vote. It's unclear whether this is an accident or by design. It may be a sign that there remains hope of some last minute intervention to revive the bridge as the preferred alternative.

Information on the SRC is badly out of date
The Cordon Road Study deserves more thought, but it is an ambiguous thing. On the one hand, Cordon Road is terrible, terrible, terrible for walking and biking; but it is important for them as a circumferential connection, and it should be possible to walk and bike. At the same time, it is a quasi-highway that coincides with much of the Urban Growth Boundary, and it may not rank highly as a priority for walking and biking. As the Mill Creek Corporate Center area is built out, making it possible to walk, bike, and bus in that area should be an increasingly high priority. And Cordon does connect directly with Kuebler, which is an important east-west connection through South Salem.

The Work Plan makes it clear that the study is more of a negotiation, between County and City, and is less a matter of engineering details.

On the same page? Coordination mostly on Cordon Road
But really, the whole length needs more than just 1980s style bike lanes. Because of the speed of cars and traffic volumes, Cordon and Kuebler both need a fully-separated, modern protected bike lane and sidewalk system.

Finally, on travel models, it has become clear that the matter of false precision and margin-of-error needs to be highlighted.

Friday, April 19, 2019

City Council, April 22nd - Weeding and Congestion

If only we attacked the problem of too many cars with the same zealous energy we are attacking the "problem" of too many books. The inversion in priorities says so much about us.

On Monday Council will meet, and they will assess the latest rationalization and modernization scheme at the Library as well as get an update on the recommendations from the Congestion Task Force.

Trying too hard to keep up with the "latest"
April 2nd, 1919
A century ago, local librarians followed "the librarians back east" in advocating for a "natural way" of phonetic spelling. It was the latest and best theory! Keep up with the times!

We all know how this attempt at rationalization turned out.

Now, we have another attempt at a misguided modernization scheme. From here The Big Weed looks like more like high-concept "cotzj chez" than real cottage cheese, and Council should ask for course-correction on this fad.

A resolution from SCAN summarizes much of the case.

From SCAN's resolution in critique of the Big Weed
A senior librarian, 16 years with the City and with intimate knowledge of internal processes and Salem's usage, writes:
I have several concerns, including the “collection evaluation” project, the numerous unfilled librarian positions, and the removal of the reference desk. The most urgent is the "collection evaluation"....The new City Librarian... is undertaking a huge “collection evaluation” project without enough replacement book money. In addition, I believe her philosophy of “new and popular” above all else will lead to a possibly irreversible decline in the library’s collection.
However fusty an attachment to old books might seem, old books are expensive and hard to replace once discarded. (Consider recent fires at Notre Dame and the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro for a catastrophically more intense form of this same kind of loss.) They also have useful information in them, historically illuminating even when the bare "facts" themselves might be out of date. More than this, as the resolution from SCAN suggests, in comparison with peer libraries, in our practices, standards, and funding we are behind or deficient. Our Library's current enthusiasm for weeding seems more impoverishing than improving, and hopefully Council will step in with corrective action.

(Update: Save our Books points out this is an "information item" only, a report on continuing the weeding program, and not an action item asking for Council explicitly to confirm the Big Weed or to give corrective direction. So that's an interesting, even sneaky, maneuver that I missed.)

There's no need to stop maintenance weeding itself, but there is great need for a more thoughtful approach away from the clear-cutting mode.

As it has been easy for the Library to reduce book holdings, it has been difficult for the City to reduce car trips. Sure, books and cars are different, and there is no Roads Czar equivalent in power to a City Librarian. But the difference still is telling.

Council will also get an update on the recommendations from the Congestion Relief Task Force. Already, it's a slog. There are four items called out in the update.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Yes, Let's Remember Peppermint Flat! Salem Main Street Group Proposes Alley Names

Over at CANDO they've got information on a fun project.

Names for the alleys?
This could be "Electric Alley"
The Salem Main Street Association has proposed formal naming for the downtown alleys. They've identified "five historically referenced alley names" (keyed on the map below) and are looking to name the others:

1. Electric Alley
2. Pastoral Alley
4. Spirited Alley
7. Sun Alley
8b. Peppermint Flats Alley

Should we name our alleys?
(via CANDO, comment added)
The naming proposal is fascinating, but at least some of it on the surface looks fantastical, not really historical. Unfortunately the information comes filtered from CANDO, and the Main Street group has not posted any of the information on their own website. Maybe as more comes out, things will be clearer. (As critics have pointed out several times, the Main Street group is lousy about maintaining a website, blog, or facebook! They operate more like a secret club than a public-minded advocacy organization. Maybe "Dancing with the Salem Stars" will change this.)

Already old, April 24th, 1919
But first off, they've got the wrong alley marked for Peppermint Flat. 100 years ago a note does suggest it's "flats," but it also says the area was mainly between Liberty and High (8a), not between High and Church (8b). Maybe the 8a/8b split recognizes this a little, but 8a is really the right one. It is low land, flooded seasonally, and where the peppermint might have grown. But because there are parking decks there, it's a much less interesting alley.