Thursday, March 23, 2023

City Council, March 27th - Mini-Street Sweeper for Bike Lanes

You may remember a discussion a little over a year ago of the Union Street bikeway:

[Citizens] asked for separation and protection greater than mere paint. The eastern side of the project shows a buffered bike lane marked by paint only.

City staff said that problems with sweeping the narrow space of a curb-protected bike lane were an important reason it is not being used and reason that the design relied on paint only. Councilor Stapleton suggested we will face this problem more and more, and that the City should figure out how to sweep narrow spaces rather than design more paint-only bike lanes.

At Council on Monday, City Staff propose something of a solution.

The City has an opportunity to pursue grant funds from the Portland General Electric (PGE) Drive Change Fund grant program (PGE Drive Change Fund 2023 Guidelines Attachment 1) to purchase an electric battery-powered mini-street sweeper.  The narrow width and short wheelbase of the sweeper would make it ideal for sweeping buffered bicycle lanes, downtown alleys, parks pathways, plazas, parking lots, and public spaces.

It would probably look a little like this!

This fits six-foot lanes! - via Twitter

It would involve a City match of $25,000 and a PGE grant of $225,000. The City would have to use it for 10 years, so maybe it's more like PGE subsidizing a lease than an outright purchase.

It is important to find out how wide would be the sweeper and if it could be used on future curb protected bike lanes, not merely on existing buffered bike lanes.

Still, this looks like a real advance on bike lane maintenance.

Bullets for the rest:

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Urban Skyline on Commercial St Looks Great! Nursing Home site for Sale

With the nice weather and the New Holman Hotel soon to open, last night was a good early evening for a walk to check on it.

I was also checking in on the two-wayification of Court Street, but that's not quite done yet.

Turning the corner from Court to Commercial southbound, the skyline formed by Pioneer Trust, the Nishioka Building, and the New Holman Hotel was really delightful. A proper urban procession, and so very cheering.

New Holman Hotel, Nishioka Building, Pioneer Trust
Looking south-ish on Commercial Street near State

New Holman Hotel, Nishioka Building, Pioneer Trust
Looking north-ish on Commercial Street at Ferry

In context the hotel looks great! This is the midrise downtown Salem needs.

(Hopefully some time a real architectural photographer will get not just the hotel but the whole group in good light and with perspective control.)

Front page today

And it turns out the hotel was already open! It was nice to see it on the front page. When the restaurant opens later this spring, it will be great to see the new sidewalk life.

Just a couple blocks down it looks like the Nursing Home concept has been abandoned and the lot for sale. (See previously at the Planning Commission in April 2021.)

Nursing home lot at former Boise site for sale

This is old news, it turns out. Listings say it's been publicly for sale nearly 2/3 of a year already, and it's listed for $3.5 million.

The Nursing Home concept always seemed like a suboptimal use for the corner, and maybe now something with more public-facing elements, something to leverage the creek and proximity to Riverfront Park, something that might also enliven and complement the emptiness of the sculpture court, will be able to happen.

Monday, March 20, 2023

W. E. B. Du Bois Lectured at Willamette University 100 Years Ago

Amid the rising popularity of the Second Klan, and in support of an early book concept, W. E. B. Du Bois lectured at Willamette University 100 years ago on March 20th, 1923.

WU Collegian
March 14th, 1923

The announcement hit the morning and afternoon city papers also. The morning paper simply churned the notice in the Collegian. The notice in the afternoon paper gave a different title to the lecture and seemed to be somewhat independently composed.

Afternoon paper
March 19th, 1923

Morning paper
March 20th, 1923

"The Black Man in the Wounded World," the title from the Collegian and the morning paper, is very likely the correct title. In a recent article, "In the Shadow of World War: Revisiting W. E. B. Du Bois's Black Reconstruction," Chad Williams writes:

Du Bois, in fact, envisioned Black Reconstruction as the first of two consecutive books exploring the history and meaning of democracy for Black people in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The second book was a study of the participation of African Americans and other people of African descent in World War I, titled The Black Man and the Wounded World....Du Bois initially titled the book “The Black Man in the Revolution of 1914-1918.” He offered a detailed, albeit preliminary, survey in the June 1919 issue of The Crisis. The first indication of his revised name for the book appeared in early 1923, when he delivered a series of lectures on the Black experience in the World War under the title “The Black Man in the Wounded World.”

The book never got finished. (You can see an outline from 1936 here. I am sorry I did not find the lecture notice in time for the showing of the Buffalo Soldiers film last month!)

The afternoon paper's review the next day seems somewhat more engaged and less skeptical than the morning paper two days later, though they repeat phrases as if they were working off a common text.

Friday, March 17, 2023

Early Stage Plan for Climate Friendly Areas Seems Awry

As the City looks to implement new Climate Friendly Areas, as required by new land use and transportation regulations, they seem to be heading down a path that may meet the letter of the law and violate the spirit of the law. Things look awry.

CFAs/WaMUAs can hold 30% of needed housing
(February online meeting slides)

Terms and the Goal

Maybe to avoid politics of the word "climate," the City is attempting to rebrand them as "Walkable Mixed-use Areas." Since "walkable mixed-use area" is a generic description of the kind of "traditional development pattern" Strong Towns and many others extol, the pattern we see in nearly any older city worldwide, restricting the phrase to a technical term of compliance with new State regulations will make the concept less useful in other discussion. It's really limiting. Suddenly a place that is (or is proposed to be) mixed-use and walkable, but which is not formally recognized as a WaMUA, either is discounted or needs a new name. The City should strongly consider leaning into the word "climate" and restoring the statewide name. Even if CFA seems awkward, it is unusual enough that it is not a phrase we might want to use in ordinary conversation, and can reserve it for this matter of technical compliance. Then we are free to use walkable mixed-use areas as a generic description and value.

In any case, the new rules call for cities to "demonstrate that CFA/MaMUAs can accommodate at least 30% of needed housing."* (From the slide at top.)

In new memos they recently published the City has started the process to demonstrate complicance.

Arguing with a Max Use Scenario

The City appears to be focusing on downtown and close-in West Salem. Last month's slide showed the "focus on mixed-use areas" for approximately 26,000 residences.

26,000 residences in mixed-use areas
(February online meeting slides)

Back in 2012 the City published a Master Plan for the Minto bridge and path. They argued for "up to 21,700 non-automobile commuters" using the path system. Even though the "up to" formula rendered it technically true, the statement was nuts. As a truthful statement it met the letter, but not at all the spirit.

Not at all a plausible forecast from 2012

With the CFA/WaMUA analysis, the City and our Council of Governments/MPO is engaging in a similarly inflated claim and argument. The City is literally proposing to say it is reasonable and plausible to add nearly 20,000 residences downtown, and nearly 10,000 residences in close-in West Salem by 2035. That is 12 years away. 

Max capacity for downtown and West Salem?
(This is a composite from the technical memos)

It's all an "up to" formula that meets the letter, but again violates the spirit. This is not a very helpful estimate or forecast. Its aim is to ensure Salem doesn't have to do anything more on climate.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

New ODOT Climate Dashboard is Unconvincing

At the OTC meeting last week ODOT proclaimed great new progress on emissions.

Did we really do that much in four years?

To support this they've rolled out a new "dashboard." It is propaganda more than sober analysis, a bit of a slick farrago. (Old dashboard here.)

New dashboard home page

In general terms, the structure of the dashboard is hard to parse. Everything is hidden. A paper report has a table of contents, pagination, an executive summary, and appendices. You can grasp the whole shape.

Here with a website only, those elements and any structure are concealed. Who knows how deep you might have to click to find something. The structure is designed to look informative, but in in fact it obfuscates. If the progress were truly so great, the structure would be more transparent and easier to parse.

Meagre comparison section

More specifically, it lacks any detailed discussion of what changed between the 2018 forecast and 2022 forecast. It waves away all the changes as a product of the new Executive Order, but does not drill into detail. Those three paragraphs just above are it!

It is also incoherent.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Focusing on "Schedule," Cherry Blossom Story Could use more Context on Climate

It's always fun to read about the cherry blossoms on the Capitol Mall. This year's story calls them "behind schedule."

Front page today

After noting the blossoms were running late in our cold winter, the story focused on the history of planting and the current maintenance and rejuvenation plan for the trees, which are planted over a parking garage in soil that is not very deep.

March 7th, 2015

You may recall the best ever story on the trees from 2015. It was a glorious nod to citizen science, conducted by then 88 year old Wilbur Bluhm.

Each week Bluhm takes a stroll through Bush Park, the Willamette University campus, Chemeketa Community College campus, Deepwood Estates and a couple of other parks to collect plant, flower and tree data.

The retired horticulturist of 30 years records a variety of information including when trees are leafing, flowering, done flowering, bearing fruit, showing fall colors, and when they lose their leave among other things.

Bluhm has been collecting this the data each week for the past 56 years and says that this spring season is the third earliest date that the cherry blossoms have been blooming outside of the capitol.

"On average, the cherry blossoms bloom around March 15," Bluhm said. "But this year they started on March 1."

Each year, the story should reference this data! Our cherry blossom dates are a climate story, in addition to everything else. That dimension is not much addressed in this year's story. Mainly the inconvenience of not being "on schedule," particularly with the festival scheduled for this weekend. 

Indeed, with changing climate what even is "the schedule" these days? It is likely that climate change will bring earlier blossoming as well as increased year-over-year variability, as we also get colder, wetter winters sprinkled in among the warmer ones. "The schedule" is rather fictive, not some stable thing.

The annual blossoming date of the cherry trees is an excellent capsule of a climate story, and that should be in the frame always.

Addendum, March 20th

Here's the Washington Post centering climate: "early warning," "signaled a warming climate."

Front page, Washington Post, March 20th

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

To Restore the Street Grid with Smaller Blocks: ULI Report on West Salem

You may recall that the City engaged the Urban Land Institute for a technical assistance panel report on jump-starting redevelopment of the Industrial parcels between Patterson Street and Wallace Road in West Salem. With the Pandemic (and perhaps other stuff), it got delayed, but they've finally published the report.

cover of report

It came out in December, and then early this year parts of it were presented to the West Salem Neighborhood Association, but the City's never talked about it to any more general public or made it available on the City website.

No results found on City website

The quiet has seemed a little odd.

In any event, one of the big ideas is to break up the existing industrial superblocks with new street segments. They even talk a little about Portland's smaller 200 foot block faces.

Big idea: Break up the superblocks

They talk about:

  • Extending Taggart south to Edgewater
  • Extending Basset west to Patterson and east along the park margin to Glen Creek Road
  • Extending Bartell Drive south across the path to connect with Musgrave