Monday, June 14, 2021

New Survey on Union Street and Project itself Suffers from Autoist Bias Still

While for Union Street the City says "The proposed project improvements will enhance the overall pedestrian, bike riding, and vehicular safety of this street," you might conclude something different from the survey they just published as well as from the recording of the videoconference presentation and discussion last week.

The survey leads with autoist framing that will bias the final survey results for preserving motor vehicle capacity and watering down any semblance of "family-friendly" standards. It almost looks like they are slow-walking the project, even trying to compromise it, by soliciting autoist opinion and not prioritizing the opinion, comfort, and safety of those who walk, bike, and roll.

Why are we soliciting motorist opinion?

Why is this the next question?

That this is by design is suggested by comments during the presentation about increasing the radius of corner turns to facilitate truck turning movements. Why are we prioritizing truck traffic on Union Street?!

On those curb returns, we are updating all the curb returns to current ADA standards and we are rebuilding them to the roadway classification...a lot of the radiuses are too small for truck turning...we're installing larger radius for the car and truck movements....

If we are going to make progress on increasing walking, biking, and rolling, and on decreasing vehicle miles traveled and emissions, we have to start putting people first and cars last. The needs of people on foot and on wheel should come first, and we should discourage through-travel by car on Union Street, let alone encouraging truck traffic and the higher-speed turns the larger radii induce.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

City Council, June 14th - Difficulties for Path Concept at IOOF Pioneer Cemetery

On Monday Council looks to approve and execute a Quitclaim Deed to a disputed alley segment adjacent to John Street and the northern border of the IOOF Pioneer Cemetery. That specific action is related to a more general status report on a path concept, and the tone is very pessimistic, accenting barriers more than anything. This time there is not much substantively to contest, as the facts seem pretty clear. The more general frame still seems muddled, however.

Apparently the City did not own any right-of-way

Behind the Quitclaim Deed, it turns out the "vacation" in 2012 of an alley segment was premised on errant information. Closer research on deeds and titles turned up that:

The area in question was never dedicated to the public as right-of-way and has remained unopened. Therefore, the City never obtained any legal or equitable property interest in the land.

That's got to be a little embarrassing.

See previously:

Additionally, in a separate and related Staff Report, the City turned up two additional hurdles.

The first is that any new path connection must be ADA compliant. This seems reasonable, and I do not have anything to add. It is disappointing to those who just asked for a small gate on the north side, but that might have made it too much a secret, private amenity for immediate neighbors. A connection should be more widely available.

The second is more complicated, and I am not sure that the way the City is invoking it is without some other subtext.

Under state law, an impacted Native American Tribe has the right to object to the work. If the objection cannot be resolved, the SHPO must deny the permit and work will not be allowed to proceed. Based on input from representatives of the region’s tribal nations, there are cultural, social, historical, traditional, and spiritual implications of a City project designed to facilitate people transiting through a cemetery. These implications are present regardless of whether excavation occurs.  The City must consult with the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, and Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation prior to taking any further action on a path through Pioneer Cemetery. Depending on the tribe and the City’s proposal, one or more of the tribal nations may file an objection, effectively terminating any project.

I suppose as a straight-forward reading of State law, it might seem to be neutral. But it does not appear the City has actually asked if Tribal nations actually object to anything. As framed here, the Staff Report is a little fear-mongery, oriented to a hypothetical rather than to a known objection. Is the City using the prospect of Tribal objection as a way to duck a difficult problem?

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Downtown Alley Naming Project Misreads 1908 Ad

A couple years ago when people were evaluating and voting for the downtown alley naming project, a couple of the proposed names were real head-scratchers. "Fortune's Corner Alley" was one of them that didn't make much sense.

May 13th, 1908 - via Salem Reporter

Salem Reporter had another history column yesterday on two of the names, and it seems pretty clear that "Fortune's Corner Alley" is based on a misreading. And when the Main Street Association and then Historic Landmarks Commission rushed the public part of the process without publishing more of the underlying historical analysis, they made it impossible for the public to catch things like this.

The building wasn't up in 1908
January 1st, 1910

The Main Street Association cites the ad at top from 1908 "for the U.S. National Bank at 'Fortune's Corner' in downtown Salem," but the bank building didn't exist then. So it is very unlikely that the ad is referring to anything specifically on that corner. Could it refer to Ladd & Bush, on the kitty-corner? I suppose so, but pointing out a competitor seems unlikely in this context. The map the Main Street Association published with their proposal references Ladd & Bush does ambiguously include it in the yellow highlighting, but that really is an anachronism based on our modern knowledge of the bank locations.

Friday, June 11, 2021

New apartments for Fairview at Planning Commission Next Week

At the Planning Commission next week there is a major review for the second phase, for 183 new apartments, of The Grove at the Fairview site.

At Fairview, phase 2 of The Grove (yellow added)

Strangely, the City's list of Hearing Notices does not appear to show anything about this. So it snuck up.

On the morning of June 11th, no Hearing Notice

The first phase of The Grove was a large complex of three story walkup apartments set on a large parking lot. It's a standard cookie-cutter project in the suburban, car-dependent mode, not really very consistent with the original goals of the Fairview redevelopment.

The second phase continues the pattern, and I am not at all sure there is anything new or interesting to say about it.

Two of the adjustment requests may deserve more comment, and perhaps over the weekend there will be more to say:

  • Staff Report recommends denial of the request to cut down more trees.
  • Staff Report recommends approving increases in setbacks throughout the project area. This reduces the pedestrian and urban character of the whole. At the same time, it is consistent with the first phase of The Grove.

The Staff Report is large. And here is the meeting agenda. There are also some code amendments for a work session, but these do seem to be house-keeping and of only very specialist interest.

Previous notes on The Grove at Fairview here.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

History of Wine at the Mill Surfaces Hints of Pre-Prohibition Chasselas and Pinot Noir

Back in 2015 we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the modern wine industry in the Willamette Valley. 

Compared to hops, which have a much longer and more celebrated history here, this wine industry is young, still within the span of a lifetime, and many older wineries are still figuring out generational transitions.

From 2015

Mostly when we talk about wine here we mean wine made from European wine grapes, our signature variety of which is Pinot Noir. There is no meaningful survival of any pre-Prohibition vineyards or wineries locally. There is The Pines Vineyard near the Dalles, and that's about it; by contrast, California has many more. There is nothing in the Willamette Valley we know of.

Zooming out a bit, there are other histories. Salem Reporter has a nice note about an exhibit on the local history of wine at the Mill. Since the Mill is just up the street from Honeywood, it might seem unneighborly to focus on just the European wine grapes, and the exhibit embraces wines from other fruit and from native or hybrid grapes. "Learn how the valley’s rich abundant fruit harvests have led to the over a century of fermenting," they say. Honeywood started, in fact, right after Prohibition, something they like to point out when we get caught up in the story of wine as if it meant only those European grapes. Don't forget about us, they rightly say.

Very briefly mentioned in the Salem Reporter story was a hitherto unknown name, August Aufrance (Aufranc, also, and he is buried at City View).

November 12th, 1904

This is great news, maybe even a new discovery! Certainly the name and the existence of this early winery is not widely known.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Updating the Public Participation Plan: At the MPO

The Technical Advisory Committee for our Metropolitan Planning Organization met yesterday, and they are starting up a review of the Public Participation Plan.

The plan is nearly certain to elide the most significant way the public is shut out. Last couple months the MPO was considering how to apportion COVID relief funds, and a chart on population might be the most interesting detail from that discussion.

Proposed distribution of COVID funds

The Policy Committee that governs the MPO has 8 voting positions, one each for the Cities of Salem, Keizer, and Turner (3 total); one each for Polk and Marion Counties (2 total); and one each for the School District, Cherriots, and ODOT (3 total). 

Even though Salem has 63% of the population in the area covered by the MPO, on the Policy Committee the City of Salem has 12.5% of the vote; even though Turner has less than 1% of the population, they have 12.5% of the vote.

There is a real disproportion and misalignment here! Unincorporated Polk County and the City of Turner are very overrepresented. It's harder to assess the School District, ODOT, and Cherriots, since they cover the whole MPO area.

But however you slice it, the City of Salem is badly underrepresented and Polk County and Turner badly overrepresented. The MPO is supposed to have a "metropolitan" focus, but the composition of the committee is weighted towards non-metropolitan interests.  This is an anti-urban bias, formally institutionalized in the composition and structure of the MPO.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Public Rental Bike System Ride Salem Relaunches

Over the weekend the public bike rental system, Ride Salem, went live again after the COVID hiatus.

Celebrating the relaunch - via FB

It looks like there is a new station in Riverfront Park, but according to the system map one in Bush Park is still in progress.

The system map in early June 2021

With ODOT and Forth/Cascadia Mobility involved statewide, we can hope for system expansion:

  • e-Bikes to make them attractive to an even greater range of bicycling skill and fitness
  • Trikes, hand-cycles, and more accessible bikes
  • More stations across a greater geographical reach in Salem so they are more usable for actual errands, not just cruising around in the parks
  • And above all, bike lanes in downtown so that ordinary people can bike from the transit station or train station to most destinations downtown

For previous notes on the rental bike system see here.