Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Final Climate Action Report Clears Throat, Still Seems Short on Actual Plan

The revised "final" draft of the Climate Action Plan has been out now for over a week, and the team chose not to make very many changes from the preliminary draft.

(The rest of this post covers no real new ground, maybe a few new details, and repeats themes in criticism. It may not be very interesting if you are looking for new observations. See very bottom for links to previous posts. Here is the list of edits in the revised document. They truly are minor edits, not substantial revisions.)

SF Chronicle front page today

There is no actual plan to reduce emissions by 50% in 2035.  Crucially, the core of any plan, the suggested actions, are displaced into an appendix, still formally outside of the plan document proper and very discretionary. Even with some enthusiastic rhetoric, on action the document is tentative rather than decisive, the deferral of decision and action to some future plan and moment.

The center is displaced

The process still seems to be stuck in an earlier phase, that of "strategy development." No matter how much they want to say we have "a plan," how many times they use the word plan, it doesn't look very much like an actionable plan. Just saying there is "a robust list of 183 recommended strategies" is neither plan nor "roadmap...for years to come."

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Quests in the Sunday Paper: For a House and for a Gubernatorial Portrait

The Sunday paper has two long pieces that are very interesting. One is important generally, the other interesting more personally. Both are worth reading in print!

Front page today

The generally important one is on the continuing problem of the cost of housing. It will furnish material for conversation and debate, and will be productive in that way.

But its shape is a little dissatisfying. The very first version online had a headline something like, "Why so many are priced out of the Salem housing market while new home construction is at a 10 year high."

It has been revised to eliminate the "priced out" portion and focus on the 10 year high for construction. That is unfortunate, and simplifies the shape and initial impression of the article in more optimistic ways.

A double kind of romantic closure at end

And in fact the harmony in the piece may not be wholly earned. It ends with a kind of double romantic closure: Even after vicissitudes and difficulties, they got the house and they are starting a family.

But a different focus might have yielded a better analysis. Maybe tragedy is a better genre, tragedy for climate and tragedy for people who cannot afford housing. Above all, the tragedy of our continued obsession with the single house and a large yard.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Agate Beach and the Bush-Bloch Connection: Little Bluffs Built in 1917

The paper today has a nice travel feature on hiking from Beverly Beach, over Yaquina Head, down to Newport, and across the Yaquina Bay Bridge.

In the paper today

It briefly mentions Agate Beach, and by coincidence a friend of the blog who happened to be vacationing in Newport separately was alert to a Salem connection.

A grainy scan from the National Register Nomination

Music fans will likely know about composer Ernest Bloch and his connection with the Oregon Coast.

But Bloch's history might have overshadowed an earlier relation to Salem history. What we know as "The Ernest Bloch House," a large beach cottage on the National Register of Historic Places at Agate Beach, was in fact first a summer residence for the descendants of Asahel Bush.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Historian John Ritter Passes Away

Here's sad news for the day.

Obituary for John Ritter in the paper today

The newspaper ran an obituary for historian John Ritter today. John was an entertainer and  popularizer, running the underground tours you might have heard of or gone on. Because he did not always publish his findings, especially claims for new discoveries or novel interpretations of contested facts, it was sometimes difficult to extend them or even confirm them. Some of the lore seemed more mythic or speculative than not. At the same time, it was often non-traditional history of vice, squalor, or racism, ugly history, that establishment historians seeking consensus or harmony or the politics of great men generally passed by.

A talk at Deepwood in July 2019

Even in death he was perhaps a bit of a storyteller. The obituary says

Never content to stop learning, he earned several grants and scholarships throughout his life including a Fulbright to study in Egypt (where he rode camels and climbed a pyramid at dawn to see the sun rise) a National Merit Scholarship, and a Rhodes Scholarship for Europe.

via the Rhodes Scholar Database

But there is no record of any Rhodes Scholarship. It would have made him a contemporary of Dave Frohmayer, who was a Rhodes Scholar for 1962. Perhaps there is a "Rhodes Scholarship for Europe" distinct from the one we usually mean by the term.

Thanksgiving in 1921 at the Marion Hotel

It's always interesting to see the hotel menu for Thanksgiving 100 years ago.

November 24th, 1921

Some of these are obvious typos, but some of the items may be unfamiliar also. I did not know about Toke Point Oysters, which now seem to have been absorbed into Willapa Bay Oysters, for example. The Marion Hotel was where the Conference Center is now. The menu:

THANKSGIVING
DINNER
The Marion
Salem, Oregon
Thursday, November 24, 1921
5 to 8 p.m.
Toke Points on Half Shell or Canape ala Trionon
Mock Turtle Aux Quenelles
Consomme De Steal
Stuffed Celery Heart
Burr Gherkins
Mixed Olives
Fresh Lobster ala Nerburg en caise
Pommee Sauffle
Sliced Cucumber
Small Baucheese ala Perigoux
Thanksgiving Sherbert
Roast Oregon Turkey Chestnut Dressing Cranberry Sauce
Domestic Goose Dressing Prince Jam
Prime Rib of Beef Yorkshire Pudding
Whipped Cream Potatoes
Sweet Potato Victoria
Baked Hubbard Squash
Brussel Sprouts Buerr
Salade ala Marion
Hot Mince Pie
Fresh Mince Pie
Palmer House Ice Cream
Nabisco Wafer
English Plum Pudding Hard and Hot Sauce
Mixed Nuts
Cluster Raisins
Camembert Cheese Bent Water Crackers
Demi Tasse
$1.50 Per Plate

Two recent pieces on agriculture and our food supply were of interest, and both made connections, one direct and one indirect, with our approach to housing.

Rent, heat, low wages - LA Times this week

The Los Angeles Times had a piece on the movement of farmworkers from California to Oregon as they followed crops to harvest. The relative cooler summer and lower cost of shelter had made Willamette Valley farms more attractive, but with our heat and smoke, and with increasing costs of housing, the advantage is disappearing. "Fewer and fewer Californians are now showing up for the blueberry harvest. Experts and farmers say economics and a lack of affordable housing are largely to blame." That's a trend to watch.

Less directly, a piece on the enduring myth of the yeoman farmer suggested its persistence in the way we valorize the urban and suburban single home and the property owner with a large yard, and subordinate other forms of housing and land use in policy and cultural preference.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Talking Around Climate Action at the MPO

Drought in summer, flood in winter
Seattle Times last week

The Policy Committee for our Metropolitan Planning Organization meets today the 23rd, and climate threads through several of the agenda items.

Carrots only as discourse of delay

The MPO continues to slow-walk the process for new administrative rules on climate from ODOT and DLCD. In the meeting packet is a letter from the League of Oregon Cities and Association of Oregon Counties arguing for carrots and delay. In context, the inclusion reads as approval for, rather than critique of, the approach.

Prefer carrots

In their own letter, SKATS references "balance" and "encouragement," but not the actual outcome of less driving and shorter trips. An ongoing problem is that this is a Potemkin show of symbol, and not actual shift from driving to other trips.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

City Council, November 22nd - More on MUHTIP

On Monday Council has not one, but TWO applications for the housing incentive and property tax abatement, the MUHTIP, which was just extended earlier this month.

One of the applications, for the project at the former Nordstrom, was expected and does not seem to present anything worth comment. It seems fully to meet the intent of the program.

The other is interesting in small ways. You may recall a proposal for a wine bar a few years back in the northern third of the Starkey-McCully block of 1867:

Abandoned proposal for a new wine bar (2017)

That appears to have been abandoned, but the apartments in back of the old building are still moving forward. The Staff Report says the Certificate of Occupancy has been issued, so construction is complete.

Initial plan: Later additions on alley demolished,
replaced by three new apartments in a modern style

At Council is a MUHTIP application for "two new 1,100 square foot residential rental units and the rehabilitation of the existing 5,800 square foot of commercial space."