Monday, December 30, 2013

A Postscript on Peace Plaza: The Library Remodel Broke it!

Every wonder about the stair configuration and landscaping at the northeast corner of the library?

Aside from the terrible stairs that are way too deep and rise too little, it's sure a whole lot of detailing and monument for a nothingburger corner of the building. What's up with that?

Library main Entry at Northeast corner, 1977
Salem Library Historic Photos
It used to be the main entry! That's what.

The main entry to the library used to overlook Peace Plaza.
In the early 90s library expansion, the arcade was totally filled in
and the entry moved south off the parking lot and garage.
In addition to wide stairs that marked the entry, there was a long arcade on the second level that spanned the whole width of the building.  It was like a long open tube overlooking the plaza.  So of course the entry was marked by relative grandeur and a density of detailing.

The arcade ran the full length and stairways connected at each end.
The stair landing was open walkway, not an emergency door.

You can see how the arcade railing is enclosed with windows
When the Civic Center was dedicated, people lined the arcade and watched the ceremonies.

Library and Civic Center Dedication, 1972
Note people lining the arcade on the second level
(Note also all the bikes!)
Salem Library Historic Photos
Anyway, the important thing is that the plaza (which in 1972 wasn't yet designated as "Peace Plaza") was conceived with the main entry of the Library overlooking it. Quite apart from what we might feel about the Brutalist style of the Civic Center, the essential structure of the library and plaza were intimately linked, and a more intuitive connection and flow intended. (Though I would argue that without a central staircase down to the plaza, the connection was still more theoretical than practical.)

When the library was remodeled in the early 90s, that connection between the library and plaza was sundered - defaced even? - and the library turned around and started mooning the plaza. The front side became even more auto-dependent with the main entry structured sururban-style off the drop-off circle and garage rather than more urban-style off the plaza.

After the remodel, the Library was totally auto-oriented:
Moms with strollers have no sidewalk from the street!
Whatever "integrity" the plaza originally had, with the relocation of the library entry, that integrity has been lost and this is a strong reason we should not cling to Peace Plaza unaltered, but should instead be eager to reconfigure and improve it.

Peace Plaza:  Empty and inert at the end of a workday!
Peace Plaza is broken, and keeping it unchanged is not a good reason to oppose a new Police Station.

(For more on why Peace Plaza is broken, see here.  For all posts on the Police Station and Civic Center debate, see here.)


Sarah Owens said...

Valuable information and insight. Thanks very much.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Glad it was helpful!

Also, a very minor correction: In the second image, the white rectangle labeled "open arcade" should be two stories high! I missed that detail. (That the arcade was taller than I first thought doesn't affect the substance of the argument in any way, however.)

Finally, person with reliable knowledge tweets that one of the sites first proposed for Peace Plaza was at or near Deepwood at Mission & 12th. Good to know!

It would be so great to learn more about the conversation or debate on possible sites and how it was decided to go with the Civic Center site.

Curt said...

That explains a lot about the dysfunctional nature of this space. It sounds like the sculpture was just put there to fill the void. Sort of like what they have tried in front of the convention center. Making it smaller light make it at least feel a little less lonely.

In reading through the materials on the city's website there are discussions about moving Peace Plaza north to mirror pond. I think the goal of the current design is to activate the plaza to the north by focusing activity toward the entrance to the civic center like used to exist at the library. I also suspect that staff and council anticipated the resistance that would come if they did anything to Peace Plaza. Maybe that is why council chambers is placed off to the side. Like you say, its only incremental, but when our villagers are fighting so hard for the awful Eugene compromise, we will never advance to the point where we can have a mature, informed discussion of incremental vs. transformative.

It is interesting how in the city documents the subcommittee seems to have anticipated all the major points of criticism to this proposal (parking, cost, didn't look at alternatives, etc....). They were able to do this even when no one from SCV offered any input when the committee was appointed, they didn't attend any meetings, they didn't offer any input when the boards were displayed in the library, they didn't offer any testimony when the alternatives were presented to council, and most of them did not even attend any open houses.

Now Jim Scheppke, who may or may not be a spokes person for SCV, has said he wants a new committee formed, with representation from SCV so they can be included in a process that they have ignored for years. Right now we can only infer that SCV is some amalgamation of N3B, No Pringle Access, and No Parking Meters--people that have all already identified the City as the enemy on multiple fronts and have already proven that compromise and negotiation are not in their vocabulary.

The city is in a no win situation. They either weather the attacks that they are not inclusive or they invite the wolves to dinner. Its a perfect recipe for long term stagnation.

Curt said...

Queue up you know who to prove my point that even when council does exact what people ask them to do (word for word), they still lose. Some people refuse to take yes for an answer.

Jim Scheppke said...

"It is interesting how in the city documents the subcommittee seems to have anticipated all the major points of criticism to this proposal (parking, cost, didn't look at alternatives, etc....). They were able to do this even when no one from SCV offered any input when the committee was appointed, they didn't attend any meetings, they didn't offer any input when the boards were displayed in the library, they didn't offer any testimony when the alternatives were presented to council, and most of them did not even attend any open houses."

Curt, the "subcommittee" you refer to was a Council subcommittee and not a public task force with broad representation. There were only four members: the Mayor, Councilor Clem, a representative of the Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Community Policing Advisory Committee. According to the documents on the City website they only had two meetings on 3/14/11 and 4/20/11. These were not public meetings. At the second meeting only two members of the subcommittee attended. SCV was not there because this happened nearly two years ago and SCV was not in existence. And these were not public meetings to which the public was invited. The City's plans are doomed to defeat if they fail to involve the public in their decision-making.

Sarah Owens said...

@Jim (Happy New Year, BTW), not sure what you mean when you wrote "These were not public meetings." Looks to me like notice of the date, time and place were made public, and anyone interested could have attended. That makes it a public meeting (unlike the secrete meetings of SCV, to which only the members of the unelected "steering committee" are invited).

But even if you don't consider those meetings "public" for some reason, there's still the fact that SCV (i.e., the eleven members of the "steering committee", who were all alive and well and as far as I know living in Salem at that time, except for Gene and Brian), did not offer input when the committee was appointed, when the library displays went up, or when the matter went before council, nor did many of you attend the open houses. It's just not accurate for SCV to insist by continuously insinuating that the city "fail[ed] to involve the public" here, or, even if it did, that this matter is so far along that some kind of "do over" is required.

Moreover, the city recently invited SCV to meet to to discuss their ideas for the police facility so they could be included in the information that will be given to City Council. SCV simply refused. Why? Because its eleven-member steering committee, or some subset thereof, had, as Curt said, "already identified the City as the enemy on multiple fronts" and are not interested in compromise and negotiation, much less meaningfully "involving the public", despite its propaganda to the contrary.

Curt is right, SCV is controlled by people who don't know how to take yes for an answer, and you're right, the city's plans -- most notably a bond measure -- are very likely doomed to defeat. One can only conclude that if that is not SCV's primary goal, it is a price SCV is willing for the rest of us to pay.

Sarah Owens said...

That's "secret meetings of SCV."

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

(A procedural note on comments - it is the hope here that we debate policy and not people, and I worry that debate might be starting to go in ad-hominem-y directions.)

This shouldn't become a thread about SCV...but: One of the things that has seemed strange about SCV is that it seems to view its primary partner in dialogue as the city, and it has turned away from debate and dialogue with fellow citizens.

Here are some questions it would be nice to debate on the blogs and other social media. So far the answers to them have been implied and/or assumed, and it would be great to have more explicit answers and analysis spelled out.

1) Why is Peace Plaza so great and effective that it shouldn't be altered or even relocated? (Instead it seems from here like an article of faith that both Peace Plaza and Mirror Pond are perfect as they are, and should not be altered, and it's not clear why Peace Plaza should be beyond criticism or improvement, etc.)

2) How is Mirror Pond so wonderful that it shouldn't be modernized?

3) Why shouldn't we want to reconfigure the Civic Center in ways to make it more walkable and lively?

4) What specifically about the four City estimates is not credible? (Not just the repeated claim, "but Eugene did it cheaper!")

5) What do we give up in redevelopment and property tax opportunities when we don't use land the City already owns for a new Police Station? Why is the City's claim about operational inefficiencies from a remote site not credible?

6) Apart from the question of cost, how exactly does the Eugene model promote neighborhoods and livability? Apart from cost, what kinds of Salem solutions would best promote neighborhoods and livability?

Debate should be - or at least can be - an iterative process, with positions altered or deepened as new information arises, and it has not seemed like the SCV positions have much changed, deepened, or grown more sophisticated since October.

Jim Scheppke said...

Sarah, Curt and SBOB:
Salem Community Vision is engaging the public in January at six different meetings. There will be more to come. Hope you can all make to one or more of them.

JANUARY 2 THURSDAY 6.30 TO 8.30 P.M. GRANT NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION (at Grant School) City presentation plus the Salem Community Vision Alternative (Gene Pfeifer presentation)

JANUARY 7 TUESDAY 6.30 TO 8.30 P.M. NEN NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION (at First Nazarene Church) Gene Pfeifer presentation

JANUARY 8 WEDNESDAY 6.30 TO 8.30 P.M. SCAN NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION (at South Salem High School ) Gene Pfeifer presentation

JANUARY 9 THURSDAY 7.00 TO 8.30 P.M. SESNA NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION (at Wesleyan Church community center on Mill St at 17th.) Gene Pfeifer presentation

JANUARY 14 TUESDAY 10.00 A.M. TO 12.00 SEMCA NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION (at Paradise Mobile Home Park, Turner Rd.) Gene Pfeifer presentation

JANUARY 21 TUESDAY NOON TO 1.00 P.M. SOUTH SALEM ROTARY (at Salem Golf Club) Geoffrey James presentation

Unknown said...

CAN'T WE ALL GET ALONG ? ... As one of the Salem Community Vision team, I actually agree with many of your points. SCV is FOR a new police facility, just not for a palace forced on to the civic center lake. It's very expensive, because of the underground parking garage, the displacement of the council chambers and we lose ALL our trees and open space. We are not in a fight with the City: we just wish they would change their expensive plan so that a bond measure will pass. Their $70 million plan will go down to defeat, and we want a new police facility and the seismic to happen. Yes, there are lots of improvements needed at the civic center, like the access to the council chambers, via maybe a glass elevator, and better restrooms. But let's NO take out all the open space. We criticize the city cost estimates, not for their accuracy, but for their content. They have 235 parking spaces for staff, all underground, for a stated cost of $13 million. So that's more than $50,000 a parking space. A parking garage should be $20,000 a space, and a parking lot should be $2,000 a space. We just favor the $2,000 number.
You ask these questions: 1) Why is Peace Plaza so great and effective that it shouldn't be altered or even relocated? I agree. It needs a lot of improvement, and SCV has an architect and a design-build specialist who have ideas and cost estimates for improvements.

2) How is Mirror Pond so wonderful that it shouldn't be modernized? I do not like the term modernized. The aeration and maintenance of the lake has been neglected, like most city owned facilities. They have over 100 buildings, and I understand deferred maintenance totals over $100 million. I happen to think Mirror Pons should be enhanced: so we agree.
3) Why shouldn't we want to reconfigure the Civic Center in ways to make it more walkable and lively? Yes, we should, and SCV designers have been hard at work on that too. But we are working people, running businesses, so we do the volunteer work in our spare time, like you.

4) What specifically about the four City estimates is not credible? (Not just the repeated claim, "but Eugene did it cheaper!"). The city estimates are all different. At one point it had a $19 million parking garage proposed for under the Peace Plaza for 100 staff cars. Just do the math on that, to see how much a parking space. Plus it gets the bond closer to $100 million. So they took that out.

5) What do we give up in redevelopment and property tax opportunities when we don't use land the City already owns for a new Police Station? Why is the City's claim about operational inefficiencies from a remote site not credible? We favor the city owned site across the street, and that is the recommendation of the city funded ULI Report, that the addition be at "Civic Center West" where the SWAT vehicles are parked. The City claims operational efficiencies of $500,000 a year by locating police at civic center. But that means it would take 60 years to realize those savings because SCV has shown that an off site location saves $33 million.

6) Apart from the question of cost, how exactly does the Eugene model promote neighborhoods and livability? Apart from cost, what kinds of Salem solutions would best promote neighborhoods and livability? The Eugene model is half the cost, so the neighbors pay half the tax increase. The first responders will be able to help us after the Big One instead of being trapped in their $13 million basement. The adaptive reuse of an existing 70,000 building with 200+ parking spaces (for $10 million) is a more sustainable solution, and just needs alterations to suit the police department accommodations.
I do think we should stop squabbling. I agree with all your points. We are on the same side. Let's discuss how we all might work to pass an improved Plan and Bond to achieve all these things.
Geoff James

Susann Kaltwasser said...

One of the strategies that is often used by lawyers is to make a statement that may or may not be true to try and put an opponent on the defensive. How often do you beat your wife?

So many statements were made here in this blog that it makes it useless for reasoned dialog about the real issues.

One thing that I would like to share is that while the City claims that they had an open process, it in fact has not been easy to follow. In part because the City Council Subcommittee meeting notices were not made prominent or at all. I found no evidence that public notice was ever made, but that aside, the titles used to describe the project changed several times, so it was hard to track. I know that as chair of the Salem Land Use Network we asked on two occasions for a staff presentation, but were told there was nothing to share. Then all of a sudden there was a bond proposal all ready to go.

I do not know how some people are getting their information about other individuals or their actions or lack of actions. Strange. Kind of eerie to think someone is tracking my movements and seems to know my thoughts and motives. Especially someone that I have never met. Wow!

Susann Kaltwasser said...

Mr. Breakfast on Bikes,
I like your questions. Good stimulus for a dialog.

I also appreciated the trip back in time to what the Library used to be. I do recall that the entrance was in a different place and that it made for a grand entrance. However, as I recall it was not as user-friendly as the current entrance is.

But it does go to the fact that over time the Library has become more accommodating to cars than people. The proposals to put a parking lot on the Peace Plaza is another move to accommodate cars. Sadly, this is a trend we do not seem to be able to get away from.

I'd love to hear some suggestions on how to make the area more people, pedestrian and maybe bike friendly.

I wondered if you knew how in the City's plans the "service building' on the east side of the Plaza was going to impact the bus stop.

Brian Hines said...

Yes, as the admonition above this comment box says, "It is the hope here that we debate policy and not people."

Excellent advice. I'm tired of having the motives of those of us involved in Salem Community Vision impugned by people who have no idea what they are talking about.

So let's debate the approaches of the City of Salem and Salem Community Vision -- understanding that SCV is a new group, all volunteer, no formal organization, just people doing their best to make Salem better.

The City of Salem...

-- Cut down the beautiful large US Bank trees against the advice of its own tree experts, and at odds with its own tree ordinance. Plus, citizens were wrongly told by City staff that they couldn't appeal the decision to remove the trees, whereas legally they could.

-- Is on the verge of approving a drastically altered "Salem Alternative" $400 million bridge design that now would take out dozens of residences and homes -- without a public hearing. So no opportunity for those affected to have their concerns heard.

-- Convened a Parking Task Force that ended up recommending downtown parking meters without allowing verbal testimony by citizens, or ever talking with downtown business owners.

-- Has taken over the duly organized Downtown Association, alone with its funding, and put it under the sole control of the City Manager, who appointed her own group of advisors and won't release minutes of the group's meetings.

I could go on, but will switch to Salem Community Vision, which...

-- Held the only open community meeting so far about the Police Facility/Civic Center plan.

-- Is seeking to engage City officials in several debates about the pros and cons of the City's $70 million plus proposal. Again meetings open to the public with plenty of opportunity for questioning and discussion.

-- Is interested in pursuing additional activities aimed at making Salem greener, more bikable/walkable, and a city that truly collaborates with its diverse citizens, with public officials engaging them early on and often about policy issues rather than late and rarely.

I'm mystified by why, given the above, for some people (I'm thinking of you, Sarah and Curt) there is so much resistance to what Salem Community Vision wants to do.

As Geoff James said in his comment, Salem Community Vision wants City officials to consider alternatives to building a very expensive Police Facility with very high cost underground parking.

The City owns property across the street which should be considered for this facility, along with other locations in Salem. This was one of the recommendations of the Urban Land Institute study regarding development of the riverfront.

Curt said...

1. I disagree with SBOB that SCV regards the city as their primary partner in dialogue. SCV has said they want a conversation. They claim they have been excluded. The city invited them to have a conversation and include them and SCV refused. Why?

2. Police Chief Moore was clear at the open house that they want to be at the civic center. He specifically said that they don't want to be on an arterial toward the edge of the city. Can we include them in the conversation?

3. The Eugene officer in the video SCV has been circulating also said that their station in Eugene is not the ideal situation and that they would rather be downtown where they have equal access to all areas of the city.

4. Eugene's station does not meet the criteria for Salem's new facility. Its too small to accommodate all police functions. Its not an apples to apples comparison.

5. Eugene's station carries with it $18 mil. in operation expenses over the next 50 years for off site leases to house the functions that don't fit in their new building, lost tax revenue from taking private property off the tax role, and time and fuel spent traveling back and forth from the civic center. These expenses will start accumulating in year 1 after a new facility is built and will mean less is available to maintain basic city services

6. If SCV has identified an existing building that does meet the criteria, where is it? Bring that location forward so the project team can subject it to the same analysis as the other sites that were submitted to council in Dec. of 2011. Only then can the public know what the actual savings are and if its worth making the police compromise what they want.

7. Until we get #5, Eugene is just a hypothetical example, the savings are unproven, and cannot be relied on to make long term planning decisions.

Curt said...

Why I'm skeptical about SCV:

1. The first emails I started receiving from Geoffrey James, along with FB posts stated that the city was proposing spending $70 mil. on the new police station. This is a provably false statement. I appreciate that they have corrected this but the damage has been done.

2. SCV has also falsely claimed that the city proposed spending an additional $19mil. on parking at the new police station in addition to the $13mil. actually proposed.

3. SCV has misrepresented the content of the ULI recommendations for the Boise Site. The ULI recommended a four story mixed use development accessed through the carousel parking lot. The city is not in favor of "violating the ULI recommendations" any more than SCV is.

4. SCV continues to make misleading claims that the bond will "increase taxes by $100 a year on a $200,000 home". While this may be factually correct it is misleading. The city has provided an analysis of the bond on the website. The bond will increase taxes by $78 a year on a home assessed at $150,000. My home is assessed at $133,240. My home appraised at $270,000 3 months ago. I will pay less than $78 a year ($6.50 a month) in new taxes on my $270,000 home. Totally reasonable.

I'm not sure we agree Geoffrey. The city's proposal greatly improves the civic center and the public spaces around it. Moving council chambers and daylighting the atrium will be a welcome improvement over what it there now. Mirror pond and peace plaza are mostly unused and neglected spaces that make the civic center feel lonely and desolate. Building here and reducing the empty space will increase the density of activity on the site and make it a more lively place.

Until we have more living opportunities downtown, city and state offices generate what little vitality we have. Removing jobs and customers from downtown diminishes that vitality even more and erodes whatever social capital the city has accumulated over the years at the civic center. Lees people working downtown means downtown locations will be even less viable for new businesses and services. Moving them out to a remote arterial delivers more customers to the strip malls and drive thrus, unnecessarily burning thousands of gallons of fuel while polluting the air an cooking the planet.

I see the civic center proposal, along with the rest of the Sustainable Cities concepts as the best roadmap Salem has toward a sustainable urban future. The SCV vision looks like more of the same--low density, unwalkable, disconnected sprawl that isn't sustainable financially, environmentally, or socially.

Susann Kaltwasser said...

I think that one of the proposals was to build the Police building across the street on already available City property and then connect the two with a sky bridge. At least this was a plan at one time that a former City Council apparently looked at according to a former mayor. They did not do it then because the City was involved in finishing off the Conference Center. But I think it still is a viable option.

The Chief says that there are traffic issues, but the near by fire stations has solved that problem so I see no reason they can't do it on Liberty.

But there are other options around town where the Public Safety building and courts could be located. If you look at the analysis of the 31 properties that the subcommittee included you see that they really did not do a complete analysis. There was a rush to get back to the Civic Center site. Read the minutes and you can see that they realized the downtown location was still more expensive but they made up reasons why that would be acceptable to them.

When I personally asked the Chief about why there was no analysis of different configuration of service delivery models for the police, he said it was because he was convinced based on her own personal experiences that this model was the best.

I still wonder why the Citizens can't get a professional independent analysis. The City took great pains to see that such an analysis was done for fire stations. Even going so far as to move some so as to improve services.

Secondly, when asked on the matter, the Chief said that actually the best delivery system was to have individual cars out and about the City. Police cars he said are equipped to act as mobile police stations.

This then makes me wonder why they can't be parked just about anywhere in the City.

Lastly, the Oregon National Guard is concerned about readiness in an emergency. The same is true of the Oregon State Police. I notice that both of the operations deliberately place their vehicles and emergency communications systems out in low profile buildings with their equipment in the open behind a fence or a wall. What is it that makes sense to me about that strategy? Of course, it may have something to do with cost, but my guess it has more to do with assurance that in an earthquake or natural disaster those tools that our community will depend on will not be buried under rubble or stuck behind an iron gate that has been knocked off of its tracks.

If we had a good open discussion of these issues and got some reasonable answers backed by some professional analysis, we might still end up choosing to build at the Civic Center. We might also have a better chance of convincing the 70% of the people who say they would vote no on such a bond to reconsider and pass a much needed seismic and safety bond.

For what it is worth you ask why did SCV turn down the offer to meet with City staff. Here is the official answer. SCV has been asking for a general public meeting where citizens can come and ask questions and get answers. The City has been offered such an opportunity by a local group. It may still happen, we hope. However, if SCV claims that the City operates in secret private meetings in the bowels of City Hall where only select people are allowed to attend, then if we agree to one of those meetings, we have violated one of our main positions.

SCV and all citizens of Salem need to open access and be given an opportunity to participate. SCV does not see itself as being in a privileged group that can ask for something that others are not being given a chance to do.

We will appear at the public hearings, send letters to staff and to City Council just like everyone else can. We encourage people to do this.

I want to thank you for this blog. I think it is one of the few places where people can come and discuss the issues. I wish that the City would have such an open forum as well.

Brian Hines said...

Sarah and Curt, your claims about the City's subcommittee meetings don't seem to be borne out by the facts. Which, to my understanding, are these:

(1) The subcommittee initially was formed to work with and advise the U of O students involved with the student project. The students were told to focus on a police facility sited at the Civic Center. So from the beginning only this option was considered.

(2) The April 20, 2011 minutes of the subcommittee say: "Courtney Knox reported Councilors’ expression of concern regarding their lack of awareness regarding the status of the Civic Center/Public Safety Facility project, culminating in a request for a work session on the topic."

(3) So even City Councillors weren't aware of what was going on with planning for a new police facility and Civic Center renovations following the U of O student project report. How does this fit with your claim that this was an open public process?

(4) I've read each of the subcommittee minutes. I saw no indication that the subcommittee was reaching out to the public, inviting the public to the subcommittee meetings, or even issuing a public notice of these meetings. What evidence do you have that the public was invited to the meetings and that public notices of the meetings' agendas, time, and location were issued?

(5) I've been told by several people that in the 2011-2012 time frame they tried to get the City to tell them what was going on with this project, and couldn't obtain any information. Again, this seems to be borne out by the fact that members of the City Council also were in the dark about what was going on.

I look forward to your responses, Sarah and Curt. Perhaps you have some information on this subject of open public subcommittee meetings I'm not aware of. If so, enlighten me.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Thanks everybody for the comments and debate!

I look forward to learning more about the "SWAT Lot" concept. A very fine proposal could come out of that! (Though I do wonder if the one-way grid will conspire against it, since north-bound emergency response from a station there could be more difficult with Commercial going southbound.)

@Jim - One of the problems with the City is that Council agendas are posted on Friday for Monday meetings. This makes it very difficult to consider staff reports in any detail. By withholding presentation materials and arguments, and sharing them only at meetings, it makes it more difficult to have a calm and informed debate. At least that's how it seems from here, and why I'd like to encourage SCV to publish materials and arguments in advance of your meetings.

@Geoffrey - Thanks for responding to the questions! I have more thoughts on them, but I'll probably compose a separate post so I can include pictures and, again, respond in a considered way.

@Susan - The bits about State Police and National Guard are interesting, and this is an example of an analysis or brief note you should share! Why don't you blog about it or post a note on Facebook? (Don't have any idea about the bus question, btw!)

@Brian - Thanks for sharing info about the subcommittee. Those are certainly relevant details.

Maybe more than anything, in the end, Curt's right on downtown living: So much comes down to getting more people living in and near downtown. That goal has to be a pretty high-level value that influences other planning and choices. If a decision isn't supporting more stuff and vitality and prosperity downtown, then we have to ask if it is a good decision.

Curt said...

SBOB and I were typing at the same time. Here are my thoughts.

SCV's steering committee are active intelligent people who are more than capable of following what is going on at council and on boards and commissions. If those people had concerns about the makeup of the subcommittee the appropriate time to raise that issue was in August 2010 when council approved that resolution. If there was something wrong with the assessment of alternatives, or the initial concept that the committee forwarded to council, the appropriate time to raise those issues was Dec. 2011 when those were presented to council.

Even after SCV was formed, and SCV started their campaign, SCV followers were still not interested enough to attend the open houses and offer constructive input.

The comments from councilors you highlight are consistent with my experience with the city. They always want more participation and are consistently frustrated when the public fails to show up.

Here is my experience at council:

When I challenged them on the illegal composition of our planning commission, they immediately updated the application, posted the statute prominently on the website, and allowed those members to retire their seats diplomatically and gracefully.

When I challenged them on the placement of the sharrows downtown on Chemeketa, they were replaced only days later.

When we challenged them on the vacation of Pioneer Alley, they worked out a compromised that preserved this public right of way for future use.

When I lobbied for Salem Sunday Streets, Linda Norris made it happen.

I know they don't make it easy but city staff and council are not the enemy. If Salem is going to see any meaningful change that I am going to enjoy in my lifetime, they are going to be part of the solution because regime change is not going to happen.

Regarding Susann's call for an independent analysis/recommendation. That is what the ULI report was and SCV has already spent considerable effort opposing one of its central elements--the State Street extension. Looking at SCV's record, myself and others have every reason to believe that any more analysis will only strengthen the case for the civic center site, SCV will dismiss it, Brian will assimilate it into his narrative, and the city will have wasted more time and money on another shelf study.

As flawed as the process is, in my judgement and the judgement of the project team, the long term benefits of sustainable urbanism outweigh short term savings of unsustainable sprawl.

I'd ask Susann to consider that San Francisco is the most densely populated city in the country and has weathered numerous earthquakes much better than most US cities have weathered the effects of auto sprawl.

But if it were easy to turn away from auto sprawl, we would have done it a long time ago.

Susann Kaltwasser said...

Curt, have no clue what you are referring to when you said , "That is what the ULI report was and SCV has already spent considerable effort opposing one of its central elements--the State Street extension." SCV has never made any comments on this issue. One of our members, Geoffrey James, talks about upholding the ULI report, but I know for a fact tht SCV has no position on this document or the "State Street extension."

SCV positions are only those that are printed in our brochure or presented by representatives at public meetings. Members of SCV can have their own personal opinions, but they do not speak as SCV.

If there is confusion about what is the position of SCV I will remind our members to put in a disclaimer.

Also, SCV was only formed in November 2013, so any reference to individuals, comments or attendance at public meetings or hearings or lack there of, is moot as it relates to SCV.

Finally, it is just not a true statement that SCV members have not attended the City open houses or presentations. We do not come with banners on, but do attend one or more of these meetings. Mainly we watch and listen and do make personal comments when appropriate.

Susann Kaltwasser said...

Curt, I wanted to comment on the ability to follow City issues. I have been a neighborhood association chairperson on and off for over 25 years. During that time it has been increasingly harder to follow City issues.

Time was when every NA chairperson was sent a packet the Friday prior to the City Council meetings. It would contain printed copies of many of the key staff reports.

However, a few years ago Linda Norris wanted to cut costs and moved to an electronic version of the packet. About a year ago those notices turned into just a series of links where you could go looking for the information.

It has become increasingly hard to find key information. Yes, it saves money to have this materials only sent by e-mail and only having us look it up and do any printing if we want it. But it also puts a layer of actions between us and the Council.

I admit that my life has changed a great deal over the last 25 years. I used to have a lot more energy than I do now. I would love to pass the torch so to speak to someone who would take over some of these duties, but alas no one has emerged yet.

But even if I am lacking in my attentiveness, I want to point out that during the time of this subcommittee's work, I was also the chair of the Salem Land Use Network(LUN). LUN was made up of all the NA land use chairpersons. We met every month for 20 plus years with staff support.

Twice our group and myself individually asked staff for an update on the work of the subcommittee. We were told there was nothing to share.

Even the City Council had felt left out and had to ask for a worksession. Some of us attended that presentation or saw it on CCTV. BTW, worksessions are now not in Council Chambers where they can be videotaped. They are in Anderson Room...not sure why the change, but they are generally harder to attend than Council meetings and you are not allowed to comment, just listen.

The difficulty in following issues is not my problem alone. Many NA chairs complain about this problem. For years NA have asked for better communication from the City. We only get less. Less staff FTE, less in electronic communication and less in when they do meet with us.

When the City calls a meeting of NA chairpersons every 6-8 weeks, issues are given only 5 minutes on the agenda. This topic did get 20 minutes at the last meeting, but then they took away our 30 minutes of unrestricted sharing time.

Also, I have noticed less and less participation by all NA in the past 5 or 6 years. Something is not working when it comes to helping with public input on key issues.

Times have changed on how the public receives information and how it processes it. Our government has not caught up with the times. I have tried to share with the City Manager and Council some research and tools developed by the CASE Foundation ( but was ignored at best and rebuffed by some. One high level person at the City told me that I was getting old and needed to 'retire' from my civic involvement.

Curt said...


I retract my statement about the ULI recommendations for the State St. extension. This was an erroneous assumption on my part.

I remember that many members of the SCV steering committee worked to oppose the Mt. West development in the Pringle Access group. I remember that extending Riverfront Park to include that parcel was on the agenda of the first meeting of SCV. So I just assumed that would be the position that SCV would adopt. If those individuals have softened their position and are now open to development there, I am happy to be proven wrong.

As for following this issue, Breakfast on Bikes reported civic center alternatives in 2010. My friend and former neighbor, Beth Casper, wrote about the Sustainable Cities concepts for the Statesman Journal. When I was first invited to join the SCAN board and attend the land use committee meetings, many board members informed me about the SCI proposals. The city has had them up on the website for as long as I can remember. Jim and Richard know how much I talked up SCI in the No 3rd Bridge group. I didn't find it hard to locate it at all. When I did, I was very excited that this planning was going on in Salem. It gave me hope for the future. I was happy when the city decided to act on them. I'm disappointed that others don't feel the same way.

Brian Hines said...

Curt, I noticed that you ignored my key points. So I guess you have no evidence to refute them:

(1) The Council subcommittee that came up with the Policy Facility proposal met in private, without public notice of its meetings. So how the heck was anyone supposed to be involved with the planning process if nobody knew about it?

(2) Even City Council members were kept in the dark about planning for a new Police Facility and seismic retrofitting of the Civic Center.

I've asked City staff if public notices of the subcommittee meetings were made, and if so, I've requested copies of them along with how they were "posted." I'll share the City's response when I get it.

Sarah Owens said...

All Council Subcommittee meetings are open to the public. The meeting announcements are posted on the weekly list of Meetings of Interest. To view this list go to and then click the City Council tab at the top and choose Meetings of Interest or

Susann Kaltwasser said...

True that subcommittee meetings are listed on the website, but you have to know where to look and the RSS service is password protected, so you have to subscribe. Most people do not know how to find this information or what is on it.

The City of Salem sends out electronic notice of meetings and city council agendas to people who subscribe, but even these messages do not contain the link to this or where to look to find it.

There is also a "meetings of interest' link, but it is different than the 'meetings of interest;RSS' list.

Not sure why it is this way, but I have been a neighborhood associations for years and did not know this. Why the staff never held a training on how to use their system, or that such services can be subscribed to, I have no idea.

Recently learned that some of the City departments are on Facebook too. I had to discover this on my own. No one at the City sent out a notice on this feature.

Once I found out I shared it with my FB friends and was kind of shocked to see the community leaders who should have been connected long ago, were not aware either.

Did you discover this feature yourself, Sarah, or did someone on staff tell you about it when you went asking?

Sarah Owens said...

Discovered the feature myself last spring when I began interesting myself in local government. It took a little time to learn my way around the city's website, but the info is posted in a consistent manner, and staff are pretty responsive, considering all they have to do.

Anonymous said...

The Mercury has a lengthy piece on Portland's new Emergency Coordination Center.

Aside from the Zombie hordes, it may be surprisingly relevant to our debates.