Thursday, August 28, 2014

Jason Lee was Fired! Ruth Rover's Alternative to Mission Hagiography

The whole Mark Hatfield v. Jason Lee debate is being cranked up again, and apparently a new blue-ribbon committee is going to make a recommendation on who would best represent Oregon in the National Statuary Hall.

A great friend of the blog shared a fascinating book recently. The Grains, or, Passages in the Life of Ruth Rover, with Occasional Pictures of Oregon, Natural and Moral was published in 1854.

Original 1854 title page
via Wikipedia/Oregon Encyclopedia

The book is many things.

For one, it is a candidate for one of the very first novels written in Oregon. I say candidate because while some critics and historians stretch call it a "novel," I can't read it as one. It's thinly disguised (if at all) autobiography and really has the form of a kind of literary scrapbook.  It's a pastiche of letters, journal entries, commentary on other published documents, and finally some episodic narrative. There's not really a story. It's not picaresque even in the tradition of Don Quixote or Huckleberry Finn. Or fully epistolary like Pamela or Clarissa. Maybe in form it anticipates (as in theme it surely must) something like Lessing's Golden Notebook, which I have not read. Earlier this year the obituaries for Bel Kaufman highlighted Up the Down Staircase, which also sounds similar.

Readers who have read more widely may know more about mid-19th century forms, especially those written by women, and about innovative 20th century forms, and might have more incisive things to say.

Apart from ways in which the book might be interesting formally, in a normal readerly experience, as a whole it's not a satisfying aesthetic work.

It's ranty, is what it is.

Maybe that shouldn't be surprising.  In the pre-settlement and very early settlement eras, you had to be a little crazy to give up everything, get on a ship for half a year or more, and to settle in a strange country with a handful of fellow missionaries, whom you didn't know and might not even have liked.

In January of 1837 Margaret Jewett Smith left Boston on a ship and traveled with David Leslie to join Jason Lee at the Willamette Mission.

Her time at the Mission was not pleasing. It was more like a disaster for her. Between the intensely sexist patriarchal social structure at the Mission and her own propensity for self-sabotage, things didn't work out and Margaret was miserable.

After a bit more than a decade of additional experiences outside of the Mission, culminating in a bold and very rare divorce proceeding, Margaret composed The Grains with a view towards defending and vindicating herself.

Published in 1854, it's a rare peek into pre-Statehood settlement and society (such as it was), but it also is a testament to Margaret's tremendous sense of being wronged. It is a difficult work in many ways, but it also complicates our picture of Salem's origins.

And Jason Lee is one of the central figures.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Drought casts Doubt on Wisdom of New Reservoir

While so far Marion County has escaped real drought conditions, this summer has been "abnormally dry" and the farther southeast you go in Oregon, drought ranks from moderate, to severe, to extreme. (There's one last rank of even worse, "exceptional drought," but you have to go to California to see that. But it's everywhere in California.)

USDA Drought Map for Oregon, August 19th
Marion County is dry
You might remember a Climate Assessment for the US that projected a dramatic reduction in summer stream flows by 2040:

Creeks feeding the Santiam and Willamette Rivers will be low in 2040!
That'll impact the Santiam and its tributaries, from which Salem gets its clean, pure, "sweet mountain water."

There's news today about a big new reservoir that will serve business and new subdivisions.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Cascadia 9.0 Quake will be about 1000x Worse than the 6.0 Napa Quake

Remember earthquake ratings are on a log scale, so each integer, from 6 to 7, 7 to 8, and 8 to 9, represents a 10-fold increase in energy. From 6 to 9 is 10x10x10 = 1000 more energy!

If earthquake prep is cited as a reason for a "third bridge," it's a lot cheaper to do a retrofit.

A bare-bones seismic retrofit doesn't fit on the chart
For hardly more than we're spending on the widening of Wallace and Glen Creek, we could retrofit one of our bridges to withstand the Cascadian Subduction Zone 9.0 "big one" earthquake.

For the cost of three Wallace and Glen Creek widenings, we could reinforce both bridges.

Seriously, why is this even a debate?

Monday, August 25, 2014

NEN-SESNA Looking Forward to Talk Opportunity Sites Tuesday

Remember the NEN-SESNA map clip?

Opportunity sites include
three potential mixed-use centers
"Looking Forward," the process for the new NEN-SESNA neighborhood plan, is going to meet to talk about this map of "opportunity sites." It includes several proposed parks and mixed-use centers. It also includes upzoning some areas to higher density and downzoning some other areas back to single-family, detached housing.

They meet Tuesday, August 26th at 6:30 PM in the Court Street Christian Church (1699 Court St NE).

Saturday, August 23, 2014

City Council, August 25th - Parking Report

After Councilor Clem requested it, on Monday at Council staff will present a report and update on free parking.

Here's another way of looking at things. Which is more pro-business?

A)  A regulatory scheme with large subsidies combined with cumbersome reporting requirements and significant fines for non-compliance?

- or -

B)  Market-pricing applied across the board with little or no reporting requirements and simple enforcement?

Perhaps the same basic schema applies to downtown parking?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Project Space had Bike Art this Summer; Liberty Plaza's Auto-centric Design

Liberty Plaza downtown is pretty dead. Sure, it's got the Starbucks on the corner of Liberty and Chemeketa, but even with the tanning salon and a couple of other stores, it's really not very lively inside.

Liberty Plaza is in the old Lipman's Department Store
Salem Library Historic Photos, image circa 1956
The building was the old Lipmans department store, which became Frederick & Nelson around 1980. It's been heavily remodeled since, and like many other department stores that became indoor malls, it struggled.

You have to go up to the second floor
This summer the Salem Art Association is using two of its vacant storefronts for the summer Project Space series of gallery shows.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Do we Really Need more Committees?

The idea of a Environmental Advisory Committee got some press in yesterday's paper, and it's an interesting one. Apparently Councilor Tesler has some interest in it, and as the concept "percolates" through Council, perhaps it will gain enough traction for a formal proposal.

But here's the thing. We already have a bunch of advisory and even quasi-judicial boards, and it has seemed difficult for them really to lead.
  • The Citizens Advisory Traffic Commission doesn't even have a meeting posted for 2014 (but I believe they have met at least once this year) and in the last decade seems to have met on average about 4 times a year. It is a badly underused resource, fairly neglected by the City.
  • The Historic Landmarks Commission does a great job policing vinyl windows, new garage doors, and wireless antennae on historic buildings, but is seemingly helpless on actually preserving buildings that owners are trying to demolish. Even when the HLC takes a principled stand, Council feels free to disregard the stand and enact its own veto.
  • The Planning Commission is more difficult to nutshell, but it seems relevant that it wasn't able to maintain the integrity of the Fairview Master Plan in a proposed refinement plan for a third development at Fairview.
  • The Public Art Commission looks a little too clubby and insidery, and it tends towards institutionalizing and decorating our ornamental emptinesses.
  • There are also temporary committees, like the "Stakeholder Advisory Committees" for Bike and Walk Salem, for the Downtown Mobility Study, the North Broadway Parking study. You will think of others. The committees seem to start with vision, but between the necessary politics of compromise and unnecessary weight given to objections based on maintaining the status quo, the final recommendations always seem so pallid, so watered down. And sustaining funded action on them a near impossibility.
  • Of the commissions we've followed here, the ones that have seemed most effective are the boards advising on the Urban Renewal Areas: The Downtown Advisory Board, West Salem Redevelopment Advisory Board, and North Gateway Redevelopment Advisory Board. They've got real budgets and get to help develop real projects. But I don't know if anyone would say they were strikingly effective.
These are just what we have followed here. Maybe you will know more about Parks, the Library, the Budget, Police, Tourism, Human Rights - there's a bunch more Boards and Commissions.

But in general, as a group the Boards and Commissions don't look like they actually are very powerful or very effective. As institutions and by the city ordinances that establish and govern them, they don't look like they are meant to be very powerful or effective. For the volunteer members without staff resources of their own, it is not always easy to develop alternatives to or detailed critique of the staff-driven agenda. Sometimes the committees just rubber-stamp; sometimes they give the illusion and "blessing" of debate, dissent, and deliberation; in all cases they seem like they are meant to sand down and tame any distinction and vision so it's smooth and easy.

August 2014 vacancies
Some have observed the large number of vacancies on boards and commissions. Is part of the problem a lack of interest in the citizenry? Instead, I wonder if the lack of interest is a consequence of the seemingly nugatory nature of the positions. It doesn't seem possible to make a real difference.

This is why it has not seemed useful here to advocate for a Bicycle Advisory Committee. Would one help us get a full family-friendly bikeway any faster? Or would it just provide more greenwash and cover, the soothing reassurance of "process"?

If you've been reading BikePortland lately, you'll see even Portland isn't living the dream right now:
It has seemed like the two absolutely necessary ingredients are leadership at the top rank of electeds (which Portland especially lacks right now) and a robust grassroots advocacy. The middle level of advisory committees and their staff handlers look mostly impotent or irrelevant without the two other ingredients.

Maybe you have a different analysis of it all. (Certainty's not possible!)

And it's true that the "the proposed advisory committee would have less clout than the old environmental commission. The advisory committee could only make recommendations, not issue decisions." Its proponents don't argue for much in the way of real power or influence.

Still, I really wonder if an effective solution to our dilatory interests in environmentalism and sustainability really is another committee.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Car Attacks Fire Station

Did you know that in the last two years there's been at least 19 crashes of cars into stationary objects off the road? You know - like houses or stores, really big and visible things!

The latest was a driver going up the hill on Orchard Heights who was able to crash into the fire station. Now maybe they had a medical emergency, but it wouldn't be surprising if the driver was trying to catch air, hop, or otherwise speed.

August 13th crash into Fire Station 11 on Orchard Heights
From the story:
The crash occurred around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 13. The vehicle, headed west up the hill on Orchard Heights left the roadway, drove over the island between lanes, through the landscaping and into the building.
This is right across the street from a cluster of schools!

And to repeat a point: The driver was going uphill and still had sufficient speed to cross the road, cross the landscaping, and plow into the fire station, set back a ways from the road.

Orchard Heights is pretty wide and zoomy here. The wide and overbuilt avenue encourages speeding and sometimes hopping. It may not have the largest number of fatalities in the city, and by that definition may not be among the most dangerous, but it's not comfortable and at least anecdotally has a problem with speeding.

Another one from December, 2013
The story about the crash into the Fire Station may be neutered as an "accident," perhaps seasoned by errors in "driver judgement," but it's also a demonstration of the ways cars and driving are dangerous and our roads often too big.

If you haven't visited, check out the compilation. One at a time, they don't seem like much. But in aggregate they're more than a little surprising.

Monday, August 18, 2014

North Broadway Parking at Planning Commission and Howard Hall at SCAN on Tuesday

Did you forget about the North Broadway Parking Study? Yeah, me too. It's been almost two years since the draft recommendations came out, and it seemed like they languished for a while. Officially, since it represented policy change, it was put on hold during the "clean-up" of the Unified Development Code.

Now that the UDC project is turning to the policy changes, the parking study is back and at Planning Commission on Tuesday.

As we noted,
The plan looks evolutionary and incremental, and is not a game-changer. It doesn't lead on making the district a walker's paradise. Instead, it is a modest retreat on the norms of Salem's auto-dependent and auto-centric development styles.
It's important to note that it's also a response to the fact that our current parking minimums are too big here (and in general), and with the over-supply of parking, developers and owners are seeking many variances to reduce the required minimums. This is market-driven, not city- or planner-driven - though of course it is also consistent with higher-level goals to reduce off-street parking supply.

Bike parking is a part of several of the recommendations:
  • Consider strategic placement of bicycle parking at key destinations
  • Continue to include bicycle parking (racks) with Broadway/High redevelopment
  • Provide incentives for business who supply bike parking
  • Revise SRC 133.150 (Satisfaction of Off-Street Parking Requirements through Alternate Modes of Transportation) to include objective standards for allowing a reduction in parking due to proximity to transit, pedestrian enhancements, availability of bicycle parking (including covered bicycle spaces or lockers) or other transportation demand management (TDM) measures. Eliminate the need for special review.
The incentives in code for reducing the required car parking (the SRC 133.150 bit) are helpful:
  • 5% reduction for a bus stop
  • 5% for covered bike parking
  • and up to 10% for walking amenities
See here for a longer list and discussion of the recommendations. The staff recommendation is to send it on to Council for adoption. And see here for all notes on the process and study.

West Salem's New Second Street Looks Awfully Zoomy and Lotty

You might remember the plan for a part of Second Street in West Salem. The old Salem, Falls City & Western railroad had run down its center on its way to the canneries and then the Union Street Railroad Bridge.

Salem, Falls City & Western Line, 1915 USGS map

Old, unimproved Second Street NW at Kingwood
 with abandoned RR line down center
But the City chose more parking rather than a bikeway and link to the bridge (see here and here).

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Construction on Glen Creek at Wallace Road and Wallace Park Show Incoherence

At this point there's nothing useful to say about the construction at Wallace and Glen Creek - but holy smokes, have you walked the intersection lately?

On Glen Creek looking west, up the hill
It's so big. It's a highway, it's a canyon: Depending on how you count, as many as seven or eight lanes wide.

It's just insane. That's all.

The plan from 2011
A few blocks down the street on the edge of Wallace Marine Park, the connecting path between the Union Street Railroad Bridge trestle and Glen Creek Road is finally underway.

Concrete and grading on the Glen Creek Path
It's interesting to see the way the final design deviates from the desire path already well-established.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

NEN-SESNA Looking Forward: Residential Possibilities and more Walkable Neighborhoods

The Economic Opportunities and Housing Needs (EOA-HNA) group meets later this month, and one of the big things they're discussing is the supply of land for business and homes.

Development and growth on the car-dependent edges
(from the May slide deck)
A lot of the potential residential land is on the edge of the city - but does it have to be?

The "Looking Forward" study for the NEN-SESNA neighborhoods has identified opportunity sites, and three of them offer significant possibilities for urban, close-in residences.

Three potential mixed-use centers
The North Campus of the State Hospital, a reconfigured State Street, and the cannery and languishing industrial development off of Oxford Street between 14th and 21st all offer possibilities for mixed-use redevelopment, including higher-density residences.

Places like these, and not up in the hills of West Salem, are where we should make it attractive for State employees and others who work in or near downtown!

And there are other sites outside of the NEN-SESNA areas: the north waterfront downtown, the O'Brien automotive parcels, the area along Commercial and Liberty between Bush park and and the river, and the Fairview parcels.

There's actually a lot of land where we can put people if we are willing to have some higher density and street-car scaled mixed-use development. Up instead of out is a real opportunity.

It will be interesting to see the way this feeds into the EOA-HNA process.

The next meeting of the EOA/HNA Advisory Committee is on Thursday, August 21st at 5:30 PM in the Salem Public Library, Anderson Room. Once the agenda and other meeting notes are out there may be more to say.

Here's the NEN opportunities map, the SESNA opportunities map, and the annotated key to all 12 of the labeled opportunities, including the three highlighted here.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

South Salem Transit Station and Blind School Appeal: In the Neighborhoods

At the Morningside Neighborhood Association meeting tomorrow, Cherriots will give an update on the process for a new Transit Station in South Salem.

Bike Parking at the Keizer Transit Station:
Isolated, on the sidewalk,
and you can't bike to it
With a sort of pairwise symmetry Cherriots has been working on acquiring land and planning for a new Transit Station in South Salem along the Commercial corridor.

Proposed transit center on South Commercial
Cherriots has applied for funding from a couple of different programs, and so far things haven't worked out. I'm not sure that the details are particularly important: It's not like this is a bad project or anything. It has just seemed like mismatches between program goals, scoring criteria, and timing with the Transit Station's progress on internal milestones. I don't think we should be drawing inferences from the fact that it's struggling for funding. The proper conclusion, rather, is about policy, about the crappy way we invest in transit.

Cherriots hasn't shared much officially about their proposed locations, so perhaps this will be something of an announcement about prospective sites. Or maybe not. Maybe it will just be a general update.

Monday, August 11, 2014

What about that Belluschi Bank, Part II - A New Try at Demolition

Things aren't looking good for the Salem buildings of Pietro Belluschi.

October's demolition of a Belluschi clinic
In October of last year one was suddenly demolished without any formal notification process.

Talk about the North Campus of the State Hospital has suggested that there's a much stronger appetite to protect Edgar Lazarus' "Dome Building" than Belluschi's Breitenbush Hall or any of the other buildings.

News that Gannett is looking to sell the Statesman-Journal building and relocate the paper's offices puts that building's future in question.

Pietro Belluschi's 1946-8 First National Bank:
Approved for demolition in 2008, it's up for a permit again
And of course there's the First National Bank downtown, which has survived at least one attempt at demolition.

Nearly half of Belluschi's Salem body of work is in question right now.

Readers have shared that earlier this month, developers filed for an extension of the 2008 demolition permit for the First National Bank Building.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Keizer Rapids Cyclocross Series Offers Reason to Check out Riverfront Parks

HOLY SMOKES! It's hot out. Water, friends, plenty of water.

For some reason I missed the Pringle Creek Criterium Races last month. Pringle Creek Community is a great location for racing.

For several years there has also been short track racing at the Fairgrounds in August, but that may be done.

A new cyclocross series at Keizer Rapids Park starts Monday, though, and its location is way better than the Fairgrounds! It could in fact become the second great location for racing in and around Salem!

Racing starts at 5:45 on Mondays in August: the 11th, the 18th, and the 25th. Start and finish is between the amphitheater and boat launch, and it looks like the paved paths will in some places get you near the off-pavement course for spectating.

Hopefully this will be the start of something grand!

Friday, August 8, 2014

City Council, July 11th - Badger, Badger

In the middle of the last century as Salem was developing on the east side of Lancaster, the area around Swegle School was known as Badger Corner.

1957 USGS map

1939 USGS map - not attested
While the project to straighten out the 90-degree elbows that connected Market Street and Swegle Road has plenty of autoist problems, too much "forgiveness" for drivers and not enough calming for kids and people on foot, a remnant cul-de-sac is proposed now to be renamed "Badger Corner," in honor of the historic name.

And that's a sweet note on which to start this week's Council round-up.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

City Over-Lords say Nyet to Uber; But Change is Coming

Legal weed and the autonomous google car are coming down the turnpike, and there's a good bit of change in the wind right now. Most of the regulatory environments are decades-old and law-makers and policy-makers aren't really prepared for these changes.

Nyet: Uber needs Licenses
A week ago the City decided that Uber was a taxi service and needed taxi licensing.

The move isn't that surprising and it's hard to imagine that the actual demand for the service in Salem is more than a novelty. And maybe there are real issues to work out.

But it's also a reminder than technology and custom are changing. Uber is also beginning to facilitate carpools, and it's likely that its service and app is a lot more sophisticated and convenient than our current "ride matching" software offered through Cherriots. If it's meaningfully better, it will trump the current arrangements.

The wire services are also picking up a story about the "internet of things" and how hackable are new cars.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

More Sculpture Downtown in Historic District?

Later this month the Historic Landmarks Commission will deliberate on a proposal to install more public art around downtown in the historic district.

Bruce West's sculpture, "The Cube," is proposed to be relocated...

At the installation of "The Cube"
via the Chamber of Commerce
from the Conference Center to the corner in front of the newly renovated McGilchrist and Roth block.

Art proposed for several corner locations
"The Cube" would be the first, at location A,
adorning the renovated McGilchrist-Roth block
Other works and other sites are planned to follow.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Mostly We Consider Development in a Transit Vacuum

The weekend's post about the prospect of a significant reduction in Cherriots' service in West Salem is getting a good bit of traffic.

The thing about it, is that it really points to the link between transportation and land use, something that currently gets short shrift in our planning and calculations.

Development in West Salem, especially without adequate growth in transit, puts significant pressure on everybody else to subsidize a giant new bridge. Development on the edges everywhere makes car trips compulsory and adds pressure for other auto capacity increases.

1911 Ad for Kingwood Park development
At the Goal 9 Economic Opportunities Analysis (EOA) and Goal 10 Housing Needs Analysis (HNA) project, fortunately there's some discussion of this.

Growth on the edges is problematic for transit
May 1 EOA-HNA meeting notes
But will it come in time to make a difference in our planning and policy? Or will it just be rhetorical window dressing?

Later this month the Planning Commission will hold a hearing on a re-partition for an apartment complex out on Cordon Road.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Rhetoric on Smoking, Cars, and Preventable Calamity in Community Connection

The August City of Salem Community Connection is out, and there's an interesting contrast between the police note on teen driving and the fire department note on fires caused by cigarettes.

It would be great to see more of the rhetoric of "predictable and preventable" and "improper and careless" applied to car use.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

MWACT Meets August 7th, Agenda includes Earthquake Prep - updated

Thawing permafrost
releases methane
via Nature
Feeling apocalyptic? The news this week has all kinds of things to fuel your pessimism and paranoia.

Some apocalyptic scenarios are "black swans" but others are ones we know about, expect, can anticipate, even mitigate - and still do nothing about.

In a piquant irony, Thursday the 7th the Mid-Willamette Valley Area Commission on Transportation will learn about "ODOT's Bridge Seismic Safety Program" and receive an update on the Salem River Crossing EIS. (Agenda here.)

Oregon Highways Seismic Options
Report, March 2013
The "Seismic Options" report gives us a fairly knowable apocalyptic scenario:
Most of the bridges over the Willamette and Columbia rivers will either have major damage or will have collapsed [from the earthquake]. Regional commerce will be impaired. Within the first few days and weeks, fuel, food, potable water, communications options, and medical supplies will be in short supply, with few options for restocking or restoration due to lack of mobility, damage to the utilities carried by bridges, and damaged cell towers....

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has so far expended minimal resources on retrofitting to prepare for such an earthquake. As a result, we are currently unprepared for use of the highway system immediately after a major seismic event. [italics added]
The report suggests that "for every dollar spent to reinforce a bridge, on average Oregon will avoid the loss of $46 in gross state product."