Monday, February 29, 2016

Travel Salem Should Revisit and Refine New Bike Tourism Maps

You might remember that Travel Salem presented some new bike tourism routes at City Council the other day.

From Travel Salem Presentation to Council (1:47:24)
But it's not clear that they received adequate review by folks who actually bike!

Let's talk about the downtown one since the urban experience is the focus here.

Historic Downtown Route and 2012 Salem Bike Map
(click to enlarge)
Though the route is labeled "easy," it is anything but! It looks like it might have been drawn on a map rather than ridden on bike.

In fact, it may be not just super difficult, but it may be impossible by bike (or car, even).

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Commercial Real Estate Forum, Part 2: Housing

As a commenter pointed out yesterday, we have a super low rental vacancy rate that is driving up the cost of housing.

Separately another commenter last year noted
that without public assistance you probably can't build [affordable housing]. Over the weekend I watched a panel of experts talking about housing needs on CSPAN. They made a lot of very interesting observations including that we are way behind on meeting the needs of housing in all categories except high end single family residences. The reason being that it costs about $1.50 per foot to build and middle-income and of course low-income people can't afford to pay more than $1 a sq ft in rent. So, no one will build such housing without government assistance.
Comments at the Commercial Real Estate Forum point to this exactly, and show the disconnect between the interests of actors on the supply side, the interests of the broader public on the demand side, and the interests of policymakers in bridging the two via an effective market.

The forum booklet
From the piece:
The multi-family sector was firing on all cylinders in 2015. Rents are up, vacancy is low, construction starts are plentiful, and there is still demand in the market. The typical renter profile is changing in our market-it is no longer starter housing for the young and/or lower income demographic. Retirees looking for simpler management of their living expenses and young professionals looking for urban living are diversifying the rental market. Demand for multi-family product remained strong in 2015, with an average time from list to close of just short of four months. Attractive financing packages kept prices up and capitalization rates low.

There are over 900 units under construction or in planning stages for delivery in the next two years. Total deliveries to market in 2012-15 was 973 units (243/year). We’ve absorbed all the deliveries over the past four years, and with vacancy continuing to be below 2.5%, there is still demand in the market. Our market has been absorbing an average of 14 units/month, above the industry standard of 12 units/month.

Transaction volume was robust in 2015 with almost $70M in transactional volume in 25 notable sales. The average price per unit in the 18 properties older than 1990 was $75,500 and for the seven sales of properties newer than 1990, the average price per unit was $75,605. Removing outlier Eola Heights (built in 1985) which sold for $110,000/unit, the average price per unit for older properties was $63,000/unit.

From a sales volume standpoint, most experts are predicting a slowdown in the investment market, partially because of the significant market activity over the past four years and partially because of the interest rate tide shifting. Most investors are banking on increased rent to keep values up, but as capitalization rates shift with rising interest rates, it remains to be seen if rent growth will be enough to keep values where they are now. Nationally, as large REIT investors deal with a rising interest rate environment in their portfolios, net operating income may erode and cause cash flow issues, which could cause the market to shift radically.

According to Co-Star, the current multi-family vacancy continues to be below 2.5% in its survey of over 22,500 units. Asking rents continue to rise, and continued new construction should continue to put upward pressure on rents. Per square foot rental rates for new construction are reaching $1.25 per sq. ft. in high-demand areas of town for one-bedroom units. It is not expected that absorption of these newer projects will negatively impact the occupancy of older, lower-priced units, as most renting in older projects won’t be able to afford to trade to a newer property.
One claim here is a little alarming:

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Tidbits from the Commercial Real Estate Forum

Earlier this week you might have known, or seen a brief summary in the paper, about the annual commercial real estate forum. It's heavy on the Chamber and the popular "axis of evil," as it were, but that doesn't make its observations about the economy trivial in any way. These are important things to observe, and if we might disagree with some of the framing or the interpretation, many of the underlying facts are sound and important to understand.

So here are some excerpts. If you have more expertise on the local economy or real estate, chime in!

As we talk about the kinds and forms of development we want to see, the ideal is constrained by actual market effects, and this is an important reality check.

But it is also interesting to compare the actual to our plans and policies. The City should formally comment on these things to complete the feedback loop: As we structure municipal-level incentives in our code and statutes, is the market responding as we would like? If not, how do we need to change the incentive structure? Is, for example, all that activity on Kuebler mentioned below really what we want? If not, what should we change? Do we need more incentives for downtown housing? How does the market actually respond to plans, policies, and ideas?

(An excerpt on multi-family housing will be separate, as there might be more to say on it. Update - part 2, here.)


For commercial real estate, vacancies are down, and rents are up. The chart's axes don't start from zero, so the scale of things might be a little manipulated - but still, the narrative implied by that crossing in 2014 is a good thing. That means business activity is growing.

(It is a shortcoming of the brochure that each sector isn't graphed the same way! So if you aren't an expert already, it is hard to interpret the relative importance of things.)
I think this is for industrial property only

City Council, February 29th - The Police Station

Council meets on Monday for a Public Hearing on the proposed Police Station.

Though the current thing has a bad case of mission creep and bigger-is-betterist inflation, there's actually a broad consensus on a centrist concept!

Back in November 2011, staff recommended a 75,000 square foot facility and one of the options was on the O'Brien parcel - which in the most recent round of evaluation scored the highest by a large margin. This has been a strong contender and constant from the start.

November 2011

November 2011
This concept also included work on the Civic Center.

There might be quibbles or even real negotiation on some of the details, but in broad outline this looks a lot like the proposal currently advanced by SCV.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

State Street Study Announces Meetings and Memos

Here it is! The State Street Study is finally cranking up. If you're on the mailing list, you will already know about the first open house on March 8th. (The Advisory Committee is also meeting formally on the 29th.)

But not in the recent email is news about a passel of reports the City just posted to the project website.

I know, your eyes glaze over. They're still worth a look, because they're pretty good and they're interesting.

In addition to some more technical memos, there's a booklet that looks like it is meant to be the primary overview for the public.

The "Problem Statement" (almost like science!)
Land Use and Transportation Booklet
So that's probably the place to start and the core of any "homework" you might do before the Open House.

But if you want to dive in for more, they offer some meaty and fine-grained detail on the ways a district works or doesn't work.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

New Regional Transit Plan at Cherriots Board Thursday

On Thursday the 25th Jarrett Walker & Associates will present recommendations for the regional network to the Cherriots Board. This phase focuses on interurban transportation.

Detail of Regional Commute Shed; red note on Dallas added
But once again, by design or by accident, the analysis completely omits the biggest factor of all: The Proposed Third Bridge. (And in fact, text search of the study yields zero instances of the word "bridge" or "crossing"!*)

The latest study is for regional transit
What are the Proper Aims and Scope Here?

You may remember the first part of the service analysis when it was released during the summer of 2014. It was about urban service inside the Urban Growth Boundary, It didn't talk very much about the bridges or the Salem River Crossing, and that seemed like a huge, huge lacuna.

Monday, February 22, 2016

ODOT Sued over ADA Compliance

Today a group filed suit against ODOT for failing to comply with ADA requirements.
This action is brought against Defendant Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) and its Director, Matthew Garrett, in his official capacity as Director of ODOT , to remedy a systemic pattern and practice of discrimination against people with physical disabilities, particularly those with mobility impairments. Effective January 26, 1992, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act required that state and local governments ensure that persons with disabilities have access to the pedestrian routes in the public right of way. An important part of this requirement is the obligation whenever streets, roadways, or highways are newly constructed, paved, resurfaced or otherwise altered to provide compliant curb ramps where street level pedestrian walkways cross curbs, and accessible pedestrian signals at curb ramps with traffic signals. Since at least November 1993, it has been clear that paving and resurfacing are “alterations” that require the installation of curb ramps where street level pedestrian walkways cross curbs. Nevertheless, between 1993 and January 1, 2014, it has been ODOT’s unlawful pattern, policy and/or practice to newly construct, pave, resurface, or otherwise alter roadways throughout the state without installing curb ramps or bringing non-conforming curb ramps and pedestrian signals into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act. This lawsuit is filed to remedy the Department’s systematic violation of the law with respect to the new construction, paving, resurfacing and other alterations of roadways.
ODOT quickly sent out a press release in response:

Whackadoodle Crossing on Mill near 12th at SESNA - Updated

Just one item in the Neighborhood Associations this week. SESNA will discuss a tricky crossing made difficult by the railroad.

For people on foot and on bike the "Quiet Zone" projects have been a little mixed.

12th and Chemeketa seems to work just fine, much better than I expected, but 12th and Mill is still counter-intuitive, complicated, messy, and even unsafe. It turns you into a darting and unpredictable "urban deer." If good design makes the desired actions seem "natural," then the work at 12th and Mill is a broad failure for people on foot and on bike (it seems to work ok for those in cars).

Original concept for 12th and Mill contained a crosswalk
In the original plan there was a north-south crosswalk at the terminus of the Promenade.

The jumble at 12th and Mill - crosswalk deleted
But in the final plans it was deleted. People still cross here and use, in fact, the railroad bed itself, because it has new concrete, it's level, and the contrasting materials make it look like a crosswalk even. The "natural" thing and best way is exactly what the railroad and City doesn't want!

So. What to do?

SESNA  meets on Tuesday the 23rd, and they'll be talking about the rehab of the Baggage Depot as well as this crossing.

Local MPO to Receive Annual Report on Cherriots Rideshare Tuesday

Tomorrow, Tuesday the 23rd, at the Policy Committee for our local Metropolitan Planning Organization, Cherriots Rideshare will present its first annual report. (Full agenda here; it contains an inferior scan of the annual report.)

You may recall last summer Cherriots Rideshare announced its first strategic plan, and the annual report is an important sequel.

Probably the most interesting thing in the report is the subreport on the individualized marketing program from last spring in the Grant and Englewood neighborhoods (Grant & NEN boundaries).

The program targeted 4,378 households in Grant and NEN for preliminary contact on alternatives to drive-alone trips. Individuals from 13% of the households continued on:
583 residents...participated in the program by ordering Go Kits. Individualized marketing programs typically achieve an 8-12% participation rate, meaning the DLSM: Connecting Salem participation rate exceeded expectations.
Overall this yielded a reduction of a little more than 7% in drive alone trips: 2.5% trips shifted to bicycling, 1.9% to walking, 1.5% to transit, and 1.3% to carpooling. (While the report does give a comparison for the initial conversion rate, the report doesn't include a further comparison for this part; we don't know what percent reduction is typical for those who do then go on and decide to participate in the program. It might not be right to infer from silence, but it is is possible that 7% is on the low side, given the omission here.)

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Present and Future Maintenance Obligations, Infrastructure Failure, and Fact-Free Zones

Many existing bridges will fail
in a big flood (or earthquake)!

But a big new shiny bridge is more important
than caring for what we already have!

Where's that fact-free zone again?
Pull the plug already.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

City Council, February 22nd - Fairview Demolition and Travel Salem

Council meets on Monday, and while there is no transportation item of great importance, maybe it's worth highlighting a weakness in the City's promptness in turning to demolish Le Breton Hall. On the flip side of things, more positively Travel Salem seems to have a new bikey interest.

Le Breton Hall of 1908 (B1 on map below)
On the agenda is a notice of decision on "A Minor Amendment to the Fairview Master Plan"
to change the designation of Le Breton Hall from a status of "Reuse: Potential Adaptive Reuse with the Option for Deconstruction" to a status of "Deconstruction: Primarily for Deconstruction with the Option for Reuse"...
In the Staff Report there is, perhaps for the first time on this part of the Fairview project, a whiff of the barn and manure pile. Neighbors asked at
what point do a series of individual amendments to the Fairview Plan to allow for the removal of buildings cumulatively constitute a major change to the plan.
More and more of the "crescent" is being demolished
(Kozer is labeled B9, see below for another image)
And Staff replied that a:
minor amendment is any amendment to the Fairview Plan that does not result in a substantial change to the Fairview Plan. A major amendment is any amendment to the Fairview Plan that results in a substantial change to the Fairview Plan. A substantial change to the Fairview Plan is described under SRC 530.025(b)(2) as one that includes, but is not limited to [a following list, which we will omit]...
The action may meet the technical definition of a minor amendment, but the plain sense of it is not a minor amendment, and with the demolitions as an erosion of the values of reuse and recycle, it is not obvious that "the removal of buildings cumulatively" fails to meet this criteria for "major" amendment:

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Bike Map v2.2 in Progress! - Do you have Suggestions?

Back in 2012 a major revision of the Salem area bike map came out. v2.0 had a lot of improvements (see below for notes on one of them) and has seemed like a real advance on the old one.

The print run for v2.1 has "sold out," and it's time for v2.2 now!

It's time for v2.1 of the Salem Area Bike Map!
If there was a criticism of v2.0, the preponderance of initial comment was to ask for more street names. It was a little spare.

If you were new to town, new to biking, or navigating in an unfamiliar part of town, the lack of street labels was problematic.

So that's something they know about and are working on for v2.2.

MWVCOG/SKATS just rolled out a new website, and navigating to the map is really difficult now. I think this will work. (If it doesn't, leave a comment. Hopefully they'll find a better way to fit static links for some things into their new web architecture.)

Do you have other ideas or comments? (They'll be including new bike lanes and other facilities, as well, of course.)

Send comments to Ray Jackson at SKATS. He would like them by the 29th of this month.

Stress Level Indicators: What the Map does Well

Unfortunately, a recent death in Portland underscored ways that the changes made in v2.0 are helpful.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Tell ODOT the Draft State Bike Plan is Slack and Toothless - Comment Period Ends Tomorrow

The Public Comment period for the draft statewide biking and walking plan closes tomorrow, so the next 24 hours is your last opportunity to comment.

Tell them to fix the damn thing!

Online "open house"
The plan is slack and toothless and it's very hard to nutshell what is wrong and how to improve it. It's not just being cranky here. There's a broad consensus that the Plan is not very good.

Here's what others have had to say:
The draft plan represents a thorough failure in imagination and verve. It's a giant nothingburger, full of fluff and rhetoric, but little on vision and inspiration, on resolve to change, on funding plans, and ultimately on action.

So it's not like there's a single key that will transform the document. In many ways "do-over" might be the best comment.

Fundamentally it's constrained by autoist assumptions: We will only work on walking and biking when it doesn't inconvenience auto travel. Walking and biking remain fringey things, not core instances of transportation, heath, and lower-carbon living behind which we will mobilize the full resources of the State.

As long as we still subsidize parking,
transit is not attractive enough - via Citylab
At Citylab, they recently discussed a study that concluded "Commuters Don't Stop Driving to Work Unless You Take Away Free Parking."

If we are serious about carbon reduction and more walkable communities, we have to get the incentives right, and right now we subsidize the drive-alone trip too deeply. The incentive here (a Federal one, it's true) is completely misaligned with our policy goal.

In general, at the State level, this plan fails to make clear policy goals, to identify ways we need to change incentives, and to outline clear actionable paths to achieving the policy goals. It's written by the Highway agency, not a multi-modal mobility agency.

In the end, it's not interested in trying very hard. "Knock yourself out," it seems to say. (While we watch you flail and wonder why you aren't successful.) It's not a Plan that positions the State, and its cities or counties, for success.

Bikes Mean Business: Broadway Coffeehouse Bike and Hub/Vagabond Clinic

Check out this sweet rig for Broadway Coffeehouse!

Broadway Coffeehouse mobile unit - via Instagram
It's a HUBmobile! It's great to see the pedal powered enterprise.

Hub/Vagabond Clinic and Fund-raiser

Continuing the programming for 2016, The Hub's also partnering with the Vagabonds for a combo clinic and fund-raiser on March 21st:
The Northwest Hub has partnered up with Vegabond Brewing to bring you a night of bike education and bicycle talk. Every pint drank (One dollar) or growler filled (Five dollars) a part of that will be donated to our non-profit and what we do.

The workshop that we will provide will consist of bicycle preparedness for the Spring weather. Think along the lines of "What to pack for the Spring ride" What tools to take" "How should riders dress for the weather" and much more.

Hope to see everyone there for good food and drinks

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

"This Changes Everything": Climate Change at Film Series Tonight

Tonight, Tuesday the 16th, the Salem Progressive Film series is showing This Changes Everything, a film "inspired by Naomi Klein’s international non-fiction bestseller This Changes Everything."

About the book, Elizabeth Kolbert of the New Yorker writes in the New York Review of Books
Klein traces our inaction to a much deeper, structural problem. Our economy has been built on the promise of endless growth. But endless growth is incompatible with radically reduced emissions; it’s only at times when the global economy has gone into free fall that emissions have declined by more than marginal amounts. What’s needed, Klein argues, is “managed degrowth.” Individuals are going to have to consume less, corporate profits are going to have to be reduced (in some cases down to zero), and governments are going to have to engage in the kind of long-term planning that’s anathema to free marketeers.

The fact that major environmental groups continue to argue that systemic change isn’t needed makes them, by Klein’s account, just as dishonest as the global warming deniers they vilify.
It's not clear how direct is the relation between film and book - but it'll probably be an interesting film, and hopefully underscore the notion that it's not just about doing a better job of recycling our stuff and buying more wind energy. Our new "low carbon fuel standard" rounds to zero change, really. Right now we're still pretty much just about tinkering on the edges, and it's deeper structural change that's going to have to happen.

At the Grand
The film will be at the Grand, corner of Court and High, doors open at 6:15pm, showing at 7pm. Cost is $5.00.

Monday, February 15, 2016

First Salem Walking Death in 2016 at Claude and 25th; Manslaughter Charged

An impaired driver struck and killed a person 68-year old Olivia M Stroup as she was crossing 25th Street in a marked crosswalk very near the main Post Office on the evening of the 13th.

Claude and 25th has an enhanced crosswalk
From the Police:
The Salem Police Department Traffic Control Unit is currently investigating a serious crash involving a pedestrian and a vehicle that occurred near the intersection of Claude St SE and 25th St SE at approximately 6:25 pm on February 13.
And in an update today:
The victim in this incident has died as a result of her injuries. However, her identity is not being released at this time pending notification of next of kin.

The investigation has shown that the victim was crossing 25th St SE at Claude St SE at approximately 6:25 pm on February 13 when she was struck by a vehicle being driven by 32-year old Jonathan Lane Combs of Salem.

Lane was subsequently arrested on charges of Manslaughter in the second degree, Reckless Driving and Recklessly Endangering Another Person and was lodged in the Marion County Corrections Facility. He is set to appear in Court at 3:00 pm on February 16.
As you can see from the google streetview image, this intersection has an enhanced crosswalk with a median.

The prompt news that the driver was charged with Manslaughter and Reckless Driving suggests there is much more detail to come.

Update - Tuesday, the 16th

From today's Police update:
The deceased victim in this incident has been identified as 68-year old Olivia M Stroup of Salem. Her next of kin has been notified.
Update 2 - Tuesday, the 16th

From the paper's report on the initial court date, which occurred this afternoon:
[Stroup was] crossing the street in a well-lit, marked crosswalk, police said....

According to a police affidavit, Combs called in the crash and said he was the driver of the vehicle. No passengers were present.

Combs told police he saw the woman at the last minute before the crash and thought he was going 35 mph, according to the affidavit. The crash occurred in a 25-mph zone.

A police sergeant conducted a sobriety test on Combs. The sergeant reported that Combs smelled of alcohol, had watery and bloodshot eyes, spoke slowly and performed "poorly" on the test. Combs told the sergeant he drank three to four beers before driving, according to the affidavit.
If Combs admitted he thought was was going 35mph, there's a very real chance his actual rate of speed was even higher.

This post will be updated. (Additions/edits in at top in italics.)

In the Neighborhoods - West Salem and Northeast Neighbors this Week

A couple of brief neighborhood association notes this week...

The West Salem Neighborhood Association meets tonight and a couple of items on the agenda are of interest:
  • "Marine Dr. Development - Discussion and possible action"
  • "Wallace Rd. Underpass Feasibility Study - More option than one"
The West Salem Neighborhood Association meeting is at 7pm at Roth’s West, Mezzanine level, at 1130 Wallace Rd NW, tonight, Monday the 15th.

Northeast Neighbors - Englewood

The median island prohibits a westbound left turn from 17th
At the last meeting there was a great deal of conversation about the possibility of permitting left turns from 17th onto Chemeketa where they are currently forbidden as part of the enhanced crosswalk. The notes of discussion are pretty compressed and may be only fully understood by those at the meeting:
This was the first of the island intersections. Since this one city has put in 3 more with no restricted left turns. One on Mill and Nebraska, One on 17th and Nebraska and One at 25th st. Resident has requested the removal of left turn restriction. Requesting neighborhood for permission. Sends wrong message if works in other locations but not here. ...

[City Traffic Engineer Kevin Hottmann]: Can take out [sign and forbidden turn]. Phone call away to put back. Nothing has happened at other intersections....The island is less likely to make people [those driving?] feel comfortable. At this point must move forward before making turn.
As I read the comments, they mainly come from a position of "we will seek to inconvenience those driving as little as possible" rather than "we will seek to make those walking as safe as possible." The conversation is still structured around pedestrian impedance and autoist priority. When I use this intersection on walks, I still feel too often like I have to Rambo my way into the crosswalk aggressively in order to prompt drivers to yield. Traffic calming and facilities for walking priority need to be making gestures that move in the other direction. Fortunately, it looks like no action at the intersection was yet planned. (Do you know otherwise or can flesh out more of the discussion?)

Tomorrow's agenda doesn't otherwise contain any transportation items.

NEN meets Tuesday the 16th, at 6:30pm in the Salem First Church of the Nazarene, 1550 Market Street NE.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Cinderblock Wall on Pringle Square Phase 2 is Ugly and Unfriendly for Walking

As Pringle Square's second phase of the South Block Apartments is going up at the former Boise site, in another small detail it has turned its back on the sidewalk and faces inward instead of outward. There are three of these details now, and that's a trend, a pattern. Together they represent a meaningful refusal in engage the public life of the city as it is expressed on the sidewalks.

Most of the block turns a back to the sidewalk
The first detail was the way the ground floor along Commercial Street was three-quarters or more of sterile parking garage. The northern section has a couple of glazed bays for office or storefront, but the great majority of it is dusty parking garage. At the time this was disappointing, but it didn't seem likely that an entire row of ground floor storefront would be commercially viable in that location, so the move was at least understandable.

The southside path along Pringle Creek
at Commercial was closed to public.
A gate operates for residents now.
Then we learned that the path connection on the south side of Pringle Creek under the new Commercial Street Bridge was blocked and made private for South Block residents. The City has shared no details on the negotiation for the public easement here, and it still seems strange that the public path system could not exist on both the north and south sides of the creek.

The corner lawn is enclosed by a cinderblock wall now
And last summer, that edge area on Bellvue and Commercial, which at least in some renderings had been a grassy corner lawn, was totally enclosed by a grey cinder block wall. It's like a sound barrier for a suburban neighbor next to a highway!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Imposition on Foot: Ash Wednesday at the Transit Mall

It was great to see that the piece on Ash Wednesday this year was about the ritual of Imposition on the Transit Mall and on the sidewalks.

Ash Wednesday on the Transit Mall
Though it didn't dwell on any spiritual value in being on foot, it's not difficult to make an imaginative leap there. Pilgrimage is essentially about meditative and penitential walking, right?

A couple of years ago the story was about a drive-through Imposition, and while you have to meet people where they are, at the same time the ritual seemed diminished by the drive-through, perhaps even an unwise capitulation to autoism.

Drive-through imposition, 2014
Maybe the streetcorner "Ashes to Go" will stick in a way drive-through does not.

The change in focus is very nice to see, and even if Christianity or this form of it isn't your thing, it is possible to value its presence, a non-shouty one anyway, as seasoning in the diversity of a vibrant and cosmopolitan sidewalk life.

(For more on the history of Ashes to Go, see this by the Rev. Teresa K. M. Danieley, Rector, St. John’s Episcopal Church, Tower Grove, St. Louis, Missouri.)

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

New Schedule for Salem River Crossing: Delayed Yet Again

You might remember that in October the Salem River Crossing team published a new schedule that pushed everything out one more year.

Well, the schedule's been adjusted again!

Last month they adjusted the time for a theoretical end of a "Record of Decision" from January 2017 to May 2017. They also added a bit more detail and a couple of milestones.

For the full flavor of the delays, here are several official project schedules in order:

Original schedule from 2006 had
Record of Decision in early-2009!

Out to at least May 2016
from Dec 2014 Funding Workshop Presentation

Schedule pushed out again to January 2017

The latest one for May 2017
Updated - Wait, there's a new one!
I don't think N3B has remarked on this yet, as the last post about scheduling and the Oversight Team was dated January 19th. So they may have more to say.

The May 2016 milestone looks a little interesting: "Submit Re-Eval to FEIS for Review." Does this mean a new opportunity for public comment on a substantial revision on the draft Environmental Impact Statement arising from the "Engineering Refinements on the Preferred Alternative" aka the Salem Alternative? Is this only an internal review? And if so, who performs it? ODOT only or when does FHWA get involved again. Public communication about the project, as N3B has repeatedly pointed out, has just dried up.

(The Citizen's Guide to the NEPA doesn't appear to address this, so a bit of basic research didn't turn up an answer.)

Maybe the exact answers don't matter - but that looks like a window worth close attention.

There is no milestone or detail about the land use approvals. Which will plainly demand close attention.

And of course the TSP amendments, for which N3B is getting ready.

There's no "smoking gun" here with the new schedule delay, but it's a painful reminder that this project is costly, risky, and ultimately unneeded. It's a waste, and we should just pull the plug already.

Update, February 28th

There's a new new update!!!

The mystery milestone, ""Submit Re-Eval to FEIS for Review," is pushed out from May 2016 to October 2016.

That appears to be the primary substantive change.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

DAB: Police Station, Union St Bike Lanes; also Victory Club and the Alley

The Downtown Advisory Board meets on Thursday, and while there isn't anything in particular on the agenda this time, the minutes from the last meeting have a couple of items to note.

In discussion of "opportunity sites," there's a note that the City might want to use urban renewal funds for purchasing a Police Station site.

SCV has already commented on this (p.16 on their new position paper), and they are right: Using tax increment financing for a Police Station is a bad idea. At best it would be a terrifically inefficient way to generate new tax revenues and leveraging other redevelopment. But the more likely outcome is that it would fail to generate these. More importantly, there are other places for targeting urban renewal funds that will do much more for raising the property tax base of the district than a publicly owned police station. No one ever says, "Oh, I want to go visit the police station district!" But using urban renewal to assist a reuse/redevelopment of the Belluschi Bank or Marion Car Park sites could very well yield a project that elicits "Let's go to so-and-so!" Using urban renewal to improve streetscape for people on foot and on bike will also do more to generate people traffic and commerce. Using urban renewal for a Police Station is inefficient in the same way that using urban renewal for the Pringle Creek district failed to generate any surplus value that outpaced mere inflation and cost-of-living increases.

An early concept for Union and Commercial from 2014
The discussion of the Union Street project contained at least a hint that it could be going sideways already:
The Mobility Study project was reviewed. This project is funded with federal transportation funds and URA funds . It will include bulbouts, a median on Union St, sharrows, and a separate bicycle signal. All improvements will be in right-of-way. A consultant was chosen last fall, will bid this fall, and construction will start next spring.

The DAB asked for clarification on the traffic pattern going east on Union, and the parking on Union Street where it appears the bike lane is competing.
I don't like this language of "[parking] where...the bike lane is competing."

Monday, February 8, 2016

Third Try May not be the Charm for Proposed May's Landing Apartments

On Wednesday what is, I think, the third main iteration of a proposed May's Landing development south of Mission Street on 23rd is at the Hearings Officer.

Current proposed site plan - Staff Report
The project looks like a cookie-cutter development for 96 apartment units in six building blocks.

SENSA barely endorsed it by a deeply mixed 5-4 vote, and the Staff Report recommends denial, saying it hasn't sufficient addressed concerns formalized in Council's last decision on the second iteration.

Staff Summary
In 2012 Council identified issues with
  • Compatibility with surrounding uses
  • Walking safety and comfort
  • A lack of schools and parks here
  • Neighborhood traffic concerns on Oxford
  • Industrial-grade noise from the Airport and City Shops
No matter how you slice it, the current proposal it looks suboptimal and problematic.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Planning Commission to Consider Credit Union Drive-through on Division and High

On Tuesday the Planning Commission finally gets to the proposed drive-through for MAPS Credit Union on the odd parcel bounded by Liberty, Mill Creek, High/Broadway, and Division.

MAPS proposed drive-through with access points

Existing conditions at Division and High
It's not a particular site plan review, however, and instead as a more general code change the matter is framed up as
Should the City amend Salem Revised Code Chapter 613 to allow drive-through banks and credit unions as a conditional use in the Broadway/High Street Retail Overlay Zone, and establish design standards for drive-through uses in the Broadway/High Street Retail Overlay Zone?
Theoretically, if this is approved, other banks and credit unions that might wish to locate inside the boundaries of the overlay zone might also be able to put in a drive-through. As a practical matter this seems unlikely, and so the bet almost certainly is that this is a "general" change to approved conditional uses that affects one entity in particular only. As written the code amendments exclude other kinds of drive-throughs like those for fast food or other kinds of retail.

So this seems pretty narrow. (See the previous discussion here for why this isn't a crazy request by the credit union, and instead is pretty reasonable.)

Washington Senate cans State Transportation Secretary

This isn't about Salem or even about Oregon, but an icky stew up north of what looks like sexism, hardball politics, and visions for retrograde transportation policy seems worth registering. Lynn Peterson could very well end up back in Oregon with a meaningful role in 21st century transportation, so this should be noticed for many reasons.

Here's a portion of her not-yet-scrubbed bio from WASHDOT:
Most recently, Peterson served Oregon’s Governor Kitzhaber as his Transportation Policy Advisor where she oversaw transportation-energy policy, statewide transportation funding discussion and implementation of community priorities. She is the former chair of the Clackamas County Commission, where she managed budget-policy direction and resolved long-standing utility and transportation access issues that avoided a development moratorium for a majority of the urban area, allowing continued business growth.

She is also a nationally recognized transportation and land-use integration expert having worked both as a transportation consultant and as a strategic planning manager for TriMet, Portland's regional transportation agency. In those roles, her work resulted in funding for TriMet’s south corridor light rail line and a five-year strategic transit operations and capital investment plan. She was also a transportation advocate for 1000 Friends of Oregon working with communities to develop innovative transportation initiatives; and a transportation planner for Metro, the regional government for the Portland metropolitan area, as a travel-demand forecaster.

Peterson started her career as a highway design and construction engineer at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. Later she specialized in traffic engineering.
She might be just what we need at ODOT. We'll see if the "Draft Lynn Peterson" movement gains steam. It's something to watch.

Friday, February 5, 2016

City Council, February 8th - Marine Drive: Hinky or Helpful? - updated

Council meets on Monday, and they look ready finally to move on Marine Drive.

On the agenda is a report and motion to start purchasing property for Marine Drive in West Salem and bridgehead parcels in the Highland neighborhood on the east side of the Willamette River.

Back in the 2008 "Keep Salem Moving" bond measure (original project sheet here), $3.6 million was allocated for "strategic right-of-way purchases," but these have been delayed by the protracted process for the Salem River Crossing as well as concerns that work might illegally jump the queue in the Environmental Impact Statement process. These concerns seem to be resolved. The Salem Alternative alignment is sufficiently settled now, and work for the collector-sized Marine Drive as it already exists and is named in our Transportation System Plan would be independent formally of the EIS and therefore a proper thing to do now.

Several have argued that this work for Marine Drive would be essentially benign. Trail advocates argued that the right-of-way could be used for a soft trail that people on bike could use as an alternative to Wallace Road. No Third Bridge argued that the collector-sized version of Marine Drive would help alleviate congestion on Wallace Road and obviate any perceived need for the Third Bridge and perceived need to expand Marine Drive into a full OR-22 connector and expressway.

The position here has instead been that we should want to kill the bridge first, and then we can talk about a right-sized Marine Drive. To undertake Marine Drive now would be to initialize and arm a Trojan Horse that will be used to further the Salem River Crossing. It looks innocent, but just you wait.

Maybe that's alarmist hyperbole. Certainty is not possible.

But the fact that in this proposal the Marine Drive part is coupled with additional purchases on the east bank should at least prompt some additional hesitation and consideration by those who have though purchasing the Marine Drive right-of-way was by itself mainly harmless.

Marine Drive south of Cameo St inside our UGB (detail)
The report shows three places where the proposed Marine Drive alignment crosses over the Urban Growth Boundary and is outside of it. South of Cameo Street the proposed alignment is totally within the UGB, and that's where the proposed "opportunity purchases" would be located. The map doesn't show these very well, however, instead concentrating on the northern segments outside of the UGB. This means it can elide details like the impact to Pioneer Village. (Though the purchases right now may only be on vacant parcels or from willing sellers.)

There is also no map showing proposed "opportunity" sites on the east side in the Highland neighborhood.

The map in the report, therefore, is largely silent on what is proposed in the report.

What it does talk about is the tie to Second Street and the passage under Wallace Road. It's a little bit like that's the sugar that makes the medicine go down.

It all just seems a little hinky, that's all.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Salem as State Fief: Expectations for Free Parking at the Capitol

Yesterday on twitter there was a conversation about Portland-area Legislative staff and their expectations for free parking in Salem at the Capitol.

Even a staffer for Senate President Courtney expected free parking at Nordstrom, as well as the Capitol, and seemingly wasn't aware of the downtown Parking Tax subsidizing free parking at Nordstrom and the fact that the Salem Urban Renewal Agency has to backfill for an annual deficit in the Parking District that has averaged $700,000 a year.

August 2014 Report to City Council
As Senator Courtney works on the project for a seismic retrofit of the Capitol, managing the parking during construction and a temporary Capitol site will very important for Salem. Appropriately priced parking and more robust Transportation Demand Management for state employees, including better transit and off-setting start times, will make the disruption much easier for Salem, and will help transition to lower-carbon commuting. These things will also assist with better managing capacity on the Marion and Center Street bridges.

It's a little dismaying to see the disconnect in City of Salem, State, and environmental policy on Senator Courtney's staff. But that's also a sign of how deeply entrenched is our autoism.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Dog Park and Pickleball get the Nod over Pump Track in Fairview Park Concept

Just in time for tonight's Open House at 6:30, the City's posted the latest iteration of a proposal for the Fairview Park.

Revised Concept Map, February 2016
You'll notice right off that a Dog Park prevailed over a Pump Track (area 4). Also interesting are proposals for Sand Volleyball (5), Pickleball (10), and an amphitheater (3).

Ironically - but probably not intentionally - a playground and splash pad is proposed for the footprint of Le Breton Hall, almost as if modeled after the mess at the Blind School.  Is "playground" the new standard replacement for "old building"? Big Sigh.

Le Breton Demolition Permit
The application for the permit to demolish Le Breton was submitted on the 25th and it's very close to being issued.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Healthy Climate rally Tomorrow at Noon

There's not much in the way of Salem news today, but there is some Legislative news of Statewide significance.

Tomorrow there will be a rally at noon for House Bill 4068 and Senate Bill 1574, the so-called "Healthy Climate Bill" (I believe the bills are identical, one for each chamber).

A couple of highlights from the Legislative summary of the bill:
  • Requires Environmental Quality Commission to adopt carbon pollution market by rule
  • Establishes Climate Investments Account within State Highway Fund. Requires that certain auction proceeds be deposited in account for purpose of funding programs consistent with legislative purposes of carbon pollution market
A "Climate Investments Account" in the State Highway Fund might be a good source for investing in better biking on our roads!

And carbon markets are almost certainly better at tapping the "wisdom of the crowd" and allocating resources efficiently than State bureaucracies trying to pick winners and losers via things like the BETC program. Adam Smith for the win here: market discipline + carbon reduction. What's not to like?

(The Oregonian has more on a comparison with a competing bill that was hammered out with the power companies. But it's more of a regulatory approach than a market-based approach, and that is probably less flexible and less powerful. The Oregon Environmental Council also has an explainer on the markets bill. Even if you quibble on the details, there's no harm in rallying for "yay carbon reduction" in general. It's urgent that we intensify our efforts. But if you're reading here, you know that.)

Check it out and consider moseying over on your lunch break.