Saturday, December 29, 2018

City Issues Report on Proposed New System Development Charges

Here's a holiday news dump for you.

Benefits of new proposal:
On "growth related" transportation improvements and SDCs
On the 26th, the City put out a press release and report on the new proposed SDC fees, their antecedent formulas, and whatever other magic and horse-trading politics they mystify as "methodology."

Maybe after the new year I'll read this more closely. But for the moment it's something that deserves wider notice.

On transportation, the Executive Summary claims it:
  • Establishes SDCs commensurate with community-wide funding levels for major street improvement projets, approximately doubling the prior SDC
  • Most growth-related improvements can be constructed with 100 percent SDC funding
Previously"non-SDC funding source[s were] required in order to construct most SDC-eligible street projects."

On the face of it, this sounds like a real improvement.

But almost certainly there are details to consider that could weaken these overall claims.

Friday, December 28, 2018

2018 in Review: In Between

What to say about 2018? I want to think it is a pivot, a transitional year. I'm not sure that there was a whole lot big and new, and maybe even nothing truly decisive, but there were concluding actions, things ending, and also things gathering and starting. Maybe this will be a mistake, and the year will turn out to be very insignificant. The wish is always to be able to place the year's events in some kind of narrative, to find shape and pattern - and progress. But as we have seen, a Whiggish attachment to Progress is very often just fiction, and history has no such teleology. Maybe 2018 is just a random splatter of events.

In any case, I see 2018 like the Police Station: Last year there was the vote. That was big. In a couple of years there will be the grand opening and dedication, and that will be big. This year was transitional: There was demolition, ground-clearing and preparation, the archeology, the ceremony of ground-breaking, and finally the beginning of construction.

The City's banner on the Police Station site in late March 2018
2018 feels like that, very in-between. It was the intermediacy of breaking ground on a project, the state after the plans have been settled on, but before the project is done, that seemed to characterize the year.

Three Processes and Committees

If that kind of transitionalness is right, a trio of three processes, which themselves did not yield direct action, but which laid the groundwork for future action, seem like the most important thing in 2018. Discrete projects, like the Minto Bridge, are great, but maybe we are in a position to change the entire conversation finally and focus on systems more than on individual projects.

15 out of the 17 short-term recommendations
The Congestion Relief Task Force and the Public Transit Committee both published final reports and made recommendations. The mere facts of the recommendations themselves don't necessarily count for much. But if Council in the next couple of years firmly grasps them and passionately commits to executing on them, then they will have made a significant difference in the way we conceive transportation here.

Our Salem, combining a greenhouse gas inventory and starting the update to the Comprehensive Plan will be bigger, but that's just starting, and we don't know yet how effective it will be.

But taken together, the three of them point the way - if we choose! - to a course-correction on transportation, land-use, and our response to climate disruption. In 50 years, we might be able to look back and see in this moment a real fork in the road, and for those young enough to see, it will be interesting which choice we made.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

New 260 State Street Building and Tree Preservation both at HLC Next Month

Hey, lookie here! It's the first public rendering of the proposed apartment building on the corner of State and Commercial, that empty gravel lot across from Ladd & Bush and Pioneer Trust.

The Historic Landmarks Commission will hold a formal Major Historic Design Review on January 17th. This is a nice note at the end of 2018 and for the start of 2019.

Proposal for 260 State Street
At a glance, the building looks to be one story taller than Pioneer Trust, but also to take strong cues from it, and that little cornice at the top of the 5th floor will echo the cornice on Pioneer Trusts' own 5th and top floor. On 3- and 4-window bay spacing there's nice articulation with the recess and contrasting brick. And the ground floor has a strong contrasting base with inviting storefront windows.

Nothing flashy, but a strong nod to the early 20th century streetcar era.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

The Christmas Freeze of 1924 is Another Reminder of Warming Climate

The river froze over in 1924
The Sunday paper had a nice piece on the freeze of 1924, strong enough to freeze over the river.
By Dec. 22, area ponds as well as the Willamette Slough had frozen and had ice thick enough for skating. And the Willamette River was carrying considerable ice flows for the first time in several years, the Capital Journal reported. An Associated Press report the following day said the river was covered in ice flows from Portland to Albany....

“The river was bridged in two places just south of the county bridge by huge ice cakes that had come together, piled up and then were joined by the freezing of the water between the cakes,” the Oregon Statesman wrote Dec. 26, 1924. “It is seldom that such a sight is to been seen in Salem and it has been years since the river was frozen from bank to bank.”
Ice skating and play on the Willamette River in Salem
late 19th century, via Oregon State Library
The slough used to freeze with some frequency, and even the full river froze over from time to time. (See some other notes on freezing and skating here and here.)

Monday, December 24, 2018

Salemite Helps with Pets Displaced by Camp Fire

Here's a great Holiday story!

Jean's bicycling is central
Jean Brougher is a central figure, a hub for connections really, in several of Salem's bicycling and bike-adjacent social networks.

She operates a B & B that is especially bike-friendly, the Century Bed and Breakfast on 17th Street just off State Street.

She's active with the Salem Bicycle Club, frequently has led rides, and at the October meeting talked about a trip from Chicago to DC this summer.

SBC's summary of Jean's travelogue
And she's committed to a mobility mix that's purposefully light on car travel:
Perhaps her biggest sacrifice was getting behind the wheel of her minivan, which is outfitted with a cot and has tubs and hampers stowed underneath.

She logged 275 carless days in 2018 and is the frontrunner in Salem Bicycle Club’s annual competition.

“The less I drive the less I want to drive,” said Brougher, whose primary mode of transportation is a bike.
The focus of the story is on the disruption caused by the wildfires in California and her work at animal shelters caring for pets and helping owners reunite.

But she has a rich life of many dimensions more than merely that.

Check it out! And if you have a chance to meet her, be sure to do so.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Trees at Risk along New Police Station: Old Parking vs New Parking

You might remember that an older word for the curb strip was "the parking," a tiny strip of park or the action of making the strip into a park, and it is funny to see the modern sense of parking threaten to engulf the older.

Beautify the Parkings: September 19, 1910
Over on Division Street by the new Police Station, tree advocates are upset that the city proposes to remove several mature trees in order to make room for angled car storage.

from The City, via FB
The Director of the Urban Renewal Agency says
Construction of the Police Station will reconfigure traffic and add bike lanes, which will eliminate 20 on-street parking spaces on Liberty Street. The current plan will replace the parking spaces that will be lost on Liberty Street with spaces on Division Street, and also add about ten new spaces to meet increased parking demand in the area.

Adding these spaces to replace lost parking and meet new demand requires a choice between maintaining existing tree canopy, or meeting parking needs. Without diminishing the value of existing tree canopy, street trees are a community asset that can be replanted and which will regrow over time. Parking spaces are a different form of community asset, and they cannot be replaced in the same way that trees can. Eliminating parking spaces will not eliminate the current and increasing need for them. While we need to remove several mature street trees to make room for the parking improvements, there will be an overall net gain of trees in the neighborhood when the project is complete.
There's a lot going on here.

Mystery of Pinckney Stop in West Salem on Railroad: It was a Dairy

On and around the Union Street Railroad Bridge are a number of historical interpretive signs. One of them showed a stop or station named "Pinckney" in the current area of Wallace Marine Park.

Pinckney Stop in West Salem
This has for a while been a minor mystery. The compilers of the signage didn't seem to know and said only that "The present Wallace Park area was identified by the railroad as Pinckney."

Three dairies in Salem - June 1st, 1918
(There might be others who did not advertise)
There was, it turns out, a dairy at the foot of the bridge. Sometimes it's called the Clover Leaf Dairy operated by the Pickney Bros., and other times it's called the Pickney Bros. Dairy. Still other times it picks up that additional "n" and is the Pinckney Bros. I'm not sure which is the correct spelling, and a complete history is not possible just now.

They appeared in the news especially in the late fall of 1918, having fallen on hard times and going into receivership in December of 1918.

Pinckney Bros goes into receivership
December 13th, 1918

Notice for the sale
December 18th, 1918

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Latest Fairview Project at Planning Commission Tonight - updated

The Planning Commission meets tonight and they have 311 units of housing on the agenda. It's a substantial meeting.

A 20-unit project on Portland Road and a 111 unit project on Wiltsey Road seemed fairly ordinary, and I did not look at them closely. We need housing, and these are chunks of housing. (Maybe you will know more about them and discern reasons they are not ordinary.)

Typical three-story walkup proposed for Fairview
The project of real interest has been the 180 unit project at Fairview.

There were many adjustments and exceptions requested, and the Staff report is 200+ pages.

At this point, though, it does not seem worthwhile to dive in to detail.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Rumble in the Stacks: Library Weeding Elicits Strong Opinions in the Wild

In the campaign to stop or at least give visibility to the scope of the Library's new weeding policy, our former State Librarian highlighted several egregious or ironic discards. Once the story got picked up in the press, librarian twitter surprisingly had little sympathy. Although outside commentary was missing key local facts, and may have assumed Salem did no weeding previously, it also revealed a more lively internal debate among librarians about the scope and purpose of a collection.

The current effort at the Library had seemed obviously overzealous and that once that saw the light, on it a professional consensus would obviously emerge that it was prudent to throttle it back significantly. We should remember they eliminated the Reference Desk also. How was there going to be any debate? It seemed like a slam-dunk.

But out-of-state, this elicited contempt!
But no! An out-of-state librarian who was probably just reading the headline, and knows nothing of local conditions, but later did read more, yelled back "YOUR PUBLIC LIBRARY IS NOT AN ARCHIVE OR WAREHOUSE FOR BOOKS," and her response seemed to be endorsed by several other librarians, who piled on with surprising scorn. They were not very polite about it, and ridiculed anyone who might say "slow down." This is fascinating! To them, it was equally obvious that we should be throwing out books, left and right; it is only a benighted antiquarianism, or some such stupidity, that argued for restraint and a more careful weeding and retention plan. Surely our stacks are crowded and need thinning! Surely we are clinging to useless things!

This was a surprise to see.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

City Council, December 17th - Garbage and the Incinerator

Council meets on Monday for two items, one to ratify the decision on Costco, the other a work session on garbage, recycling, and our incinerator.

We just dedicated a statue to recycling bottles and cans
(Some thoughts here and the City's photos from the dedication)
About the garbage, an article posted earlier this week to CityLab, and circulated here on social media was of interest. Titled, "Why Communities Across America Are Pushing to Close Waste Incinerators," it was a direct discussion of many of the issues we're grappling with here.

But it was also ambiguous in important ways:
A 2016 EPA study found that WTE incinerators produced fewer greenhouse gas emissions than landfills, America’s third-largest emitters of methane. (Methane is 28 to 36 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.) Paul Gilman, senior vice president and chief sustainability officer of the major waste-to-energy incineration company Covanta, told Scientific American in 2011 that every ton of incinerated waste prevents another ton of greenhouse gas emissions.

Incinerators’ opponents counter that the real choice isn’t between landfills and incineration—it’s between incineration and a radically different approach centered on reducing waste in the first place; upping recycling, composting, and reuse rates; and investing in solar and wind power. They take particular issue with the notion that waste-to-energy incineration is clean and safe for area residents.
Critics of the incinerator have pointed to the carbon it pollutes, and suggest landfilling our garbage would generate much less carbon.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Erasing the Driver: Active and Passive Voice in Crash Reports

Two short news pieces in today's paper, right next to each other on the same page, in fact, show our weird incoherence on the way we talk about crashes.

The first is full of the passive voice and focuses on the vehicles as the main grammatical subjects and as the agents. "A man was killed...after his car was was rear-ended by a commercial motor vehicle."

Immediately below it we have more active voice and a person as the subject and agent, "a man died after crashing his motorcycle."

Last month there were a couple of other clear contrasts:

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Tolling Editorial Misses Key Points

Tolling is unpopular. That's no great insight. But this means that there's lots of deflection and misunderstanding around it.

Today's editorial ends on a hopeful note that expresses some of that deflection:
Let's start working on reducing today's congestion by doing things like incentivizing carpools and expanding mass transportation. Don't wait for tolling.
This kind of rhetoric expresses the assumption that there currently is a level playing field and that it would be easy to make changes to encourage transit.

But we don't at all have a level playing field.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Monday, December 10, 2018

Project Scoring for the RTSP at the MPO

The Technical Advisory Committee for our Metropolitan Planning Organization meets on Tuesday the 11th, and they'll be revisiting the scoring for candidate projects in the 2019 Regional Transportation System Plan. (Previous notes here and here.)

Something's missing in our project scoring at the MPO
The details are not very interesting, but there might be something to note more generally about the way the scoring is being handled. Here's the introduction from the Staff Report:
At the SKATS Policy Committee (PC) meeting on November 27th, staff presented the proposed project selection process that had been discussed by the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC). As part of the discussion, the PC directed staff to provide options for weighting the projects after the initial evaluation had been completed. The PC wanted to better understand how the process works with the projects that are eligible for inclusion in the 2019-2043 RTSP and to ensure that the process does not have any unintended consequences.

Staff has come up with five initial weighting options that are based on the existing criteria...
And here are some of the resulting rankings:

It is interesting that the scoring has been adjusted so the SRC is at the top. In fact, there is a heavy autoist bias at work here, and most of these are capacity projects rather than, say, safety projects.

It looks like what the PC committee fears as "unintended consequences" are anything that doesn't place auto capacity at the head of the list. So anything for safety; to slow cars; to reduce greenhouse gases; to support walking, biking, or transit, would count as "unintended." They intend auto capacity.

The MPO right now looks like they are reasoning backwards from a desired outcome and reverse engineering a scoring process to ensure a pre-determined outcome.

This looks like anything but impartial!

Insisting on a strong Goal 7 that includes greenhouse gas emissions would help check this. Although it should be noted that the scoring methods they've been discussing mostly discount any Goal 7 as an important factor. In the current scoring, even with some multipliers, Goal 7 would count for one point only among all the others. The whole framework remains "auto capacity first." That's the primary lens for scoring and analysis; the other factors remain very secondary.

All in all this is evidence that the MPO, despite rhetoric about "balance," has a very one-sided notion of balance, and really means auto capacity.

Look for the historic sign
next to the entry
You can download the agenda and meeting packet here.

SKATS Technical Advisory Committee meets Tuesday the 11th, at 1:30pm. SKATS is at 100 High St. SE, Suite 200, above Table Five 08.

(This is the last meeting for the year and Policy Committee will meet next in 2019.)

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Read the History Pieces in the Paper Today!

It might be worth taking a moment to register a couple of very nice history pieces in the Sunday paper today. The Mill doesn't have regular publications at present and there's no other institutional home for this kind of local history. As easy as it is sometimes to slag on the paper, and to disparage subscription costs and corporate priorities, nobody else supports this kind of work on a regular basis.

Front page today
Local Japanese-American history remains undertold and underknown. This narrative centers white clergy, and maybe sometime we will hear the story from the church's side, as its members were agents and the center of their own story, and not merely the recipients of the clergy's advocacy, as important as it was.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

The Sense of Good Cents: Ornament for the Mill Race's Emptiness - Updated

A new piece of public art will be dedicated downtown on Thursday the 13th at noon.

"Good Cents" as presented to Council back in August
Last weekend it looked like the site was already being prepared. But as you can see from the rendering, it's not exactly in the same spot. It's on the same block along the Mill Race, but in the eastern half rather than the western half.*

Podium for Good Cents along Mill Race north of SAIF parking lot
The work is part of a trio, a kind of sculptural triptych at different sites, each celebrating important legislation and moments in our self-identity as Oregonians, all of them linked to Governor Tom McCall. "Good Cents," the monument here, celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Bottle Bill.

Friday, December 7, 2018

City Council, December 10th - Costco

The Costco appeal at Council on Monday has lots of interest, and there will be plenty of people writing and talking about it.

From here, it has seemed like most of the problems stem from the 2007 zoning change and associated approvals. That was the real point for leverage. Maybe someone will develop a new critique that sticks, but in a very general way it seems like once you grant the terms in the 2007 approval, there's plenty of room for a big box.

A lot of the criticism focuses on the idea that the neighborhood was promised a smaller-scaled development, a "community shopping center."

In 2007 they intended a "community shopping center"
But this at least in part trades on a quibble with the meaning of "community." We might see that word and think small, fine-grained, local retail.

But as it occur in the 2005 Comprehensive Plan, "community shopping" is distinct from "neighborhood shopping," and what many critics of the Costco plan really seem to want is for that parcel to be developed as "neighborhood shopping."

In the context of the 2005 Comprehensive Plan, "community" means wider community, perhaps even regional community, and not the smaller-scale of "neighborhood."
In the 2005 Comprehensive Plan,
"community shopping" is not small
(via University of Oregon)
But the 2007 approval did not specify "neighborhood shopping"; it specified "community shopping."

Just in broad terms, any shopping center on Kuebler just off I-5 would be oriented for intense autoism and a regional draw.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Our Salem Open House on the 5th - Too much Spitballing?

Our Salem, the process to update the Comprehensive Plan, has an Open House and Workshop on Wednesday the 5th. (A little after, and overlapping, the ODOT Passenger Rail Open House, do note! Consider attending both.)

The public materials, however, aren't exactly clear. They are overwhelming and underexplained!

We are here! (Nov 5th presentation)
According to a timeline presented to the Advisory Committee "we are here": The consultants have reviewed the existing plans, and now, collectively, we are to choose indicators.

But the materials shuttle between values and metrics, and by being unclear about the difference between things we measure and things we value, and unclear about the way metrics are a tool used to help accomplish or retain things we value, we may end up with a muddle.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

City Council, December 3rd - Two Park Actions

Council meets early this month, on the first Monday, because the second Monday will have the Public Hearing on the appeal for the Costco move, the third Monday will have a Work Session on garbage, and the fourth Monday is Christmas Eve.

This meeting agenda is a little thin. We'll just note in passing two park actions and the election.

Just south of Hillcrest, park area in light blue
You might remember the proposal for a new park at Reed and Battle Creek Roads. Council will receive an information report on the Planning Administrator decision for a partition of the parcel into the park plot and a larger plot to be developed. But this is just a small moment in that process and does not seem to point to anything new.

In another information report, the Hearings Officer approved a City application to rezone the park parcel at Riverfront Park from South Waterfront Mixed-Use to Central Business District. This works better for the park expansion and amphitheater. This also is a small moment in the process and does not seem to point to anything new.

There is also the formal canvass of the votes. Councilor-elect Leung will indeed be sworn in for Ward 4, and Mayor Bennett and Councilors Andersen, Hoy, and Lewis were re-elected.

Do you see something more interesting?

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Movement on Marion Car Park and at Fairview? Hearings Notice of Interest

This week City published two Hearings Notices of interest, one for the Marion Car Park, the other for a part of the Fairview project.

Marion Car Park

You might recall the previous saga, a minor fiasco even, of a foreclosure and then trying to demolish the Marion Car Park (early July 2014, late July 2014, March 2015).

They're back at the Historic Landmarks Commission, and at first glance it appears they might have a winning proposal.

Is it more than vaporware?

Hearing on the 20th
This time they're talking about a small hotel on the property. And if that's the case, if they actually build it and aren't employing a vaporware tactic, the case against demolition is much weaker.

Driver Strikes and Kills Daniel Tibbot on North River Road

A man operating a truck has struck and killed Daniel Tibbot while on foot in Keizer.

The paper's got it all backwards with the passive voice. The basic template is obsolete, misleading, and minimizes the asymmetry in vulnerability - person "hit by car" and "driver is cooperating."
A man died Friday after being hit by a car near Keizer Town Square....

The pedestrian was taken to Salem Hospital where he died. Police have not identified the victim or the male driver. The accident remains under investigation.

The driver "stopped immediately, remained on scene and he is cooperating with investigators," police said in a press release.
via Twitter

Columbia Journalism Review
Update, December 3rd

From the paper, which does better with the subject-verb matter in this update:
A 55-year-old Salem man was the victim in the fatal pedestrian crash Friday near the Keizer Towne Square.

Around 1 p.m. Chester Clark, 79, of Keizer was driving a 2009 Ford F-150 pickup when he hit pedestrian Daniel Tibbot, of Salem, on River Road N near the business complex.
This post will be updated.

We say "troubling"
but really, how troubled are we?
Killed in 2018
Killed in 2017
Killed in 2016:
Killed in 2015: