Monday, December 30, 2019

Read Mike Swaim's Reflections on the Mushroom Plant from 2001

Sad, sad news tonight that former Mayor Mike Swaim died earlier this month.

In print on December 31st
With the redevelopment of the mushroom plant in process, it's very much worth reading his 2001 piece on it and associated labor practices. This is a history of the site we should remember. Recalling his engaged advocacy is fitting as a kind of memorial also.

From "If It Smells Like Hell, It’s Probably Pictsweet - The Mayor of Salem Speaks Out About Human Rights on the Home Front":
For over twenty years I have driven by that foul smelling mushroom plant on the east side of Salem, thinking, “How can people stand to live near this putrid smelling place?” Never once did I ever stop to ask, “How can people stand to work behind those closed doors, which shut out the light, but not the smell?”

However, the most offensive smell emanating from that plant is not from the manure in which the mushrooms are grown, but rather from the abusive attitude and conditions under which the Pictsweet company forces their employees to work.

As Mayor of Salem, I was recently invited by some of the plant workers to speak with them about these conditions.

In doing so, I never imagined that I’d end up with the President of the Oregon State Senate publicly attacking me in the local press. Nor did I imagine I’d find myself nearly pinned to a padlocked chain link gate by a 16 wheeler semi, along with Cesar Chavez’s son-in-law, Arturo Rodriguez, 1,000 miles from City Hall.
It goes on at some length and is very much worth reading.

Salem's First Zoning in 1926 Grapples with Laundries, Junk Yards, and Signs

In July 1925 Council adopted the ordinance establishing the Planning and Zoning Commission and a zoning law, which was modeled after what had just been adopted in Portland a year previously, but was being appealed and litigated.

November 6th, 1925
In November of 1925 the City appointed the first Commissioners. They included the State Librarian, Cornelia Marvin, who was also an advocate for eugenics; and State Bridge Engineer Conde McCullough. So right there we have connections with race and transportation on the Planning and Zoning Commission.

Cornelia Marvin and future husband Walter Pierce
praising author of Oregon's sterilization law for
"preventing an increase of defectives."
(September 14th, 1926)
It seems impossible that it is a coincidence that the 1926 Polk Directory could say "There is absolutely no foreign element in Salem." The paragraph is written so the most reasonable interpretation is that "negros," including those with many generations here, are a "foreign element." Earlier and later directories omitted this paragraph, so something was definitely in the air at this time.

The same year, in 1926 "An All-American City"
with "no foreign element"
I have not seen a history here of zoning and the Planning Commission. Maybe one exists. At the moment, I want to sketch out some of that history from the mid-1920s. Through newspaper clippings we will trace out some of that history of zoning and its exclusionary intent.* The larger cultural matrix of exclusionary interests will be clear also. I am not going to argue that zoning is only a tool for exclusion. But exclusionary ends are an important ingredient in the early development of zoning here, and we should take care to center this in our understanding of the way zoning functions. We have sidestepped some of these questions in our contemporary language about aesthetics, the ways buildings and neighborhoods look, about allowable uses in them, and in our rhetoric of "neighborhood character." As we consider new zoning through Our Salem, more specifically consider how we implement more restrictive or less restrictive new standards for missing middle housing, and consider the exigencies of a Climate Action Plan, the use and misuse of early zoning should be on our minds also.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

In the "Hit by Car" Formula, Car first Meant Streetcar

You may not be curious about the origin of the phrase "hit by car," and the preference for passive voice when describing or reporting on crashes.

October 17th, 1902
But if you are, here's a start. (This is really just a long footnote, be warned, and it is not yet very conclusive.)

Here in Salem the phrase clearly comes from larger urban areas, and it really is associated with streetcars before automobile cars.* There does not seem to be a meaningful usage here in the 1890s or earlier, and it's only in the early 1900s that it appears regularly.

August 5th, 1907

January 1st, 1910

Friday, December 27, 2019

In Encomium after Death in a Crosswalk, Erasing the Driver

Could there be any clearer expression of the way our autoism mystifies and obfuscates than the front page story today?

For families and friends who must mourn, it is of course an awful thing to revisit the original violence and facts of an untimely road death.

There is good reason to want to celebrate the victim with a kind of encomium.

With the Carousel right there at the end of State Street, and Carousel staff as witness and first responder, the crash was also located at an important cultural node and geographical point in Salem.

As a tribute to the pleasures of daily strolling in the city it has significance.

There are many reasons an encomium and wider feature story makes sense. And it is genuinely moving.

Front page today
But we should not forget that the victim fell in an action by a driver on a downtown street. It was not a sudden illness, a meteor falling from the sky, or even a car falling from the sky, something truly accidental and tragic we used to call an "act of God."

Framing on Ride Salem's Slow Start Misses Important Pieces

There's a piece today in Salem Reporter on the bike rental system, "Ride Salem leaders optimistic about bike sharing despite tepid start."

It gives some helpful context on reasons the rentals have been slow.

Using counts rather than rates is less helpful
But because the piece uses raw counts of rides, and focuses on what Ride Salem representatives themselves say, it does not illuminate as much as it might.

Industry and advocates often cite rides per bike per day as a key metric.* Earlier it had seemed that Salem had between one-third and one-half of a ride per bike per day. Industry standard right now is about one ride per bike per day. Portland's system operates right about there. Eugene's started at three rides per bike per day, and was an uncommon success by these measures.

Both Portland and Eugene's systems have not only more bikes but also more stations, and these make possible a larger number of trips. Rental bikes are especially useful when you can make one-way trips and do not have to make a loop to return the bike to your starting point.

Still, since Eugene is about the same size as Salem, even though it is a college town and has a stronger tradition of bicycling, it is an appropriate comparison.

The point about Salemites needing "time to learn" about the bike rental system and about biking points to culture and that tradition, as if it's our fault we aren't using the bikes. This appeal to the mysteries of culture is also a term less helpful in the comparison.

And it deflects from other factors.

A "virtual" hub and station on Ferry and Commercial
from late summer - but who will use it very often?
Essentially this is an ornament.
More than custom and culture, it's high quality bike lanes. The downtown stations are set on a downtown street system that remains very hostile to biking.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Santa's New Speed: Changing Ads in 1919

Santa at the steering wheel, detail - December 12th, 1919
The iconography and advertising for Christmas shifted dramatically between 1918 and 1919.

The biggest difference was the war, of course. In 1918 World War I had just ended. War-related tropes were common, often substituting for explicit appeals to Christmas.

Victory Sale, no Santa - December 20th, 1918
There was also a sobriety, and there were very few appearances of Santa in print advertising. As an icon, Santa notably rare, often absent.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Satirizing Pedestrian Licenses in 1919: Not Enough has Changed

Stay out of the way!
As the City publicizes the "safer crossings" program, it reinforces the false equivalence between those in fast and powerful cars and other vulnerable road users. "Nothing can substitute for personal caution," they say. Not slower speeds and less driving?

Faux balance and egalitarianism
in the City's recent release on "safety"
The rhetoric still minimizes that it is the drivers who employ lethal force and a "dangerous instrumentality." It redirects and makes potential victims responsible for their safety. "It's still up to you..." (and if you get hit, it's your own damn fault).

We've seen this before. A deadpan piece of satire from 100 years ago today is not in fact so distant from our current recommendations.

December 23rd, 1919

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Birth and Death of the YMCA's Building: Scenes of the Demolition

Some recent demolitions have seemed gratuitous or hasty. With Le Breton Hall at Fairview, Howard Hall at the Blind School, and Belluschi's First National Bank, it has seemed like owners and the City could have tried harder to keep them around.

Especially when there is no plan for replacement with a new building, trashing an old building just seems like a waste.

Other demolitions are more reasonable. When there are strong plans for replacement, and a building has had a long and useful life, even when we feel the loss of the old, the transitions take place in the normal course of a city's life. The change is purposeful and directed, not just a leveling and waste. This regeneration is creative also.

The Marion Car Park will be replaced by a new hotel. And now, the YMCA and Court Apartments will be replaced by a new Y complex. Maybe you will feel otherwise, but it seems right to recognize the loss, even to mourn a little, and then to move on to the new.

The old YMCA, sometime in the 1920s when it was new
(via The Mill - I've lost the citation and will update later)
One detail that has not been foregrounded much is how closely associated was the YMCA building campaign with the Livesley Tower. Hops magnate T. A. Livesley drove both projects.

State Insurance Building Sold, Livesley plans Bank Tower
(And Salem History Matters with a note on Pomeroy & Keene)
November 22th, 1924

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Waller Hall Burns Down For the Second Time: 100 Years Ago Today

During the night of December 16th and into the morning of the 17th in 1919, for the second time Waller Hall burned down.

Constance Fowler, Waller Hall, 1938-40 (reprinted 1969),
wood engraving, 6 ½ in. x 6 in.,
gift of Constance Fowler, FOW92.003.
Hallie Ford Museum of Art
Morning paper, December 17th, 1919

After the 1919 fire, looking southeast
about from the corner of State and Winter
(detail, Willamette University Archives)

Monday, December 16, 2019

2019 in Review: SRC Ends; Weekend Transit Starts; New Highway Head

As the year winds down, three things this year seem clearly more important than the others.*

The SRC finally reached an end; Cherriots started weekend and evening service; and ODOT transitioned to a new agency head for more of the same, without also making any basic changes in philosophy or approach.

SRC Record of Decision

Headline in February
Back in February Council held a showdown on the Salem River Crossing after a remand from LUBA and a passive disinclination to do anything about it for all of the previous year in 2018. But the prospect of having to pay several million back the Feds focused matters and prompted an on-the-record decision.

Council chose not to make a new set of land use changes and chose instead to recommend a "no build" record of decision.

In September, the Federal Highway Administration and ODOT formally published that Record of Decision for the No Build alternative.

Thus ended this particular process for the Salem River Crossing and one idea of a third bridge.

Probably a river crossing concept will return as its politics are popular in some circles, but the scope and magnitude of our climate emergency, as well as the cost of a giant bridge and highway, together make it less likely that it will get very far, let alone ever be built.

Cherriots Saturday Service

via FB
In September Cherriots launched the first Saturday and limited evening service in years. They offered free rides every Saturday in September and held a party downtown at the Transit Mall. Next year limited Sunday service will also launch, and we may finally have a minimally functional full transit system.

New ODOT Director

New agency head Kris Strickler on right touting "One ODOT"
(editorializing on "one ODOT" added)
After Matt Garrett resigned, ODOT and the OTC had a chance for course-correction and bringing the agency into the 21st century. They refused the chance and chose the leader of the failed CRC to head the agency and revive the CRC.

This is nearly certain to mean that the agency remains committed to autoism and fails to move quickly - or even at all - on our climate emergency and on safety. It's a commitment to business as usual and to 20th century standards. It's a commitment to more driving and more driving deaths. The new Highway Head is the same old highway head.

As far as lasting things of significance, these three are without a doubt the top transportation stories of the year.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Home Builder Adam Engel Erects Royal Court Apartments in 1927

You might recall this lovely drawing of the Royal Court Apartments on the corner of Capitol and Chemeketa.

Undated sketch of Royal Court Apartments
University of Oregon (but they've removed the link it seems)
At the time I didn't find much information on the architect, Charles Walter Ertz. He was active in Portland and had a number of buildings in Lake Oswego, most notably the amazing Jantzen estate, associated with him.

Just on that alone, though, it appears this was a significant commission for Salem.

The legend on the drawing says the building was "for Adam Engel," who was an even greater mystery.

Now we can fill in some of the blanks.

December 4th, 1927
The apartments were advertised as opening "on or about December 20th" in 1927. The picture is hard to see from the microfilming, but it appears to be the same line drawing from the UO collection.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Burger Mania Looks Past Induced Travel and Emissions

As an instance of pop culture, consumerism, and food trends the new burger joint in Keizer is an undeniable thing, maybe a big thing. While the paper did not do a big Black Friday package, they did send what looked to be a six person team for saturation coverage on the restaurant opening. Portland media also sent individuals and some teams. (In this the business outsourced much of its marketing and look how much they got for free! And of course, even this note reinforces that in a very small way. There's no bad press in that regard.)

Front page today
Still, while Greta is Time's Person of the Year, the story here erases all the people in cars waiting at a drive-thru with idling motors, that the restaurant is a shrine to cheap beef, and all the travel and trips the opening induced. It's a kind of carbon pollution bingo, really.

A couple days ago
In addition to the other angles it should be a transportation story and a climate story about our wilful disregard for emissions.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

State Street Downtown Scheduled for Two-Way Conversion in June Next Year - Updated

There was a lull in publishing updates from the City Manager for a couple of months, but this week a flurry for October and November appeared. In them is very interesting news about State Street downtown: It is poised to go two-way next year!

State Street circa 1920: two-way travel,
back-in angle parking, streetcar in the middle
(unknown postcard source - our Strong Towns group has used it!)
The update refers to the project as "State Street Streetscape," which I read as a conflation of the Streetscape study for sidewalks and the Central Salem Mobility study. But when they say "two-waying," that signals we are talking about the Mobility Study's recommendation, not merely the sidewalk plan.

Latest on State Street two-way conversion, October 31st
The final plan, adopted in August of 2013, selected Alternative 2, for an old-school cross-section of two auto travel lands, one auto center turn pocket, and two standard bike travel lanes in the door zones of parallel parking along the curb.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Bikeways in the Neighborhoods: Speed Hump Questions; New Interest near Bush Park

Will the next couple of years be when we finally decide what we are going to do about a citywide bike network? Assessing one Neighborhood Greenway and figuring out potential next steps on new ones have been topics at neighborhood associations this fall.

Highland Neighborhood Association meets on Thursday the 12th, and it sounds like the new speed humps on the Winter-Maple Greenway are not as effective as neighbors would like.

via Twitter
From the October minutes:
[S]everal neighbors had some concerns about the speed humps that had been installed on Maple St. N.E. and how it was felt that the bumps were actually not helping the area in the way it was understood it would as traffic has not slowed down. A new traffic study is being done and several others have been done in the area and once the results are compiled, [City Traffic Engineer Kevin] Hottman has promised to return to the Highland Neighborhood meeting and give a more thorough report. This will probably be sometime around March of 2020 and once the board has been notified, he will be placed on the agenda.
So this is something to watch. So far we have not much installed traffic diverters, and it may be that we need more seriously to consider them or other stronger forms of traffic calming.

The Highland Neighborhood Association meets Thursday the 12th at 7:00 p.m. in the North Neighbors Resource Center, 945 Columbia St NE.


SCAN also meets, on Wednesday the 11th, and minutes from the last two meetings had several tidbits of note.

Taking next steps on connections immediately south of downtown has been on the minds of neighbors.

Priority Bikeways in SCAN:
Cemetery connection, Church St route, et. al.
(2017 version of TSP)

Sunday, December 8, 2019

A Modern Poor Farm? Concept for Hillcrest to Hope Crest Misses on Transport

Back in the last century we had an official Poor Farm north of the city.

Marion County Poor Farm, 1892
(Salem Library Historic Photos, see also these from 1941)

The Poor Farm just north of the Deaf School (1915 USGS)
The idea's apparently hard to resist, and there's new interest in a modern Poor Farm at the former site of the Oregon State Industrial School for Girls.

"to reform, not punish" - September 22nd, 1914
Advocates for the project do not seem to have considered how car-dependent is the area. Or perhaps they have, and its remoteness is a feature. But if we wanted to be able to connect people to services, exiling them out to this rather rural area of undeveloped Salem does not meet that goal. It's really isolated out there! And it will be a while yet before the adjacent land is built out.

City Council, December 9th - Public Art Commission Report

Council meets on Monday, and there aren't really any transport issues on the agenda. So bullets:
Maybe there is a little to say on the Art Commission.

The Eye of Salem Sauron

Adorable critter art
The report's lead image is a rendering of the new art for the Police Station. On the next page is the cricket/grasshopper bolted on to one of our alley building walls.

Public art should be accessible, not conceptual. Why don't we have more critter art?! People love the Peace Mosaic. If we want art that is "welcoming and livable," we should have more art that offers easy delights.

Addendum, on Transit

So Kansas City's new fareless transit system's been in the news. Cherriots is of course distinct from City Council, but I don't think I am going to write about it separately, so here's a brief clip and note.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Tunnel at North and Parrish, Cops Driving Badly, Ride-Hailing Problems - Newsbits

In the news a while ago, but online only and for a week now not in the print edition, was an interesting note about an injury in the tunnel under the railroad between Parrish and North High. It's about a lawsuit against the School District and City, and it seems indisputable that the underpass is generally neglected and poorly maintained. Whether this rises to the level of negligence a jury will have to say if it's not settled first, but it is interesting that the City apparently agreed to maintain it, and they have hardly done this. There are no other lawful crossings between Marion Street and D Street, and the tunnel serves a small but useful purpose.

RR Underpass, 1939 - closed frequently
From the piece:
The lawsuit comes more than four years after the then-11-year-old boy was instructed by his teacher during his fourth-period physical education class to go across the parking lot and through the tunnel to the high school football field so they could continue their course in football and related field activities....

At the bottom of the ramp that enters the tunnel, two steel posts were implanted in the ground along with the remnants and metal footing of a third post.

At the time, the asphalt along the ramp and in the tunnel was cracked, uneven and in disrepair, according to the lawsuit.

As the student was running down the ramp, his foot struck the raised metal piece of the third post remnant, and he fell....

When the tunnel was built, the city of Salem agreed to maintain the entire underpass and structure, including the tunnel, according to the lawsuit.

But the city failed to abide by this agreement, [the lawyer] said. They failed to provide proper lighting in the tunnel, maintain the sidewalk and surrounding area, warn those using the tunnel of possible hazards and regularly inspect the area to ensure safety
See more discussion of underpasses here. People advocate for under- and overpasses, but they are trouble to maintain and keep safe, and part of the context here is not just the question of negligence, but how we create barriers inside the city with rail and high speed roads like highways and arterials, and what ongoing resources are necessary to sustain the crossings as useful everyday. We often don't budget adequately for future maintenance obligations or consider them in the initial capital costs of infrastructure.

Friday, December 6, 2019

City Should be Cautious about Permanently Abandoning Croisan Scenic Way for Trail

You might recall a year ago, Salem Area Trail Alliance hosted an open house for the trails along Croisan Creek and around Sprague. They drew attention to one trail in particular, along the alignment for a future extension of Croisan Scenic Way.

The current trail along a future extension of Croisan Scenic Way
(See SATA Skyline and Croisan Trail System Topo Map)
This month they are trying to rally support to make the trail permanent.
Call to action for the Croisan Trail! There will be a presentation about the Croisan Trail at the SWAN neighborhood association meeting tomorrow, December 3rd, 6:30 pm at Salem Heights Elementary School. The action item is to get a motion to go to City Council to ask that the right of way where the trail sits be taken off the transportation plan to prevent future development along that corridor, and preserve it for recreation. Please show up if you can-- warm bodies are needed!
Councilor Nordyke attended the meeting and has expressed an initial level of enthusiasm.

Councilor Nordyke reposted the notice

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Update on Historic Preservation Plan may be too Limited

Not long after the Viesko House was awarded the 2018 Maxwell Award for preservation and designated a "local landmark" by the City, it was marketed as a rental.

Downtown commercial buildings in the Historic District are generally leased and not owner-occupied, so it's not like we make owner occupancy some big deal in historic preservation.

Still, the Viesko House is very minor, it's not a "high style" exemplar, and it is possible to wonder what its designation really accomplished. It's not like we now have a published history of Viesko's building activity. There is no sense of any new historical narrative or analysis that the house instantiates and presents to the wider public.

Mostly it's a private benefit for the owner, who in the case of the Viekso house either flipped it or rented it out, and the designation makes redevelopment less likely.

Two slides link two processes
(October Stakeholder Presentation)
The City is undertaking an update to the Historic Preservation Plan and last night there was an Open House at the Mill. I missed the announcement, but I'm not sure I have much to say. Still, I worry that the Plan will be understood as a way to carve out exclusions and freeze more areas from HB 2001 and fourplex legalization and other changes we might make as part of "Our Salem." It is not adequately connected with our other conversations on transit, on the comprehensive plan, on carbon pollution and climate, and on equity.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Driver in SUV kills Rodric Kenyon Drolshagen Crossing Front Street at Carousel

While making a left-hand turn out from Riverfront Park a driver in a large SUV has killed Rodric Kenyon Drolshagen crossing Front Street at State Street today.

Crosswalk in which a driver struck and killed a 70 year old today

The memorial in the crosswalk island, Nov 8th
After the initial, very minimal tweet from Salem PD, focusing on street closures and traffic, the subsequent release by the Police:
On 12/4/19, shortly before 11am, Salem Police responded to a report of a vehicle crash involving a pedestrian at the intersection of Front St and State Street. Witnesses reported the pedestrian was struck as he was attempting to cross the northbound lanes of Front street, heading from the Riverfront park area. The involved vehicle, a black Ford Explorer, was exiting the Riverfront Carousel parking lot, located at State street and Front street, and was turning left to proceed northbound onto Front street, when the pedestrian was hit. Witnesses provided first aid to the pedestrian prior to emergency responders arriving. The pedestrian was prounced deceased at the scene.

The involved driver remained on scene and is cooperating with the investigation. Investigators are working to identify and contact the next of kin for the pedestrian. The cause of the crash is still under investigation. There have been no citations or arrests made.
And an update with the name of the person killed, but not the driver:
Salem Police investigators have identified the pedestrian involved in the fatal crash on December 4th as 72 yr old Salem resident Rodric Kenyon Drolshagen. Drolshagen was walking his dog across front street, at State Street, and was in a marked crosswalk, when he was struck by a vehicle and later pronounced deceased at the scene. His dog was not injured and is currently in the process of being reunited with family members.

The investigation is continuing and no citations or arrests have been made.
In headlines on their initial stories, both Statesman Journal and Salem Reporter erase the driver, seemingly treating the death as the result of some mysterious process rather than car violence:

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

The 2009 Blueprint for Better Biking: Revisiting after a Full Decade

Back in the heady days of the early aughts, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance in Portland (now the Street Trust) published a "Blueprint for Better Biking."

Blueprint for Better Biking (2005)*
A little later in the aughts, taking the document as a template, a group of Salemites, at that time working as a "chapter" of the BTA, which still considered itself something of a statewide group, formulated a version for Salem.

Many of the concepts were then taken up into "Bike and Walk Salem," the walking and biking update to the Transportation System Plan adopted in 2012. So the document served a real purpose and was not at all lost effort.

Still, the document is ten years old this year, and it is interesting to consider how much progress we might have made. In that regard it might be a little disappointing.

The "engineering" projects - with our newer bike map
The Portland document identified 40 projects; with Salem a smaller city, the Salem one only 12:

Two Notes on Crash Reporting and the Passive Voice

Two pieces on the front page today show our problem with crash reporting, grammar, and the attribution of fault in motor vehicle crashes.

Passive voice and erasing the driver
In a note about the horrific crash on Cordon Road, in part because fault has not been assigned by law enforcement, the drivers' participation and responsibility is erased and even evaded.
a Chevrolet passenger van made a left-hand turn and was struck by a Ford F-350 pickup truck
But better:
While driving a Chevrolet passenger van Pablo Gaspar-Ezequiel made a left-hand turn and collided with Cory Kudna driving a Ford F-350 pickup truck
This also avoids assigning blame to one driver or the other, but it also points to the fact the people were in charge of the vehicles, even when one or both of them made catastrophic errors.

By contrast, a piece about the sentencing of a driver in a DUI case, where guilt has already been adjudicated, is unambiguous about the grammatical and moral subject.

Active voice with driver as subject
But even when fault is not yet clear and there is not a morally clear cut case between bad driver and victims, it is still true that people are operating cars and we should be clear about their responsibility in that operation, even when errors occur.