Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Apparently the State Nixed Lancaster and State Street for Opportunity Zones

You might recall back in January there were interesting questions about the way new the Federal Opportunity Zone program areas overlapped with our existing Enterprise and Urban Renewal Zones, and in the overlap omitted some of the areas in Salem with the most poverty and most need. This was puzzling.

Salem's four zones
Posted online, but not yet in print, the SJ has the start of a good discussion of some of the political maneuvering behind the decision.

via Twitter
It turns out the City suggested the State Street and Lancaster corridors, and the Governor's office went in a different direction in making final recommendations to the Feds. The City didn't protest very much, and for whatever combination of reasons, this counts as a missed opportunity.

One thing strangely missing from the piece is acknowledgment about the way the fragmented jurisdictions, some of the Lancaster corridor is City of Salem, some is unincorporated Marion County, may have complicated things. Surely this is a factor.

Still, relevant State officials declined to comment, and it remains murky why the Lancaster and State Street proposals were declined. It definitely seems like there is more to the story. Hopefully this will be an ongoing inquiry! Check it out.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Crosswalk on Commercial at Royvonne Nears Finish and Woodmansee Project Kicks Off

The new enhanced crosswalk on south Commercial at Royvonne is nearing completion.

With the flashers installed and shrouded, not quite open;
but still signed for 40mph, July 29th
via Placemakers
But on a road that is still signed for 40mph and has a design speed that is yet significantly higher, there remains a fundamental structural mismatch between the expectation that drivers will yield to people on foot and all the other road cues to drivers. Additionally, a driver proceeding at the lawful rate of speed is still nearly certain to kill a person on foot. Any human moment of inattention, not merely gross negligence, but ordinary inattention by driver or by walker, will punish the person on foot with near certain death. A basic asymmetry persists.

Monday, July 29, 2019

The New Yorker on Autoism

In a long survey of recent books, the New Yorker looks at some of the costs of our 20th century autoism.

Downsides to cars - via Twitter
The piece is more nuanced than a simple declaration that "yes, the automotive era was a mistake." The headline's a little clickbaity in that regard.
There are two strong claims in favor of the idea that our century-long adventure in owning and crashing gasoline cars was, although not perfect, a step forward. The first is infrastructural: cars let Americans cross cities, states, woods, mountains, deserts, and, ultimately, the nation in reasonable time. Cities and towns thrived with the flow. The second is cultural: the idea that car travel conjugates American life in its healthiest and most distinctive forms. Both arguments took root in the two-decade period after the Second World War.
But most of the piece is about the costs of our autoism, about the ways our cars don't love us back.

It's a good essay and review of some recent literature. Check it out.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Marion Car Park Demolition, Market St Crosswalk, Falcons - Bits

With not a lot to write about, and with evenings warm, sometimes like last night a little hot, but not scorching yet so far this summer, it seemed like it might be a little interesting to follow the progress of demolition on the Marion Car Park.

But it has offered no revelations or anything particularly interesting. (Have you noticed any details in the rubble?)

The Willamette last night
The revelation instead came last night walking under the Center Street Bridge after crossing the Union St RR Bridge and finally seeing - and hearing! - the Peregrine Falcons. To have Eagles, Osprey, and now Falcons all here seems like a good sign of river health.

Tuesday the 16th

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Notes from the City Manager's Update

Not much transportation news right now, so a couple of quick hits from the City Manager's update.

As if these were the same kinds of businesses?
It is a little disingenuous to talk about the richest man in the world and his $3.7 million subsidy in the same breath as a very local cheese manufacturing project. One of these hits our agricultural, food-processing sweet spot, the other is big box generica that will change substantially with robot labor, and enriches someone who thinks outer space, not earth itself, deserves his investment.

A little worried about this as "we're doing enough already"
The idea that "the Salem community...[is] mostly unaware of the overall mitigating...greenhouse gases" is hardly relevant. We need to do so much more, and falsely anodyne proclamations about "look at us, look at how much we are already doing!" just are not very helpful at this point. The frame really needs to be our climate emergency, not tiny bits of incremental progress. The tone here is cavalier and worrisome, too much cheering for Salem, not enough on the work at hand.

Tree mortality from climate disruption, Monday

On air pollution, yesterday's Oregonian, front page

Saturday, July 20, 2019

City Council, July 22nd - Salem Heights and the Wren - updated

Very soon, it will be legal to put four-plexes on each lot of a new subdivision in land that had been zoned for single family residences.

Though we have a couple of years to make the code changes to bring Salem's zoning in conformance with the new State law, HB 2001, its passage and future impacts might be the best lens now for considering new developments.

Council meets on Monday and they will be reviewing a 34-lot subdivision on Salem Heights at Winola, "Wren Heights." Though it's a proposal for 34 single-family houses, now, it could be over 120 four-plex homes in 2022! Doesn't that have to change the way we look at proposals now?

Salem Heights at Winola, looking west:
No sidewalks, but lots of trees (2018)
Salem Heights here is still from old County standards from before it was annexed into the City of Salem, and it lacks sidewalks and bike lanes. The land in question is a large wooded parcel, and many neighbors think of it as a quasi-park or nature reserve. A development here also has a recent history of being a messy project, with a disputed ownership; a somewhat different proposal was at the City a little over a year ago and it was also contested. New owners are behind this proposal, but many of the objections are the same.

A new subdivision would create connections with Winola
and would also help avoid some of the steep hills here
(green = low traffic, red = the terrible stretch of Liberty,
from the Salem Area bike map)
Those who argue we should preserve the open space do not often account for the ways that open space forces things to be farther and farther apart. Open space has an autoist bias, and makes it more difficult to space things at convenient walking distances. Parks refresh the mind and body, but they also force useful things farther apart, and we should be careful about overdeploying urban open space as ornamental emptiness. There are two elementary schools very close, and Minto is just down the hill. This area is not likely underparked.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Open Streets Salem Cancelled for 2019, Postponed to 2020

A little buried in the minutes from the June SESNA meeting is sad news that Open Streets Salem has been postponed this year.

Open Streets Salem postponed to 2020
This is not wholly surprising. The event was supposed to be in September, and there has been a long silence this spring and early summer. In Portland and Eugene the schedule and routes for this year have long been published. On social media Open Streets Salem has hardly posted or published anything this year. With neither formal nor informal kinds of communication, it seemed likely that there were difficulties.

Indeed there were. Shoot.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

With Marion Car Park's Demolition, let's Revisit Otto J. Wilson's Garage

100 years ago last month, Otto J. Wilson became Mayor of Salem. He'd served temporarily in that capacity before, and this was poised to be a longer term, finishing the year-and-a-half on Mayor Albin's after he'd resigned.

Otto J. Wilson garage, May 1952.  Image courtesy of John Wilson
With the demolition of the Marion Car Park, and any claim it might have to historic significance, let's look at something more important. It's a bee in the bonnet here that Otto J. Wilson's downtown garage on Commercial and Center is by almost any measure more directly historically significant than the Car Park, whose significance is mainly indirect.

June 17th, 1919

June 17th, 1919
About the Marion Car Park, the Downtown Historic District says:
The Marion Car Rental and Park, built in 1950, is a contributing property in the Salem commercial district because of its association with the tremendous impact of the automobile on downtown commercial districts across the county, including Salem's. From the 1920s onward and especially following World War II, the nearly universal ownership of automobiles gave rise to the growing popularity of shopping centers away from central business districts that offered ample car parking. Efforts to accommodate cars in the downtown encouraged the removal of numerous older buildings and, in their place, the construction of car parking, maintenance, and rental facilities.
At the time the Historic District's nomination was written and the District created, the Marion Car Park's ties to Pietro Belluschi had been lost. The significance of the structure was more generic than specific to Salem or to any historical figures. More than anything, it was the tie to David Duniway's inability to preserve the Holman Building from demolition and the concomitant creation of the Marion County Historical Society in 1950, that made the Car Park significant.

It's all borrowed glory, really. (Not to mention great loss from autoism's appetite: "efforts to accommodate cars...encouraged the remove of numerous older buildings...")

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Cherriots and the Mayor Pretend to use the Public Bike System

Yesterday Cherriots posted what is, at least on the surface, a perfect instance of a Potemkin ride:

via Facebook
It's a very short loop of only a few seconds and, especially with the reverse action, it's supposed to be whimsical. As something playful, it would be wrong to make too much of it.

And yet in a fundamental way it seems wrong-footed and an illustration of the way the City is going to sideline the system and sideline bicycling. It leans away from the total system and its utility, away from something deeply connected with transit.

The loop as published is mainly signalling, and only illustrates the idea of bicycling, not an actual ride, or something that is obviously part of an actual ride. They are up on the empty concrete pad immediately to the north of the bus mall, and not actually in the street. Though it probably does not meet the strict definition of bicycling on downtown sidewalks, which except for police is illegal, it is insufficiently distinct from that, and might give the idea that bikes are ok on downtown sidewalks.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The Struggle to Connect Climate and Transportation

Making connections between our autoism and climate remains elusive.

Today on the front page it was apt to see a story on climate next to the story on the recruitment for a new ODOT Director.

Front page today: Climate and Transportation
So close. But still something of a miss.

The stories were essentially merely juxtaposed, not threaded into each other and integrated.

You have to get fourth and fifth paragraphs into the ODOT story to read that
The new Oregon Department of Transportation director will face other expectations.

Policymakers want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles.
Greenhouse gas and climate gets framed up as some other, secondary matter, a special interest.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Redeveloping Belluschi Pond at CANDO; MAPS Cans Drive-Thru

The downtown neighborhood association, CANDO, meets on Tuesday and they'll be getting an update on the proposal to redevelop the crater and seasonal pond on the corner of Liberty and Chemeketa, the former site of Pietro Belluschi's First National Bank.

And a new bank is poised to go in just down the street from the new Police Station.

From back in March, but they finally drained it

In April they said "a ways off," but it's looking closer now
On the CANDO agenda, the project is described as "mixed use" only, and may or may not have all 154 apartments mentioned back in April. It will also be interesting to learn whether the old City Hall site is included.

It will be great to see the corner redeveloped. (Update: Nope, the project's been cancelled.)

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Loving Bush Park to Death? Assessing Risks to the Oaks

Over on FB, discussion about felling yet another large Oak in Bush Park revealed that the Mission Streets Parks Conservancy has published an independent assessment and report on the state of the Oak trees in the Park. With the Art Fair and its traffic right around the corner, it's a timely subject.

A new report on the oaks at Bush Park
The report concludes, "The main threats to the health of the Oaks at Bush’s Pasture Park come from damage done to the soil by human activities," and offers several recommendations on irrigation, debris and mulch, and managing traffic and activity on and near the root zones.

Several recommendations
It was also interesting to get reoriented on mistletoe. The parasite should not be removed, in turns out; its retention provides habitat for several species of birds.

If you are interested in the natural history of Bush Park, it's worth checking out.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Belle Epoque Bike Bits - Filler Friday

While the national headlines are bonkers, there's not a whole lot of local transportation news or city things. Here's some filler.

The Harvard Library recently released a new interface for their digital collections, and if you have a personal or professional interest, it might be worth checking out. I searched for vintage bicycles and for Salem.

Columbia-Pope Catalogue, 1895 (Harvard Library)
Here's a glorious front cover for a Columbia Bicycles catalogue from 1895.  The interior pages are great, also.

Interior, model 41 (Harvard Library)

Thursday, July 11, 2019

City of Portland itself to Investigate Decongestion Pricing

You know already about the ODOT project for some kind of decongestion pricing on the I-5 and I-205 corridors in the Portland area.

Now, the City of Portland itself is also formally initiating a project to evaluate decongestion pricing on city streets.

via Twitter

via Twitter

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The Laws for Compulsory Autoism at The Atlantic

The Atlantic has a great piece on the legal framework for our compulsory autoism.

via Twitter
From the piece, an adaptation of a forthcoming law review article (and a small hat-tip to our state!):
Less well understood is how the legal framework governing American life enforces dependency on the automobile. To begin with, mundane road regulations embed automobile supremacy into federal, state, and local law. But inequities in traffic regulation are only the beginning. Land-use law, criminal law, torts, insurance, vehicle safety regulations, even the tax code—all these sources of law provide rewards to cooperate with what has become the dominant transport mode, and punishment for those who defy it....

To page through the law books today is to stumble again and again upon evidence of automobile supremacy. The range and depth of legal supports for driving is bewildering. But these laws, which are everywhere we look, are also opportunities.

All of these laws can be reversed directly by the legislative bodies responsible for passing them in the first place....Reformers have succeeded in doing so in Oregon and have shown promise in California. Far less attention has been paid, however, at the federal level. Recently, several Democratic candidates for president have released federal plans to prod states and cities to relax their zoning.

Congress could condition a small share (say, 5 percent) of federal funds on the adoption by states of housing-production goals or Vision Zero design standards calibrated for safety.
It's worth a read.

TOC for the underlying law review article

Friday, July 5, 2019

City Council, July 8th - Daylighting Pringle Creek

Council meets on Monday and a slate of three tranches of Urban Renewal funding leads the way.

View towards the Minto Bridge from Commercial St Bridge -
with retaining wall and concrete cap
Most interesting here is action on daylighting Pringle Creek and preparing for the path system in the former Boise project.

Also worth notice is increased funding from URA funds for both the Police Station and Division Street at the Police Station.

The Cthulhu keyboard and fish ladder
to be removed
 (Back in 2014)
You may recall a brief note back in April that the City was working on plans to remove the concrete cap over Pringle Creek between Commercial Street and Riverfront Park, in the area of the former Boise Cascade plant. A year before that, in April of 2018, the Nursing Home project was announced as delayed again, and we saw the first public discussion of cap removal.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Details on Ike Box Move and Pork in HB 5050

Proposed new site for IKE Box on Court at Cottage
Also on the agenda for next week's Planning Commission is a Public Hearing for the proposed IKE Box move. They might not yet have the funds raised - of course they might also! - but the time line is such that this process would need to happen in advance of the move with or without the funding.

The building set on the corner of Cottage & Court
It looks like it should be straight forward, though there are several instances of 5-foot setbacks for which exceptions are needed, a reduction in parking stalls, and a reduction in landscaping requirements. There is code sludge to shovel here!

Monday, July 1, 2019

Middle Housing Missing No More! And New Fairview Plan - Updated

In that Epic On-Off-On Charlie Foxtrot of a day, the Senate yesterday passed HB 2001 legalizing small plexes and other middle housing. It had already passed the House and looks to be signed into law.

via Twitter and full piece at Sightline
This offers meaningful direction to Our Salem, the process to update the Comprehensive Plan, and just simply takes maintaining current exclusionary zoning off the table.

There will be details we haggle over, and Salem itself will determine how much we embrace the new rules. There will be ways to make building middle housing easy, or ways to offer administrative friction and make it difficult and costly.

But there will be a new framework for the conversation and debate.

The Woods at Fairview

Meanwhile, and overtaken by the news on HB 2001, the latest phase of the Fairview project is going to be at the Planning Commission this month. The City's posted a Public Hearing Notice for "The Woods," a wedge of wooded land inside the Olsen Communities Fairview Addition. Olsen is not buying the land, however, and the resulting arrangement is a little convoluted across several dimensions.

"The Woods": Big lots, big houses, big trees