Sunday, August 30, 2020

Erasing Climate in Burger Nostalgia and Autoism

We should not begrudge a centenarian their day.

Front page today
But also, if we are going to celebrate a business they created, and are going to sketch a little bit of its history, we ought also to reckon a little more critically with its place in culture and our current historical moment.

Burgers and Cars: Both significant sources of greenhouse gases

Friday, August 28, 2020

Affordable Housing for German Baptist Church set for Hearing at Planning Commission

A proposal for adaptive reuse and affordable housing in the former German Baptist Church, more recently known as Evergreen Presbyterian, will finally get its day in a Public Hearing. The City's published a formal Hearing Notice for a September 15th date before the Planning Commission.

The main facade on D Street doesn't appear much changed
Earlier this Summer Council knee-capped the first iteration on a proposal for the 1928 Church building. See:
At the time it very much looked like Council preempted the normal process, pulling funding from a separate Federal source in order to halt the project. But the grounds on which they halted it were a zoning matter - which hadn't yet had any hearing. It was strange and seemed premature on the surface.

Councilor Andersen explained in July:
At the last Council meeting, we determined that we would not be awarding a Community Development Block Grant to DevNw, to develop low income housing in the Grant neighborhood because the group planned to seek a zoning change to commercial use in order to place its office on the premises in the old manse. This has caused some concerns in the blogosphere that we are against low income housing, which is not at all the case. We were against the inclusion of commercial zoning in a residential area.
Now, the developer has revised the concept with different zoning, zoning the Neighborhood Association initially said they found acceptable. Preliminary reports from the NA suggest the NA has flip-flopped and still opposes the project. When the Staff Report is published we'll have a better sense for any lingering NA opposition.

But this is the right process. On the zoning question, people will have to argue more closely to the merits, and this will be fairer than the round-about and perhaps even devious way Council checked the project earlier this year. If Council does weigh in, they will do so on appeal, and on the merits, not by some other and more distant procedural matter.

There will be more to say later once the Staff Report is out.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

More Safe Routes to Schools Applications: At the MPO

The Policy Committee for our Metropolitan Planning Organization convenes today, and several of the items we've already touched on in other conversations. So just a brief note.

Three County Safe Routes project applications
The MPO will likely submit letters in support of the five Safe Routes to Schools project applications from the City of Salem and the three from Marion County.

The County ones are:
At least one street is gravel, and several are over-wide residential streets missing sidewalks or with non-standard ones. Zooming is very likely a problem. This is basic remediation more than anything else.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Ride Salem, Public Bike System, on Hiatus, Planning for Relaunch

With the Pandemic there has obviously been a great deal of pause, closure, and change. It has not always seemed necessary or useful to track every last part of this.

Ride Salem in July 2019
at the downtown Transit Mall, NE corner
One of the changes that might have passed unnoticed, a small detail for most of us (but of course for those who operate it, it would be a big deal) in the middle of the Pandemic, is that Ride Salem shut down in June.

It has not seemed important to chase down the details, as between the Pandemic and national-level changes to the bike rental industry, there are big structural reasons for any change, and it was not primarily any local problem (even if the lack of local support might be a secondary reason and have accelerated any change or made a total shut-down more likely).

Cherriots Trip Choice report on Ride Salem

Saturday, August 22, 2020

City Council, August 24th - Safe Routes to Schools Applications

Also on the Monday agenda for Council is a suite of applications for the next round of State Safe Routes to Schools funding.

Salem area Safe Routes to Schools project applications
In the 2017 transportation package, the State created a Safe Routes to School fund. $26.25 million is projected to be available for the 2021-2022 funding cycle. (It would not be at all surprising for the Pandemic to take a bite out of this, however.) The City has identified five projects they think will be competitive. They say
Candidate projects were screened against the grant award criteria. High priorities for this cycle of funding include: proximity to Title 1 schools (with higher priority given to schools with higher percent free/reduced lunch participants); safety risk factors; elementary and middle schools; and project readiness.
The five projects (see map above, links in bullets added) are:
  • Barnes Avenue SE: Construct sidewalk to fill gaps on the south side of Barnes Avenue SE between Andresen Street SE and Nightcap Street SE. Estimated project cost is $860,000; City would be requesting $688,000 and providing $172,000 in matching funds. Serves Pringle Elementary School.
  • Broadway Street NE @ Locust Avenue NE: Install median island in the north leg of the intersection to accommodate an improved pedestrian crosswalk and ADA ramps. Estimated project cost is $141,000; City would be requesting $112,800 and providing $28,200 in matching funds. Serves Highland Elementary School.
  • Macleay Road SE @ Caplinger Road SE: Install sidewalk on south side of Caplinger Road SE and west side of Macleay Road SE. Install median island with crosswalk on Macleay Road SE at Caplinger Road SE. Estimated project cost is $2.3 million; City would be requesting $1,840,000 and providing $460,000 in matching funds. Serves Mary Eyre Elementary School.
  • Pringle Road SE @ Hillendale Drive SE: Install pedestrian crossing with median island, ADA ramps, and street lighting on north side of Pringle Road SE at Hillendale Drive SE intersection. Construct sidewalk on Pringle Road SE from Morningside Court SE to Salishan Street SE. Estimated project cost is $485,000; City would be requesting $388,000 and providing $97,000 in matching funds. Serves Morningside Elementary School.
  • Sunnyview Road NE @ Hollywood Drive NE: Install median island in the east leg of the intersection to accommodate an improved pedestrian crosswalk, ADA ramps, and street lighting. Estimated project cost is $155,000; City would be requesting $124,000 and providing $31,000 in matching funds. Serves Swegle Elementary School.
Something that is not discussed in the Staff Report is any extent to which the School District's construction bond dovetails with any of these. Immediately at schools there are some street changes the District is funding, but they aren't of course responsible for the general street system. Still, we have read much more about parking lot expansion at McNary and South Salem, and very little about how the District might be thinking about Safe Routes to School for non-auto travel.

Friday, August 21, 2020

City Council, August 24th - Nonsense on Broadway at Pine - Updated

Council convenes on Monday and on the agenda we see the autoist disconnect between driving, climate, and safety.

What is now the annual burning:
Yesterday's front page in San Francisco
We'll zoom out a little and start with climate. The slow-moving train wreck that is our approach to climate is going to dwarf our problem with traffic violence. If our forthcoming Climate Action Plan is to be effective, it will have to influence, even determine, traffic planning. Currently we plan our roads as if there was no emergency on climate.*

Yesterday here in Salem
Interior page today here
Two weeks ago Council tabled the matter of widening Broadway Street NW at Pine Street. The Oberys, Angela and Gary, had raised questions and Council wanted more information.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Salem's First Attempt to Preserve Oaks? Parrish Grove Effort Failed 100 Years Ago

Nearly 100 years ago Salemites talked about saving a "beauty spot" associated with the Parrish DLC, an Oak grove, and Mill Creek.

The "Parrish Grove" area
between Capital, D, Union Streets, and the railroad on 12th.
1905 Birdseye map, via Library of Congress, notes added

May 23rd, 1922
With a new round of deliberation on the proposed Costco in South Salem this summer, the on-going assessment of the Oaks in Bush Park, and the lack of urban parks along our creeks, it is a little interesting to look back nearly 100 years at what might be the first attempt at Oak grove preservation here in Salem.

Before Parrish Junior High was constructed in 1924, the area just south of it held a lovely Oak grove.

Two years earlier a group of Salemites submitted a proposal for "one of Salem's beauty spots, the oak grove at North Mill creek and Capitol street." They felt it should not be subdivided into lots, sold off, and developed, but instead should be a park or playground.

Ultimately they were not successful, and the area became the Parrish Grove addition, a fascinating pocket neighborhood wedged in between the school, the railroad, the creek, and Capital Street.

I don't know that there are direct lessons here. It is possible to wish they had been successful; the area would have made a very nice park on the creek. With the railroad, the schools later, and then orphaned a little by the Capitol Mall as it grew, a park might have been a better use for that particular area, now about a square of four small, undersized blocks. But that may be visible only in hindsight, and it was reasonable to develop it as housing also. Some of the oaks still appear to be there, and as we face the exigencies of climate, we should be thinking more about housing and oaks, rather than one or the other. It is also possible to think that the current neighborhood achieved a compromise between tree preservation and new housing.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

"Tennessee to the Rescue": Editorial gives Thanks for 19th Amendment

The front page today in Nashville
(with historical front page of August 19th, 1920)
From the Capital Journal editorial celebrating the 19th Amendment (though perhaps mixed a little ambiguously with rhetoric of "redemption" and "gallantry"):
Today, however, Tennessee stands redeemed, and enshrined in the hearts of the women of America for Tennessee, with true southern gallantry has rushed to the aid of women at the crucial hour, by ratifying the suffrage amendment to the federal constitution....
Locally: "Tennessee to the Rescue" (August 18th, 1920)
Hereafter women will share with men the responsibilities of government and help make the great experiment of democracy a success.

The long battle waged for many years by a few courageous women, greeted for decades with jeers and derision, has been crowned with success. The cause for which so many brave women struggled valiantly for years, has triumphed, even though none of the gallant little band of pioneers survive to see the day of victory. And its triumph is due to the ideal of a square deal implanted in the heart of the American people - and as along as such ideals animate the people, the nation is safe.
For more on the editorial, the front page in Salem, and the general reception here, see "19th Amendment in Salem: Help for Great Experiment of Democracy."

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Interior Coverage Betrays Women of the Century Project

It is easy to complain about the standardization of the RGSJ Today. But even apart from the cloned front pages, the paper was especially dispiriting this morning.

Today's Template on the Statesman-Register-Journal-Guard
The "women of the century" project ought to be fascinating and inspiring, and it was great to learn something about Air Force Major General Jeanne Holm, who was new to me.

Beatrice Morrow Cannady leads
the Oregon Women of the Century
But after leading the localized part of the package with civil rights advocate Beatrice Morrow Cannady as one of Oregon's "10 influential women" of the century, on an interior page coverage of protests at the Capitol failed to express any of the values Cannady might plausibly hold (or the Public Health concerns of Dr. Lovejoy, for that matter).

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Buy Stamps, Post Letters, Support USPS

A slow-developing story over our Pandemic Spring and now Summer that may not be getting enough attention is the attempt to starve and then gut the Post Office, sell it off for scrap, and ultimately to privatize it.

55 cent Love, 2001 (featuring John Adams)
This is also a useful move to interfere with vote-by-mail and the November election. Even here, vote-by-mail, not to mention ordinary checks, bills, medicines, and love letters, are all potentially imperiled.

Oregonian today

But a bad Postmaster can slow it
April 28th
Get some stamps, write some letters or postcards, and support the post office - because it's definitely something whose loss we'll regret once it's gone.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Portland Re-legalizes Middle Housing and Dumps Costly Parking Mandates

The Portland zoning reform for middle housing and small plexes passed Portland City Council today.

Portland removed costly mandated parking
and legalized middle housing citywide - via Sightline
For more see this written just before the vote, "Portland will pass the best low-density zoning reform in US history. The reform sets a new standard: up to four homes on almost any lot, or up to six homes for price-regulated projects."

Just as in 1926 Salem copied Portland's 1924 zoning laws, which codified exclusionary zoning, in Our Salem we should strongly follow this modern revival to re-legalize small plexes, eliminate costly parking mandates, and work towards more affordable and more inclusionary housing.

There will likely be more to say about the zoning reform, and the Sightline piece is a great place to start.

(Our chapter pointed out another recent Sightline article of interest, "Foresters Could Lead on Carbon Drawdown: Simple changes in management could double carbon stores in Pacific Northwest forests." It features the Deumling clan of Zena Forest and their more sustainable forestry practices, both harvesting timber as well as protecting water and wildlife at the same time. Well worth a read.)

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Shaving a Foot off the Sidewalk and Bike Lane: At the MPO

The Technical Committee for the MPO convenes Tuesday the 11th and there's just a few items to note in passing. One of them is a perfect encapsulation for where we are: As we face our Climate Emergency, we are still screwing around, still dickering over reducing the width of sidewalks and bike lanes from six feet to five feet wide.

To economize, should we reduce sidewalk and bikelane width?
At MWACT last week, they were talking about maybe designating a specific member, or even adding a new member, as a representative for walking and biking, but the governance structures are never constituted to give these representatives much power or influence.* Generally these positions act as more a kind of greenwash. Until we see the State's walking and biking committee, OPBAC, really able to wield power and influence at ODOT, all of this action and review is on the margins, even literally, and that's why we see a whole agenda item to fussing over whacking a foot of the sidewalk and bike lanes as a value-engineering move.

At MWACT last week (separate from the MPO)
How about we whack down the auto travel lane instead? I bet it's more than 10 feet wide! Or even just delete a whole project for auto capacity?

As long as the framework remains so autoist, "bike-pedestrian representation" is too often merely ornamental and we are stuck with fiddling on the margins of things.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

City Council, August 11th - Broadway, Cemetery, Grant School

Council convenes on Monday, and there are three interesting transportation items on the agenda.

Broadway at Pine Street and Counting Lanes

Deceptive language:
Edgewater at Rosemont with four lanes, not three
One of the items concerns the intersection on Broadway at Pine Street:
Shall Council authorize the City Manager to execute the Intergovernmental Agreement with the Oregon Department of Transportation for Right-of-Way Services for the Broadway Street NE at Pine Street NE Improvements Project?....

The Broadway Street NE at Pine Street NE Improvements Project will modify the left-turn signals to protective permissive (flashing yellow arrows); reduce the four-lane roadway to three lanes with a center turn lane between Salem Parkway NE and Pine Street NE; and install a right-turn lane on the northbound leg of Broadway Street NE at Pine Street NE
The City is using deceptive language for the project. It requires a very elastic notion of "reduce" to say that the City will "reduce the four-lane roadway to three lanes with a center turn lane...[and] a right-turn lane." When you count the lanes on a nearly identical cross-section on Edgewater at Rosemont in West Salem, if you count the center turn lane as a lane, you should also count the right-turn lane as a lane, and that yields a total of four lanes (the in-bound, opposite direction lane is assumed).

By including a right-turn lane in the project, this is no longer a 4/3 "reduction" from four to three lanes! It is instead a 4/4 equivalent and no net reduction on this segment.

For more on that, see the note from last month here, "City Poised to Oversize Broadway at Pine Street; Engineer offers Counter."

Cemetery Connection

Councilor Nordyke proposes some next steps on the prospect for a connection at the Cemetery between Candalaria and Fairmount neighborhoods. (Mont/mount is confusing with Rosemont and Fairmount!)

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Mighty Oak Breaks and Tumbles at the IOOF Pioneer Cemetery

On a walk over the weekend, it was surprising to see a tree toppled over in the cemetery. It looked like the Oak had a bifurcated trunk, and one of the forks had failed.

Half of an old Oak fell in the cemetery (August 1st, afternoon)
The toppled canopy spread out a ways. The branches wrapped over and around several monuments, but it was not possible to see how much damage if any the tree fall might have caused.

Yesterday evening, crews were wrapping up after removing the branches and piecing up the trunk.

Most of it cut up and removed (August 3rd, evening)
The monument for James Davidson, one of our five Veterans of the War of 1812, was intact.