Monday, December 7, 2020

A Gas Station Preceded Lipmans, on Costco, and Harmful Tire Dust - Bits

The Sunday paper had a nice historical note about the Cinnamon Bear and downtown Lipman's store, now remodeled into the Liberty Plaza.

On Lipmans and the Cinnamon Bear, Sunday paper

But what was there first? Like other downtown corners, it had a gas station at one time.

The corner Liberty and Chemeketa
before Lipmans, 1939
(Salem Library Historic Photos)

In Before/After sets you can also see the moderne remodel of the Steusloff building and the Electric Apartments.

The Liberty Street side of Lipmans, circa 1956
(Salem Library Historic Photos)

Homes on the corner, before the gas station
1895 Sanborn map, Library of Congress

One thing to note about the corner now is that free parking has been no guarantee of success. Liberty Plaza, like the JCPenney building, has skybridges to plentiful free parking in the Chemeketa Parkade. This easy access to free parking has not made those spaces thrive.

The obvious conclusion is that some other ingredient is necessary for downtown health and that the convenience of free parking is not nearly as helpful as people want to argue.

Previously see:


Here, facing our climate future, it has seemed like the big fueling station will be the biggest mistake at the new Costco. Others have focused on different elements. Also in the Sunday paper was a piece by a couple of the Costco appellants. (Hinessight also has a note about it, especially the imbalance between volunteer Councilors and full-time staff.)

Appellants' post-script in paper Sunday

They offer criticism:

  1. Failure by city staff and attorney to formalize the conditions noted  ("Neighborhood-friendly shopping center," "No Big Box store," "No gas station"…) when rezoning was approved in 2007
  2. Failure to include traffic as a major concern in the testimony submitted by the city to the State Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA)
  3. Failure by the city to express "preservation of the grove of trees" (especially the mature heritage white oaks) as another major issue related to the PacTrust site plan

And corresponding suggestions:

  1. Council needs to formally incorporate all the protective conditions and restrictions — including those offered by developers — in re-zoning and development-related actions
  2. City staff needs to make the safety and quality of life — neighborhoods and its residents — its top priority, rather than merely taking every step possible to facilitate development.
  3. Our publicly elected city councilors need to "ride herd" on city staff to ensure developers adhere to all city rules, regulations, guidelines and codes.

Points one and three seem like they should be unproblematic and generally supported.

But point two may rely a little too much on implied NIMBY sentiment and not be framed exactly enough. In the body of the piece they say the City "[a]ffirmed and accepted...the woefully inadequate and outdated traffic data submitted by PacTrust."

The unstated assumption seems to be that a "better" traffic analysis would expect even larger volumes of traffic and show that the project should have been altered or denied because of too many cars. (Not to mention that they overstate the difference between traffic from a big strip mall and traffic from the slightly bigger box Costco project.)

We saw some of this on the Grant Neighborhood's objections to the 19 homes in a remodeled German Baptist Church, which exaggerated impact to D Street traffic. (For some of the issues on traffic forecasting see this recent note.)

The underlying assumption of more development = more cars = more traffic, therefore we should stop or curb development is not quite right.

There are in fact many instances where we should want more development in order to have fewer car trips. We rely so much on cars because we space useful things at car-dependent distances. In round terms Salem averages around 5 homes per acre. At 20 homes per acre many more things become walkable and low-car and car-free living becomes much, much easier. Transit, in particular, can become much more robust when users are more clustered.

via Twitter

There were real problems with the process and outcome on the Costco project, and criticism of the City on some points is definitely warranted. 

But as we consider our Climate Action Plan, we will need to reconsider low-density, car-dependent suburbanism as "livable" and offering "quality of life," and see instead higher densities as the more livable choice. We will need to develop more nuanced critiques of development and traffic that differentiate more on quality and less on quantity.

Electric Cars aren't Going to Save Us

And finally more evidence that cars and driving are themselves problematic, not something that will be solved by the shift to new fuel sources. Batteries also have problems with materials and disposal. Cars offer all kinds of problems, and we should move away from them for our mobility, seeing them as mobility of last resort not first resort.

Electric Cars aren't going to save us
(Saturday's paper)

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