Monday, June 14, 2021

New Survey on Union Street and Project itself Suffers from Autoist Bias Still

While for Union Street the City says "The proposed project improvements will enhance the overall pedestrian, bike riding, and vehicular safety of this street," you might conclude something different from the survey they just published as well as from the recording of the videoconference presentation and discussion last week.

The survey leads with autoist framing that will bias the final survey results for preserving motor vehicle capacity and watering down any semblance of "family-friendly" standards. It almost looks like they are slow-walking the project, even trying to compromise it, by soliciting autoist opinion and not prioritizing the opinion, comfort, and safety of those who walk, bike, and roll.

Why are we soliciting motorist opinion?

Why is this the next question?

That this is by design is suggested by comments during the presentation about increasing the radius of corner turns to facilitate truck turning movements. Why are we prioritizing truck traffic on Union Street?!

On those curb returns, we are updating all the curb returns to current ADA standards and we are rebuilding them to the roadway classification...a lot of the radiuses are too small for truck turning...we're installing larger radius for the car and truck movements....

If we are going to make progress on increasing walking, biking, and rolling, and on decreasing vehicle miles traveled and emissions, we have to start putting people first and cars last. The needs of people on foot and on wheel should come first, and we should discourage through-travel by car on Union Street, let alone encouraging truck traffic and the higher-speed turns the larger radii induce.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

City Council, June 14th - Difficulties for Path Concept at IOOF Pioneer Cemetery

On Monday Council looks to approve and execute a Quitclaim Deed to a disputed alley segment adjacent to John Street and the northern border of the IOOF Pioneer Cemetery. That specific action is related to a more general status report on a path concept, and the tone is very pessimistic, accenting barriers more than anything. This time there is not much substantively to contest, as the facts seem pretty clear. The more general frame still seems muddled, however.

Apparently the City did not own any right-of-way

Behind the Quitclaim Deed, it turns out the "vacation" in 2012 of an alley segment was premised on errant information. Closer research on deeds and titles turned up that:

The area in question was never dedicated to the public as right-of-way and has remained unopened. Therefore, the City never obtained any legal or equitable property interest in the land.

That's got to be a little embarrassing.

See previously:

Additionally, in a separate and related Staff Report, the City turned up two additional hurdles.

The first is that any new path connection must be ADA compliant. This seems reasonable, and I do not have anything to add. It is disappointing to those who just asked for a small gate on the north side, but that might have made it too much a secret, private amenity for immediate neighbors. A connection should be more widely available.

The second is more complicated, and I am not sure that the way the City is invoking it is without some other subtext.

Under state law, an impacted Native American Tribe has the right to object to the work. If the objection cannot be resolved, the SHPO must deny the permit and work will not be allowed to proceed. Based on input from representatives of the region’s tribal nations, there are cultural, social, historical, traditional, and spiritual implications of a City project designed to facilitate people transiting through a cemetery. These implications are present regardless of whether excavation occurs.  The City must consult with the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, and Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation prior to taking any further action on a path through Pioneer Cemetery. Depending on the tribe and the City’s proposal, one or more of the tribal nations may file an objection, effectively terminating any project.

I suppose as a straight-forward reading of State law, it might seem to be neutral. But it does not appear the City has actually asked if Tribal nations actually object to anything. As framed here, the Staff Report is a little fear-mongery, oriented to a hypothetical rather than to a known objection. Is the City using the prospect of Tribal objection as a way to duck a difficult problem?

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Downtown Alley Naming Project Misreads 1908 Ad

A couple years ago when people were evaluating and voting for the downtown alley naming project, a couple of the proposed names were real head-scratchers. "Fortune's Corner Alley" was one of them that didn't make much sense.

May 13th, 1908 - via Salem Reporter

Salem Reporter had another history column yesterday on two of the names, and it seems pretty clear that "Fortune's Corner Alley" is based on a misreading. And when the Main Street Association and then Historic Landmarks Commission rushed the public part of the process without publishing more of the underlying historical analysis, they made it impossible for the public to catch things like this.

The building wasn't up in 1908
January 1st, 1910

The Main Street Association cites the ad at top from 1908 "for the U.S. National Bank at 'Fortune's Corner' in downtown Salem," but the bank building didn't exist then. So it is very unlikely that the ad is referring to anything specifically on that corner. Could it refer to Ladd & Bush, on the kitty-corner? I suppose so, but pointing out a competitor seems unlikely in this context. The map the Main Street Association published with their proposal references Ladd & Bush does ambiguously include it in the yellow highlighting, but that really is an anachronism based on our modern knowledge of the bank locations.

Friday, June 11, 2021

New apartments for Fairview at Planning Commission Next Week

At the Planning Commission next week there is a major review for the second phase, for 183 new apartments, of The Grove at the Fairview site.

At Fairview, phase 2 of The Grove (yellow added)

Strangely, the City's list of Hearing Notices does not appear to show anything about this. So it snuck up.

On the morning of June 11th, no Hearing Notice

The first phase of The Grove was a large complex of three story walkup apartments set on a large parking lot. It's a standard cookie-cutter project in the suburban, car-dependent mode, not really very consistent with the original goals of the Fairview redevelopment.

The second phase continues the pattern, and I am not at all sure there is anything new or interesting to say about it.

Two of the adjustment requests may deserve more comment, and perhaps over the weekend there will be more to say:

  • Staff Report recommends denial of the request to cut down more trees.
  • Staff Report recommends approving increases in setbacks throughout the project area. This reduces the pedestrian and urban character of the whole. At the same time, it is consistent with the first phase of The Grove.

The Staff Report is large. And here is the meeting agenda. There are also some code amendments for a work session, but these do seem to be house-keeping and of only very specialist interest.

Previous notes on The Grove at Fairview here.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

History of Wine at the Mill Surfaces Hints of Pre-Prohibition Chasselas and Pinot Noir

Back in 2015 we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the modern wine industry in the Willamette Valley. 

Compared to hops, which have a much longer and more celebrated history here, this wine industry is young, still within the span of a lifetime, and many older wineries are still figuring out generational transitions.

From 2015

Mostly when we talk about wine here we mean wine made from European wine grapes, our signature variety of which is Pinot Noir. There is no meaningful survival of any pre-Prohibition vineyards or wineries locally. There is The Pines Vineyard near the Dalles, and that's about it; by contrast, California has many more. There is nothing in the Willamette Valley we know of.

Zooming out a bit, there are other histories. Salem Reporter has a nice note about an exhibit on the local history of wine at the Mill. Since the Mill is just up the street from Honeywood, it might seem unneighborly to focus on just the European wine grapes, and the exhibit embraces wines from other fruit and from native or hybrid grapes. "Learn how the valley’s rich abundant fruit harvests have led to the over a century of fermenting," they say. Honeywood started, in fact, right after Prohibition, something they like to point out when we get caught up in the story of wine as if it meant only those European grapes. Don't forget about us, they rightly say.

Very briefly mentioned in the Salem Reporter story was a hitherto unknown name, August Aufrance (Aufranc, also, and he is buried at City View).

November 12th, 1904

This is great news, maybe even a new discovery! Certainly the name and the existence of this early winery is not widely known.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Updating the Public Participation Plan: At the MPO

The Technical Advisory Committee for our Metropolitan Planning Organization met yesterday, and they are starting up a review of the Public Participation Plan.

The plan is nearly certain to elide the most significant way the public is shut out. Last couple months the MPO was considering how to apportion COVID relief funds, and a chart on population might be the most interesting detail from that discussion.

Proposed distribution of COVID funds

The Policy Committee that governs the MPO has 8 voting positions, one each for the Cities of Salem, Keizer, and Turner (3 total); one each for Polk and Marion Counties (2 total); and one each for the School District, Cherriots, and ODOT (3 total). 

Even though Salem has 63% of the population in the area covered by the MPO, on the Policy Committee the City of Salem has 12.5% of the vote; even though Turner has less than 1% of the population, they have 12.5% of the vote.

There is a real disproportion and misalignment here! Unincorporated Polk County and the City of Turner are very overrepresented. It's harder to assess the School District, ODOT, and Cherriots, since they cover the whole MPO area.

But however you slice it, the City of Salem is badly underrepresented and Polk County and Turner badly overrepresented. The MPO is supposed to have a "metropolitan" focus, but the composition of the committee is weighted towards non-metropolitan interests.  This is an anti-urban bias, formally institutionalized in the composition and structure of the MPO.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Public Rental Bike System Ride Salem Relaunches

Over the weekend the public bike rental system, Ride Salem, went live again after the COVID hiatus.

Celebrating the relaunch - via FB

It looks like there is a new station in Riverfront Park, but according to the system map one in Bush Park is still in progress.

The system map in early June 2021

With ODOT and Forth/Cascadia Mobility involved statewide, we can hope for system expansion:

  • e-Bikes to make them attractive to an even greater range of bicycling skill and fitness
  • Trikes, hand-cycles, and more accessible bikes
  • More stations across a greater geographical reach in Salem so they are more usable for actual errands, not just cruising around in the parks
  • And above all, bike lanes in downtown so that ordinary people can bike from the transit station or train station to most destinations downtown

For previous notes on the rental bike system see here.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Yet Another Sticky Note Project for our Climate Action Plan Process

As yet without publishing a release, the City just put up a new sticky note exercise, soliciting comment on a selection of 35 climate actions, presumably ones that survived the previous sticky note comment project, or ones that were consolidated from overlapping candidates.

A lot of the concepts are still very ornamental, signalling lofty intent more than actually likely to reduce meaningful carbon pollution. (Too much of the vague "support," especially, like "Support native biodiversity," for example.) It just seems like we ought to have a better idea of actually effective actions and goals at this point, and could relegate feel-good, but ineffective, gestures to the dust bin or some secondary place. But for the moment they all have equal weight.

A new sticky note exercise

Separately, in the May 21st update, the City Manager writes:

Data-driven cost-benefit analysis is underway by the consultants for the ten strategies that will be most impactful and relevant for the City’s Climate Action Plan. The work is being guided by the three councilors from the Climate Action Task Force.

It's not at all clear what is the relation between the 35 concepts in this new sticky note exercise and 10 "strategies" referenced in the City Manager update.

Maybe once the City issues a release and public invitation to comment on this exercize its goals will be clearer, along with its place in the process, and there will be more to say.

But at this point in the process, in the fourth stage of six according to the Project Timeline sidebar, it is reasonable to want a much firmer and more focused sense of likely actions. We would have a clear connection between the 35 and the 10. And projects like the Geer Park Master Plan update, which shared a lead planner with the Climate Action Plan, would evince a stronger sense of coordination. The Timeline shows a final plan with adoption for the fall of this year, and it is very hard to see it all coming together strongly in six months or less.

The Climate Action Plan project remains very diffuse and unfocused, and it is hard not to conclude that the effort is in important ways unserious and the goal to have an ornamental and largely ineffective plan that dodges the prospect of real change and real emissions reductions.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

City to Hold Teleconference on Union Street Plans

The City just published a notice for a zoom meeting on designing the Union Street bikeway:

The City of Salem is seeking public comment on the Union Street Family Friendly Bikeway Project that seeks to add bike lanes to Union Street between Commercial Street NE and Summer Street NE.

The proposed project improvements will enhance the overall pedestrian, bike riding, and vehicular safety of this street. The project will provide separated bike lanes, road striping, improved crosswalks, and parking as required. When all segment pieces are complete this project will connect with the 134-mile Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway. Additionally, the intersection of Union Street NE and Liberty Street NE will be improved to include a traffic signal and bulb out corners to improve safety for both bicycles and pedestrians. Your input on design features including parking, landscaping, and bicycle lane configuration is necessary to a successful project.

Once complete, the bikepath will be an integral link in the bicycle system will be provided in downtown Salem. The project will connect directly to Wallace Marine Park, Riverfront Park, Minto-Brown Island Park, and the Capital Mall. The City of Salem is in the preliminary design phase of the project and construction is scheduled to begin in 2022.

Join us on June 8th, 2021 from 7:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. for a virtual open house to learn more about this project. Your input into this project will help designers build a bike path that will serve Salem residents for years to come.

Zoom link for virtual open house

This is a departure for "virtual open houses," which had been conducted with maps and survey components available in a standard web browser, and now will be in a video conference form.

The lack of information, without any maps or "design alternatives" to consider, the prospect they may be accessible only from the zoom meeting, as well as the tone of the release, which makes the bikeway itself sound more tentative than it had seemed to be over the last decade, might suggest the City is making every effort to protect on-street car parking at the expense of truly family-friendly standards for bicycling. I am a little suspicious.

At the same time, the project has undergone many changes in the last decade, including deleting a large section, and maybe it really does need a fresh round of assessment and public comment.

When the City put in the median and light at Commercial Street, the concept was for sharrows only and to retain the angle parking east of Commercial.

From 2016 or 2017:
Sharrows only between Commercial and High (right side)

But a much earlier version showed that landscaped median, parallel parking, and buffered bike lanes east of Commercial:

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

A Theory of Power for Salem: Business-controlled or Homevoter?

In his 1996 history of Salem Hospital, A Century of Service, former SJ editor John McMillan discussed the new board in 1947 for Deaconess Hospital and the subsequent debate about a merger with General Hospital:
Sociologists have theorized that cities like Salem are run by a business-controlled power structure whose members meet privately and make all important decisions. To the degree that Salem had a power structure, it clearly supported General, the hospital with "all the old school ties"....
McMillan's book gave greater weight to the "business-controlled power structure."

This belief is echoed in common sentiment about developers and the Chamber of Commerce.

The current expression might be most clear in the debate we had over Costco's proposal to relocate out south to Kuebler near I-5.

In a letter to the editor from 2018 a person argued the City works to favor the Developer and Chamber side of things:
My experience indicates that the city of Salem does not care or pay attention to local neighborhood concerns. All they care about is banking the new tax dollars that development brings.

A number of years ago my neighborhood protested a residential infill project. Sixty-five neighbors showed up at a public hearing. All were opposed to the project. We presented carefully thought out design and access alternatives.

Every suggestion we made was ignored.
Though it has not got much visibility in Salem on our local issues, there is a counter-argument.

Homevoter Hypothesis

Another theory is that homeowners seeking to maximize home value actually have more power. Two decades ago there was a book arguing this and called it the "homevoter hypothesis."* Over at City Observatory in 2015, they looked at its thesis and compared to the primary competitor, the Developer and Chamber thesis, that "urban elected officials and zoning boards are highly influenced by coalitions of business and civic leaders interested mainly in economic growth and maximizing the price of the land they own," and concluded "in every case where the evidence clearly points to one theory or the other, the winner is the homevoter hypothesis."

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Planning Commission to see Proposed Middle Housing Code

Tonight June 1st the Planning Commission will discuss the proposed HB 2001 compliance code amendments for middle housing.

Intro to Staff Report

The report is over 100 pages, mostly just code with additions and strikethrough. It's a bunch of technical blah-blah-blah.

The intro and summary is very minimal, and does not explain very much to anyone who doesn't already understand the technical details.

Lot sizes and setbacks

What are the practical effects of lot coverage requirements and setbacks? At some point they combine to make certain building configurations impossible or impractical, and it is at least theoretically possible to say "we have legalized fourplexes" at the same time as the lot coverage and setbacks make them very difficult.

And given all that we know about the deleterious effects of parking, why do we continue to insist on minimums?

Still mandating costly parking minimums

On the surface it looks like the City is meeting the minimum in compliance with the new middle housing law, but is not going beyond them to encourage housing abundance.

We'll see. Maybe there will be more to say after the work session. (There is already one NIMBY letter entered into the record, saying "Infill building is a horrible idea in already established neighborhoods," etc.)

The Planning Commission convenes tonight at 5:30pm.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

ODOT not yet very Serious about Safety

ODOT has a new safety plan out in draft and they want public comment.

New Safety Plan

The Safety Plan still seems stuck in the 20th century, however. They invite comment and debate on the margins, but still avoid the heart of the matter. The whole framework does not yet seem adequate.

If you look at the Executive Summary, there is no connection with climate. A Safety Plan for our climate emergency would include:

  • Don't drive. Only drive if you must. We are building out a robust transportation system that will no longer depend on car trips, their pollution, and their dangers.

A modern Safety Plan would also not just focus on speeding, but also on speed more generally. Even lawful driving on a street posted for 40mph is nearly certain to kill a person on foot or on bike. Customary urban speeds remain too fast. So a modern plan would also include:

  • Drive more slowly. We are reducing posted speeds and roadway design speeds across all urban contexts.

Instead, the actual recommendations do everything to protect driving as a preferred activity, all too haunted by the frame of "congestion relief." (As we see in the continued debate over the I-5 Rose Quarter project. See Willamette Week's coverage for an overview.)

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Unsurprisingly, in 1921 Salem Papers got the Tulsa Massacre all Wrong

At the end of four days of news coverage, the morning paper here gave a verdict on the Tulsa Massacre in 1921: "Negros held to blame. Radicals said to have inflamed hatred."

June 4th, 1921

The anniversary of the massacre, coinciding with a year of BLM protest, has prompted widespread attention to a revised understanding of the massacre. NY Times published a moving and detailed interactive on the loss and destruction.

The Wall Street Journal also published a long interactive piece on "Black Wall Street," and they summarized:

One hundred years ago, white mobs burned Tulsa’s Black neighborhood to the ground. Thirty-five blocks were leveled. Hundreds of homes and businesses were destroyed. As many as 300 were killed.

In pop culture, there was the Watchmen series a year ago. Here the paper printed something on its impact in contemporary politics.

Yesterday's paper

Perhaps there will be more on Sunday or early next week.

The news here a century ago got it fundamentally wrong, distorted by the general commitment to white supremacy. (Salem clips in order of publication.)

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Robert Lindsey Obituary may Omit Important Recent History

Back in October, there was an apparent hit-and-run on Windsor Island Road.

At the time, Keizer Police said in their second report:

On Friday, October 9, 2020, 70-year-old Andrew Otho Polston, of Keizer, was lawfully riding his bicycle north on Windsor Island Road when he was struck and killed by a northbound 1973 Dodge van driven by 93-year-old Robert E. Lindsey, of Salem....No arrest has been made.

This second report doesn't say anything about hit-and-run, but the very first report suggested it:

Officers found a 70-year-old man deceased at the scene, an apparent victim of a collision with a vehicle. The vehicle that struck the man did not remain at the scene...

Today there is news and an obituary about a former Mayor, Robert Lindsey, also 93. There never was any follow-up on the crash and any subsequent citations. The obituary mentions no crash.

via Twitter

But it very much still seems like there is a story here, and the inattention may be a casualty of our shrinking news staffs as well as youth and lack of local knowledge in new reporters. 

The inattention might also a consequence of our autoism that sees fatal crashes as a tolerable level of collateral damage for using our roads and cars. Just an "accident."

The obituary says "He had been living independently at the family's hazelnut farm in north Salem up until about a week before his death."

There might also be more of a story here about seniors and mobility and just what constitutes "independence."

All in all, there is a nagging feeling that the matter is very incompletely told.

Market Street Cottage Cluster for Seniors Perhaps Still Distant from Shopping

With the parklets and Geer Park on Council agenda, I didn't look closely at the Market Street properties on the agenda, and Salem Reporter has a nice note about the plans there.

via Twitter

Properties that can be found for below-market price are rare, and it's great the City and United Way are able to coordinate on this.

Across the street from Swegle School

Still, even if the locations aren't utterly car-dependent, they might not be the best for seniors with mobility issues.

Market Street here was recently realigned, which is why the lots had been acquired by the City and now are surplus, so at least some of the sidewalks are brand new, but Market Street is still zoomy and not exactly inviting for walking.

Market Street here is not exactly friendly for walking

Monday, May 24, 2021

Parking, Gas Stations and Gas Tax, City Maintenance Bond: Meetings this Week

Is this the year we finally get real about parking reform?

The Downtown Advisory Board meets on Thursday the 27th, and they are looking again at our broken downtown parking system. Since the last pass at reform, more big box stores have closed and are no longer paying into the parking tax fund. Cleaning and maintenance costs have also risen. The current parking tax system is broken and unsustainable and City Staff propose we transition to a paid parking system. This deserves very serious consideration.

Is this the year?

We should remember that both Liberty Plaza and the JC Penney building were connected with covered skywalks to the Chemeketa Parkade, full of free parking. Free parking can't get any more convenient that that! And yet copious free parking has not been any guarantee of success for those businesses and sites. 

We should not be afraid to eliminate free parking so that we can focus on resources that actually improve the prospects for downtown business. 

Things like housing! If we want more customers downtown, we should have more people living downtown. Downtown should be a live-in destination rather than drive-to destination.

Moving to paid parking is the right move. Maybe this year we can finally do it. (See previous notes on downtown parking here.)

Saturday, May 22, 2021

New Book on Salem Architect Walter D. Pugh out Monday

Hey, here's some very pleasant news!

New book on Pugh

Yesterday online the Oregonian ran a feature on a family genealogy story with an important Salem angle, architect Walter D. Pugh. They led with an image of the family at Eugene's Shelton-McMurphey-Johnson House, designed by Pugh, and just up the hill from the Eugene Amtrak Station.

At Pugh's Shelton-McMurphey-Johnson House

The family history project turned into a book, and the cover of it uses images of our old City Hall and of the current building of the Thomas Kay Woolen Mill, now the Willamette Heritage Center.

Some Ways Parking Distorts our Analysis of the City and Our Salem Project

Three recent comments on zoning proposals for Our Salem show efforts to protect parking and driving, and swerve away from the central matter, that in order to make reductions in carbon pollution, we must reduce our car travel substantially. The comments are not totally wrong, and they engage some of the issue, but avoid really grappling with it.

By still focusing on the accommodation of cars as if that still was the primary thing, we lose sight of the fact that cars are tools, means rather than ends, and miss the real primary ends of housing for people and reductions in greenhouse gas pollution.

Regional vs City Housing

One incoherence is a slippage, perhaps deliberate, between regional housing and city housing.

It says that if we don't offer housing at the right price here in Salem, we force people to outer communities like Monmouth, Independence, Turner, Stayton, and Silverton. People commuting to jobs in Salem make longer drives for more VMT and more carbon pollution.

This emergent criticism of Our Salem, then, also functions as way, intentionally or unintentionally, to try to greenwash single detached homes on the edge of the city. It is also something of a divide-and-conquer strategy, pitting housing against emissions reductions.

from the Realtors

We saw it in a letter from the Home Builders Association on a recent and contested annexation in South Salem, and here it is again from the Realtor Association offered in formal comment on the zoning concepts for Our Salem.

Friday, May 21, 2021

City Council, May 24th - New Parklet and Street Dining Regulations

Also on Council agenda for Monday is a proposed renewal and extension of a "Sidewalk Café/On-Street Platform Program."

In the body of the Staff Report, and in the new guideline booklet, they talk about "parklets," but the main title of the agenda item is about "platforms," and the City slips between the two. That is interesting and perhaps a small item of concern.

Cover and interior page from the new City guidelines

It is not obvious that the new standards are meant to be easy and convenient, however. It looks, in fact, like it could be a bit of a Potemkin program, something the City can "say" is available, but which has enough red tape and cost that few will actually use it.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

City Council, May 24th - Geer Park

Council convenes on Monday and they look to adopt a new Master Plan for Geer Park.

Park Ave is private, so no changes there
But a new parking strip at no. 13

One neighbor echoes and extends criticism of the overreliance on car parking and insufficient attention for bicycling - even though there is a big bike park right there and the park named for our original bicycling Governor! (Previous notes on history; and on the master plan, with a little more.)

Gov. Geer bikes to Champoeg
Fifty Years in Oregon (1912)

The City's really missing an opportunity to focus the park on bicycling, not just for play, but for transport also.

A decade ago when we were updating the Walking and Biking chapters of the Transportation System Plan, Park Avenue had seemed like a logical north-south route between State Street and Silverton Road, perhaps the most nearly continuous lower-traffic route a few blocks west of Hawthorne Avenue.

A decade ago we abandoned Park Ave

But with the new State Hospital facility, and the existing prison and juvenile facilities, Park Avenue remained a private street and bicycling on it discouraged. The formal amendments to the TSP shifted the preferred bike route a few blocks east onto Illinois.

Now, apparently, there is at least a little change of heart, and the City proposes to site a large strip of parking lot and curbside drop-off areas (nos. 13 and 14 on the map at top) just off Park Avenue, and says it can be used for access.

But the City does not propose any covered bike parking or suggest any changes to Park Avenue with bike lanes or other formal invitation to bicycling.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

City Council, May 17th - Housing and Shelter

Council convenes on Monday for a formal Work Session to hear an update on "Initiatives to reduce homelessness and increase sheltering."

Front page SF Chronicle today

Today's story on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle is probably apt.

The City's Staff Report says

To help reduce COVID-19 exposure in shelters and spaces that face constrained capacity, camping is allowed in developed areas of two parks, Wallace Marine and Cascades Gateway. Community partners estimate between 200-300 persons are currently staying at any given time in each park. The City, non-profit agencies, and volunteers have worked together to remove garbage, address criminal activity, and establish small, managed alternatives to sheltering in parks. Still, as City parks are not intended for human habitation and camping, the City will need to carefully conclude our Park Camping program.

A "careful" conclusion to the programs and camps, formal and informal, should take care with the rhetoric of cleaning, clean-up, dirt, disorder and such. People may leave copious trash, and be profoundly ill or upset, sometimes even criminal or evil, but they are not themselves dirt to be cleaned up or vermin.

NY Times today

So much of the vilification of unsheltered people and other poor is because they remind us of the precariousness of our own existence, the role of luck in the wheel of fortune, and our own ultimate end. In another more universal sense, we are all just dirt.

From the NY Times:

Suffering and death are facts of life; focusing only on the “bright and shiny” is superficial and inauthentic. “We try to suppress the thought of death, or escape it, or run away from it because we think that’s where we’ll find happiness,” she said. “But it’s actually in facing the darkest realities of life that we find light in them.”

The practice of regular meditation on death is a venerable one. Saint Benedict instructed his monks in the sixth century to “keep death daily before your eyes,” for example. For Christians like Sister Aletheia, it is inextricable from the promise of a better life after death. But the practice is not uniquely Christian. Mindfulness of death is a tradition within Buddhism, and Socrates and Seneca were among the early thinkers who recommended “practicing” death as a way to cultivate meaning and focus. Skeletons, clocks and decaying food are recurring motifs in art history.

Previously on the rhetoric and symbolism we use in talking about "cleaning":

CANDO may have more detailed notes on contemporary policy, and this post may be updated with comment on that.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

An Unpleasant Footnote on the Sam Brown House

You might recall some attention a couple years ago to the historic Sam Brown House in Gervais.

October 2019

But there's an unsavory footnote, relevant to our current moment, that has been more than a little elided and perhaps even deliberately thrust down the memory hole.

The other day Willamette University Historian Seth Cotlar, who has a large secondary project on the history of conservatism, turned up this note about one of the Brown family.

via Twitter

Monday, May 10, 2021

City Council, May 10th - Housing

Council convenes tonight, and they'll be getting an update on "multifamily housing." The Housing Needs Analysis adopted in 2016 used data up to 2014 in its calculation of a 207 acre deficit in land zoned for attached housing. The report at Council updates this with data from 2014 to 2020.

There's so much going on in it, that our housing policy could easily merit one or more work sessions on it alone. Here are some notes in passing.

We have seen from both local data and statewide data that we used to build a lot more. The report to Council does not give enough attention to building homes as the primary object of policy and analysis.

From the SKATS 2019 RTSP appendices
(comments in red added)

We are currently underbuilding homes
(Oregon Office of Economic Analysis)

The formal summary is instead on zoning:

The City of Salem Planning Division has been working to implement the Salem Housing Needs Analysis (HNA) Work Plan since directed to do so by City Council in 2016. The work plan advances recommendations in the HNA to address the projected 207-acre deficit of multifamily land (2,897 dwelling units) in Salem’s portion of the urban growth boundary (UGB). This staff report outlines what has been accomplished, what is planned, and the progress toward eliminating the projected deficit.

Of course the one thing the City can control is the count of acres zoned for apartments and attached housing. They don't directly control the building. But the relevant metric is homes built, not land zoned. Land zoned is a supporting and instrumental detail, a means, but the report here is nearly framed as if it were the end.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

MWACT Talks Biking; Also, New Bicycling Manual from ODOT

The Mid-Willamette Valley Area Commission on Transportation meets tomorrow, Thursday the 6th, and they will talk a little bit about bicycling; and the role of the Area Commissions in relation to the State walking and biking committee, OBPAC, and to the parent Oregon Transportation Commission.

Bicycling on the agenda

I don't have anything much substantive on this, so here are a couple of observations and some other related matters.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Bike Shops Advertise Motorcycles during Bicycle Week in 1921

Probably margins were higher on motorcycles than bicycles, and clearly there was coop advertising available for motorcycles also, but it is interesting nonetheless that for National Bicycle Week in 1921, the Salem bike shops didn't run any promotions, and focused on the motorcycle trade instead.

April 30th, 1921

No ad in Salem this year
The Bridgeport Times and Evening Farmer
Bridgeport, CT
April 30th, 1921

Scott's had been selling both motorcycles and bicycles during the 19-teens for several years, so it was not some new line of business. But the emphasis was new.

March 19th, 1921

Later in the summer they did run a big subscription drive and contest for a Harley bicycle with the morning paper.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

State Employment Office Parking Lot Rehab to Remove Several Trees

The State Department of Administrative Services has filed an application for a parking lot rehabilitation at the Employment Office on Cottage and Union Streets.

The Notice has no narrative with it, so it's not clear why they need to redo the parking lots. (That we apply budget and effort to renewing parking lots is an unfortunate consequence of our autoism.)

But more interesting are all the trees the site plan appears to designate for removal. The main parking lot is on the east side of Cottage, and it has one big tree on the alley designated for removal.

That's a lot of trees marked for removal

The Office itself (pictured here) on the west side has nearly all the trees in the curb strip designated for removal. Some of them must be in the public right of way and be City-owned street trees.

Union Street here is also an important bikeway, and scheduled for upgrades over the next five years. (See the most recent post about a reduction in scope here, and its development and funding have been discussed frequently in posts about the Downtown Mobility Study.) So the mature shade trees are nice for walking and biking.

This will go before the Planning Administrator, not a full Public Hearing, and hopefully the City will scrutinize the need for so much tree-cutting very closely. On the surface it looks a little gratuitous. Some of the trees in the power lines might be the wrong size - but all of them?

These are some of the trees designated for cutting

Kitty-corner is also the former site of the LaFolette Black Walnut, which was cut down, and a mystery vine that is still standing and may have some significance. (And some follow up on the vine. The matter is still unresolved lore.) Most of the trees in question are not that old, but the old school, Garfield, is still here, and there might be some details and traces in the immediate vicinity that are worth more attention before we carelessly cut or excavate.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Zoning Subcommittee Meets Friday to Start Looking at Six Zoning Concepts to Reduce Pollution

On Friday the 30th, the new Zoning Subcommittee for Our Salem will convene to receive what looks to be mainly an introduction to the concepts for analysis and debate.

Six zoning concepts for GHG pollution reductions

The agenda is pretty minimal, and, again, what appears to be the case is that popularity and palatability rather than effectiveness is going to frame and drive the discussion. The new subpage for the committee is also very thin and lacks any information about the six options. You have to know to go back to the full Our Salem page for that. Even so, the presentation to Council on March 8th in which they were first made public doesn't give any analysis for why they were selected and how much additional carbon pollution they would eliminate.

Meeting agenda

There is no more now. Maybe the analysis and discussion will get a different frame, but in the absence of any kind of Staff Report or other preparatory memo is a little worrisome.

Just generally, it remains strange that there is not more of a deductive shape to the project: 

  1. Our initial goal is for a 50% reduction by 2035
  2. Here are the strategies that will be most effective in reaching that goal
  3. Therefore, here are more specific policies/tactics to instantiate those strategies. 

But that is not at all how the project has gone. Instead it's more like spitballing: Here are a couple hundred ideas, which ones do you like best?

And now it looks like: Here are six ideas, a subset, which do you like?

Without more context for why these six in particular, and just taking them absolutely without reference to any other context, in general they appear to be an effort to protect exclusionary single detached housing in existing neighborhoods.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Oregon Passenger Rail Wraps First Phase with Final EIS and Record of Decision

No surprise, the Oregon Passenger Rail project selected the existing alignment for improvements.

Selected Alternative uses existing tracks

The Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision was published yesterday. 

Maybe there will be more to say as others comment, but the decision looks reasonable and like the obvious one. It doesn't drill into much detail, reserving that for a second phase, and there is no specific information on sections in Salem that might be double-tracked or other local improvements. It's conceptual rather than a very detailed plan. It also seemed a little brief at only 46pp.

As for timing, even though Environmental Impact Statements are a slow process, it is possible to wonder if they delayed publication a little until Amtrak superfan Joe Biden was inaugurated. The draft EIS came out back in 2018, and it has not seemed like a process, as Environmental Impact Statements go, that was very contentious. 

The publication of it now could position the valley for Federal investment under a large infrastructure package. 

We will see what this really means in practice, if it is aspirational and theoretical, or if it starts to move more quickly into reality.

(It's also not a high-speed rail concept, and if the greater Cascadia corridor, BC to Eugene, got traction, that would be a different project, as I understand it.)

See previous notes on the process here.