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.