Saturday, July 31, 2021

Problems with Seattle's Urban Villages might Prompt more Thought on Our Salem

The other day the Seattle Times had a front page piece on their "urban village" zoning concept from a generation ago.

The idea was to accommodate newcomers, revitalize the city and curb sprawl in the suburbs. The strategy, adopted in the 1990s, funneled new apartments, townhouses and condos into about two dozen neighborhood hubs, along with shops, parks and buses.

Nearly 30 years later, with Seattle’s population approaching 800,000 and the median home price recently topping $900,000,”it’s time to probably refresh,” Rice said in a recent interview....

The analysis recommends that the city change its zoning laws to allow more housing types in areas outside the urban villages that are now reserved for single-family homes. It also recommends the city adopt strategies to support low-income residents and residents of color who want to rent or own homes throughout the city.

Seattle Times, front page July 2021

Seattle's plan of course was for a metro considerably larger and more urban than Salem, with hubs commensurately larger also, but there are still some analogies with our hubs and the considerable swaths of mixed-use areas proposed along the great arterial corridors in the current draft of Our Salem.

Much of the proposed change is
for arterial corridors
Our Salem map

If problems with the detail don't always match up, problems with the general structure and vision do.

Friday, July 30, 2021

Fleeing Police, Driver Strikes and Kills Person Crossing River Road in Keizer

Wednesday on one of our bad stroads in Keizer, a person fleeing police struck and killed Becky Dietzel of Salem as she was attempting to cross on foot.

At Cummings, River Road is a five lane stroad

On Saturday State Police, who had taken over the investigation because police shot someone, identified the driver, Sean Beck of Olympia and Silverton, and Dietzel, the dead. Salem Reporter also found that a Grand Jury had deliberated and issued an indictment

for felony crimes of first-degree manslaughter, attempted aggravated murder with a firearm, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, felon in possession of a firearm, failure to perform duties of a driver to injured persons, fleeing a police officer.

[Beck] also was indicated for driving under the influence of intoxicants, a misdemeanor, accused of having a blood alcohol level of .15....

Court records show Beck was charged in Lincoln City in 2016 for driving with a suspended license

Much of the developing story still showed our preference for insulating driving from criticism and fault. Even photos from a memorial vigil framed it as a mysterious instance of "hit by car," as if the car merely had fallen from the sky like a meteor.

The SJ caption frames it as a mysterious "hit by car"

Even when there are clear crimes and a bad actor, reporters and reports sometimes choose to erase the driver, refusing to make the driver the grammatical subject and moral agent, responsible for a death. This obfuscates the nature of driving, its "dangerous instrumentality." Our norms and conventions prefer the passive voice and "hit by car" formula, explaining away the terrible costs of our autoism.

As the media reports evolved, some did shift and appeared to settle on the driver's fault.

First story from Salem Reporter, which first employs the passive voice and erases the driver:

A police shooting and pursuit from Keizer into Salem Wednesday evening ended in a retailer parking lot in what video shows was a gunfight before a suspect was arrested.

Other video posted on social media and witness accounts indicate that a pedestrian was struck and killed in Keizer during the episode....

The statement [from Keizer PD] made no reference to a pedestrian death.

A second version from Salem Reporter with more detail and active verbs focusing on the driver:

Officers spoke to two men near the vehicle, which had been stolen, police said in a news release. One man was cooperative. The other "exchanged gunfire with officers and then fled in the vehicle," the release said.

Police said the driver fled southbound on River Road, striking and killing a pedestrian who was crossing the street near the intersection with Cummings Lane North in Keizer.

And in print, where there was a mixture of passive and active constructions.

Friday's paper

The lede employs the passive construction, erasing the driver: "A pedestrian was struck and killed in the midst of a police pursuit and shooting..." It's also got a little bit of that "police-involved shooting" euphemism.

But the headline is right and a couple of paragraphs down does not erase the driver: "As the man fled...he struck and killed a person crossing the street."

Much of the story will be swallowed up by the narrative of a police shooting, and the fact that the fleeing suspect killed a bystander may not receive adequate weight. It might also prompt more questions about the times and ways police choose to pursue suspects. They got their man, but at what cost? Several very human decisions, most of them preventable, set in motion this awful calamity, and we should think about them more instead of explaining them away as accidental and tolerable collateral damage for using our roads.

Dieztel deserves better.

This post may be updated.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Autoism Frames Reporting on Opening Union and Winter Streets

It was interesting to see the autoist tensions in reporting on Council's decision on Union and Winter Streets. Both Salem Reporter and Statesman-Journal maintained the language of loss in "closures." The primary perspective is always loss to drivers, never the more universal gain for people on foot: But even drivers must be on foot at the beginning and end of every trip.

via Twitter

Front page today

I suppose there could be more to say in detail on the rhetoric, but surely the pattern is clear. Autoism distorts the way we talk about the project. Even when gain is acknowledged, it's not quite right. SR might say "[now] people will be able to walk," but they were always able to walk on the sidewalks. It's about not worrying about the lethality and pollution of cars and their drivers and about having more space to amble.

More interesting is the process. This is one time where I think the City might be moving too quickly. Because of what appeared to be slow-walking by Public Works at first, there wasn't much outreach to business or residents, and Council's decision to "go big" risks bikelash. Starting smaller and letting bad driver behavior prompt stronger interventions both gives people time to accommodate to the changes and lets them see why the bigger barricades might be necessary. This could an unforced error that plays into Public Works' lack of interest, and even wish to kill the project.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Hope Plaza is Opportunity to Commit more fully to Alley System

The City's published a Hearing Notice for the long-awaited Hope Plaza, a three-story redevelopment on the former bus station site on Church Street across from the Macy's parking garage.

View from Church Street

The Hearing is for

Consolidated applications for a Class 3 Design Review, Class 3 Site Plan Review, three Class 2 Adjustments, and a Driveway Approach Permit for the development of a three- story mixed-use building with retail and office uses, and 20 units of multi-family housing.

Mostly it's all terrific. (See "Unexpected millions from legislature will make Salem domestic violence housing project a reality" at Salem Reporter for the latest.)

But the driveway is a detail to question.

A driveway on Church Street would require
right turns across the buffered bike lane

With the alley, the site has complete alley access from Marion and Center Streets, and there is really no reason to have a driveway on Church Street. That mars the fabric of the street frontage, creating a gap, and also is an unnecessary right-turn conflict across a recent bike lane addition.

Should we Audit Climate Impacts as well as Business Boost for Big Events?

At $11 million the estimated impact of the Ironman competition generated a lot of interest and enthusiasm.

Front page yesterday

The downtown hotel said they "will rake in more revenue this weekend than it did over multiple consecutive months at the height of the pandemic."

It may seem mean and cramped to question such a welcome development.

Delight, pleasure, and joy are all important. During the long winter of the Pandemic we have endured a great deficit of them, and with a fourth wave developing, more dispiriting news is sure to come.

But just above that story was news about another heat wave.

Shouldn't we also assess how much new carbon pollution events like this create with the travel to and from the event as well as trips within Salem that otherwise would not have been made?

As we develop our Climate Action Plan, or perhaps this will need to be a second phase of a plan, we need to make sure that we consider transportation impacts for things like tourism.

Conference Center on a winter evening

The Conference Center exemplifies the analytical problem.

In a promo piece, "16 Facts About the Salem Convention Center's Sustainable Initiatives," they tout a range of laudable and useful projects, things like 450 solar panels, recycled building and finish materials, Silver LEED certification, the county's EarthWise certification. But nothing about transportation and emissions to and from events at the center, emissions that are pretty directly induced by the event, and wouldn't happen without the event. When they talk about transport, it's about an EV charging station for someone who is already attending an event and has already traveled to it.

To the extent that the tourism sector is also a travel sector, we need to think more critically about its emissions and how much we want to subsidize and encourage that.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

City Council, July 26th - The Symbolic Reduction at Geer Park

Council's agenda for Monday is unusually packed and interesting. After the Union Street proposal and the Bush Park Plan, there are several other items of note.

The revised plan for Geer Park is at Council. 

See detailed comments in "City Barely Changes Parking Lot in Revised Plan for Geer Park" when the plan came to the Parks and Recreation Board. There's not a lot more to add.

One small new thing is that the Staff Report the City includes a matrix with stall counts under different iterations of the plan.

Stall count matrix

The reduction is incrementally slightly helpful, but it is not really responsive to the reality of 117 degree temperatures or of orange skies at 4pm from the Santiam Canyon Fires last year. It is oriented more for a theoretical "desire to reduce dependency on the automobile," but doesn't do very much actually to reduce driving or express a new interest in satisfying new park demand with non-auto travel.

Washington Post, today

There's no urgency on climate yet.

Friday, July 23, 2021

City Council, July 26th - Bush Park Plan seems Rushed

There are many things of interest on the Council agenda it turns out. On Monday they will also look to adopt the Bush's Pasture Park and Deepwood Estate Gardens Cultural Landscape Management Plan.

Sections were greyed out and incomplete

When the draft plan was circulated for public comment last month it was incomplete and key sections were greyed out.

New draft has completed sections

The Staff Report for Council on Monday is silent on the fact that the draft has been substantially updated with new sections. In fact, the plan itself is not included at a regular attachment at the top of the Staff Report, but is buried down in the middle of it as a separate link, and again not mentioning that it has been updated substantially in the last month.

In the updating the document ballooned: The draft published for public comment had 315 pages, and the latest one has 882 pages, and in size from 28MB to 82MB. 

Maybe these additions are truly not significant, but that's a lot of material just to slide in silently!

Thursday, July 22, 2021

City Council, July 26th - Opening Union and Winter Streets for Saturday Market

When for the new Police Station the City converted a segment of Liberty Street to two-way function, they did not stripe any crosswalks or make it easier to cross Liberty along Union Street.

Warning signs, but no striped crosswalks or signal

At Council on Monday they will consider opening Union and a part of Winter Street to people who might like to walk, bike, or otherwise roll on it while the Saturday Market is in session. 

Figuring out how to cross Liberty Street here will be an important part of any solution. A revised Informational Report does stress that as part of work on the Union Street bikeway, in 2022, "A traffic signal at Union Street and Liberty Street will also be constructed." (It's also referenced in the materials for an intergovernmental agreement with ODOT for right-of-way acquisitions, but those differ on the schedule, saying 2023 rather than 2022.)

New signal - ROW agenda item

Earlier this month some people said, "why can't they just ride on the sidewalk," but this is part of the autoist strategy, to get people on foot and on bike on opposite sides, struggling and even fighting over scarce sidewalk space.

Ignoring Climate: Highway Expansion at the MPO

With photos of flooding in China, the Bootleg Fire in southern Oregon, and flooding in Germany, the Los Angeles Times today says, "dire climate predictions are becoming real around the globe."

Today in the LA Times

In a very great irony, on Tuesday the 27th, the Policy Committee for our Metropolitan Planning Organization will consider an "air quality conformity determination" for a new lane proposed on I-5 in South Salem and near Turner.

Air quality and a proposed I-5 widening

Strictly speaking, our Air Quality regulatory scheme right now looks only at Carbon Monoxide, ozone, and particulates, and does not include anything about Carbon Dioxide or other greenhouse gases. "Pollution is decreasing!" It is willfully blind to what is at the moment our most pressing source of pollution. In this narrow procedural and administrative sense, climate is not relevant. More generally, and obviously, that is wildly wrong.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Trying to Find the Balance on Nature, Trees, Development, and Climate

The front page today features a story on the dying trees in the Oak grove transplanted for the new Costco. For a combination of reasons this has seemed like a real failure.

Front page today

But rather than being an argument for better balance with both/and, for smarter development and better accommodation for mature trees, critics of the Costco and tree loss seem to argue more one-dimensionally against development.

Meisner believes the gridlock and traffic tied to the shopping center will put children, cyclists and pedestrians in the surrounding neighborhoods at risk. Keeping the trees, she said, was a way to keep some semblance of nature in the neighborhood, contrasting the “behemoth of a box store” that is Costco.

But the traffic and danger from the slightly smaller shopping center tree advocates seemed prepared to accept would not have been very much less. The all-or-nothing nature of the argument here is misleading. With the way Kuebler is built out, any auto-oriented shopping center is going to offer dangers for "children, cyclists and pedestrians." It's matters of degree and quantity, not of radical qualititive difference.

The way "nature" figures into the argument is also interesting, and more far-reaching.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

City Fails to Solve Charlie Foxtrot, Uses Kludge at Front-Division-Commercial Intersection

The City really wanted us all to think well of the changes they were making in order to have Division Street two-way at the Police Station.

Look at all the "neat" changes!

Last year in a release the City announced the changes as "improvements":

These street segments have been closed as crews completed several traffic, pedestrian, and bicycle safety improvements. Improvements include new traffic signals, additional on-street parking, landscaping, lighting, sidewalks, and crosswalks.

The bike map is full of caution/red here
and especially Division/Front/Commercial

The City had a great opportunity to fix the compound intersection at Front/Division/Commercial for people on foot and on bike, especially with its proximity to the new UGM facility, whose clients will rarely be driving, but the City did not do this. At the very least they substituted one set of problems for another. But more, they may have made the existing Charlie Foxtrot even more foxtrotted up. (Remember the chicken crash in 2013?

Monday, July 19, 2021

The Sunday Papers were Full of Climate News

Though the paper here didn't directly use the words "climate" or "emissions," which is a little bit of skirting the issue, indirectly the front page Sunday was all about our climate emergency.

Front page today

Interestingly, Oregon was also on the front page of the Washington Post. (Side articles have been erased in the examples here.)

An apt angle today in DC

In fact, many important papers Sunday centered climate above the fold.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Library Bits: New Photos, Project Reticence, New Art

The other day Councilor Hoy published a bunch of photos from a tour of the Library renovation as it is nearing completion. "[i]t's quite remarkable! This open, bright and welcoming space is a huge upgrade!" he said.

Project has not been Exactly Open

Maybe there will be more when the building finally reopens, but the process, and the Committee overseeing it, hasn't shared as much information as they might have.

It's hard to say what is the right balance. On the architect's project page they say:

With almost no wiggle room in a utilitarian budget, the design team for Salem Public Library needed to get creative finding ways to make every dollar spent do double-duty.

Too much public process and public information might create friction, opportunities to second-guess, critique, or otherwise slow and complicate a project on a small budget and a tight timeline. It is not so difficult to understand why they might want to present it to us as a done deal when it is too late to create public process sludge.

Still, it's weird there's not an easily accessible summary plan. There is a presentation on issues and design solution at a very general level from April 2019, and a much briefer presentation from March 2021, but these don't show the final plan with focus areas called out. The Library Renovation Council Subcommittee just publishes bare-bones meeting agenda at the City's project site. You'd think there would be a greater number of presentations to the committee published as part of a meeting packet. And no overall summary. It's disappointing there is not more information easily accessible.

Further, you may remember the weirdness in the paper when the Statesman-Journal tried to preview the project in May:

Officials with the Portland-based general contractor company Howard S. Wright Construction, a subsidiary of London-based Balfour Beatty, declined to allow media photos unless the photos were reviewed and approved by the contractor before publication.

Because it is against the Statesman Journal’s policy to allow this type of control in the editing process, a Statesman Journal photographer was unable to take photos or videos of the site.

When city officials were questioned about a private company controlling access to a public building in a way that limited the public’s ability to see the taxpayer- funded work, officials deferred to the contractor, who they said has control of the site until construction is completed.

So we are left with little - and very selective - photo albums posted to social media, like what Councilor Hoy has done. It's nice, but it's also a very controlled information release.

Trellising or Seismic or Both?

One element in Councilor Hoy's photos that was interesting is what appeared to be a large wall of vertical trellising for greenery on the Peace Plaza side.

A nearly identical bay is also visible outside the construction site from Commercial Street.

Vertical trellising for greenery? Commercial St. side

The first remodel of the early 1990s had filled in what had been a full length arcade and main entry in the original plan. That remodel had retained the stairwell, though.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Nishioka Building Completes an Important Downtown Intersection

This is old news, the building having been dedicated last year. Still, it was very nice finally to see the new Nishioka building on State and Commercial from the sidewalk on a leisurely evening walk.

A major void filled!

The void in 2013

The corner is significant here as the first instance of Harry Scott's bicycle store was on the alley on State Street. World War I closed him up, and he reopened around the corner at the location we still know today.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Oregon Transportation Commission Meeting Today, has Potemkin Climate Plan

The Oregon Transportation Commission is meeting today, and they have a substantial chunk of "climate" analysis and policy on the agenda.

Alas, it's shallow.

A slide with a summary of the draft Climate Action Plan shows some of the problem.

Slide on climate plan

Under "managing demand," they say "provide...options to reduce vehicle demand." But there is nothing about actually managing demand in measurable ways. It's an "option," and ODOT doesn't care if you actually use it. It exists primarily as signal and symbol, as empty form, not in any real measured, functional way.

You don't manage your child's bedtime by offering the option to go to bed earlier! 

Without further aligning the incentives, any option for the virtuous choice will be chosen but rarely. (Even with the terrible potential cost of contracting Covid, see the difficulties we have with mask mandates and free vaccination programs.)

The next bullet, "system efficiency," says "to reduce congestion." There's no awareness that reducing congestion is an inducement to new and longer driving trips and is in substantial tension with "provide options to reduce vehicle demand." System efficiency increases vehicle demand!

The framework is not internally consistent, organized around a coherent policy goal to reduce miles traveled and to reduce emissions. And there are no measurements or modeling to demonstrate real emissions reductions.

And, of course, more than anything it's organized around EV mania and utopianism.

The whole plan is organized around seeming to act on climate while conducting as much autoist business as usual as possible.

Evaluation plan

In the report on the STIP, it ignores the idea that we can reallocate money from the "enhancement" widening bucket to one or more climate bucket. Even with the same amount of money, we could change our priorities.

But no, climate funding has to be dedicated, extra funding.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Zoning Subcommittee Meets for Final Time on Thursday the 15th

The Zoning Subcommittee for Our Salem convenes on Thursday the 15th for the final time, and they appear to have a consensus on the six zoning concepts.

Draft recommendations added in blue

Intro to the summary memo

From here, they don't quite come into full focus as a coherent approach or something that is really at the right scale yet.

Eliminating parking requirements and allowing more generous building heights seem reasonable.

Adjusting minimum density in mixed use and multifamily areas from 12 to 15 homes per acre seems very marginal. 

But the last one, adjusting single family residential near the core network to 15 homes per acres is stronger. This is "the density at which drivable suburbanism transitions into walkable urbanism."

You can read the full summary here.

Youth Climate Advocates to Gather at Mahonia Hall Tomorrow the 15th

On Thursday the 15th youth advocates from Portland are taking the train to Salem "to demand Governor Kate Brown keep her promises and be a climate leader." They'll be at Mahonia Hall in mid-afternoon after assembling in Bush Park.

via Twitter (more in full thread)

Governor Brown has not distinguished herself on climate and transportation, indulging in too much highway expansion, letting ODOT run with insufficient oversight, and in thrall generally to autoism and EV mania.

We need to drive less, and the State has made no serious attempt at this yet, just Potemkin signalling and symbol.

See a longer note at BikePortland for more information.

School District isn't Much Better

Somewhat related, it was interesting on a recent walk to check out the progress at South High and the old Leslie Junior High. The new construction along Church Street mimicked the original 1950s facade, but around the corner on Howard Street the facade was in a more contemporary style.

It would have been interesting to learn more specifically about why Leslie needed to be demolished, but Parrish and North, nearly the same age, have not been deemed obsolete. Was Leslie really in significantly worse shape?

Still, a century of use seems like a reasonable lifespan for an institutional building like a school, and it does not seem worth too much angst.

But you know what is a profligate loss?

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Chemawa Investigations Deserve Attention and Support

Military occupation or school?
February 3rd, 1903
April 23rd, 1921

Unlike the Prison, Fairview, Asylum, and other State institutions associated with Salem as the state capital, Chemawa Indian School participated in a different grid of power and funding, and has seemed much harder to understand and place in any kind of Salem history. It was here, but in some important ways not of here.

Additionally, if there is always a certain amount of euphemism, even just outright BS, in materials about the State institutions here, there was even more in comments about Chemawa.

A year-end feature in the paper from 1902 says

The students from this school almost uniformly become self-supporting and useful, respected citizens in all walks of life.

But citizenship didn't come until the 1920s and the notion that without special training the students were not useful is biased and risible. There's a whole lot of bad faith posturing and falsehood in the stories Salemites told themselves about Chemawa.

December 24th, 1902

Since Howard University has been in the news this last week, it is interesting also there is something of a link. The Oregon Encyclopedia says

Chemawa began in 1880 as the United States Indian Industrial and Training School on the campus of Pacific University at Forest Grove. The first superintendent was Lt. Melville C. Wilkinson, previously the aide-de-camp to Gen. Oliver Otis Howard, who had led military operations against tribes in the Pacific Northwest. Wilkinson believed, as did R.H Pratt, founder of Carlisle Indian School, that Indians could be better conquered with education than bullets. He espoused the “English only” requirement and instituted manual labor training for both boys and girls.

The origins with the military underscore that it was part of the suite of efforts for domination, elimination, and assimilation, always couched as Americanization.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

City Council, June 12th - Funding Downtown Parking District

On Monday Council will likely reaffirm our commitment to free downtown parking and the polluting car trips it induces.

Free parking promo - November 2020

The Parking District is not Self-Funding

You may remember earlier this year a memo from the Downtown Advisory Board that argued it was time to transition to a right-priced parking system for downtown. This is a perennial theme for DAB.

Maybe next year

Apparently we are not there yet.

But we should be there, because we can't wait for a thing like this to become popular. Very few want to pay for parking, but it is something that is necessary to implement.

People ask why Salemites don't use the bus more, and are quick to blame Cherriots for poor levels of service.

But instead we should ask about the elaborate and interlocking system of subsidy we use to prop up driving and cars as the preferred mobility choice.

When you get free parking but have wait at a bus stop and then pay a bus fare, that's an inducement to drive! When we widen roads for "congestion relief" but insist buses must wait in traffic and do not build housing close to transit, we induce driving trips.

The question to understand isn't "why isn't the bus more popular?" The question is "how do we subsidize and induce driving, guaranteeing it is the popular choice?" We are making a whole lot of policy choices that steer people to drive, and it is time to change or end them.

Moving to a paid parking system downtown is one important step.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

City Council, July 12th - Report on Opening Union and Winter Streets for Saturday Market

Back in April Councilor Stapleton asked for a report on opening parts of Union and Winter Streets to those who might wish to walk, bike, or otherwise roll to the Saturday Market.

Two barricades (green added)

After some delay, the report will be presented Council on Monday the 12th.

City Staff are presenting two basic options, a "soft" and "hard" redirect to drivers and their cars.

Option #1 is a Soft Closure, in which signage and small barricades are used to discourage through-vehicle traffic on Union Street NE and Winter Street NE. Option #2 is a Hard Closure that employs large barricades and signs to prevent vehicles from entering closed street segments.

But did it have to take three months to develop this? The detail here is not something that should have taken three months. It's not rocket science!

Moreover, as part of a "feasibility study," the City did not conduct any outreach to businesses or residents along Union and Winter. They write:

8. Potentially impacted businesses and residences

§ There are 11 businesses that only have access to Union Street NE or Winter Street NE. It is unclear how many are open on Saturdays.

§ There are 63 residences that only have access to Union Street NE or Winter Street NE.

Maybe talking to businesses risks generating premature push-back, but it also leaves another layer of process yet to complete. Even having taken three months to generate this report, City Staff have left many other details undone. Council will not have a very good sense for actual "feasibility" from this report.

Monday, July 5, 2021

City Barely Changes Parking Lot in Revised Plan for Geer Park

Will 117 degrees register now with the Parks and Recreation Board?

The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board zooms on Thursday the 8th, and they'll consider a revised plan for Geer Park.

Earlier in the year, our 350.org chapter and neighborhood advocates suggested a new 94 stall parking lot along Park Avenue was not consistent with our climate goals, and that generally we should seek to meet new park demand by non-auto travel as well as working to shift existing park demand away from car trips.

The Board did not agree, but when the plan came to Council, the criticism met a more sympathetic audience, and Council asked for a revised plan.

City Staff took a very measured approach, over-measured and Potemkin perhaps, and are proposing not to eliminate the new parking lot, but to reduce it symbolically by 24 stalls, from 94 to 70 stalls.

The new site plan

The previous plan

It's hard to see how this is very responsive to concerns about climate and emissions.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Zoning and the Restoration Drama: Different Perspectives on the Buchner House

On Friday Salem Reporter published a nice history piece on the Buchner House on the corner of Court and 14th, "A firebombing brings a neighborhood together to restore historic home."

It focused on recent history, shortly after neighborhood historians and preservation advocates successfully nominated the Court-Chemeketa Historic District to the National Register in 1987.

Buchner House described in 1987
Historic District National Register Nomination

As a history column, it's also a first-person narrative, which insulates it from many kinds of comment. It's their experience, no matter what anyone else might think. More, it's the experience of one of Salem's great citizens, a person of extraordinary good faith who has undertaken many terrific projects and exemplified a spirit of volunteerism. It deserves a certain deference.

Still, the piece participates in our larger culture and politics, and expresses a kind of conventional wisdom on zoning, historic preservation, and neighborhood character.

As we think about climate and about our housing crisis, the conventional wisdom is not adequate, and we should reconsider some of it. Here are some different angles for approaching the house.

Privileging the Narrative of Single-Family Dwellings

As a type of narrative about neighborhood character and historic preservation, the piece shows some of the ways we overvalue housing for "single families," and ways exclusion is often a feature rather than bug for our single family zoning scheme.

Driver Strikes and Kills Marlene Moreno in Downtown Crosswalk

Driving a van late Friday afternoon, Paul Brogden III struck and killed Marlene Moreno as she attempted to cross Center Street in a crosswalk at the intersection with High Street downtown.

Southbound on High, turning left onto Center
Note person on foot entering crosswalk northbound

From Salem Police:

Just before 5 p.m. on July 2, 2021, a parking enforcement officer reported a crash involving a vehicle and a pedestrian at the intersection of High and Center STS NE.

The pedestrian was identified as Marlene Moreno, age 73 of Salem, was in the marked crosswalk traversing northbound across Center ST when she was struck by a van. Moreno sustained critical injuries and was transported to Salem Health where she later died.

The driver of the van, Paul Brogden III, age 44 of California, was making an eastbound turn from High ST onto Center ST. Brogden remained on the scene and cooperated with officers conducting the initial investigation.

The Salem Police Traffic Team is completing the crash investigation. Anyone who may have witnessed the incident can contact the team at 503-588-6293.

The paper's first story online reproduces the passive voice and erasure of the driver in the press release: "A woman was crossing on Center Street at High Street at about 5 p.m., according to Salem Police, when she was struck by a van."

A different story shows it doesn't have to be that way.