Thursday, September 30, 2021

With Water Play Trope, Paper Misses on Climate and Hottest Summer on Record

It was great to see the local intern's byline on the front page today.

Front page today

Unfortunately, even after journalists themselves discussed the problem nationally, the paper tamed the story with another image of water play and fun in the heat.

Columbia Journalism Review via Twitter

And perhaps edited out also more on the climate context for the heat. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Proposed Subdivision in South Salem Shows Problem with Single Detached Homes - Updated

With street names like Walton Way, Ramsay Road, Aldridge Avenue, and Drexler Drive, a new subdivision of 138 single detached houses proposed for the field and woods just north of the future Hilfiker Park, between Fairview and Trader Joes basically, appears to aim for a certain sports-loving niche.

Nearly 30 acres into 138 lots for single houses

But the project may not be a slam dunk. 

Its timing may be to ensure that it gets approved before Our Salem is finished, but it represents a missed opportunity in multiple ways. 

At an earlier draft stage of Our Salem, the lot and a band of lots to the south of it were proposed for Multiple Family Residential 2 zoning.

Meyers Parcel proposed in Spring 2021 for RM2

You can see from the red pins that the concept elicited a number of comments in the Spring of 2021.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Walk in Alderbrook, Restoring the Grey-Belle, and a Desire for a Cemetery Connection - All Linked through Thielsen Family

Behind a couple of recent items in the paper, and related to another debate in the past year, are connections with the Thielsen family, who came here over a century ago with the railroads. Here are some notes, which may lead to further investigations.

May 4th, 1928

In the piece about walking every street in Salem, Ed Lazzara highlighted as his favorite a fascinating little pocket neighborhood. " section of Faye Wright did wow him. He described a wooded area off Welcome Way SE with large lots and extravagant homes."

Alderbrook is favorite

The streets are these wide boulevards, often without sidewalks. They are really overbuilt! The lots are indeed large, and the tree canopy dense and in some places even a little majestic, at least by Salem standards. At least one realtor treats it as a distinct neighborhood.

Right at the 12th Street Cut-off there is an even larger lot that stands out for its size, the hiddenness of its house, and its age. It is some kind of estate that has remained at least partially intact while the city around it has been sold off and built up.

One especially old and large lot in Alderbrook

Last summer, the owners filed for some lot changes, apparently to subdivide it further and sell off part of the estate, but they withdrew it, and it will likely reappear at some point. In preparation for that, you may recall, the City vacated a funny little remnant street, Vacation Lane. The interior lot and house was of interest then, and I think we can fill in some of the blanks.

Tentatively, I want to suggest that this large lot and house was the original "Alderbrook," a "country home," for prominent Salemites in the early part of the 20th century.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

City Council, September 27th - Renew the MUHTIP?

After Monday's formal Work Session on the satisfaction survey and bond thinking, on the regular agenda are some items of interest, led by the prospect of renewing the MUHTIP, the Multiple Unit Housing Incentive Program.

The City's memo, written as a Q and A, is helpful, and contains a level of detail we rarely see in the quarterly economic and business development updates. The City should do more of this!

The start of the Q and A memo

It was interesting to learn that the program was shaped and constrained by state statute, so there are limits to the ways the City might reconfigure an incentive program.

In general, the City proposes a 10 year renewal and says

Staff reviewed the program criteria for potential updates and is not recommending any changes at this time.

They underscore the recent use of the program as evidence it works correctly:

Since the City adopted the MUHTIP program in 1976, nine developments have received the MUHTIP tax exemption incentive. In the program’s first thirty-nine years, only four developments applied for and received the MUHTIP incentive. Since 2015 however, the City has had five projects apply for and receive this incentive for infill development.

In defending the analysis for "no change," the City highlighted the role of parking requirements in hindering development:

In the past, a lot of projects looked at development opportunities within the MUHTIP boundary and found that even with the tax incentive they couldn’t make the project profitable due to parking requirements and other factors. As the City has implemented more flexible parking standards, this cost burden has been removed from projects and they have become more feasible.

They also discuss banking and interest rates, rental rates, land supply and costs. The discussion is realistic and detailed, and it will be interesting to see if there is any comment from developers or architects or realtors, whose criticism would be especially informed.

Friday, September 24, 2021

City Council, September 27th - Satisfaction Survey and Thoughts about a New Bond

Council convenes on Monday, and first up is a formal Work Session on the annual satisfaction survey and cueing up planning for a big infrastructure bond.

We have choose one of these frames
(front pages, June 2015 and June 2019)

And more than the conversation around the planning process for any Climate Action Plan, what is and is not in any big bond measure will disclose where we are in reality on climate.

Are we going to fund strong climate action?

Or are we going to fund business-as-usual and pay lip service to climate action?

As a "top concern" roads are declining

Yet rush hour remains the focus of anxiety

A great structural flaw in the annual survey is that it floats along the surface and does not make any attempt to tease apart attitudes.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Climate Change in the News of 1921: Blurbing William Cooper at Glacier Bay

Sept. 22nd, 1921

It's not often that glimmers of climate change appear in print a century ago.

Here's a note about the recession of Muir Glacier from September 22nd, 1921. Probably the 19th century change is not entirely anthropogenic from fossil fuels but it's striking nonetheless.

And it turns out that William Cooper was engaged in a fascinating project that was revived just a few years ago.

See in National Geographic, "Century-Long Glacier Study May Help Us Crack Climate Change" and an interactive with some of the original field notes in "The Lost Study of Glacier Bay."

Started in 1916 by one of the countries leading ecologists, the study ran for over 75 years - but then was lost, as the original researchers died. In 2016, the plots were rediscovered through a combination of old sketch maps, compasses, notes, faded photographs, and wilderness exploring. It's a story reminiscent of John Muir crossed with Indiana Jones, where X marked the spot and old buried spikes were pursued like a needle in a Glacier Bay sized haystack. The expedition was successful, and the longest running study is all set for the next 100 years of monitoring.

The project turned out more to be about plant succession than about glacial recession, but it's interesting it was mentioned in the paper in any case. (Also interesting is the National Geographic headline, which may have a bit of false bonhomie and suggests Climate is a problem to be solved and mastered.)

via Twitter

Yesterday we hit another way to mark our warming climate. We've already smashed the record for days of 90 degree or greater heat in a year. And yesterday afternoon we hit a milestone for days of 80 degree or greater heat in a year.

And big trees have been in the news.

LA Times, September 18th

Even though the human costs of climate-intensified fire loss are more direct, the costs and losses to our oldest and biggest creatures are especially moving.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

JC Penney Building Sold, Odd Fellows Hotel Broke Ground in 1921, Mystery at Landmarks Commission - Bits

You probably saw the news that the former JC Penney building finally sold.

JC Penney listed for $4.7M, sold for $2.9M

It sounded like they had to agree to a discount, nearly 40% off the original offering price. The new owners are signalling they will divide the large shell into several smaller units, for retail, office space, housing, or a mixture. They intend to perforate the shell with more windows, which would be a good thing, both for any new tenants and their light, but also for passers-by and sidewalk life. The blank walls on the building as well as across the street on the Mall and former Nordstrom just deaden the sidewalks.

Hopefully the momentum to delete the skybridges continues, and there is new interest both in Liberty Plaza and in Belluschi crater. This is an important set of corners for downtown!

Previously on JC Penney:

A Mystery Hotel Project?

On Wednesday the 15th, via social media the Historic Landmarks Commission teased "a major historic design review of a proposed seven-story hotel" for their meeting on the 16th.

That's big news, and something nearly certain to be downtown in the Downtown Historic District.

But there was no Public Hearing Notice published to the City Notices page nor any agenda or Staff Report for a September 16th meeting.

Missing Agenda and Staff Reports

Was it a modification on the New Holman Hotel? A project for Belluschi Crater? Something else? If we find out more, we may update this - or it could merit a whole new post.

A Definite, Historical Hotel Project

100 years ago, the Odd Fellows announced plans for the Central Stage Terminal and Hotel building immediately south of the Grand Theater.

August 7th, 1921

The very first mention came on August 3rd, 1921. Just as trivia, the front page of the morning paper is terrific and broad. The main headline is on the Black Sox baseball gambling scandal of 1919. Around it is opera news, on the death of tenor Enrico Caruso. There are other bits on the labor tensions at the new hospital building site on Center Street and gossipy notes on visitors to the auto camp ground where Pringle Park is today. The range of interest on the front page is much greater. It's busier, of course, and harder to read, so it's not "better" by those measures. Just different, when the media ecosystem hadn't become so fragmented and niche.

Friday, September 17, 2021

City Council, September 20th - Climate Plan is a Dud

On Monday Council will hold a formal Work Session on the Climate Action Plan. But at the moment it's a dud, a sophisticated kind of climate delay discourse rather than a plan for reducing emissions.

The three main kinds of delay in our plan process
(comments added, "Discourses of Climate Delay")

If the plan is going to be at all serious, more than a Potemkin plan for show, it's clear that Council needs to stage an intervention and redirect the planning process to ensure the plan is reasonably likely to meet the goals.

Principals and an Enthusiasm Gap?

One of the biggest problems with the Climate Action Plan process has been demonstrated recently. The principal City planners don't appear to believe in it. When Staff have been given the opportunity to lean into the plan, they leaned away. They may say "climate matters," but their actions show they may not actually believe this.

In one case, when City Staff had a direct opportunity to coordinate and integrate climate planning with other formal planning activities, they not only passed on that, they acted as if climate didn't matter and even hindered other, more important activities.

Primary frame: Emissions or Parking demand?

One of the principal City planners on the Climate Action Plan also led the Geer Park Master Plan update, and given every opportunity to advocate for climate action, they showed they may just be going through the motions only and did not believe in the climate action plan. By their actions, they seemed to disparage the Climate Action Plan

Is there still this lack of clarity about emissions?

Separately, in a Salem Reporter article on climate, the other principal City planner had every opportunity to say, "here are the most important things we can do to reduce emissions," and instead they said we "need to build more resiliency." We need to endure and adapt to the climate emergency, not prevent its worst excesses, they appear to think. From the piece:

The city of Salem started working on a climate action plan in Aug. 2020 and is close to completing it. There’s a work session with the Salem City Council on Monday, Sept. 20.

Patricia Farrell, Salem’s parks and natural resources planning manager, said not many of the people the climate task force has talked to commented pessimistically, “though the subject is daunting.”

“Instead, people are more inclined towards the urgency of doing something. People want to know what they, as individuals, can do and how their choices matter,” she said in an email.

She said the results of the survey show the need to build more resiliency in the community, which is part of the Climate Action Plan.

With the Geer Park plan and in comments to media, City Staff in charge of the Climate Action Plan have chosen not to advocate for climate, not to advocate for reducing emissions, not to advocate for the plan.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Hit and Runs are More than Merely Rude, Drive-thrus and Emissions: Mystifying the Autoism

Yesterday the paper churned a press release from an auto insurer into a whimsical piece on rudeness. Probably it just maintains the jocular tone of the press release, but it also maintains our unseriousness about driving.

Politeness? or Hazardous? - via Twitter

From the SJ:

A national auto insurance comparison website has decided Salem has the rudest drivers in Oregon....

Insurify, a website to compare auto insurance rates, based its ranking on analysis of about four million car insurance applications. The applications require drivers to disclose their city of residence and any prior driving violations. The analysis looked specifically at failure to yield violations, failure to stop violations, improper backing, passing where prohibited, tailgating, street racing and hit-and-runs.

But are we really talking about rudeness? Or are we talking about kinds of dangerous driving with potentially lethal outcomes?

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Cherriots Switches up Consultant for Long-Range Plan: At the MPO

At the meeting of SKATS' technical committee today, Tuesday the 14th, Cherriots will give an overview of the forthcoming Long Range Plan process.

Announcement intro

The most striking thing is that they switched up the contractor.

Jarrett Walker + Associates had written the Comprehensive Service Analysis in 2014, guided much of the service expansion, and I believe they just wrapped up the Salem to Albany Corridor Feasibility Study Project. They may have completed other studies in between.

For some combination of reasons - and we don't know if Walker even bid on the project, since the presentation to SKATS doesn't touch on any elements of the bid selection process - Cherriots engaged a new contractor. Maybe they wanted a fresh perspective.  

They feature a big highway project in Sydney

But when you google "jacobs + engineering + transit" you get a picture of a giant highway project. Rail, it seems, is their "transit" focus, light rail and heavy commuter rail. They are an engineering firm and do megaprojects. In the overview they don't talk about bus service, and the word "bus" appears only once in many paragraphs of text.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Bewhiskered Bus Drivers and Walking all the Streets: Bits in the Sunday Paper

In addition to the hard news, the Sunday paper has a couple of interesting bon bons on transportation.

Walking all the streets

Bus drivers in 1940

We'll probably return to the story about walking all the streets of Salem, as in addition to it being a neat story about a Pandemic Project, it is also interesting for its choice of detail, what is and is not mentioned, and the way some things are framed. The story genre is feature, but of course there is much underlying policy and politics.

There is much more to say about walking in Salem!

Saturday, September 11, 2021

City Council, September 13th - Make an Un-Hooverville!

Council convenes on Monday the 13th. Because of Delta and the fourth wave of infection, they have returned to videoconferencing only.

We've already mentioned cueing up some materials for the Work Session on the Climate Action Plan.

That was the most important thing here.

Early image of State Insurance Building
NW corner Commercial and Chemeketa
Oregon State Library

Also interesting are finally some details on the proposed redevelopment of the former UGM/Saffron Hardware block.

Corner proposed for affordable housing

The northwest corner of the intersection of Commercial and Chemeketa (or the southeast corner of the block) is occupied by a heavily modified, but nonetheless remnant first floor of the State Insurance Building (at top). They just whacked off the top two floors and disguised the bottom floor. But if you look at the window frames and mouldings, some original detailing is still there.

Friday, September 10, 2021

City Council, September 13th - Prep for Climate Work Session on 20th

A little buried perhaps on Council's agenda for Monday the 13th is some preparatory material for the formal Work Session on the 20th.

The one new item is the "Benefit-Cost Analysis of 10 Strategies for Salem's Climate Action Plan."

Analysis of 10 Strategies

It is worth more attention and there will be more to say.

Here are four quick hits, one on overall approach, and three on the analysis.

First off, it just exemplifies the way the process has been structured to avoid engaging the central goals, that of reducing our emissions by 50% in 2035 and the other goal of being carbon neutral by 2050.

Instead, this is all about how expensive or how difficult a very small subset of 10 actions will be. It shifts the focus from actual reductions to efficiency.

This kind of analysis belonged earlier in the process, and is misplaced now at the end of the process. It should have been a preliminary SWAG done at a very early stage that then guided further refinement in an iterative process designed to get us to that 50% reduction for 2035.

Within the limitations of this approach, then, the number one strategy is not very surprising.

Right-priced parking at the top

Over and over we keep circling around and avoiding parking. It's a third rail. That needs to stop. The evidence against free parking is overwhelming. It's time to end it.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Daily Lows in August 1921 were Nearly 10 Degrees Cooler than in 2021

Of all the imagery from the fires last year, it was the orange, even apocalyptic, sky right here that has most stayed in memory.

A year ago, via Twitter

There's plenty being written about the fire, especially about rebuilding in the canyon, but still not enough about the larger context of climate disruption.

Earlier this year, in the "Climate Vulnerability Assessment Highlights," the City and project team published some modeling for the average year in the 2050s.

Blowing past the prediction from January 2021

It suggested that "Days with temperatures greater than or equal to 90°F will increase by 26 days, from 7 days (1990s) to 33 days (2050s)."

Today marked our 40th day of 90°F heat in 2021.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Driver Strikes and Kills Person Biking on Hazelgreen Road Early Monday Evening

Yesterday evening a person driving an SUV struck Eileen Rose Johnson as she was biking on Hazelgreen Road. Johnson later died from the injuries.

From Marion County Sheriff:

On September 6th, 2021, at approximately 7:30 p.m. a 911 caller reported a bicyclist had been struck by a vehicle on Hazelgreen Road NE near 75th Ave NE, east of Salem. The bicyclist was transported to a local hospital by ambulance where they later succumbed to their injuries. The driver of the involved vehicle was not injured in the crash.

The deceased bicyclist has been identified as Eileen Rose Johnson (62) of Salem. The driver of the involved vehicle has been identified as Feliciano Mendez Hernandez (46) of Salem....

Based upon preliminary information, investigators learned the driver of a black Ford Expedition was traveling westbound on Hazelgreen Road NE prior to bicyclist being struck. [map link added]

This post may be updated.

Monday, September 6, 2021

After Wage Complaints in 1921, Hospital Agrees to Prevailing Wage on New Building

Back in 1920, after McKinley School was no longer in use as a hospital, the existing capacity at Deaconess Hospital was not enough, and Salemites planned for a second hospital. In 1921 the contracts were finalized for the building just north of the State Hospital.

October 21, 1920

June 28th, 1921

With the economy slowing and general distaste for unions, the developers sought to reduce wages on construction. The move was resisted.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Historian Scott McArthur Passes Away

A selection of news bits

Shoot, the paper today has an obituary for Scott McArthur, a notable local historian. The obituary focuses on his legal career and says little about the history work. He had a full life!

Scott McArthur's obituary today

He'd contributed a couple of pieces, one on Ben Maxwell of course, to the Oregon Encyclopedia, and with a little different focus his capsule bio there says:

Scott McArthur, Monmouth author and retired lawyer, worked with Ben Maxwell on the staff of the Salem Capital Journal from 1959 to 1964. McArthur was raised in Tacoma. He is a graduate of the University of Puget Sound, University of Oregon, and Northwestern School of Law at Lewis and Clark College. He practiced law for 40 years, and before that taught in the public schools and at Mt. Angel College, and was a writer for the Capital Journal, Albany Democrat-Herald, Associated Press and United Press International. McArthur is the author of three self-published local history books, one of them a collection of Ben Maxwell's writings.

See this 2013 piece in the Itemizer-Observer, "Scott McArthur: Monmouth's Answer Man," for more on the journalism and history side.

On the Civil War here

The book on the Civil War has been of interest, but I have not yet read it. I am particularly interested in the chapter on the Knights of the Golden Circle, the pro-Confederacy paramilitary group, which may have counted early Salemite J. B. McClane as a member. (See here on McClane and the suggestion about his membership in the Knights.)

According to that Itemizer-Observer piece,

While McArthur wasn't part of the campaign to legalize beer and wine in Monmouth in 2002 and hard liquor in 2010, he has played a key role during Monmouth's dry history.

While serving as Monmouth City Attorney in 1969, he convinced city leaders to draft a bill that was eventually introduced to the Oregon Legislature to allow Monmouth to share in state liquor revenues -- as a dry town, Monmouth was previously denied those funds up to that point.

Oregonian, September 19th, 1920

That's a little ambiguous, but since Independence, and the greater Monmouth area, was such a center of the Hop industry, a beery toast in his memory seems appropriate.

Deadly Crash on Fairway Avenue Near 2019 Site of Crash

Back in 2019 you might recall a terrible crash and death on Fairway Avenue SE. In the days after the crash, there was a story about neighbors wanting traffic calming, and the City dismissing the request.

In 2019 City said "No"
to safety counter-measures

Yesterday, Salem Police had sad news about another fatality yesterday on this same stretch of Fairway Avenue, nearly certain to involve speeding.

On Friday, September 3, 2021, at approximately 6:45 p.m., Salem police and firefighters responded to a motorcycle crash near Fairway DR and Lexington CR SE. [The City's "primary address" map identifies Fairway as an Avenue, not Drive, and it is the only street intersecting with Lexington Circle]

The first arriving officer attempted lifesaving measures for the motorcycle rider before paramedics arrived. Ultimately, the rider identified as David Patrick Lewallen, age 41 of Jefferson, was pronounced deceased at the scene.

The initial investigation indicates Lewallen was driving southbound on Fairway DR when he could not negotiate the curve near Lexington CR and left the roadway, striking multiple objects.

Lewallen’s was the only vehicle involved in the crash.

The Salem Police Traffic Team responded to the incident and is completing the investigation.

This is a street designed in a way that allows for and even induces excessive speed, there is a pattern of speeding, and it deserves calming.

(See recent note on Mildred Lane, also about speeding. This post may be updated.)

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Yellow Buses and Redundant Transit, Updating Historic Survey in Grant - Bits

On the front page this week was a national story about problems with the yellow bus system.

The story wasn't specifically focused on 24J, but they are not immune to the trends, and we've already seen Cherriots announce some service reductions at the very time time they are trying to roll out new Sunday service. There's also a story in Eugene Weekly about Lane Transit having difficulty recruiting new drivers and retaining existing drivers. There are multiple factors in play, some very immediate, others more structural and longer-term.

The problems are a small crisis that also represent an opportunity.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Library First Impressions: Walking and Biking to It

It has been a little surprising to see people complaining about the new, brighter interior of the Library. Do they remember how dark and gloomy it was? Probably as more art is installed there will be more splashes of color, but the basic white, wood, and gridded ceiling just seem clean rather than sterile. Particularly when there are people in it, the white will be a neutral canvas for the life of books and of human activity.

The nooks look pretty warm and inviting, don't they?

The nooks used to be blocked, and now they are open!

It was of course a great disappointment not to be able go to the Library yesterday. Postponing the opening is the right decision, but a sad one.

Once we all can actually go inside with the regular buzz of activity, there will be more to say, and we may have to revise some of our first impressions made from photos.

But we can talk about the exterior a little! The City's release the day before the postponement was announced, "Parking Update at Renovated Main Library," was completely autoist, and just assumed everybody would visit by car. But people will walk, bike, and bus to it also. And while these were not primary interests for the seismic and renovation work, the team made some changes also for non-auto access and circulation.