Saturday, October 30, 2021

City gets Approval for 25mph Limit on 17th Street, other Bits

Here's some good news. ODOT came around and now supports the City's desire to post the whole of 17th from Silverton Road to Mission Street for 25mph.

17th Street signed for 30mph, soon to be 25mph

City Manager's October 22nd update

Signs by themselves are of course not enough. 

But this is a good step.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Cueing up the 2024-2029 Funding Cycle and Selection Process: At the MPO

At the MPO tomorrow the 26th, there are a number of items to note.

City to fund walking safety projects

In a letter to the MPO, the City said they plan use their allocation of Covid relief funds, just shy of $1 million, "to construct pedestrian safety projects." That should fund at least a few new enhanced crosswalks! (Hopefully the City will plan for sites in addition to ones already planned, and will not merely shift the source of funding so that funds that had been allocated to crosswalks would now go to more autoist projects.)

Also on the agenda is conversation about how to score and prioritize project applications in the next round of discretionary funding in the TIP, for 2024-2029.

How should we score project applications?

What's a TIP, you ask? From the MPO project site on the call for applications:

The Salem-Keizer Area Transportation Study (SKATS), the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for Salem-Keizer-Turner, is soliciting for sponsors of transportation projects within the SKATS MPO boundary to apply for federal funds for the federal fiscal years (FY) 2024-2029 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). There will be approximately $13 million in federal funds available for new projects in FY 2025, 2026, and 2027 and an additional $12 million available for projects ready for contract in the FY 2028-2029 illustrative years; although, it is up to the SKATS Policy Committee’s discretion to program funds for those years. Projects eligible for funding must be within the SKATS MPO boundary and be included in, or consistent with, the 2019-2043 Regional Transportation Systems Plan (RTSP). Applicants must be a tax-funded public agency that can enter into a contract with the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), with some restrictions, to be eligible to receive funding. A minimum 10.27 percent match with non-federal dollars is required. Private entities or non-profit organizations may apply as co-applicants in partnership with a public agency.

In a separate topic and agenda item, but conceptually linked, in defending the historical approach to prioritization and project selection, they suggest nearly a third of funding remaining after some non-discretionary categories are taken out has gone to "complete street" projects that are "mostly bike/ped." These are often taking a two-lane street and adding a center turn pocket and also sidewalks and bike lanes. (See diagram below.) To say they are "mostly bike/ped" has seemed here like an exaggeration generally: The center turn lane widens the street, adds auto capacity, and makes for longer crosswalks. But this is one of those debates on which reasonable people can disagree and may not be possible resolve definitively.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

City Council, October 25th - Thinking about a Bond

Council convenes on Monday and they lead with a formal Work Session on concepts for a bond measure.

Cooking up a bond and figuring out the best ratio of bond sweetener to healthy food and good medicine seems tricky.

Still, the report on focus group testing has two things that just seem odd.

Nothing on climate

One is an omission. They didn't ask about climate projects. If this is the big bond for a decade's worth of projects, why aren't we planning for climate? This just seems like a very significant omission and lack of foresight. Of course, it is not too late to introduce that into the process.

The other is the decision to ask if people wanted free parking. Of course people like free! How is this useful information? Is the City considering a new parking structure a "bond sweetener" to make the whole package more palatable?

Friday, October 22, 2021

OHQ Teases Winter Issue with Sung Lung Laundry in 1889

The image of the Sung Lung Laundry on Court Street appears at least twice in the Library's historic photos collection (here and here), and you may have seen it in other contexts as well. Relatively speaking, it's often reproduced, and even a little iconic.

Sung Lung Laundry 1889 - via twitter

The Oregon Historical Society tweeted out another instance of it this week, and if you click all the way through, it appears to be the highest resolution scan of them all. Maybe you've already figured out where it was exactly, but if not, here it is placed on a map of early Salem.

Sung Lung Laundry at 105 Court and angle of photo
Reed Opera House on left
1888 Sanborn Map, Library of Congress

And the approximate view today.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Climate Action Plan Frothy but Empty

The City and project team have released a Preliminary Public Review Draft of our Climate Action Plan.

I do not understand it. It reads like a sales and marketing document, not like a policy plan. If the goal was to have a plan for a 50% reduction in emissions by 2035, we are still distant from having that plan.

The very first words

From the start, it sells good intentions and lofty language, but it is very short on actual policy recommendations to achieve the outcomes it teases. It says we are "taking action," but aside from the action of publishing the plan, what action is there? Our "ambitions" seem content to remain ambitions, not actions.

Tentativeness: "Might be able to achieve"

Indeed, in the Executive Summary, there is already a retreat, and the actions are qualified as those we "might be able to achieve." In the body of the plan, distinct from the appendices attached to it, there are only three policy recommendations, and these lack any estimate for impact on total emissions. They are mentioned only because they are "cost-effective."

The only actual recommendations?

And they seem vitiated by the coach speak, the "determined resolve" of trying hard. ("Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose," etc.?)

Monday, October 18, 2021

What to do with Remnants of State Insurance Building?

The Historic Landmarks Commission has an especially interesting agenda for their meeting this week, Thursday the 21st.

When it was the YMCA (WHC 2014.064.0060)

Even if they don't necessarily intend to get at the question directly, they will have to consider indirectly what exactly is the main purpose of historic preservation. Is the accent on telling better history? Or is the accent on the preservation of old buildings and building parts as much as possible as a defense against development? Is narrative history or anti-growth the engine of historic preservation?

The topic is prompted by a formal request from the Willamette Heritage Center:

[A representative from the Mill] has requested that the Salem Historic Landmarks Commission (HLC) initiate the local historic resource nomination for the State Insurance Co. Building (1888). While the building dates back to circa 1888, the exterior of the building has gone through significant alterations beginning in 1960 when the upper stories of the building were removed....The building is significant for its association with the State Insurance Company, the Oregon Land Company, the Salem YMCA and former President Herbert Hoover. The original structure was a good example of the commercial Second Empire architectural style for this period.

The Recommendation from the City is negative:

Staff recommends the HLC take no action to initiate the local historic designation of the State Insurance Co. Building because the proposed resource is not eligible for designation due to its lack of historic integrity.

The history of the building's form is even more complicated than the materials from the Mill and the City suggest.

Its very first version was a two-story brick without the Mansarded third floor.

An early two-story version of
State Insurance Building
1887, detail
(Salem Library Historic Photos)

Another view of the two-story version
March 28th, 1931

In the late 1880s it was remodeled by the addition of the third story, and this is the form in which we have mainly remembered it as "historic." (See YMCA postcard at top.)

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Person Biking across Parkway along Cherry Avenue Killed

Last night while apparently crossing Cherry Avenue on Salem Parkway with a green light, a driver operating a semi-truck struck and killed a person biking north on Cherry Avenue against the light.

From Salem Police:

On October 15, 2021 at approximately 7:50 p.m. Salem Police and Fire personnel were dispatched to the intersection of Salem Pkwy and Cherry AVE NE on vehicle versus bicycle crash. When officers arrived they determined a semi-truck and trailer driven by Montaque Annear, age 55 of Dallas, had struck a bicycle, killing the male adult rider.

The Salem Police Traffic Team responded to conduct the investigation. They have initially determined that Annear was traveling southwest on Salem Pkwy on a green light when the bicyclist proceeded northbound through the intersection at Cherry AVE and was struck. Annear stopped, remained on on-scene and cooperated with the investigation. Additionally, a Level I truck inspection was completed on the semi and trailer, and no violations were found.

No arrests were made and no citations were issued. The bicyclist has been identified but his identity will not be released until his next of kin have been notified.

This is the sixth fatal pedestrian or cyclist crash in Salem this year.

Parkways: "high capacity, high speed" - Salem TSP

If the preliminary investigation is verified as correct, and it might not be since there is so often a bias in favor of the operator of a motor vehicle, and the dead are not able to tell their side, but if further crash analysis confirms the account, it will be pretty clearly an instance of a person biking at fault and making a grievous error.

It's hard to know what to advocate for here. Even on streets classified as major arterials it is plausible to argue for comprehensive reductions in posted speed such that crashes are less likely to be fatal. But parkways are structured to be quasi-highways, and speed reductions there seem very unlikely and implausible. (Kuebler/Cordon pose the same problem.)

Still, there's a pattern of problems near that intersection on the Parkway and on Cherry Avenue.

Friday, October 15, 2021

City Council, October 18th - Work Session with Planning Commission on Our Salem

Earlier this month the paper's layout on the front page juxtaposed stories on our onset of our seasonal coastal "hypoxia zones" and on a debate over an undeveloped parcel in south Salem. The development story reran a couple of days ago.

Front page, October 3rd, inset Oct. 13th

This pair is one good frame - there are others of course - for the proposed revisions to our Comprehensive Plan. Council and the Planning Commission meet for a joint Work Session on Monday the 18th. So far we are unwilling to make land use subordinate to our unfolding climate emergency. Instead, we want to insulate our neighborhoods from change, whether that be apartments, pallet shelters, and sometimes even single houses. Especially parking. We want to make climate subordinate to our current living arrangements. But we know who will have the last word.

Oregonian, June 2021

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Art at the Library a Highlight of New Space

It was so great finally to be able to visit the Library again last week.

They improved the side hallway into a gallery

The day was cloudy, and I did not find that the interior light levels quite met the glow promised in the pre-construction architectural renderings. It was still a little dim and gloomy in places. I hope they can adjust the lighting to make it brighter on winter, rainy days. (My pictures shift amber and are much dimmer than the light levels as I experienced them with my eyes in person, however. The art was generally well lit.)

I did not find the space as legible as I hoped, also. I wasn't looking for things, and hoped they would be obvious. I had no idea where the reference section was. Where's the Hugh Morrow collection now? Divisions in the Library's collection were not obvious. I know I will learn where they are, but I had hoped they would be legible and obvious, that the space itself would be easy to read without signage and I would not have to work to understand where things were. But it is a kind of generic white box now. More flexible, probably, but maybe we will need a map or directions at first.

"Call Number Cascade"
Does it really invoke Dewey decimals?
(detail, Councilor Hoy)

The highlight, and wholly unexpected, was the art. The new commission, Call Number Cascade, to see in person was still disappointing. It is busy and too jumbled to read. It totally requires a title and artist statement to decode and parse. Public art in contexts like that should be legible without an artist statement. The statement might add nuance and layer, but it should not be necessary to have a basic sense for the art. Even just formally it's not exciting. The colors are desaturated, and don't really function well as an abstract splash of color. The black looks like ink spots from a leaky fountain pen. I look at that big wall and I want more wonder and delight on on it.

Do you love it?

It will be interesting to read and hear what others have to say about it, whether they find more delight in it and better ways to engage it.

Other art was better lit than it had been in the old space and deployed in thematic groupings. It was a real treat. There were no tags, so aside from a few pieces I recognized, it was easy to approach it with a fresh, open mind. And the way there were obvious rhymes in each cluster meant the art was possible to "read" without a decoder ring. Bold color did a lot of the lifting.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Vision Zero, Crosswalks, Bikeways - Brief Notes on the Neighborhood Associations this Week

In the neighborhood associations this week the proposed code amendments for trees are on several of the agenda, so if you are interested in trees be sure to check that out. Here are some other brief notes.

Northeast Neighbors, Tuesday

NEN meets tonight, Tuesday the 12th, and a neighbor, who recently advocated for climate and revised parking at Geer Park, will talk about Vision Zero.

Vision Zero at NEN on the 12th

Morningside, Wednesday

Morningside meets on Wednesday the 13th, and though there is nothing of particular note on the current agenda, last month they looked at a request for a crosswalk through an autoist perspective and were inclined to dismiss it.

Nearly a half mile between signals

Nearly a half mile between signals

Monday, October 11, 2021

New TDM Framework for Portland can Illuminate Our Salem and Climate Action Plan

In advance of thinking more about Our Salem and the Climate Action Plan, today's note at BikePortland, "Portland has a new plan to persuade you to stop driving so much," points not just to a new plan with a new approach to Transportation Demand Management actions and policies, but also a theoretical framework for evaluating our proposals that touch on transportation in Our Salem and the Climate Plan.

"The Way to Go Plan"

The Way to Go Plan discusses nine strategic priority areas.

They write about the inadequacy of a carrots-only approach:

Many transportation demand management programs focus on initiatives that offer information and encouragement for people to try new modes (like transit or biking). While these are important tools, the city cannot reach its ambitious climate, mobility, and equity goals with informational and encouragement programs alone.

To most effectively manage demand for the city’s transportation system, PBOT needs a toolkit of strategies that address the multifaceted nature of human travel behavior, employing strategies that reduce travel demand or redistribute demand in space, in time, or by mode...

A summary of the nine strategies

The top two strategies involve pricing, one with costs, the other with rewards.

Fees, charges, and tolls—designed intentionally and equitably to manage demand—send price signals that help people understand the true costs of driving and encourage non-driving choices when possible. One example of pricing is charging a daily rate for parking your private vehicle.

Especially in tandem with pricing, financial incentives—such as discounted passes, subsidies, and reimbursements—make using travel options more cost-competitive, and can increase motivation to try new ways of getting around.

We will come back to this, to read the plan in more detail, to see how it is received in Portland, to see what revisions might be made before final adoption, and also to consider it as a theoretical framework for evaluating Our Salem and our Climate Action Plan. It could be a fertile prompt for additional analysis and policy action.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

City Council, October 11th - Our Salem, MUHTIP, Marine Drive

Council convenes on Monday and one of the items is cueing up the formal Work Session next week on Our Salem and the proposed new Comprehensive Plan.

Transportation in the 1973 Comp Plan

There will be more to say next week, but without diving in too deeply, the language in the current draft proposal may be too loose and subjective, too oriented to hopes and wishes, without measurable standards to assess progress, and it may reproduce the some of the same problems in previous editions of the Plan that didn't really get us to where we said we wanted to go.

Two generations ago, in 1973 we seemed clear on "differences in the social costs and environmental impacts" in transportation, but how much progress have we made on remedying and correcting for them?

The current draft

Current draft, continued

A document on additional ideas

When we "pursue strategies," "increase access," "accommodate," "employ strategies," and "decrease reliance," these are all things that can be understood as satisfied without any actual change in driving and VMT by Salemites. It is too often signalling of good intentions without substantive change.

There will be more to say next week.

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Walking the Perimeter Sidewalks for the North Campus and Jory Apartments

Construction at the Jory Apartments on the former North Campus of the State Hospital is farther along than I had realized, and it was interesting to walk the perimeter recently.

A: Looking NW from Park Ave

There seemed to be some minor deviation from the concept plans at the Planning Commission in January 2020. Here's the site plan with a key to the photos in red letters.

Site plan map (Jan. 2020) with key to photos

Though I wasn't looking for it, and may have missed it, I did not notice any curb cut at A for the private drive or road.

But at B, the sidewalk was a little weird. North of the mini cul-de-sac the sidewalk was very wide, like for a multi-use path. There was also a wide ramp and curb cut to the side street at Knox. The site concept plan snowed sidewalks of uniform width, as I had read it.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Problems with Induced Speeding and Design Speed from 1921

Here's a great piece from exactly 100 years ago, October 8th, 1921, that shows how much we knew about crashes and how much we have ignored it.

October 8th, 1921

Though they use "accident" rather than crash, they are also clear on the role of speed and speeding as well as the role of road design and road conditions inducing speed.

From the piece (with a few typos cleaned up, and italics added):

Most Motor Accidents Caused By Speeding

Three months study of motor accidents on roads has brought to light the interesting disclosure that a vast majority of the disasters that overtake motorists are brought upon themselves by their own recklessness, and that 90 per cent of them are due to speeding says a writer in the September issue of Public Roads, published by the Bureau of Public Roads, United States Department of Agriculture.

"One of the Interesting developments (of the investigation)," the journal goes on to say "is that the largest number of accidents have occurred at the places that have always been considered safe, while the sections which have been commonly regarded as being dangerous are proving to be relatively free from accidents." Where the state highway crosses the Blue Ridge mountains in the western part of the state, and grades are steep and curves sharp, there were but eight accidents during three months. On the National Pike, between Baltimore and Frederick, where there are 48 miles of the straightest road in the state, the record for the same time showed 16 accidents, 3 of which were fatal. "And yet," says the publication, "few stretches of highway in the whole road system are so free on any feature which might be considered as dangerous."

On the Baltimore-Washington road, with all apparent danger spots removed, the record shows that during the same period there was one accident for every four miles of road.

"There seems to be only one answer to account for these hitherto unsuspected conditions," the article says. That answer is:

"Even the less careful motorists drive cautiously in the presence of recognized dangers, such as steep grades, sharp curves, grade crossings, etc., while the absence of such dangerous features gives the driver a sense of security which prompts him to take a chance and yield [to] the well-nigh universal passion for speed."

Few accidents were due, it was found, to the condition of the roads themselves; and most of those were due to slippery surfaces caused by rains.

And some modern repetition of the same basic themes.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

City Video on Sidewalks and Bike Lanes Seems Agreeable, but Swerves from Heart of Matter

Earlier this week the City published a 12 minute video on transportation planning for sidewalks and bike lanes.

A chat at City Hall - via FB

It's a chat between the Mayor and our Transportation Planner, Julie Warncke. Since it appears to be conducted with Covid-distancing still, it is not as fluid and graceful as it might have been under normal times, so it's important not to focus on that. Overall, it strikes a blandly agreeable tone, and there does not seem to be anything much factual to quibble with.

If walking and biking were "easy" more would do it
The recent Satisfaction survey

But in emphasis and shape, it seems too agreeable and even complacent, addressed mainly to those who think the City is already doing a good job. It seems to be aimed at that 62% of Salemites who think that it is "easy" to "walk or bike in Salem," and only minor, incremental improvements are really called for.

The City should instead give more public thought to ways we are not meeting our targets for walking and biking. The picture the Indicators developed in the Our Salem project gives a very different sense of things. If people really thought it was "easy" to walk and bike, we would have more trips by walking and biking.

We are failing badly on walking and biking
(June Our Salem 2019 indicators - here and here)

More than anything, in the chat, the City missed an opportunity to center climate and to cue up the Climate Action Plan. 53% of our emissions are from driving, and when we talk about walking and biking more, we should pair that messaging with talking about driving less.

Scenario 1 isn't enough, but is doable right now
(last week at Council)

A climate context and the need for strong action now should be at the center of talking about transportation planning for walking and biking. In the video and chat, climate was a really striking omission, particularly since a draft of the Climate Plan is going to be coming out here this fall.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Planning Commission to Consider Code Amendments on Middle Housing and Trees

The Planning Commission meets tonight, Tuesday the 5th, and they've got over 400 pages of proposed code amendments to consider.

More attention to wall clearance (yellow)

With interesting history at the Meyer Farm (and in another, forthcoming note, on a different instance of history), I missed this a little, and so this will be a short note that skates along the surface only. Whoops.

The Staff Report cues it up:

In 2014, the UDC was completed and adopted as Title X of the Salem Revised Code (SRC). The UDC was a complete reorganization and update of Salem’s development codes. The UDC was adopted with the expectation that periodic updates and amendments would be made over time to ensure that any unanticipated concerns with the provisions of the UDC were regularly reviewed and addressed.

The code amendments included with this proposal provide a comprehensive update to the UDC and address a variety of issues that have arisen since the last major update to the UDC in 2019. Included in the proposal are policy-related changes that respond to concerns from the community and recent changes in State law; changes identified by staff to improve the application and administration of the UDC; and minor housekeeping amendments.

Examples of changes include increasing the types and number of poultry that may be kept in the City; expanding the types of residential uses allowed within the City’s residential zones to include middle housing (e.g. townhouses, duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes, and cottage clusters) as required with the passage of State House Bill HB2001; eliminating the General/Retail Office and Front Street overlay zones and incorporating their design review standards into an updated CB (Central Business District) zone with improved design and development standards; allowing managed temporary camping for the homeless and emergency shelters as temporary uses; allowing self-service storage within existing CB zoned buildings in the downtown, subject to limitations on location and design; updating the City’s tree preservation ordinance to increase tree protection and preservation requirements and add to the list of trees species and sizes that meet the definition of a significant tree; and updating the City’s land division ordinance to create a new land division process specifically for land developed for middle housing as required with the passage of State Senate Bill SB458.

Though it may seem "efficient" to bundle and shoot out a firehose of code amendments, the volume makes it difficult for non-specialists to read and understand the changes. It would be easier to digest as several smaller chunks rather than one omnibus package.

On regulatory sludge as a tax - via Twitter

So here are some highlights of the summary, a summary of the summary. 

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Are we Sure there is a Waldo DLC under the Meyer Farm?

The update in the paper on the Meyer Farm proposal and community debate is fascinating, especially for the history in the second half of the 20th century.

Link to Joseph Waldo?

But it is also asserted that the land is on a Donation Land Claim associated with Joseph Waldo. This has seemed like a simple thing to verify and learn about. But there is no proof, and it may be urban legend rather than good history.

On Marion County's current survey map, DLCs are outlined in blue and corners marked with big dots.

No Waldo DLC on current county map

We already saw that the 1919 survey map doesn't show any Waldo DLC here. Its DLC outlines correspond closely with the blue ones in the current County map. So either it is accurate, or both maps reproduce an error and omission.

The survey maps show no Waldo DLC

The 1929 Metsker map, which shows historical DLCs under more contemporary lot divisions, also indicates no DLC here. 

So the assertion that the Meyer Farm parcel is a remnant of a historically significant DLC is murky at best.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

More on Sidewalks and Safety in Story of Walking Every Street

The piece last month about a Pandemic Project to walk every street in Salem was pretty great.

Safety and sidewalks in walking

With space limits in print, there are only so many themes that can be developed in a profile of course. But walking also takes place in a politics and a culture, and there is much more to say.

In the note on Alderbrook, we discussed a little about the role of wealth in making neighborhoods attractive and comfortable.

Another important element to the story, one that is easy to let pass as invisible and to take for granted as the baseline or norm, is that the person walking here does so with a body that reads white and masculine.

Harassment is a problem - via Twitter

He does not have to contend with routine harassment. Another reporter at the paper immediately pointed out the problem of "cat callers."