Monday, January 31, 2022

Celebrating Muscle Cars, we Miss a Chance to think more Deeply about Safety

Yesterday's front page celebration of muscle cars might have been an opportunity to think more about intersections with toxic masculinity, roadway safety, and all our autoism.

Alas, they remained disconnected.

Earlier this week the US Department of Transportation announced a new National Roadway Safety Strategy, and just as a loose framework, it could give us a better way to talk not just about new regulation and funding, but also to understand our autoism and to interpret and analyze crashes locally. It could be productive across several kinds of conversation.

US DOT, via Twitter

"to talk about safety" - via Twitter

From the Department of Transportation:

The National Roadway Safety Strategy will advance safety and save lives through the Safe System approach which includes:

  • Safer People
  • Safer Roads
  • Safer Vehicles
  • Safer Speeds
  • Post-Crash Care

As we saw just a few days ago, a lot of our reporting focuses just on the first element, on bad actors and their bad choices.

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Column on Emancipation Celebrations Turns up Lost History and New Names

In a fascinating history column today, the Mill turns up tantalizing fragments of a counter-narrative to the Black Exclusion Laws in early Salem and Oregon history.

Today's history column

They found "documentation for celebrations of five Emancipation Jubilees held January 1st in Salem between 1868 and 1879." These are reports in white media, and don't much give voice to Black organizers and participants. There are interesting tensions between Salem papers and the Albany States Rights Democrat, which was a pro-South paper. There are probably also interesting tensions among the Salem papers themselves. It's all so fragmentary and partial.

Nevertheless, this is a great start to retrieving a part of history we have lost.

There are so many starting points!

One of them is a new name, the Bayless family.

The 1872 celebration was held at the Reed Opera House and the 1879 event at the Bayless family home in Piety Hill on the corner of Marion and Winter streets.

That house site is maybe not at the center of Piety Hill, but that's also not shoved off to the side, and suggests some real prosperity and status. The Bayless family appears to trace out a real arc in fortune, however.

June 28th, 1871

September 9th, 1892

May 3rd, 1898

November 13th, 1900

April 19th, 1907

Albert and Mary Ann died within days of each other in 1907.

There is so much more to discover and say.

The column does not yet appear to be online, and alone might be a reason to get a paper edition today.

Saturday, January 29, 2022

City Still Slow-Walking Climate Plan

Earlier this week our chapter sent out a press release with alarm that the City is making the absolute smallest increment of action and effectively burying the Climate Action Plan:

350 Salem OR has learned that instead of allowing the City Council to approve or reject the draft Salem Climate Action Plan, the Mayor has directed the City Manager to recommend non-objectionable strategies from the plan to the Council for consideration in February....

350 Salem believes that the holdup is due to objections from Northwest Natural against elements of the plan that would reduce or eliminate the use of natural gas (fossil methane) in new developments. Houses built now will stand for 100 years and lock in decades of methane and carbon dioxide pollution. The greenhouse gas inventory completed in 2019 as part of the Climate Action Plan process showed that “stationary emissions,” (mostly from natural gas) comprised 16% of total emissions in Salem.

New research - via Twitter

350 Salem says:

Send an urgent message to City Councilors at and express your concerns about the Mayor’s attempt to deep-six the Salem Climate Action Plan.

But we should also remember that from the very first memos and the City Manager's selection of a consultant - Council did not make that decision, only inherited it - the desired outcome has been a weak plan.* The problem here is not some new thing, some last minute swerve, but was broadly speaking the goal all along. 

The City was just not that into it.

Remember the soothing, bucolic framing?
No crisis here!
September 2020, via FB

With the City Manager's departure, it should be possible to hire a new City Manager who demonstrates a more substantial and sincere interest in Climate Action.

So while you're at it, consider asking Council to make a real interest in Climate part of the hiring process and criteria for a new City Manager. While Council sets the high level policy, the City Manager handles the details, and they will have discretion to retard or advance any Climate Policy Council sets.

Friday, January 28, 2022

Cherriots Share the Road Video too Anodyne to be very Helpful

Cherriots just published a "share the road" video and mostly it's not very objectionable. But too anodyne and too committed to false equivalence between walking, biking, and driving, it could be so much better.

Biking in the door zone on the margin
of a quiet street with a dead-end

The first impression was dislocation. The streets looked all wrong for starters, too quiet and with unfamiliar houses, and I wondered if it was even in Salem or Keizer. That one of the leads is a City Councilor in Monmouth suggested it might not be. A Monmouth business was more evidence that it was not filmed in the primary territory for Cherriots and local service. That's a little weird, isn't it? Even though they run regional routes, it's still the Salem Area Mass Transit District.

This is a Monmouth business - via Twitter

For a video that ought to be relevant in Salem and Keizer, the street scenes were not an accurate reflection of actual road traffic a person in Salem or Keizer is likely to encounter. (It looked a little like Edwards Addition in Monmouth, but I couldn't tell for sure.)

They also discussed sharrows. This seemed at first like it might be positive.

"keep an eye out for sharrows"

But they never showed a person biking with them!

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Person Drives off Road into Home, Kills Residents; Paper signals New Approach

A few days ago in Keizer a jaydriver crashed into a house and killed two persons. The reporting on the story in the paper reflects a change in policy that may need adjustment.

Lockhaven with a big, sweeping curve at Trail Ave.
It has a posted speed limit of 35mph,
but the road invites faster speed

From Keizer Police:

On January 22, 2022 at approximately 7:40 a.m., the Keizer Police Department responded to a vehicle crash in the 5600 block of Trail Ave NE. Officers arrived and conducted an investigation which led to the arrest of 41 year-old, Andrew Modine of Keizer.

It was determined that Mr. Modine was traveling east on Lockhaven Dr NE before his vehicle left the roadway and drove up onto a landscaped area in the 700 block. The vehicle re-entered Lockhaven and veered onto Trail Ave NE where it once again left the roadway and struck a power pole before careening into the home located at 5695 Trail Ave NE. Two individuals were located in the home; 63 year-old George Heitz and 67 year-old Moira Hughes. Mr. Heitz was transported to the Salem Hospital Emergency Department with serious injuries but is in stable condition. Ms. Hughes was pronounced deceased on scene. [Heitz died a few days later.]

Mr. Modine is currently lodged at the Marion County Correctional Facility on the following charges:

• Manslaughter I
• Assault II
• Reckless Endangering
• Reckless Driving
• Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants
• Driving While Criminally Suspended
• Criminal Mischief II
• Probation Violation

This case has been sent to the Marion County District Attorney’s Office. Future inquiries should be directed to their office.

Left unexamined is how Lockhaven might be designed in ways that permit very high speed. How did the driver get up to speed before he off-roaded and slammed into the house? The house on Trail Avenue is a few lots north of Lockhaven, and to cover that distance means speed. With broad, sweeping curves engineered to forgive minor errors by drivers, the design leads to catastrophe with major error like high speed or impairment.

The New Mugshot Policy

The reporting on the crash likely needs adjustment.

As part of the paper's new mugshot and crime policy, in the initial story they wrote, "A woman was killed in her Keizer home Saturday morning after a driver struck a power pole and rammed into her residence....It is the Statesman Journal's policy to withhold a suspect's name until they have been arraigned in court.." 

In print on Monday

For lesser offenses, small crimes, lesser than killing a person, withholding names and not publishing mugshots is reasonable. We do not want to print every speeding ticket like they did a century ago.

Monday, January 24, 2022

Developing a Scoring Rubric for the 2024-2029 Project Applications: At the MPO

The Policy Committee for our Metropolitan Planning Organization meets on Tuesday the 25th, and they have a lot of housekeeping kinds of things. So just a few notes in passing.

On detail that is interesting is the debate on weighing factors for evaluating the applications for funding in the 2024-29 cycle:

In October 2021, staff presented information to the Policy Committee about how to link the selection of projects for the TIP to the transportation goals and objectives in the Regional Transportation System Plan (RTSP). The PC directed staff to work with the Technical Advisory Committee to develop criteria that was similar to what was used for the last update to the RTSP. See the attached memorandum that describes developing a technical score (based on criteria associated with the RTSP’s goals and objectives) and a separate score based on non-quantifiable factors. The two scores would help develop an initial ranking of projects; but the ranking would be reviewed by the TAC and public to consider other factors, with the final decision by the Policy Committee.

For the technical scoring, a decision by the Policy Committee about weighing factor is needed. (See attached memorandum for discussion of options.) This is needed to help project applicants decide which project(s) to submit as full applications for funding in the SKATS FY 2024-2029 TIP. These full applications are due to SKATS by February 25, 2022.

Staff presented three packages of weighing factors and scored three projects against them:

Comparison of weighing factors

They write,

Under the no-weighting scenario, the McGilchrist @ 22nd Street project was ranked number one, and the pedestrian crossing project was third. Using the RTSP weighting factors, McGilchrist came in third and the pedestrian crossing project tied with transit vehicle replacements for first. The Federal Priority weighting factors resulting in the same ranking as the no-weighting scenario.

Increasing or decreasing greenhouse gas emissions is still not a criterion.

From here congestion relief as "bottleneck" is still overweighted and safety and the environment not weighted enough.

More quickly on other matters....A couple of projects are being adjusted.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Losing our Way on Climate: Casino and Kuebler Village Move Forward

Two big projects immediately adjacent to I-5, one at Portland Road, the other at Kuebler Boulevard, really show how we have lost our way on climate and land use.

Current concept for new casino on Portland Road

The proposal for a new casino on a parcel between I-5 and Portland Road is insulated some from criticism as a Tribal project. Legally they enjoy sovereignty and are insulated from local government planning requirements, and ethically they deserve to obtain justice and money for the dispossession, disease, and discrimination during settler colonialism and the subsequent establishment of the State of Oregon.

City Manager Update, May 2021

The Bureau of Indian Affairs published an Environmental Assessment and invite public comment. The document is over 2000 pages, however! And they have not published a separate, shorter Executive Summary. (At the point I am not going to read it, and given the way it has buried a little rather than publicized and the awkwardness of a 2000+ page document, it's not clear they are actually very interested in comment.)

More here:

The Tribe also proposes to complete or make a "fair share contribution" to these traffic mitigation measures:
  • Chemawa Road NE/I-5 Southbound Ramps: Implement the existing striped second eastbound right-turn lane and construct a second on-ramp receiving lane.
  • Chemawa Road NE/I-5 Northbound Ramps: Construct a westbound right-turn lane with 150 feet of storage.
  • OR-99E/Chemawa Road NE-Hazelgreen Road NE: Extend the existing eastbound right-turn lane to provide 300 feet of storage.
  • OR-99E/Kale Street NE: Construct a northbound right-turn lane with 150 feet of storage.
  • OR-99E/Lancaster Drive NE: Install a traffic signal.
  • OR-99E/Astoria Street NE-Ward Drive NE: Construct a southbound right-turn lane with 150 feet of storage and extend the existing northbound left-turn lane to provide 575 feet of storage.

If we want to reduce driving and emissions, this is not a move in the right direction.

Alas, there may not be anything to do about it.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

City Council, January 24th - Street Murals and Traffic Modeling

Though there are some big items, like the code update, which we'll get to in a moment, the most interesting item on Council agenda for Monday is another initiative proposed by Councilor Stapleton.

Examples of "intersection murals"

She proposes to "direct staff to create a proposal to establish a Street Mural program for Council’s consideration and adoption."

Over the past year or so I’ve been trying to find ways to elevate neighborhoods and bring a sense of community and beauty to the City. I believe that a Street Mural program, much like we see in other Oregon City’s, would be a wonderful addition to our neighborhoods. These works of art are designed, installed and maintained by the local community and bring a sense of pride and placemaking to an area. With these installations folks can easily express the culture and/or history of a place or highlight what makes their area of town a wonderful place to be. Beauty is not only for museums, parks or public buildings, it also belongs in the heart of our neighborhoods for all to enjoy.

See this Project for Public Spaces discussion from 2015 for more on the concept. Salem Reporter also has a piece about it, and compares this new proposal a little to the considerably more complicated process for murals on building walls. It says Belmont and Cottage in the Grant Neighborhood would likely be the first site for a street mural. 

It is an interesting intersection. On one of the corners is the Roth House, associated with an earlier grocer named Roth (not the current one who just sold). Downtown the Roth building is incorporated into the McGilchrist building. The intersection also has had an empty lot on one of the corners. Though the Grant Neighborhood has opposed gentle upzoning and middle housing, this kind of place-making could calm traffic and also show demand for incremental increases housing and housing type.

In many ways this is a great idea and deserves strong consideration.

Related to Our Salem, and separate from the code amendments, there is a transportation related amendment to the criteria for a major, City-initiated comprehensive plan map amendment. It is in two agenda items, a Public Hearing, and a Second Reading for enactment.

The Salem Transportation System Plan, Street System Element, Policy 2.5, establishes the performance standards for operation and design of City streets. This includes the provision that the City shall allow its existing streets and intersections to function at a Level of Service (LOS) E, which is the LOS at which traffic volumes generally are approaching or at 100 percent of the street’s effective capacity.

The code amendment proposed in Ordinance Bill No. 17-21 establishes a threshold for when a major plan amendment would fail to meet this adopted performance standard. The Regional Travel Demand Model is a broad model of transportation performance and as such, has a lower level of precision than would be provided through a more detailed and focused traffic engineering analysis. To account for this and for the associated margin of error embodied in the Regional Travel Demand Model, code language is proposed to define when a transportation facility would fail to meet the defined performance standard as follows:

(ii) Determining significance. For the purposes of determining whether a proposed major plan map amendment will degrade the performance of an existing or planned transportation facility for OAR 660-012-0060(1)(c)(C) and (D), the following will not be considered significant:

  • (aa) The plan map amendment increases average daily trips on a facility by fewer than 200 daily vehicle trips, or
  • (bb) The calculated volume to capacity ratio with proposed plan amendment is within 0.03 of the volume to capacity ratio with existing plan map designations.

Working within the LOS paradigm, this seems like a reasonable adjustment.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Amphitheater wins AIA Citation and Ben Maxwell Awards

This week a reader pointed out that the new amphitheater had received significant recognition from the state chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and this deserved more notice. They are right!

The amphitheater lit in blue
with the eco-earth and bridge
via CB|Two

The AIA used to have even more local chapters, and the Salem AIA had an off-and-on awards program, but now all the local groups are organized under the state chapter, and so there is one statewide juried awards program held annually.* Since the Salem architects are up against the Portland firms, things are considerably more competitive, and so it is very nice to see that last November CB|Two was recognized with a Citation Award for the amphitheater.

Portland Architecture has a report from that city's perspective:

There were seven Citation Awards (equivalent to a bronze medal) given out by the AIA jury: three for housing projects, two schools, an architecture-firm office and a park pavilion.

That park pavilion, the Gerry Frank Rotary Amphitheater in Salem by CBTWO Architects, is a striking covered gathering area at Riverfront Park, which functions a lot like Tom McCall Waterfront Park in Portland. Its curving forms are made with glulam beams and its translucent skin with fabric, and the basket-weave patterning was inspired by the native Kalapuya people living along the Willamette long before European settlers. And perhaps appropriately, the pavilion recalls architect John Storrs' design for the Lumber Industry Pavilion at the Oregon Centennial in 1959, it too a soaring wood sculpture as well as a shelter.

It may also be worth noting this Citation Award going to a Salem firm. Though these are called the AIA Oregon Architecture Awards, until a couple years ago these were always the AIA Portland Architecture Awards. When the Portland chapter was absorbed into the long-dormant state chapter, the awards seem to have become a de facto state awards, but in reality it's mostly still a Portland architectural awards ceremony. That's all the more reason, though, to highlight a non-PDX firm winning.

Invoking echoes of the Storrs project is not something I had seen mentioned here in the design selection or construction phases, and so that was interesting to consider.

The members of the jury are all from out of state and are practicing architects, and so this represents a considered and fresh look at local projects.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Some Climate Updates amid Business as Usual at the OTC on the 20th

Last week at BikePortland, they wrote about a coalition of transportation advocates, the Clean and Just Transportation Network, who had signed onto a letter to the Oregon Transportation Commission regarding the new Federal funds for transportation. Coalition partners had written to

encourage you to utilize this once in a generation opportunity to focus on building a future multimodal transportation system that works for Oregonians -- one that is equitable, safe for people of all ages and abilities, and climate-smart in reducing vehicle miles traveled and electrifying the rest.

"Reducing vehicle miles traveled and electrifying the rest" seems like a good way to encapsulate the priority: Less driving foremost, and changing over the fuel source for when driving is the best solution. Currently our EV mania sidelines the less driving part. So this was a good corrective.

Our chapter signed on to the letter, it was nice to see.

EV mania at the OTC

The Oregon Transportation Commission meets tomorrow, Thursday the 20th, and the presentation from the Climate Office is all about EV mania

It seemed very symbolic that the only mention of bicycle transport was the coda image on the very last slide.

Bicycling as coda only

With some new planning rules, DLCD is ahead of ODOT, and in the packet are a couple of one page summaries of rules that will soon be enacted.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

The Acid Ball and a Dining Platform at the Historic Landmarks Commission

The Historic Landmarks Commission meets on Thursday the 20th and they have several interesting items on the agenda this month.

A kind of glamor shot (City of Salem/Ron Cooper)

Most interesting is a request on the Acid Ball Eco-Earth:

[T]he Salem Public Art Commission, has requested that the Salem Historic Landmarks Commission (HLC) initiate the local historic resource nomination for the Eco Earth Globe (1960). The Eco-Earth Globe is significant for its association with the Oregon Pulp and Paper Mill and Boise Cascade as well as for significance as one of Salem’s first community projects that adaptively reused an industrial structure, converting it to a piece of art representing the earth and symbolizing world peace and cultural diversity...

It has seemed here like we overdesignate our historic resources. We use Historic Districts as a hidden form of exclusionary zoning, and we elevate very minor buildings as Local Landmarks. The conclusion here is that we should have fewer formal Historic designations, but we should also apply more resources to support those we do decide are Historic: Quality over quantity.

The prevailing approach has seemed to be the reverse, quantity over quality: More is better.

But this approach has not saved Howard Hall at the Blind School, Le Breton Hall at Fairview, or the Belluschi First National Bank downtown. It doesn't seem actually to do what we might like it to do.

We also have a housing crisis and a climate crisis. 

Keeping things the same, using an approach created in the 20th century, is not working very well.

So in that context I was initially very skeptical about the idea of formally designating the Acid Ball as Historic.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Carpetbaggery, Sinclair Lewis, and Shirts - History Bits and Blind Spots

With the notions of relocation and political opportunism in "carpetbaggery" echoing more than a little in the news these days, it seemed interesting to see how it was understood specifically here.

Probably we need another word for it, since it seems too strongly embedded in pro-Southern, anti-Reconstruction polemic to be useful in a more neutral way to describe "mere" political opportunism in moving to a new and distant district to run for office.

In the national expose and critique of the second Klan printed in the afternoon paper during 1922, which in the past has seemed laudable, and still is mainly so, it was alarming to read how uncritically it took the "lost cause"/Dunning take on Reconstruction, too much of "Birth of a Nation," and thoroughly trashed the Carpetbaggers, accusing them of "atrocities" and "stirring up hatred against the white people." This center-right perspective of ostensibly "reasonable" racism was dominant.

August 7th, 1922

It was surprising to see the morning paper just a few years later serialize Sinclair Lewis' novel, It Can't Happen Here, running from September through October and into November of 1936.

They did not appear to make enough of a connection between Fascism in Europe and our homegrown varieties. It was only a little over a decade before when the paper seemed thrilled by the parade of the second Klan on November 10th, 1923.

September 9th, 1936

In an editorial on "bogeyman," they compared it to the Red Scare instead. They did not think the anti-Reconstruction Redeemers, subsequent Jim Crow, and the recrudescence of the Klan counted as any kind of home-grown fascist threat or tendency.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

City Council Work Sessions - January 18th

Council will hold a double Work Session, moved for the holiday, on Tuesday the 18th to talk about and plan the micro-shelter project and other response to people without adequate housing as well as to finalize the Council Policy Agenda for 2022.

In the Council Policy Agenda, there does not seem to be a lot to say. It might be nice to have climate centered even more, but the agenda is for 2022 only, and "Coordinate and implement strategies in the Climate Action Plan" is one of the items. So is an update to the Transportation System Plan and adoption of Our Salem. Collectively we can center climate in each of these, and at least theoretically there is room by regular city political processes to strengthen climate action in them.

There are several pieces in the response to the housing crisis. Others will have analysis and better thoughts. It seems significant that last week one person who had initially submitted comment in opposition to one site, later in the day submitted revised comment in favor: "I was not under the impression that the shelter would include 24 hour security or on-site staff. Now, having done thorough research, I support the City in allowing a micro-shelter to be placed at 1280 Center St, NE." That is an admirable instance of making the effort to look into things more closely, and changing opinion with new evidence!

An empty space to admire? Or a place for life?
Deadness at the end of a work day (2013)

I want to point to a small moment at a different proposed site. Public comment on the proposal for a managed micro-shelter camp at Peace Plaza unsurprisingly is mixed. Some think it is a great location, near services and transit, and visible to City Hall to help ensure it's not swept under the rug. But some who live on Gaiety Hill in the Historic District highlight exclusionary and NIMBY themes. It is worth dwelling a moment on ways some comments make explicit the implied exclusionary zoning function of Historic Districts. 

(Other objections are the usual: Proprietary claims to on-street parking and martial tropes of "invasion" and "occupation." Garbage. One person suggests they should all be institutionalized at the State Hospital. Etc., etc.)

On Exclusionary Function of Historic Districts and Zoning:

A half-dozen Gaiety Hill neighbors...are unanimously and vehemently opposed to utilizing Peace Plaza as a location for micro shelters or any other housing project. Beyond the dozen reasons previously offered, the diminished property value of our historic homes will result in legal action to reverse any decision the City may make to utilize Peace Plaza for the purpose of micro shelters. We have already consulted a local law firm and are prepared to take action. We will not allow our lifelong investments in this Historic neighborhood to be diminished via this ill-advised folly.

A group of neighbors - including homeowners, CPA firm, Attorney firm and Architectural firm are concerned about the existing zoning of Peace Plaza. Any development for micro shelter would need to pass land-use changes. We have consulted with a local law firm and a local land use specialist and believe this will be a costly - and ultimately fruitless - endeavor. Consideration of this site should be abandoned.

Previously on Peace Plaza, especially its Inertness:

On our Historic Preservation Framework:

And on the History of Salem Zoning:

Saturday, January 15, 2022

George Sun's Speech at Hal Patton's 50th Features in our Current understanding of Chinatown

100 years ago a 50th birthday party for a prominent Salemite was front page news.

January 13th, 1922

January 13th, 1922

A snippet of speech given by one of the guests at that party has featured in an important retrieval of history. When the Library's Online History was actually online (this link is to an archived copy) it was quoted in a longer version. Excerpts are cited both on a recent utility interpretive wrapper and in a history piece about our new alley names at Salem Reporter from last fall:

In 1922, Hal D. Patton invited George Lai Sun, among many others, to speak at his fiftieth anniversary. These are Sun's words about his time in Salem: "I like Salem because all people treat me nicely. Then my children all grow up. They can vote but I have been here so long, for fifty-four years next June, I ought to be a citizen. I ought to be voting too. I see some country- man come over to this country; he stay not very long, three or four years; he can vote. Why I be here fifty-four years altogether, why I cannot vote? I ought to be citizen too. They must make mistake, something wrong."

George Sun quoted at the Patton party
Interpretive sign on State and High

The passage functions very strangely, it seems to me. At the very least it is deeply ambiguous. Is the focus on "people treat me nicely" or on "they must make mistake, something wrong"? And this ambiguity, this ambivalence deserves to be unpacked. What is really going on in this passage? I do not think its meaning is at all self-evident. So far in our retrieval of a history of Chinatown it has been left alone, merely quoted, never interpreted.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Year's Weather Summary Minimizes Climate Context and Scale of Disruption

Although it was nice to see in today's paper acknowledgement of "Oregon's fifth-hottest year since 1895," the visual framing of it minimized the impacts of heat and climate disruption.

The lede, too, was buried:

One worrying thing is that changes in climate [are] happening faster than we thought.

Water play trope, front page today

Instead, the frame provided by the illustration centered on the delights of refreshing play in a water fountain, and the article was a little flat as if 117 degrees was no big deal, just a fascinating instance of a new record, and one we might enjoy breaking again.

Columbia Journalism Review via Twitter

It's not just climate advocates who find the water play framing inapposite. Journalists question it also.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Enhanced Crosswalk at Orchard Heights Park Could be Helpful

The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board meets tomorrow the 13th, and in the packet is a request for letters of support for a couple of project applications at the MPO. (See notes on the pre-application phase at SKATS here and here. Both projects scored in the bottom third initially.)

One of them is new: A project for sidewalks along Orchard Heights Road in West Salem and connections to a new internal path in Orchard Heights Park.

Pre-app project description

In the meeting packet is a plan view, but there are two options called out, and it's not exactly clear what is understood as the "essence" of the project.

For the moment, let's consider the parts that would be in the road right-of-way.

Crosswalk and path proposal at Orchard Heights Park

The current conditions on the inbound and downhill side show a sidewalk on the west/south side and a bare shoulder into the shrubbery on the east/north side.

The bike lane has a dashed weave across a right-turn only car lane as it widens for turns onto Chapman Hill Drive.

Since people biking are going downhill, they might be able to keep up with cars, but at the same time, people in cars often misjudge the speed of people biking downhill, and this weave with a right-hook hazard probably works only for very confident people on bike.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Initial Ranking of Pre-Apps for the 2024-2029 Cycle: At the MPO

The technical committee for our Metropolitan Planning Organization meets on Tuesday, and they've got an initial swag at priorities for funding in the next cycle, 2024-2029. 

You may recall the initial list of 31 project pre-applications.

An initial scoring sorted into three buckets

Committee members assessed each pre-application with an initial "high," "medium," or "low" priority, and staff compiled the scoring.

The four projects for completion funding generally scored highly, but the Delany Road project near Turner was only rated a "medium" priority.

On the new projects, except for the new South Salem Transit Center project, which was the number one rated project, the transit pre-applications did not score well, and Cherriots suggested that the scoring system might have a systemic bias against transit.

The Cordon Road projects and one for Delaney Road near Turner did not score highly. These would be traditional widening projects for capacity.

Two walking and biking projects that here seemed worthy were not scored highly by the committee: Both the sidewalk at the 12th Street Cut-off on Commercial and the path on 25th between Mission and Madrona ranked low. The City path between Commercial Street and Riverfront Park along the creek also ranked low.

Here is the full preliminary ranking for the new pre-applications, with the scored rank in parenthesis since there were ties (the whole list also included the four completion funding requests, three of which shared the top score, which is why the list here jumps from 1 to 4):

Sunday, January 9, 2022

City Council, January 10th - Fairview Addition and Center Street

Council assembles on Monday, and probably Councilor Nordyke's motion to advance a CAHOOTS type program will lead things for most people. Others will have more and better things to say. Our new Police Chief's slow-walking it is not very helpful.

There's also the Council-initiated review of the Meyer Farm proposal.

A minor item, but one of great interest here, is a moment in the ongoing redevelopment of the former Fairview site. Fairview Addition filed a revised phasing plan, and its approval is on the agenda as an information item.

Laundry building (2015)

There might be a few interesting details to pull out of it, as the whole continues to evince a gradual erosion from the original vision.

New phasing (right)

The new plan shows a slightly widened street segment at the old Laundry building (at #2). While it has never been certain that the building would be reused, the new round of conditions of approval imply there is a stronger chance the building will be demolished. (At #1 there is a new cul-de-sac instead of street connection to Pringle Creek Community, and at #3 there is a new street connection where there had been a building considered for reuse, but now demolished.)

The original Master Plan of 2004 indicated, all too optimistically it turned out, hopes the Laundry building might enjoy "full renovation within 5 years." Most everything has been demolished instead.

Laundry building in original 2004 reuse plan

So far, I think only Painters Hall at Pringle Creek Community and "the Possible Building" used by Heritage School have been successfully renovated. (Do you know of others?)

Friday, January 7, 2022

Assertions about Historical Significance of Meyer Farm Remain Murky

With well over 100 pages of new comment, there is little new to say about opposition to the Meyer Farm proposal. It is telling that there is no consensus on the date of any DLC: 1847, 1850, 1852, or 1873. Claims for the historical significance of the farm area depend on what boils down to myth and legend about "Uncle" Joe Waldo. That significance is assumed, and not proved.

A copy of the 1855 survey has "Waldo" penciled in,
part of comment layers from 1870s and 1880s

This says something about the weakness of our historic preservation framework, which is understood here publicly more as a tool to foil development than as a way to tell better history. Even though history has been invoked from the start, the process does not seem to have much of a place for the City's Historic Preservation Officer, who might have been invited to submit a report or some comment. The Staff Report dismisses any historical significance with three sentences in section G.

In the absence of definiteness on the history, most objections resolve to expressions of the Eco-NIMBY impulse: The land should remain park and open space, and the carbon sequestration of open space and tree should be a primary goal.

Overall, this situation seems like a pretty classic instance of the truth, or best outcome, being in the middle.

There would be ways both to preserve more trees and to build new housing, but in part because of haste and a disputed trust, the proposed plan is very cookie-cutter for single detached houses, and is a suboptimal balancing of tradeoffs between trees and new housing.

It's not possible to say "this is a good plan" or to say on the opposite side "neighbors are right the plan should be halted." The plan could be a lot better, and could accomplish both goals for trees and housing. The best outcome might be just a pause in hopes that adversaries can negotiate an improved overall site plan. 

Although in early November the Morningside Neighborhood Association said they intended to appeal, they did not file any appeal before the November 18th deadline. So the review at Council on Monday is purely at Council's discretion, and the disputed questions therefore more than a little squishy, potentially resolving down to pure procedural matters.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Public Market Opened in 1928 featuring Free Parking

You might have seen this image of an old-time bike and a somewhat less old car in front of Busick's Super Market.

Busick Market in 1940, looking east on Marion St.
Salem Libary Historic Photos

The Library captions it:

Taking part in the Salem centennial parade on August 2, 1940, were older modes of transportation. Posing in front of Busick's Super Market on North Commercial Street, is a man standing between his bicycle and automobile. Newer models of cars line the west side of North Commercial, while the view looks south down Commercial Street.

I'm pretty sure the streets in the caption are a little wrong, and that this is looking east-ish down Marion Street from near the intersection of Marion and Commercial. The gable on the far end of the market building, across the gap formed by the alley and directly behind the man's hat, is in fact still visible today on the north end of the TJ Maxx building.

Approximately the same view, one building remains

For at least two reasons, this lost market building is of particular interest. It may be the first "public market" or indoor mall kind of shopping center here in Salem, and it may also be the first downtown business structured from the start with "free parking" as a central feature in site selection and then advertising. (I am not 100% positive yet about these claims, so they must remain a little tentative for the moment. Since Otto J. Wilson's garage was just one block south, it's also a tantalizing idea that he, his bike, and his car might be featured in it. But there are many others who might be in the picture also. The news about the Centennial focuses on other people and other things.)

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Evolution or Erosion? Capitol Shopping Center Rose on Edge of Downtown in late 1940s

Back in May of 1947, Salemites first learned about the proposal for a new shopping center on the edge of downtown. Developers had secured options to buy some 30 houses and were going before the Planning Commission for approval to rezone and build for an anchor Sears store, a grocery store, a drug store, and several other kinds of retail. (Morning, and afternoon papers.)

Looking from Capitol Street east-northeast-ish
Center and Capitol at lower right
March 30th, 1949 (and photo, March 28th, 1951)

One of the concerns expressed both in news pieces and in editorials, was that the planning for the new Capitol of 1938 envisioned building restrictions 1500 feet north of Court Street and 500 feet east and west of Summer Street. They wanted to keep property values lower in case the State needed to buy more for more office buildings northwards, and they wanted no vulgar commercial activity to detract from the high-minded purpose of government:

[T]he state should wish to control development in the vicinity of this government headquarters so that the beauty and the dignity of the setting may be preserved and no values created that the public with have to pay in case further enlargement of the public grounds is desired.

A little later the American Institute of Architects protested the shopping center as they criticized "commercial encroachments on civic centers and park areas..."

"Encroachment" concerns
September 18th, 1947

In retrospect, it's hardly obvious that the "encroachment" of a retail mall is any worse than the "encroachment" by the monoculture of government office buildings and parking lots. One of the houses demolished for the shopping center was associated with an early Governor, but of course many houses in "piety hill" had already been demolished for the State Library and shortly would be shortly for the Public Service/Department of Education building finished in 1949.