Sunday, February 27, 2022

1921 Update to Gas Tax Included Provisions for Damage by Weight

Over at the Mill they posted the first page of HB 367 from the 1921 Legislative session, which updated the 1919 gas tax.

The 1921 update to gas tax
via The Mill (yellow added)

About it they wrote:

History is in the Details. In February 1919, Oregon became the first State in the Nation to pass a per-gallon gas tax (one cent). As this bill shows, an additional one cent per gallon tax was brought up just two years later.

But they may have missed the more interesting detail.

Saturday, February 26, 2022

City Council, February 28th - Meyer Farm and Design Speeds

The big item on Council's agenda for Monday is deliberation on the appeal of approvals for the subdivision at the Meyer Farm site.

In the bundle of new material submitted to Council, there is nothing new on claims for historical significance of the property and buildings. These remain murky and in several cases mere assertion without any proof or with very thin evidence. The antiquity of a barn, for example, remains legend, wholly without any supporting public documentation or argument.

So there is nothing new to say on the history, unfortunately.

Essentially all of the new material, for and against, focuses on three main areas:

  • Legal: Even if you think it's a bad subdivision plan, it meets approval criteria and should be approved.
  • Legal: The Trust is still in dispute and any approval should be on pause.
  • Ecological: The tree plan is terrible and we should preserve more of the old Oaks.

The Staff Recommendation is to affirm the prior approval. As I read the file, I don't see Council having a lot of room to maneuver for a denial or modification. Maybe they will find a way. 

There remain problems with the framework and approval criteria, however.

If we want to induce more middle housing and a pattern for less autoist land use, so many large greenfields are still being planned with large lots and single detached housing. Even with the bundle of new code amendments to go into force next month, the incentives in code may not be robust or aligned quite right yet for the course-correction.

Hopefully the new tree code and middle housing amendments will be helpful, and similar new subdivisions will find ways to preserve more old Oaks.

Here, the traffic analysis and design proposals are unhelpful. That's what we'll comment on.

There should be a way to consider this more

Some have proposed a "reasonable design alternative" for the alignment of the new Hilfiker segment, a collector street. It would miss all or most of the "significant" trees and would still allow development to proceed. This looks like a good compromise!

Friday, February 25, 2022

City Council, February 28th - Skybridge Removal - Updated

Though the Meyer Farm will get most of the attention, there are several other items to note at Council for Monday.

The item most exciting here is positive movement on removing one of the skybridges that detract from sidewalk vitality downtown.

One skybridge over Center Street to be removed
Two others on the block appear to be retained

It's not without complication, however. Because the Mall is in Receivership, the bank

will only fund capital expenses directly related to tenant leases or operations. Removal of the skybridge is not directly related to tenant operations or leases.

The Recievership is "supportive" of removal, and wants the City to pay for it. They are asking for "an exemption to grant funding guidelines to pay up to $200,000 and 100% of the costs to remove the skybridge between Salem Center and former Nordstrom building.

Ultimately that's defensible, if not ideal. It is a kind of crosswalk rehabilitation. It will improve downtown and is, by subtraction, an actual investment in downtown value.

I had hoped the one across Liberty to the former JC Penney building (at no. 2 in the aerial) would be removed also, but it is not included in any action right now.

Previously see:

There is a proposal to look at City investments with an eye to, among other things, fossil fuel production and distribution.

In early 2021, the Finance Committee asked staff to begin researching incorporating ESG factors into the City’s investment policy.

ESG is Environmental, Social and Corporate governance, and the City specifically mentions fossil fuel: "Cannot be a company in the industries of energy services, oil & gas producers or refiners & pipelines." That seems promising! (Though does "energy services" exclude hypothetically a business operating solar at scale?)

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Baldock's to Blame! 1949 Traffic Plan Messed up so Many Things

While researching the parking meter debate and parking mania in the immediate post-war period, a photo and note that turned up about widening Liberty Street SE at Oxford Street suggested the origin of our one-way couplet system downtown.

July 28th, 1950

The caption read:

Saddened residents are looking on these days as spreading shade trees, shrubs, parking strips, curbs and sidewalks disappear from South liberty street. The removal is part of a project which will widen the street to make way the one-way traffic provisions of the Baldock traffic control plan. Northbound traffic entering the city on South Commercial will veer onto South Liberty street at Oxford street.

There is a detailed trail on that Baldock traffic plan! It was a significant in Salem transportation planning.

February 3rd, 1949

Marion Street Bridge Planning, 1946-50
Concept as selected

And yes, it was about a bridge.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

DAB Again to Recommend Parking Reform

Back in 1945 the City approved the first parking meters downtown. The decision was protested, litigated, and even voted on. 

A group calling themselves the "Salem Civic Improvement League" ran ads for meters, against an initiative banning meters in 1946.

Many of the arguments
for paid parking still hold true
Nov. 4th, 1946

Though we might not agree with all of their arguments in particular, and we now have better analyses of the harms of underpriced and free parking, in a lot of ways they got the big picture right. Right-priced parking is a key part of a solution for better traffic, better parking itself, and for revenue to fund positive goods.

The Downtown Advisory Board meets on Thursday the 24th, and they look to recommend  to City Council that the City finally move on right-priced parking downtown. This has become a refrain for them, but the situation might be more promising now.

Request to move to right-priced parking

Monday, February 21, 2022

Goal 7, the MTP Process, and a new Policy Committee Member: At the MPO

With Councilor Lewis' resignation from Salem City Council, there is a chance for another new voice on the Policy Committee for our Metropolitan Planning Organization, SKATS.

Councilor Phillips had been the alternate for Councilor Lewis, and he would be a logical candidate to step in, having some familiarity with the MPO. Councilor Stapleton has also shown great interest in modernizing Salem's transportation system, and she would be good also. (She is already the alternate for MWACT. Maybe one of them should be on both, however, rather than splitting the duties.)

These are from February 2021, the most current

Though the public farewells have been kind, Councilor Lewis had not distinguished himself on transportation. A decade ago when he was President of the Planning Commission he was not very enthusiastic about Bike and Walk Salem, the update to the TSP for walking and biking. 

Later at the MPO, he free-lanced and undermined the City's position on a Goal 7 for stronger consideration of emissions and climate in the RTSP.

And of course he always boosted for the wasteful SRC.

Supporters might say he sometimes advocated for Safe Routes to Schools, but his other actions on larger and more structural transportation issues often stood in tension with any support for walking and rolling to schools.

Both the City and the MPO will be better served with someone who thinks about 21st century transportation needs.

First Response Time Shows Cost of Development on City Edges

Yesterday's story about fire response times missed an opportunity to connect with a more general analysis of proximity, travel time, and land use, and to connect then with Our Salem.

Front page, Sunday

You might recall this from a few years back.

Emergency response times in Salem
(Kailuweit for Council, 2016)

Though the paper shows no map, it is very likely that Sunday's article discusses a pattern nearly identical. (See previous discussion here.)

The problem of fire response time gets framed up as some neutral consequence of city growth, but it in fact is an artifact of our policy preference for growth on the edges of the city in new greenfield development with single detached housing set on large lots at autoist spacing.

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Problems with the Traffic Stop in the News

Recent items in the news show problems with the way we generally, and Police in particular, understand the traffic stop. Too often it has become an occasion for high speed chases and shootings. By inaction, we have embraced this escalation as feature rather than bug. It's time to rethink it.

Blowing stops as death sentence

The news from the Grand Jury indemnifying Police for shooting Richard Meyers shows the dangerous ease by which Police escalate a failed traffic stop into a chase sometimes at high speed and endangering other road users, then continue to escalate into cornering a person, and ultimately killing them in a perverse administration of "justice."

No person deserves to be shot and killed for running a stop. 

No bystander deserves to be endangered by a car chase stemming from that level of traffic violation.

And no bystander deserves to be endangered in gunfire during a carelessly escalated traffic stop.

There should be better protocols for disengagement, and ticketing or arrest at another time, when things are going sideways and there is no immediate threat to others.

Friday, Seattle Times

Up in the Seattle area, concerns with differential enforcement, stops escalating to shootings, as well as ways a bike helmet law hampers public bike rental systems, King County ditched their bike helmet law.

Friday, February 18, 2022

City Council, February 22nd - New City Manager and Climate

With the holiday, on Tuesday Council meets for a special session with one topic, recruiting and hiring a new City Manager.

Tuesday, LA Times front page

Tuesday, SJ interior

Thursday, front page

The job description mentions climate but once.

Shouldn't we center climate more?

Though the Mayor has not supported the Climate Action Plan with any real enthusiasm, the City Manager's role in selecting the consultant and setting up the process and framework should not be underestimated.

" mostly unaware of the overall progress"

One reason the current plan is underwhelming is because the City Manager set it up that way. You may recall the initial framing sought to look at actions only by the "municipal corporation" and saw a messaging problem rather than a need to reduce emissions citywide. (Notes from early 2020 here and here.)

We should want our next City Manager to have an actual interest in real climate action, and not just do the minimum or go through the motions with Potemkin gestures. 

Even if the Manager does not set policy, they will execute it, and they will be able to do so with enthusiasm and effort, or with indifference and carelessness, even discouragement. As we saw with the update on the Geer Park Master Plan, stronger interest and direction from the City Manager would have likely resulted in better coordination and deeper integration with climate needs.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

City Kicks-Off New Second Street Project With online Open House Tonight

Because the City has not yet published any supporting documents, there is not very much definite to say about tonight's online Open House for the segment of Second Street between Gerth and Wallace in West Salem.

A concept for Second Street in March 2015

You may recall talk of an underpass or other grade-separated crossing and a connection to a future Marine Drive. The segment between Patterson and Wallace has been of special interest with the prospect of direct connection to the Union Street Bridge.

You might also remember hopes for "craft industrial" redevelopment. Here's part of the student projects from a decade ago.

Final proposal in plan view (updated with Goodwill)
UO SCI project, Salem Undercrossing Study

The City did rezone three small sections of land in the "code clean-up" project.

Just this Winter, a panel from the Urban Land Institute was going to write a report on the area with suggestions for accelerating redevelopment, which has seemed to stall. 

At the moment there are many moving parts and little definiteness.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Curation and Categories: Public Art, Historic Landmarks, Bond Steering this Week

There are a few commission and committee meetings this week it might be worth mentioning. The Public Art Commission, Historic Landmarks Commission, and Bond Steering Committee all meet, and they show biases and blind spots.

Taste-making and Gatekeeping in Public Art

Last month

Today, on Wednesday the 16th the Public Art Commission meets and they'll be considering several items of public interest:

  • The 50th anniversary of the Civic Center and what we now call Peace Plaza
  • Public Art for the new Public Works building in progress
  • Councilor Stapleton's proposal for street murals and intersection art
  • An update on the Acid Ball Eco-Earth restoration

There is no meeting packet, no Staff Reports, there have been no minutes published for over a year, and the "selection committee" for the art at the new Public Works building is operating a little covertly. It's not the most important thing, but it's strange thing and not very public-minded.

No published minutes or packets for an entire year

With the kerfuffle over the unauthorized mural on Turner Road, as well as the enduring popularity of the Acid Ball Eco-Earth, the Public Art Commission should give more thought to the word "public" in their name. They don't have to give up a curatorial role entirely, but they should want to engage public tastes more than they currently do, and they should want to make their conversation more public.

Erasing Significance of Transportation

The Historic Landmarks Commission meets on Thursday the 17th and while the meeting agenda itself doesn't have anything to note here, the recent HLC newsletter on green buildings does have something worth comment:

Monday, February 14, 2022

New Crosswalk at 13th and Marion, More on Salmon Brown House

In his "State of the City" address, the Mayor referenced the new crosswalk on 13th and Marion, and the glorious weather this weekend was a great time to check in on it.

The crosswalk itself has a calming effect

There are two signed and striped legs, one across Marion for a north-south crossing on the west side of the intersection, and one across 13th on the south side of the intersection. (The other two crossings encounter much less traffic, have stop signs, and generally are much easier, so they do not require striping and signs.)

The beacon was wrapped in tape and not operational, so it's not exactly correct to say that the project is completed.

The flashing beacon is not operational

But even without the beacon, cars hesitated at the striped crosswalk; and between the caution signs and the striping, the whole installation had a helpful calming effect. It would be great if the City had conducted before/after studies of turning speeds to measure the actual effect. But subjectively, the calming seemed real to me and it was not necessary to execute the same frogger scamper to cross.

Just around the corner on Marion Street is the house proposed as the former Salmon Brown house.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

City Council, February 14th - Fairview Plans

Also at Council on Monday is a package of proposed code amendments for the redevelopment at Fairview.

Staff had broken it out from the omnibus package earlier this year, as it seemed to require more attention, and the potential of an appeal meant it needed to be isolated so other code wouldn't be invalidated, and it's now at Council as a standalone.

Problems after an Appeal to LUBA

Turns out, there were problems

Back in 2019 when The Woods was going through the approvals process, it did seem strange. There were some real gyrations in argument to make it work.

A setback at Fairview

The approval was appealed to LUBA, and the appeal asked a little about some of the gyrations. LUBA reversed the City's the approval and sent it back.

The set of code amendments at Council is largely, though not wholly, a response. The set also responds to other difficulties or complications identified in planning processes. The amendments are framed as a set of technical fixes. 

But aren't we really dealing with questions about the heart and spirit of the Fairview Master Plan and the extent to which we are or are not adequately meeting them? There is a deeper question of values here. Unfortunately, the way the amendments are framed shies away from this and leads to muddle rather than clarity.

We Already Broke the Master Plan

Fairview hasn't met many of the core principles (2004)

From here, the code amendments are difficult to parse out. Both sides seem to be talking around the core issues and heart of the matter. 

That heart is that we've already strayed pretty far from the original vision of the Master Plan and have broken it open.

Saturday, February 12, 2022

City Council, February 14th - Climate Delay or Climate Action?

Also at Council are a couple of items on the Climate Action Plan. A seemingly benign "update" on next steps had already been on the agenda, but many have noted the adoption of the plan itself was not on the agenda.

Councilor Andersen finds it necessary to intervene with a motion to hold a Public Hearing and formal deliberation:

A report to the Council on December 6th stated that “the final draft CAP will come to Council for consideration after the beginning of 2022,” but no such action has been scheduled. The current proposed plan is completely backward. It does not consider the actual final draft but rather proposes to move forward on some selected aspects of the plan. Why is the CAP, a policy plan, being rolled out this administrative way as opposed to first adopting the plan and then phasing in its recommendations, exactly as contemplated in the plan?....We need a public hearing to receive any additional staff report, public testimony on the proposed plan and then to deliberate on the proposed plan as a whole.

He is right.

Friday, February 11, 2022

City Council, February 14th - Twenty is Plenty

There are lots of interesting items at Council on Monday!

At the top of the list here is another strong move by Councilor Stapleton, who wants to initiate a "twenty is plenty" plan for neighborhood residential streets.

20 mph signs - via City of Portland

You may recall back in 2011, the City opposed legislation that would permit cities to post a 20mph limit on residential streets:

Passage of this bill would allow the City of Salem to set its own speed limits. However that would potentially create pressure on City staff and the City Council to set speeds based on citizen perception and not necessarily what the appropriate speed limit should be for a certain street. It could result in instances of "spot" speed zones or inconsistent application of speed limits within the City. In addition, it would create a potentially heavy workload for City traffic engineering staff and could involve a considerable amount of City Council time and energy in order to consider each speed limit ordinance. Staff recommends that the City oppose this bill, despite that it might give the City more authority, in order to sustain the objective and deliberate system in place currently.

A decade has made a difference, thankfully.

Indeed, there is "pressure on City staff and the City Council." Unlike the fear-mongering in that legislative position from 2011, there is overwhelming evidence that our speeds are too high. "Citizen perception" is more right than the gate-keeping of professional staff!

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

1922 LTE on Zoning Shows Exclusionary Impulses and Still Echoes Today

Here's an interesting letter to the editor from 100 years ago. About zoning, but before our 1926 zoning scheme, it strikes themes we still see today.

February 10th, 1922

From the morning paper, responding to an editorial in the afternoon paper:

Helena, Mont., February 9, 1922
To the Editor of the Oregon Statesman - On January 3rd the following editorial appeared In the Capital Journal:

"Salem is famed as one of the most beautiful cities of Oregon.

"The chief feature in Salem's attractiveness is the beautiful civic center, with its stately public buildings and its parked grounds, its shaded avenues, bounded on all sides by fine residences, well kept homes with spacious lawns and ornamental shrubbery.

It is now proposed to destroy the symmetry and harmony of this civic center by sandwiching in a garage and salesroom between fine residences and palatial apartment house.

"The need of restrictive zoning laws was never more apparent to protect residence property against unnecessary business invasion and to maintain the desirability and beauty of the city against those who would commercialise for private profit a community asset and in the process work injury to the city.

"The property in question is in no sense a business location. There are a hundred more suitable sites for garages without invading the choicest residence sections and marring the charm of the civic center sites better adapted to business and the utilization of which would increase adjacent property values instead of depreciate them.

"The city council should, on the grounds of public policy, refuse building permits for such structures. There is said to be an old statute, formerly utilized to prevent the erection of livery stables and saloons in residence quarters as public nuisances, and the same law should be invoked against garages amidst dwellings on the civic center. If this statute proves inadequate, and the owners and builders persist in defying public sentiment, a proper zoning law should be rushed through the council to safeguard our scenic assets and protect property values."

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

New Strategic Plan for Police Frames Safety in Odd Ways

Apparently some time this month or very late last month, Salem Police released a new Strategic Plan, and it could use another round of revision.

The very first topic - the very first! - is homelessness under the heading of "safety."

Homelessness as #1 safety problem

Seeing homelessness as a problem of criminality is not very helpful. In tone and in substance that is misguided.

The underlying problem is that we don't have enough housing and affordable housing. Problems with mental health and petty crime are greatly intensified in this context. The primary problem is not crime. The crime will be much easier to police when we handle the housing adequately. The Plan should lead with a clear statement that we lack housing, and "homelessness" should not probably be the leading item in the Plan's structure.

Then the next heading is traffic safety.

Crash yesterday, in the paper today

Cars and their drivers kill and seriously injure more people than homeless people kill and seriously injure. But in part because we scurry and clean up the mess and carnage of a crash, and it doesn't linger the way the mess of a camp does, we quickly forget the magnitude of the violence, even when unintended. We remember the persistence of nuisance, not the more transient and catastrophic violence of crashes.

Monday, February 7, 2022

With a New Name, the MPO Kicks off the 2023 Transportation Plan

The technical committee for our Metropolitan Planning Organization, SKATS, meets tomorrow the 8th, and they have a number of interesting details to note.

Is it time to center climate more in Goal 7?

From RTSP to MTP

As they kick off the process to write a new plan, formerly known as the Regional Transportation System Plan, and now renamed and even "rebranded" as the Metropolitan Transportation Plan, there is an opportunity to revive efforts to include a stronger emphasis on climate and emissions in the plan.

The MTP is revised every four years. During 2018 in the lead up to the 2019 document, the City of Salem and advocates requested a stronger Goal 7 on emissions reduction, and the final language, which you can see at top, was watered down intentionally.

Even the bankers are coming around on climate
last week in the paper

But now for the 2023 document, there is a new window of opportunity.

The project pages:

Despite promising language in the letter to the Oregon Transportation Commission on the tranche of new Federal funds, the MPO continues to look backwards at 20th century evaluation styles internally. Two current moments show this.

Still smuggling congestion relief as climate measure

In looking at some projects, already approved in earlier rounds of funding, they continued to see congestion relief as an appropriate use of climate funds. This is based on the canard of idling cars stuck in traffic as being the prime source of emissions, and if we just speeded them along we would make a real dent in our emissions.

When we ease congestion, driving goes up
(Jamey Volker, PSU TREC talk)

But, as we saw in Friday's presentation on induced demand, that's not how it works. 

Saturday, February 5, 2022

Were Murderers of Daniel Delaney Really Hanged in 1865 at Site of Pringle Park?

100 years ago in a "Do you remember?" column, the paper wrote about the hanging of George Beale and George Baker, convicted in 1865 of murdering Daniel Delaney. It is interesting since we have a bit of a modern urban legend about the hanging site. But it is more significant than merely remembering the gruesome spectacle of a hanging and honoring, or being amused by, any subsequent sense of a haunting.

May 22nd, 1865

There is a greater and more wide-ranging kind of haunting, as it relates to the story of an early Black Salemite, the way blackface had figured in the crime, and ways that race is more central to our formative history than many of us generally might think.

The 1922 column placed the hanging grounds on "the block bounded by Church and Cottage streets, Ferry and Trade, where the old jail was located."

February 5th, 1922

Current urban legend places the hanging grounds in Pringle Park between Winter and Church Streets behind the Hospital. Two photos in the Library's Historic Photos Collection appear to show the retaining wall for Shelton Ditch in the park (here and here). A ghost tour stops there.

But do we actually know with any confidence where it happened?

Friday, February 4, 2022

Salmon Brown House ID may be Wishful Thinking

Over at Salem Reporter there's a tantalizing story about Salmon Brown's house across the street from the downtown Safeway.

This identification is doubtful - note the sidewalk

But there is reason to doubt the identification and reason to doubt that the house is still standing.

The photo in the Salem Reporter article is taken from Marion Street looking north

Recessed from Marion St. sidewalk
(1895 Sanborn map, LOC)

On the 1895 Sanborn map, the relevant houses are recessed a ways from Marion Street and sidewalk. The photos taken from the top of the school, as well as those taken from the ground, also show houses recessed from the sidewalk.

How to get this into a four-square? (1965)
(Salem Library Historic Photos)

The windows and basic footprint of each house don't align very well. On the later four-square the windows are also old enough to be original, and do not correspond at all with the window openings in the earlier gabled house. The plate of the older house is also a rectangle with a bay window, and the current house has a square plate.

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Learn about Induced Demand at Friday Talk

Want to learn more about the current state of research on induced demand?

Friday talk, via Twitter

On Friday the 4th during the lunch hour at PSU they'll have a talk on it. From PSU:

Empirical research shows that expanding roadway capacity induces more driving - the so-called "induced travel" phenomenon. However, environmental impact assessments and cost-benefit analyses of roadway capacity expansion projects have historically ignored, underestimated, or mis-estimated this induced travel effect. As a result, they frequently overestimate the projects' potential to relieve congestion and reduce air pollution. That spurred our team at the National Center for Sustainable Transportation (UC Davis) to develop an online tool to facilitate estimation of induced vehicle travel from capacity expansion projects. This presentation will explain the induced travel phenomenon, introduce our induced travel calculator and its offshoots, and discuss how transportation impact analysis is changing.

PSU usually publishes the video and slide decks afterwards, and we'll try to come back and update here when they go live.

Update: Here is the slide deck and video of the talk.

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

MWACT Smuggles Hope to Revive the SRC into New Funding Request

The Mid-Willamette Valley Area Commission on Transportation, MWACT, meets Thursday the 3rd, and the one item of real interest is a revision to the priorities for the new round of Federal funding.

You might remember the letter that our Metropolitan Planning Organization, SKATS, sent. (And on the OTC meeting.)

MWACT has mainly highway expansion in mind.

They also added a new item in the last week or two, with hopes for a revival of the SRC.

Zombie hopes for the SRC

But significantly, neither SKATS nor the City of Salem shares this sentiment.

January 20th, City Manager Update

Here are the priority lists as of January 19th, the day before the OTC meeting on the 20th.