Saturday, April 30, 2022

Streets and Sidewalks in Proposed Bond do not Align Strongly with Climate Plan

The City's published the recommendation for the big Bond Measure. Salem Reporter also has a summary and overview. Council has scheduled a formal Work Session to discuss it on May 16th, and there will be more to say then.

The allocation (from Budget Committee materials)

At the moment, here's the streets and sidewalks portion in outline taken from the City's description. Comments here are in italics, regular script is quoted from the City summary.

If there is a theme here to the initial impression of the proposed bond, it is the lack of a big idea and total shape. The bond is a list of projects, a grab bag, and not something designed with a vision for climate or some other high value. What is the theme and narrative for the bond? The City calls it a "Community Improvement" bond. From here, that is vague and not super compelling. You might see the lack of a big idea, that it is not structured "top-down," as a feature rather than bug, however. It will be interesting to see what others have to say.

SF Chronicle (l) and Oregonian (r) this month

But if this is the big bond for the next ten years, as we look back at it from 2032 or 2035, will we be happy with it? Will in 2035 the projects for "community improvement" seem bold, merely adequate, or badly underpowered? We have some important targets coming up in 2035.

Except for Marine Drive (below), the City doesn't list dollar amounts in the summary so we know the relative weight of investment without drilling into the spreadsheets buried in the subcommittee's meeting agenda. Dollar amounts here are rounded to the nearest half-million and taken from the spreadsheet in the April 4th meeting packet.

The City leads with a "bike/ped" list, but the three projects are mere fragments, small segments, not at all part of a great increase in total network connectivity. They are also awkwardly placed in the category. 

Bicycle / Pedestrian Improvements (almost $20 million total)

  • State Street 13th St NE to 17th St NE Bike Lanes and Pavement; Pavement rehabilitation and striping reconfiguration to one travel lane in each direction with a center turn lane and bike lanes.  Includes a pedestrian crossing at 15th Street and streetscape features.  Also includes a new traffic signal at the 17th Street intersection with NB and SB right turn lanes on 17th Street. (About $14 million. If we assign the whole project to "bike/ped," that's really expensive for three blocks of connectivity! But of course there is a lot of car stuff in this also.)
  • Pringle Creek Path - Civic Center to Riverfront Park (half funding, anticipate grant for other half); Construct a pedestrian bridge crossing of Pringle Creek under the Commercial Street bridge, construct a new path along Pringle Creek from Commercial Street under the existing railroad bridge to the Riverfront Park.  Includes creek overlooks and art wall. (About $3.5 million)
  • Liberty Street NE and Church Street Bridge NE railings - replacement concrete railings, matching historic style at bridges over Pringle Creek. (About $2 million. Fixing the railings might be necessary, but this doesn't increase connectivity at all.)

The whole "Bicycle/Pedestrian" category is a little misleading. State Street is a 4/3 safety conversion, and it might be better categorized as an "Urban upgrade," along with McGilchrist, Fisher, and Pringle below. The bridge railings were originally a "Bridge Rehabilition" project but after April 4th got stuck in this "bike/ped" category. The Pringle Creek Path is really a Parks project. This category is not descriptive and doesn't work very well. It appears more for PR value, I think, so the City can say it has something big for walking and biking.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

A Better Parking System might have kept Whitlock's Downtown

In the Sunday paper was a piece about a long-time downtown business moving out. It is an interesting case, but since the story genre was a little nostalgic and a kind of business feature, a column more than straight news story, it did not need to be particularly analytical. But peeking through is perhaps a way to thread the needle on our parking debate.

This week both the Downtown Advisory Board and the Citizen Budget Committee have parking on the mind, and the business and its move might be a good case study for the way we have thought about parking and better ways to think about it in the future.

Blaming parking

Vacuums and sewing machines are awkward and sometimes heavy. If it is reasonable to ask most customers to walk a block for a meal or cup of coffee or for light retail items, it is more difficult to make the same request of people lugging a heavy item to repair or one just purchased.

This is a business that has a reasonable need for a supply of car parking near their front door or by a service entry.

Monday, April 25, 2022

More Detail on Commercial at Division, a Letter on Balky Rail: At the MPO

The Policy Committee for our Metropolitan Planning Organization meets on Tuesday the 26th, and there are several interesting items.

Though it is not the most important for them, most interesting here is more detail on the TIP amendment for the project on Commercial near the new UGM shelter and Police Station. (See previous notes from the technical committee earlier this month.)

Sidewalkification on Commercial St.

The sidewalkification is driven not by logical connections for people on bike, but by the wish to privilege car travel and car speed on this state highway segment. The "bike lane" is fit in awkwardly in leftover space and on the edges.

Traveling southbound, at D Street a person on bike is supposed to leave the bike lane and go up onto the multi-use path on the right. At Division this person is supposed to cross in the crosswalk in two phases to the left hand side to a new segment of multi-use path.

Rather than one consistent line of travel, there is swerving and weaving, and non-auto travel is clearly very secondary. And rather than inconvenience for those in cars, the sidewalkfication inconveniences those foot. If we are going to start hitting our climate goals, this is all backwards.

A little self-sabotage by Cherriots?

Another item that seems odd is the newly visible insistence by Cherriots, a kind of rebranding I guess, that the South Salem Transit Center is going to be a mobility hub that includes places for TNCs. I guess this like the mob code of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer? The TNCs want to eat transit. TNCs also increase miles driven rather than decrease them. TNCs do not contribute to the goals of transit or to our climate goals, and it is hard to understand why Cherriots is heading into this embrace.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

City Council, April 25th - Disconnects on Policy to Statute

Several items are of interest on Council agenda for Monday. A theme in several of them is a disconnect between general policy language and its effectiveness and applicability in particular situations.

Blowing Past Speeding

On a Council review for a subdivision on Robins Lane, as with streets in and near the Meyer Farm, there are questions about the way we manage mid-sized streets. The Staff Report acknowledges a problem, but hides its magnitude in non-specific language, and ultimately dismisses the problem.

Along Robins Lane it is common for vehicles to exceed marked speed limits, for pedestrians to cross the street in unmarked areas, and for vehicles to park in bike lanes.

Staff Response: Robins Lane SE is designated as a collector street. It is posted 25 MPH with one sign approximately 100 feet Commercial Street SE for eastbound traffic and the other sign is located near the entrance to the Oak Hollow manufactured home park for westbound traffic. In September 2021 the City collected traffic data at two locations on Robins Lane SE. One near the intersection with Commercial, and the other east of Terrace Lake Blvd SE. The data shows there were about 2,500 vehicles per day on Robins Lane near the intersection with Commercial Street. The other count location shows there were over 1,000 vehicles per day. The data also showed the 85th-percentile speed of the vehicles on the road was over 30 MPH. Speeding vehicles cannot be attributed to cut-through traffic. Because Robins Lane is classified as a collector, it is not eligible for speed humps. [italics added]

This is language designed to evade the problem and protect the City. Total CYA language.

via Twitter, citing NY Times

Council should think more about all people who use roads, not just those driving cars on them. With a TSP revision coming up, we need to think more about ways we prioritize speed on our streets, especially mid-sized and larger streets, not just in a one-off way, but in a systemic way, so that neighbors who correctly identify a problem with speeding don't have to suffer this BS. The City likes to talk about safety, but when they get to granular examples like this, they turn away.

Friday, April 22, 2022

Undermining Earth Day with Airport Mania

With the location, staging, photo ops, and direct comments, the President expressed an underhanded dismissiveness to climate for this Earth Day.

Front page today: Airport mania

The framing was all about investing in airports and celebrating costly and polluting air travel. Not about shoring up support for future climate action, but expressing retrospective worries that "you're not appreciating me and my party enough" as the midterms approach.

Maybe the demands of the election really require this, but it seems like a real failure of nerve and vision, a refusal to meet the moment.

More locally we have our own version.

At Council on Monday there is an update on our own airport:

The airport has received a letter of interest from a regional commercial air carrier, and is expecting letters of interest from at least one, and possibly two additional air carriers in 2022....

The airport will also be required to develop and seek approval for an updated Airport Security Program (ASP)....If commercial air services return, the FAA will upgrade Salem Airport’s operating category from Category IV (no scheduled air service) to Category I (scheduled air service), placing additional requirements on existing airport operations and maintenance staff.

Approval of an airport fee waiver program to support new startup airline service, and which is standard practice at airports. A fee waiver policy has not previously been approved by City Council. FAA allows for up to 24 months of fee waivers of the direct costs to airlines including landing fees, terminal space rental fees (if any), and ramp parking fees (if any). These fee waivers will be of minor significance to the airport budget and are likely to be offset by increased parking and fuel flowage revenue. [italics added]

More subsidy, more greenhouse gas pollution. No sense that any kind of climate analysis is part of this decision.

This is not the right direction.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

United Way Advances Cottage Cluster Project

A year ago, you might recall, our local United Way purchased some discounted land from the City for a cottage cluster project. The land was surplus at the conclusion of the realignment of Market Street at Swegle Elementary School, and United Way intended to build affordable housing for low-income seniors on the wedges.

Concept drawing via United Way

Since then United Way advanced the project and gave it a name, calling it "Cottages United." The City also completed the HB 2001 code compliance package legalizing middle housing forms.

Now, there is new progress with applications for adjustments at the City. They are going before the Planning Administrator for administrative approval on small adjustments to setbacks. The cases do not require the full apparatus of a formal Public Hearing.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Attempt at Grant Historic District Bears Watching: At the HLC

The Historic Landmarks Commission meets Thursday the 21st and they will consider a "Reconnaissance Level Survey" of buildings in a portion of the Grant Neighborhood.

The survey developed in the conclusion to the debate over the 1928 German Baptist Church. From the interim City Manager:

[T]he City of Salem entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) regarding the renovation of the Evergreen Presbyterian Church for the purpose of constructing a 19-unit multi-family affordable housing complex at 905 and 925 Cottage Street NE, Salem, Oregon. The MOA required an update to the existing SHPO Historic Sites Database to reflect current physical characteristics of the properties in the Grant Neighborhood.

Much of the neighborhood had already been surveyed in 2006, and though the report is vague on overlap, it appears that some of the area in this survey may not have been included in 2006.

From the survey:

The City wishes to use this baseline historic resource data as a basis for preservation planning and policy decisions within the survey area, with an objective to decide if the Grant Neighborhood maintains sufficient historic resources with integrity to be eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) as either a historic district or for inclusion in a Multiple Property Document (MPD)....

[The consultant] surveyed nine city blocks defined by the following boundaries: on the north by the centerline of Market St. NE; to the south by the centerline of D St. NE; to the east by Cottage St. NE; and to the west by 5th St. NE. As this survey was completed at a reconnaissance level only, the survey assumed eligibility under Criteria C for Architecture, and Criterion A for Community Planning and Development, with a period of significance of 1890–1972, a period capturing all architectural resources within the survey area that meet the 50-year age threshold defined by the NRHP. Of the 108 resources included in the RLS, 70 (65 percent) are recommended eligible/contributing (EC); 36 (33 percent) are recommended not eligible/non-contributing (NC); and 2 (2 percent) are recommended not eligible/out of period (NP)....

[The consultant] does not recommend the City pursue an MPD for resources within the Grant Neighborhood, as assessment as a district seems more appropriate for the resources.

Here is the map of the area surveyed. The church is in the lower right quadrant, at the corner of Cottage and D Streets. Buildings in black are regarded as potentially "contributing" to a historic district, those in crosshatch are out-of-period or remodeled so much they lack "integrity" and are "non-contributing," and buildings in white are new construction. (No building is awarded the status of "significant"; "contributing" is the highest status here.)

Map of survey area in Grant Neighborhood
(Four buildings highlighted from survey notes)

Four buildings are highlighted with details from the survey. Two of them have been named and surveyed already. Yet what gives the buildings significance is age and siding material. In the survey method we have a great bias for visual appearance, for aesthetics.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Earth Day looks more Consequential this Year

Divesting for Earth Day 2022

Most years Earth Day seems to be about empty proclamations and privatized gestures on the consumerist model of personal choice. You know, drive out to the Oregon Garden and learn how to upcycle in a neat craft project, or get tips on how to compost. The driving itself nullifies other benefits, and there's almost always a mismatch in scale, too much micro and not enough macro. This is ultimately victim-blaming, because you personally can never do enough.

Today: Make a "kid-friendly craft"

Today: Military and climate

But even the military thinks climate disruption is big. They wouldn't say the problem was not enough upcycling.

This year Earth Day seems a little more consequential, with events focusing on policy and macro-scales.

On Wednesday the 20th, Bill McKibben is going to help launch a report on the Oregon Treasury.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

City Council, April 18th - Joint Work Session on Housing

Back in February, Eugene Weekly profiled an affordable middle housing project called the C Street Coop near downtown Springfield in the older, gridded close-in neighborhood.

Eugene Weekly, February 3rd

It's a sixplex with special sauce:

[The] home on C Street is a limited-equity cooperative (LEC), which means residents aren’t renters — they’re owners. Each of the six units has a private bedroom, a bathroom and a kitchenette, and each of its residents pays a set monthly fee to share ownership of the co-op and take on maintenance responsibilities.

Amid rising rents and an increasingly competitive housing market, the C Street Co-op offers an overlooked affordable housing model that could alter perceptions of what it means to be a homeowner. If implemented on a large scale, co-ops like C Street could provide a gateway to homeownership and wealth accumulation to people stuck at the bottom of the housing ladder, whose wages cannot keep up with rising rents.

McReynolds and the five other C Street residents share a backyard and have the freedom to landscape and renovate as they please, as long as they all agree on the details. After a $10,000 buy-in paid at move-in, each resident pays $788 a month. This covers all housing costs, including utilities, mortgage, insurance and maintenance. The six residents make up the co-op’s board and make collective decisions about everything from paying bills to security, landscaping and parking spaces.

C Street is the only affordable limited-equity co-op of its kind in the Eugene-Springfield area. But elsewhere in the country, LECs are a tried and true method for creating affordable homeownership opportunities in competitive housing markets.

The front fourplex (with duplex ADU in back)

Though it did not win an award, it was part of the recent AIA Oregon award submissions.

[T]he co-op creates six permanently affordable homeownership opportunities to folks earning just 60% of the area median income—an affordability threshold rarely achieved with ownership housing. Ownership is facilitated through a shared equity co-op, with stewardship by a community land trust which facilitates permanent affordability for the community.

The co-op is also Designed for Energy: built to a Net Zero energy standard with well-insulated 2x8 walls, triple-pane windows, and airtight construction. Add to this a ten-minute walk to downtown Springfield, and the stage has been set for a sustainable, low-carbon lifestyle.

The C Street Co-op was designed to be rigorously cost-efficient. The total project cost of $602,000 results in unit costs at less than half that of typical affordable rental housing. Further, the project required only about 10% of the subsidies of typical rental affordable housing.

On Monday, Council meets with Marion and Polk Counties, the Salem Area Mass Transit District, and the Salem-Keizer School District to talk about housing

Thursday, April 14, 2022

2018 Plan for Fire Silently Informs Bond Discussions

Did you know we have a Strategic Plan for the Fire Department?

Though it was flawed and issued unilaterally without normal public process and public comment, earlier this year the new Police Chief published a "Strategic Plan."

The latest plan from 2018

Apparently in 2018 the Fire Department issued a similar plan. There may be an alternative process for emergency response and their fiefdoms. I don't remember seeing the plan at Council or any debate or discussion around it. Maybe I just missed it, as Fire isn't a core interest here, and at the time it wasn't something we would have examined closely here. (I also searched for "fire + strategic + plan" in the 2017, 2018, and 2019 Council agenda and came up with nothing.) But in general these two plans seem exempt from the normal public process we use for other types of important plans, and that might deserve more attention.

Apart from questions about that process, now with the the selection of projects for the proposed bond measure we have another process, and we should be paying more attention to the plan, including it in the debate and analysis about the bond.

11,000 square feet, mothballed in the 2010s
Fire Station 11 (Mackenzie architects)

The Bond Subcommittee meets Friday the 15th at 1pm, and in the packet is a memo that clearly shows its current shape and main buckets.

Main buckets in the current concept

The Civic Center seismic always seemed like a no-brainer, and it's nice to see the branch library concept. But do we really need $40 million for the Fire Department? We may not have quite enough for branch libraries and affordable housing in the current allocations.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Trees, Grocery History, Climate, Parking among Topics at YIMBYTown Conference

Though one person posted advance notice to some FB groups, the YIMBYtown conference just wrapping up in Portland has not seemed to register very strongly here.

Fortunately, they have archived all the talks, and there are so very many that might be of interest. It's not too late to check it out!

It will take a while to view, revisit, and absorb these, so here are some quick hits.

via Twitter

It was great to see people highlighting some grocery store history in Joe Cortright's presentation during the panel, "Land Use Policy is Climate Policy is Housing Policy."

Here, the progress over just 15 years of Safeway from 13th and State without a parking lot, a few years later at 14th and State with a small parking lot, and a decade later on Center and 12th with a huge parking lot together encapsulates the trajectory. Though a chain, it progresses from a neighborhood-scaled corner store to a midcentury, car-oriented supermarket.

On street parking only, June 19th, 1936

Huge parking lot, just 15 years later
November 13th, 1951

Other presentations of interest here:

There are many others, and you may find one or more of particular interest to you. Here's the schedule with the people presenting for additional detail.

Monday, April 11, 2022

Commercial Street at UGM and the Police Station, a Survey, and a Congestion Plan: At the MPO

The technical committee for our Metropolitan Planning Organization meets on Tuesday the 12th. They have information on a segment of Commercial Street, some interesting survey results, and bits on the approach to congestion and project scoring.

TIP Amendment

One of the items in the meeting packet is a TIP amendment.

Start of multi-use path along new UGM facility
New Police Station in background
(at D and Commercial, 2021)

Alas, the TIP amendment is really only a formality and a bit of a Potemkin instance of public process. The Staff introduction says, "This is considered a full amendment because it is adding mile points on a new section of roadway." But otherwise it doesn't really meet the spirit of a substantive amendment. It's hard to imagine any amount of public comment that might cause the project to change.

As you can see at top, the City already required a multi-use path as part of the new UGM redevelopment between D and Division along Commercial Street. (See also "City Fails to Solve Charlie Foxtrot, Uses Kludge at Front-Division-Commercial Intersection.") In the amended project there is no real opportunity for a new bike lane or a new configuration. There's not a decision point with options on which the public might comment or show a preference.

Friday, April 8, 2022

City Council, April 11th - Funding some Climate Action

On Monday Council will consider an appropriation for work on implementing our Climate Action Plan.

Council looks to authorize a transfer of "$200,000 from General Fund contingency to fund initial steps in implementing the CAP."

We might be ok this year,
but just south is looking very bad
(SF Chronicle)

It's all very squishy still, however. In the February Staff Report from the former City Manager, referenced in the current Staff Report, the tone is so very lukewarm, totally setting the table for small gestures that don't accomplish anything meaningful:

The strategies identified in the CAP are non-regulatory and non-binding on the City or other parties. That is, submittal of the CAP to Council will not directly result in funding, staffing, or specific implementation of any of the strategies. Rather, the CAP and its various recommendations serve as a menu of further action and a source of information for the Council to consider.

So at least this would be real budget to continue work on things. But whether this becomes an instance of bureaucratic churn and posturing, or whether it yields real policy and measurable outcomes is not at all clear.

Fingers crossed!

Area to be studied in West Salem

In what looks like a Pandemic delay, the Urban Land Institute Technical Assistance Panel is being engaged finally to assist with a project just north of the Goodwill in West Salem.

You may recall a note in November of last year on this. The November WSRAB meeting had a timeline suggesting we would be reading a final report from that about now. But it seems funding was never assigned, a contract not signed, and the visit never happened. Now is a more propitious moment to try again.

The scope does not seem to have changed very much, except a new addition of a "coordinated dinner for panelists, two city staff and ULI staff after site visit." That might seem a bit junkety, but it's a good informal setting to hash out ideas before they are presented in any more formal setting.

(Which might remind Council that back in 2016 the Mayor went on a junket to Boise to learn about "revitalization" and he's never given any public report on what he learned. As a "fact-finding mission" what were the facts found?)

More interesting is that the current Staff Report doesn't mention the delay and previous planning from last Fall. That's a curious omission.

In any case, the fresh look from outside eyes seems like a reasonable step in trying to jumpstart near- and medium-term redevelopment and reuse for this area. It could also give new momentum to using second street more as a bikeway than just as a autoist connection to a future Marine Drive.

Other Items

Councilor Nordyke has a motion to "direct staff to explore the creation of a request for proposals to operate a mobile crisis unit."

Council called up for review the Planning Commission's approval of a change at the "Titan Hill" site, formerly Bone Parcel, from NCMU to RM2 zoning. This is an interesting case, and over the weekend we may post separately on it.

And we already mentioned making Juneteenth an official, paid City Holiday.

Next week is a potentially interesting joint Work Session "on Salem's Housing Needs with Marion County Board of Commissioners, Salem Area Mass Transit Board of Directors and Salem-Keizer School District Board."

Ulysses S. Grant's 200th Birthday Coming Up

100 years ago Governor Olcott urged the celebration of the 100th birthday of General and President Ulysses S. Grant.

Issued May 1st, 1923, via Smithsonian

It will be interesting to see with our modest reassessment and revival of Grant's reputation if his 200th is celebrated much. There are intense cross-pressures at this moment in our history, and these may swamp any momentum to celebrate.

In 1922 Olcott noted indirectly that the generation of Veterans in the Civil War were nearly gone, and this might be "the last time we will have the opportunity of joining in a nation-wide celebration..."

April 8th, 1922

Olcott also said

The present generation may learn great lessons from the memory of General Grant, who as soldier, statesman, author is remembered throughout the world yet he arose from the common people and always was one with them.

May this day be fittingly observed that we may assist in the perpetuation of those lessons in our history which will keep our government and its principles inviolate for the generations yet to come.

This was written as the second Klan was gathering in Oregon.

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Details on Center St Bridge Seismic, Bike Rental System, and Climate in MWACT Packet

The Mid-Willamette Valley Area Commission on Transportation, an advisory board to the Oregon Transportation Commission and ODOT, zooms today at 3:30pm, and there are three items to note in passing.

The Center Street Bridge seismic project has been quiet, and it may need more funding. (Or perhaps ODOT wants to shuffle funding to free up money for some other project.) In the meeting packet is a note that the Federal Infrastructure Bill has a "Special Bridge" component, and ODOT is considering assigning money to the Center Street project.

New funding for Center St seismic?

This will hit the OTC in May and there may be more to say later on it. Perhaps more detail will emerge at SKATS or City Council also.

You may have seen the wrap on the OTC's meeting last month at BikePortland, "Transportation Commission makes final decision on $412 million in federal funds." In it was brief mention of a new program, the Innovative Mobility Pilot, whose funding was bumped up from $5 million to $10 million in the meeting. The Street Trust, formerly BTA, called it "a small, but important victory."

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Bond Candidate List looks back to 20th Century Standards, not Forward to the 21st

The bond selection subcommittee met yesterday, and they are beginning round up a list for the total package.

Except it doesn't really have a shape.

It appears to be mainly a grab bag of old projects we haven't yet managed to fund. It might be better to have a real vision for it instead of merely a scattershot collection.

Local coverage today on the UN update:
Oregonian front page, SJ supplement deep interior

With the new UN Climate Report out, and our own Climate Action Plan a little stalled, and also with Our Salem still in progress, it might be prudent to hold off, and not send it to the ballot in November. For it looks still too strongly to 20th century standards, and not enough to our 21st century exigencies. Even when the projects were identified more recently, the designs and project scopes themselves respond to best practices of the previous century, not yet to a vision of the city we want and desperately need to have in 2050.

If this is going to be the big bond for the next 10 years, our big opportunity, shouldn't we be including more assertive climate action in it? Without a stronger sense of vision and values behind it, and instead relying on older lists of unfunded projects compiled under a different set of assumptions, the list feels more than a little ad hoc and a la carte. The process almost looks like a set of competitive applications for inclusion in the funding source. 

A better approach might be to ask what high-level outcomes we want and then to select projects that instantiate those.

Here are a few notes on a small number of transportation items. It's hard to grasp a pattern, and perhaps later there will be a better way to nutshell things. Or maybe you will see things more clearly.

Monday, April 4, 2022

Our Salem Continued at Planning Commission on Tuesday - More on Hubs

Unsurprisingly the Planning Commission continued and extended the Public Hearing on Our Salem. They meet again tomorrow, Tuesday the 5th.

Earlier in comment one person wrote to say, paraphrasing, that if they wanted to walk to a something like a Neighborhood Hub, they would have made a different choice of neighborhood. They were happy to drive one or two miles. Implied was the notion that the City had an obligation to retain the conditions in their neighborhood they found when they purchased into it. The City's job was to prevent change - or at least this change. Presumably they would not want the City to keep their property value exactly the same, however. They would desire and embrace the change involved in an appreciating asset. The City might discuss incoherence like that more explicitly.

The new, supplemental Staff Report also contains brief response to a number of the latest public comments. There didn't appear to be anything to cause a recommendation for any substantial changes.

Opposition to Hubs

There was a cluster of letters opposing Neighborhood Hubs directly, several of them borrowing language from a template using a form letter.

Here's an image from one letter criticizing a proposed Hub on Brown Road, saying the intersection with Maria Avenue remained "hazardous."

From a letter opposing a Neighborhood Hub

The corner structural bar at the drivers' side mirror is several inches wide. Is this about a poor location for a crosswalk or more about poor car design and the way structural elements in cars now reduce visibility and safety? From here this is obviously a problem with cars rather than a problem with crosswalks and intersections.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Distracting from Driving: The Elephant in the Room

In the overlap of our housing crisis and our road safety crisis, this week the housing discourse has swamped most everything, erasing the driver and prompting a loss of focus as if we had one crisis only.

Back in February, and again last week, impaired drivers speeding recklessly on wide avenues, streets overdesigned for speed, left the roadway and killed people who were asleep.

An even earlier instance in 2017, via Twitter

In one instance people were inside a house. In another instance people were camping in tents

But instead of focusing on the problem and cause common to both, we have become distracted by the unsightliness of camping and assigned blame to it.

Back in February

Housing and the cost of housing is indeed a great problem. But having a house was no protection for Moira Hughes and George Heitz. You may recall also when a driver killed Srabonti Haque while she was sleeping in her own house (at top).

Instead of differentiating between the deaths of people sleeping in houses and of people sleeping in tents, we should see them as part of a common pattern of problem driving. The quality or cost or even location of one's home is a red herring here.

Front page last week

Newspaper coverage and especially other commentary generally also extended more sympathy to the couple housed permanently.

Driver kills Person on Cordon Road south of State Street

Thursday night a couple blocks south of the intersection with State Street, on Cordon Road a driver struck and killed a person on foot.

Cordon Road at Pennsylvania, looking south

From the Sheriff:

A few minutes before midnight on March 31, 2022, a 911 caller reported a pedestrian had been struck by a vehicle on Cordon Road SE near Pennsylvania Avenue SE in the unincorporated area of East Salem. Deputies and emergency medical services personnel responded to the scene, locating the pedestrian who was pronounced deceased at the scene....

Investigators determined a silver four-door Lexus was going southbound when the pedestrian was struck in the roadway. Investigators do not believe speed was a contributing factor to the crash. The 24-year old male driver remained at the scene; no citations or arrests have been made at this time.

The identify of the pedestrian, a 39-year-old female, is not being released at this time pending notification of the next of kin. [map link added]

Local governments are aware of a problem here, though they see it mostly as a problem of auto capacity, and less as road hostile to many users, and are moving slowly on planning. Back in 2015 the County applied unsuccessfully for a TGM grant. More recently has become a larger, joint project with the City of Salem. From the City a year ago:

Kuebler Boulevard SE, Cordon Road SE/NE, Hazelgreen Road NE, and Chemawa Road NE are classified as a Parkway in the Salem Transportation System Plan. Parkways serve as high-capacity, high-speed roadways that primarily serve regional and intracity travel. The Kuebler/Cordon Road corridor serves as the primary arterial serving the Mill Creek Corporate Center. The ultimate cross section for this corridor is intended to include four travel lanes, a landscaped median with turn pockets, and a multi-use path. This planning study will help prioritize future investments in this corridor and identify management strategies to promote safe and efficient operation for all modes of transportation. [italics added]

Language in crash reporting remains a problem also. It starts with the police template and press release, and then is subject to insufficient scrutiny and revision as it goes through other media.

Friday, April 1, 2022

Qing Ming, the Shrine Obscured, and George Sun's Frustration

Last weekend I tried to show an out-of-town visitor the Chinese Shrine at the IOOF Pioneer Cemetery. I could not find it. (See update below.) The last time I was by, a year or more ago, it had not been difficult to find. But this time it was. During the interval grass and other growth may have concealed it. Even with a map on the utility wrap, its location was not obvious, and if it is going to be part of our public history it should be more obvious and easy to find. It's still too much an instance of secret cemetery lore.

It was hard to navigate from this

This year's Qing Ming ceremony is this weekend, and there is still a ways to go on a full public history. Better visibility for the shrine might need to be a part of that.

Online, the SJ has a fascinating piece from the folks at the Mill, "Commemorating the groundbreaking life of a Salem Chinese American: Helen Ng Mun Tayne." I suppose it will be in the Sunday paper, and it will be very nice to see there. In it, there is an explanation that has been omitted from stories about the "Mayor of Chinatown," George Sun:

Helen Ng Mun Tayne was born on a hop ranch not too far away from Salem’s Pioneer Cemetery on April 28, 1906. Her father, Ng Lung Chung, rented the property from E.M. Croisan. As a first-generation immigrant from China, Helen’s father was not allowed to apply for naturalization or to purchase property in the United States. Ng Lung Chung, who also went by the name of Gong, was a skillful farmer. His 1910 harvest on the Croisan property produced what one newspaper declared “a phenomenal yield of over a ton of hops to the acre” — made even more remarkable because 1910 had been considered an off year for hop production. [italics added]

You may recall Hal Patton's 50th birthday celebration in 1922 at which George Sun spoke. His particular quote shows up on a different, downtown interpretive wrap, and in multiple places and texts elsewhere. It has become the go-to quote in the current retrieval of the history of Chinatown. But it is never actually interpreted, especially Sun's frustration at not being able to vote. That is a key part of the story, and should be highlighted, not glossed over in silence.

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 reasons a person as eminent as the "Mayor of Chinatown" could not vote deserve a much fuller discussion whenever this quote is trotted out. The intended audience of those learning about Chinatown and local Chinese-Americans cannot be assumed to know the history of legislation and naturalization law. What exactly is the nature of the "mistake"? Shouldn't explaining this be part of the public history?