Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Notes on City Library Plan and State Library Historic Listing

The City Library is undertaking a process to write a new strategic plan and the steering committee meets today, Wednesday the 29th.

Existing Conditions Situation Assessment

The "Situation Assessment" on existing conditions is interesting. It continues to be weird how much people focus on a lack of free parking as a barrier. Poor people often don't have cars at all, and much of the complaint about free parking is from people who can afford to pay for parking, but find paid parking annoying and project their complaint onto others more disadvantaged to secure legitimacy for the complaint. 

The Library could always offer parking vouchers or passes to people with Oregon Trail Cards or manage any regressive aspect to paid parking in ways other than free parking for everybody.

Fortunately, people have also focused on other problems: Lack of branch libraries, difficulties with transit, and barriers to walking and biking. There are real spatial problems with our Library. Hopefully the process will give more attention to these and less to parking.

Transportation and location themes

It will be interesting to see how the process grapples with the trend to dematerialize the Library. Ebooks and digital resources are important, but the beating heart of the Library remains the physical place and the physical book. However much the metaverse wants a disembodied existence, we live in our bodies.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Hitting Pause on 2024-2029 Funding: Cost Escalation at the MPO

The Policy Committee for our Metropolitan Planning Organization meets on Tuesday the 28th, and it looks like they are hitting pause on the 2024-2029 funding cycle.

Big impacts from cost escalation

The latest recommendation for coping with escalating costs is simply to stop the process for funding new projects temporarily. This is a bit of a surprise. Given the messed up supply chains and inflationary pressures, and all the hand-wavey other Pandemic disruptions, this is not shocking, but the step of not just cancelling some, but pausing all, is surprising. It is only a temporary measure for now.

Earlier this month at the technical committee, the discussion of a possible Citizen Advisory Committee elicited local examples of other advisory committees. The City of Salem give an interestingly biased story. They cited "the city's current Traffic CAC." That would be the Citizens Advisory Traffic Commission. "[I]t has been a challenge to provide consistent meaningful work" to the committee, the City said.

A biased view of CATC

But that is entirely by design! There are all kinds of useful tasks the City could give to CATC, but the City usually just assigns them squabbles over parking removal. Here is the agenda from November 2021. Item 4 is a typical parking "problem" or disagreement.

Driver Strikes and Kills Person Walking near Lancaster and Ibex

A person driving has struck and killed someone crossing the street near Chemeketa Community College Sunday night.

From the Sheriff:

On Jun 26 , 2022 at approximately 10:05 PM deputies and emergency personnel responded to a single vehicle crash involving a pedestrian at the 4000 block of Lancaster and Ibex. Arriving responders located the pedestrian who was pronounced deceased at the scene.

This area of Lancaster was closed for approximately 4 hours while members of the Marion County Sherriff's Office CRASH team conducted an investigation.

The identity of the male pedestrian is not being released at this time pending notification of next of kin.

The 19 year old male driver remained on scene; no citations or arrests have been made at this time. [map link added]

The description of the crash is a little ambiguous, but for the moment I take it that the person driving was on Lancaster. That's where they are more likely have enough speed to kill someone immediately.

Designed for auto speed (2019)

Lancaster here at Ibex has no marked crosswalks, distances between signalized intersections, and appears to have lighting on only one side of the street. There are marked crosswalks at Ward and Satter Drives, but those require a good bit of out of direction travel. Lancaster is very wide and straight, with four auto travel lanes and a continuous center turn pocket. It is designed to induce - or "forgive" - speeding.

With the time, right at the end of twilight, there is a very good chance we'll read a bunch of things blaming the victim for dark clothing, not being lit up like a carnival wheel, not using a marked crosswalk, blah, blah, blah. Never mind the way the road is built for cars and for car speed. A crash at 20mph is not likely to kill a person, but Lancaster here is posted for 35mph, and with our tolerance for up to 45mph before any ticketing, any crash at lawful speed is nearly certain to result in death. A crash impact at any speed above that is certain to be fatal.

This post will likely be updated.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

City Council, June 27th - Thinking about the Future

As we "enjoy" a reversion to ordinary levels of blazing hot this weekend on nearly the one year anniversary of 117 degrees, it continues to be concerning that as the project list for the proposed bond has been formulated, and the City signals they will not ask for anything further in the next decade, we just simply aren't at all asking, "what in five or ten years will we wish we had included?" What will we regret omitting?

Oregonian front page today

Sure, carrying forward old wish-list repair and updates makes a certain amount of sense, but isn't there a large set of climate related projects that we are simply giving up on? What is the opportunity cost with the current bond proposal?

Interior page SJ supplement today

The list still looks backwards towards existing wish lists of unfunded projects and is not critical or strategic enough about what we think we will need over the next decade as our long, slow climate emergency continues to intensify.

(All previous notes on the bond here.) 

A few other areas on Council agenda also suggest too much thought to maintaining the old ways, or to very incremental change, and not enough to change demanded by the full magnitude of multiple crises and exigencies.

There is a "Service Level and Program Update" from the Police, and there are some ironies.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Undertaker Rigdon was Complicated and Celebrated a Reactionary Politics

Over at Salem Reporter the history column yesterday was about W. T. Rigdon.

Salem Reporter yesterday

The piece is a tie-in to the new exhibit at the Mill on Salem musical history. It is centered on a poem that was set to music and became lyrics to a song. (A modern recording here!) Rigdon's a kindly old man who cares for the dead and also has a "side hustle."

lyrics by Rigdon
WHC 2004.016.0002

It is apt to remember Rigdon was more. He occupied a place in Salem middlebrow culture as a thinker and writer, not only a poet, but also in history and politics. 

In 1919 he loudly embraced the Red Scare after the Centralia Riot and called to "purge thy fair and sacred soil....America for Americans, native born or well assimilated." The blood and soil nativism was not at all concealed.

"Purge thy fair and sacred soil"
November 23rd, 1919

A decade later, regarding the centenary of Jason Lee he celebrated Oregon as "a free state for the Anglo Saxon."

Friday, June 24, 2022

City Council, June 27th - Safe Routes to Schools and the Big Bond

At Council on Monday there is news of a suite of Safe Routes To Schools applications for funding from ODOT in the 2023-2024 cycle. 

A slightly revised bond proposal is also on the agenda.

Project locations for 2023-2024 applications

For the Safe Routes project applications, funded statewide by $26.25 million in this cycle, the City has identified seven projects, in rank order of priority [a few notes added in brackets]:

  1. Market Street NE at 15th Street NE: Install Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons (RRFB) on east leg of Market Street NE at 15th Street NE intersection, restripe existing crosswalk, install ADA ramps, and signage. Estimated project cost is $464,000; City would be requesting $371,000 and providing $93,000 in matching funds. Serves Englewood Elementary School.
  2. Market Street NE at Aguilas Court NE: Install marked crosswalk, pedestrian refuge island, street lighting, signage, and ADA ramps on the east leg of the Market Street NE at Aguilas Court NE intersection. Estimated project cost is $325,000; City would be requesting $260,000 and providing $65,000 in matching funds. Serves Swegle Elementary School [and also the new United Way cottage cluster].
  3. Silverton Road NE at Sedona Avenue NE: Install pedestrian crossing with RRFB, ADA ramps, signage, and street lighting on the west side of Silverton Road NE at Sedona Avenue NE intersection. Estimated project cost is $487,000; City would be requesting $390,000 and providing $97,000 in matching funds. Serves Washington Elementary School and Waldo Middle School.
  4. State Street Sidewalk Infill: Install new sidewalk on the south side of State Street between Oakmont Court SE and 49th Avenue SE. This project will connect to the new traffic signal anticipated to be installed at the intersection of Oakmont Court SE and State Street as a condition of development [at the former mushroom plant]. Estimated cost is $418,000; City would be requesting $334,000 and providing $84,000 in matching funds. Serves Mary Eyre Elementary School.
  5. Liberty Road S Pedestrian Path: Install approximately 300 feet of dedicated pedestrian path and retaining wall on the east side of Liberty Road S from Summit View Avenue SE north to Davis Road S. This project will connect to the new traffic signal anticipated to be installed at the intersection of Liberty Road S and Davis Road S as a condition of development. Estimated project cost is $1,009,000; City would be requesting $807,000 and providing $202,000 in matching funds. Serves Crossler Middle School.
  6. Pringle Road SE at Hillendale Drive SE Pedestrian Crosswalk and Sidewalk Infill: Install a pedestrian crossing with a median island, ADA ramps, and street lighting at the intersection of Pringle Road SE and Hillendale Drive SE. Construct sidewalk on the east side of Pringle Road SE from Morningside Court SE to Salishan Street SE. Estimated project cost is $1,832,000; City would be requesting $1,466,000 and providing $366,000 in matching funds. Serves Morningside Elementary School.
  7. Winter Street NE at Gaines Street NE: Install a raised pedestrian crossing on the south leg of Winter Street NE at Gaines Street NE intersection, a high visibility crosswalk on east leg of the intersection, ADA ramps, signage, and new stormwater facilities. This project was identified by the Winter-Maple Greenway Plan. Estimated project cost is $302,000; City would be requesting $242,000 and providing $60,000 in matching funds. Serves Grant Community School.

With recent news of cost escalations on bids, and with the competitive nature of the application process, probably a reasonable expectation is for two, maybe three, of the seven to be funded. In the last cycle the City applied for five and won three, but this round seems sure to be tighter. (See previous notes on the Safe Routes infrastructure program here.)

Add Union St., subtract bridge railings

Also on the agenda is a revised project list for the big bond and a proposal to put it on the ballot for November.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

New Paving and Sidewalks on Wallace at Edgewater Feature Green Crossbikes

Crossbikes and crosswalks at Edgewater and Wallace

On the epic, non-intuitive meander required for the connection between the Union Street Bridge and Edgewater (map below), over the weekend there was a new wrinkle and an unexpected feature.

The janky connection between bridge and Edgewater

For the wrinkle, after emerging from under the off-ramp the other side of Musgrave, a section of the walk had been demolished and there was only a bed of gravel. Obviously they'll be pouring new concrete soon, but it was an additional barrier on top of the other path spaghetti and meanders.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Cherriots Board to Consider Short List of Potential Sites for South Salem Transit Center

Here's some real news. The Board for Cherriots meets on Thursday the 23rd, and they'll be looking at a new short list of potential sites for a South Salem Transit Center, which they are currently calling a "mobility hub."

Three potential sites on the short list

There are three candidate areas along South Commercial between Fabry and Wiltsey Roads.

The area currently, near Safeway and Beehive carts

The area is anchored by the Safeway, and has several fast food franchises along with the newer foot cart concept at Beehive Station. Lots of parking lot.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Forecasting and Youth: Another Avenue for a Citizen Advisory Committee?

The front page story in today's paper is about youth and mental health. 

Mostly it's good to see, but the focus on mental health risked shifting the stress to subjective and individual problems of anxiety and despair away from the objective problem of increasing emissions. The fundamental solution is not better coping mechanisms, but is reduced emissions. Adaptation, and the concomitant fatalism, should be a secondary matter, not primary. It's not just in our heads. It's a corporate and communal problem, not just a personal one.

Front page today


Inside were three bulleted recommendations. The lead one was this:

Share power with youth in decision-making about climate and mental health policy and solutions to increase youths’ sense of hope, belonging and agency.
This week at the MPO they were talking about 2050 employment and population forecasts. This is one of the few areas of governance in which we are formally serious about forecasting. We don't directly model and forecast garbage collection, crime and police, and most other municipal services. But we have a strong tradition, even with its false precision, of traffic modeling and forecasting 20 and 30 years out.

At the MPO this week

But the forecasts are numbers only.

In 2050 the teen in the article "It's happening now" will be about 45.  

If the MPO is serious about forecasting (and this would also hold for the City of Salem and our Climate Action Plan), they could consider making it less abstract by adding faces to the numbers, real people for whom the forecasts are made: A Citizen Advisory Committee solely composed of youth, the ones whose futures will be most impacted after today's "adults in the room" are all dead. 

Again, such a committee could just be ornamental, but there's a chance that having to explain things to teens, and having also to answer their questions, polite and impolite, might be a salutary exercise.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Highland Survey and Capitol Mitigation at Historic Landmarks Commission

On Thursday the 16th the Historic Landmarks Commission meets to consider the State Capitol building as well as preliminary materials on a survey of the Highland neighborhood.*

Older gable-and-wing in Highland (2012)

You might recall notes and some skepticism about recent surveying in the Grant neighborhood

Highland is in many ways much more interesting and more central to stories about Salem.

Friends Polytechnic School
in Highland (WHC

There is the history of the Friends Polytechnic Institute and the School for the Deaf, land speculation and development by the Oregon Land Company with links to Herbert Hoover and Dr. Minthorn, and also Minthorn's relation to Chemawa.

Marker at site of childhood home
of Herbert Hoover (2014)

Highland's neighborhood history is in fact quite rich, and no boosting hyperbole is at all necessary. 

The goal for this new project is to produce a booklet of house styles like the one produced for Grant and also to inventory the older homes.

Hopefully this effort will spend less time on the idea of a list of pretty homes, and more time on the sweep of Salem's history. 

Monday, June 13, 2022

Whether to Create a Citizen Advisory Committee: At the MPO

The technical committee for our Metropolitan Planning Organization meets Tuesday the 14th, and they will consider rising costs with messed up supply chains and inflation as well as whether to revive a Citizen Advisory Committee.

Would a new committee be helpful?

From here a Citizen Advisory Committee is not obviously helpful. It could be helpful, but it's not obvious that one would be. Advisory Committees are not often very powerful and are set up more as a procedural fig leaf.

Though the context is slightly different, for a city rather than for an MPO, you might have seen recent discussion in Portland about their transportation advisory committees. Here's BikePortland:

There are three main bodies that meet every month to advise and inform PBOT policies and projects. They are the freight, pedestrian and bicycle advisory committees. While they’re set up with a PBOT staff liaison and are ostensibly able to influence decisions on a level playing field, that isn’t always the case. There has been a growing number of concerns from some committee members that they are not respected or listened to enough. And the freight committee in particular has a major unfair advantage when it comes to the ability to influence staff.

In regard to this current discussion here, in a memo to the committee SKATS staff says

SKATS last had an active CAC in place from 1995 to 1998 with a major update of the SKATS’ long-range plan, and a Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC) in the mid-1990s. These committees disbanded when it became difficult to find members willing to serve and attend consistently....

Currently, the outreach techniques used by SKATS (e.g., online surveys, email campaigns, brochure mailings, online interactive maps, online open houses, Facebook postings, etc.) have been very good at soliciting project specific comments and general input from the public directly with hundreds of responses to these efforts. An essential question for the Policy Committee to consider is: what additional input and feedback from a CAC does the PC want to capture and incorporate into their decision making that isn’t being met with the current outreach techniques? In other words, would a CAC be valuable in ways that aren’t being met? Would having a CAC be useful to solicit more substantive and detailed feedback regarding transportation priorities or policies?

One aspect that is not covered in the memo is why it was difficult to find members willing to serve. 

One reason it might have been difficult is that the members realized that sitting on an advisory committee was mainly ornamental and nugatory.

Saturday, June 11, 2022

On Edge of Candalaria Heights Gerry Frank House Exemplifies a Type of Mid-Century Development

With the news about the estate sale last weekend at the house of Gerry Frank, the location of the house is now fully public. Since the main development of that area occurred in memory of people still living, the neighborhood's history has perhaps been assumed and taken as mere background noise, but it is worth a closer look.

August 5th, 1955

Local Architectural History 

The house itself is recessed and hidden from the streets, on the corner of Downs and Crestview in Candalaria Heights, but it's pretty grand. It even has an interior swimming pool, apparently added in the 1970s.

August 13th, 1953

The architecture by John G. Groom may or may not be first rate and high-style mid-century modern. The house is for sale, and the listing teases it as an "Incredible home built by one of Oregon's most iconic citizens." But there are no good photos of its exterior, unfortunately.

Groom was a local architect associated with  Morningside School, the school administration building at 13th and Ferry, and also with the Sunnyslope branch of US Bank at the shopping center. Probably there are several others. But we do not much remember him or his firms today, and maybe there is more to say about that. At the least, they were representative of an era.

Development of Candalaria Heights and Salem Heights

The Frank house straddles the boundary between Candalaria Heights and Salem Heights, but it has been absorbed notionally into Candalaria.

Friday, June 10, 2022

City Council, June 13th - Street Painting and The Woods

At Council on Monday they look to ratify the code for street painting and intersection murals on neighborhood streets. With it is also some administrative rule-making.

Not permitted?

Designs shall not contain words in any language, letters from any alphabet, numbers, universally recognized signs, symbols, emblems, or logos of any kind....Designs shall not create an [three-dimensional] illusion that may be misinterpreted as a safety hazard by a motorist or bicyclist.

Earlier this year Strong Towns had a note that referenced drivers swerving dangerously for 3-D optical illusion crosswalks. So that's a real thing apparently.

And a kind of 60% supermajority is potentially required:

The proposed street painting shall be denied if objections are received from more than 40 percent of the abutting and adjacent property lots.

Four finalists for design in Grant

It will be exciting to see the first painting, likely the one proposed for Cottage and Belmont, and tentatively scheduled for painting over the Fourth of July weekend, and then to iterate on the rules as seems useful. (Previously here and here.)

Abandoned concept for The Woods

The long rumored transfer of "The Woods" at Fairview is also on the agenda to be formalized. The parcel had been proposed for large lot development back in 2019 by Eric Olsen, but the application's language was weird. After the City approved it, a citizen appealed to LUBA, and LUBA agreed there were problems, so much so they reversed the decision rather than merely remanding it.

So now the solution seems to be donating the land to the City rather than trying to develop it or to keep it as privately owned park land. Interestingly, it is not Eric Olsen donating it, but a successor to the original Sustainable Fairview, SFA2. Maybe Eric Olsen never closed on it, or perhaps he sold it back. That's probably not an important detail, but it is interesting to note.

The transfer could impact timeline or funding for construction of the future segment of sidewalk along Battlecreek/Pringle Road, but the Staff Report identifies impact only to "a performance security," and not to construction itself.

This makes two large chunks of the former Fairview property now publicly owned as park or quasi-parkland.

Monday, June 6, 2022

Art Commission with news on Art for Public Works Building

The Public Art Commission meets Wednesday the 8th, and they have news on the artists winning commissions for installation at the new Public Works building in progress.

Examples of sculpture from Brad Rude

Examples of drawings from Claire Burbridge

From the May minutes:

[City staff] reported that the award process is complete. Brad Rude was selected for the exterior sculpture, and Claire Burbridge was selected for two interior drawing installations. In the process of planning engagement activities around the artists’ visit, which is tentatively planned Public Works Day, June 17.

Claire Burbridge is in collaboration with interior design team to ensure everything is complementary. Allen would like to send out a survey to employees to solicit ideas about what is important to them about their work or about Salem to inform the artist.

Artists would stay two nights and one day in Salem to engage employees and the public.

Rude is based in Walla Walla. Rude's sculpture is broadly representational, sometimes whimsical, and looks like it could be a fun addition to a building entry. His style seem more likely to be popular than more abstract or conceptual approaches.

Burbridge is based in Ashland. Burbridge's drawings appear closely patterned and biomorphic, a little like multicolored growth in a petri dish or bracket fungus on a tree, but also more abstract. (Picking up these themes might be apt for key public works responsibilities like tap and waste water treatment, as well as urban forestry and streams.)

It remains strange how little the public is actually involved in the selection of public art. Suddenly we are presented with the selection as a done deal, as if curation were the primary thing for the process. But if there is also expectation or hope the public will embrace the art, why aren't they given more voice during the initial selection process, a bit of dating game and chance to fall in love, or just to enjoy the pleasures of a crush?

These choices anyway, especially Rude's, seem better calibrated to public sentiment than recent selections for the Police Station and Library. So maybe that's more moot here. Still, the selection process is so hermetic.

Also in the packet is news that the Mattingly mural behind the Elsinore again needs restoration work, currently estimated for $20,000. For skepticism on the value of repeated cycles of restoration on an outdoor mural overlooking a parking lot, which at some future time will be redeveloped and will conceal the mural, see here previously, "Some Ironies about Restoring the Mattingly Mural." (2013)

There's also news on $9,000 graffiti abatement and restoration for Guidance of Youth in Bush Park. 

On even stronger skepticism about that work see:

Some art is more enduring than other art, and we should not be afraid of embracing transience in art, embracing the fact that its conception, execution, and reception occurs in history, and is not somehow outside of history. Even the best art that somehow seems timeless, still exists in time. It's ok that not all art stands the test of time, or exists in a medium that experiences decay. New generations might want to give old art new context or even to cycle in new art, after all.

Friday, June 3, 2022

Climate Action Plan Committee does not seem Positioned for Success

The Climate Action Plan Committee meets next week, Monday the 6th. The agenda and the process it implies still seem a little ad hoc and lacking a sense of urgency.


With the primary Election now complete, and Councilor Hoy the de facto Mayor-elect, Mayor Bennett is a real lame duck and his inclusion on the committee makes even less sense. The current committee may not be properly oriented to the future and best for decisive action.

Why the churn with new members?

Much of the May meeting was a rehearsal of material the Task Force had already thoroughly covered, and it was remedial in that way. Even before that May meeting, in comment offered to the committee, our chapter pointed out some problems with the committee's composition and potential solutions:

We would like to change the odds even more by requesting some changes to this committee. A committee with five members will be stronger, able to resolve disagreements with a clear majority [instead of the current four members]. Councilor Stapleton, now an alternate, would be a great addition as a full member. In the Council meeting that established the subcommittee she expressed eagerness to dig deeply into climate solutions. She collaborated on Salem Bike Vision which can play a big role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, Salem’s biggest source.

We also suggest that Mayor Bennett offer his seat to one of the Councilors who was on the CAP Task Force. There is a steep learning curve to understand and grapple with the complex, interconnected issues of energy, natural resources, transportation, and development. As members of the Task Force, Councilors Andersen and Nordyke, have a head start on working through these questions and have demonstrated commitment to climate action. Either one would be a valuable member of the subcommittee

The committee really should reorganize, with Mayor-elect Hoy the new chair, a fifth member, and a Task Force member restored. It is very strange that the only continuity is Councilor Gonzalez.