Monday, October 31, 2022

Orville Station and the Oregon Electric: Connection for Vitae Springs

Orville and Prospect Hill (1917 USGS map)

The history column about Vitae Springs in the Sunday paper focused on fire and water, two elemental forces.


It also took in radio communications, vineyards, blueberries, and bauxite.  It was a wide-ranging review of human geography and history.

There are a lot of other directions a piece might have gone also, and of course it was not possible to write everything.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Hyping Urban Revitalization and a New Nursing Home

You might remember back in 2017 a proposal for a nursing home and senior living on Front Street between D Street and Mill Creek.

Front Street Senior Community (2017)

The paper today has an update on it. The warehouse and former turkey processing plant is being demolished, and the project finally looks to have momentum for construction.

Pushing the "vitality" angle

Five years ago, planners and developers were hitting the theme of "revitalizing," and they are doing so again.

Certainly, in the sense that there will be a shiny new building with people living and working there, the site will have a new vitality.

But the concept is not going to generate much foot traffic. Between the rail road, the empty warehouse across the street, and other adjacent uses, as well as the reduced mobility of those living in the facility, it's just not going to occasion much walking. Grocery Outlet is just a block away, but how much walking to it will there be? If foot traffic is the foundation of urban vitality, it's hard to see much revitalization. 

Friday, October 28, 2022

Ferry and Commercial, Site of Thomas Cox Store of 1847

Yesterday the Mill posted an interesting shot from the Livesley Tower looking out to the southwest at the intersection of Ferry and Commercial.

Hotel Marion, Smith's Brick, Marion Car Park (top)
New Allstate Insurance block (center)
WHC 2006.002.0984

About it they wrote:

[This] photo was taken September 1, 1955 and shows construction of the building on the northeast corner of Commercial and Ferry Streets. Visible in this image is the old Hotel Marion which burned and was eventually replaced with the Salem Convention Center and The Grand Hotel in Salem, and the auto park that recently was torn down for the new The Holman Hotel building.

The building under construction was a new modernist Allstate office block, which was opened in January of 1956. The photo shows construction had only got to the first floor and not the second.

January 18th, 1956

Allstate building today (Nov 2020)

The building looks like it got a 1980s/90s refresh with brick, slightly different windows, and the awning.

The significance of this corner used to be commemorated with one or more plaques. The Mill keyed the post to the new hotel, but the building under construction is significant for more.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

City Employs Backwards Frame in Fall Walking Safety Tips

Earlier this week, with the longer nights in mind the City published a seasonal safety note. They lead with exhortation primarily to those on foot: Be Seen and Walk Safely.

via FB

They ask for extra care from people on foot, but only more ordinary care from people driving. 

This is backwards. 

Drivers are the ones who actually employ lethal force. The extra care should be the burden on those driving. (On the City's FB post, people on bike mention having lights and flashers, reflective gear, and still suffering narrow escapes from drivers.)

"Wear reflective clothing" via Twitter

The focus should be instead on "drive safely and slowly" and "look out for others." They could also say, "driving is inherently dangerous and you should only drive as a last resort." The subject of the exhortations should be drivers, "watch more carefully," not the walking object in passive voice, "be seen."

Driving is the dangerous activity, not walking! But instead the City places the burden for safety on the more vulnerable person on foot. It's the victim's responsibility, not the driver's. There's an implied victim-blaming here.

"Careless walking" in 1922

This is a regular theme here. See also:

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

The SJ Should Consider a Long-Form Piece on George Putnam in 1922

The Oregonian yesterday announced a long form bundle looking at racism and white supremacy expressed in the editorials and news coverage of Henry Pittock and Harvey Scott through World War I.

tweets one and five of five - via Twitter

Reassessment is a small trend in newspapering right now. The Seattle Times looked at their coverage of a 1970 protest recently. Earlier in the year they had looked at original coverage of the the Japanese internment.

Earlier this month, Seattle Times

The Statesman-Journal should strongly consider a similar project of internal reckoning. To start with Asahel Bush and other 19th century editors and writers with both the Statesman and the Capitol Journal is a logical choice.

But right now with the Oregonian project, maybe that would seem a little copy-cat, even with the Bush House's project to reassess the legacy of Asahel Bush.

October 25th, 1922

There's another big historical episode, a 100th anniversary even, that really demands a visit at this exact historical moment.

Monday, October 24, 2022

Scoring Candidate Projects for the long-range MTP: At the MPO

It has been difficult to figure out what to say about the MTP project rankings. The important decisions are on what's in and out of the shorter-range TIP. Those are actual funding decisions.

What's in or out of the long-range MTP is provisional, able to be modified in the four-year intervals between updating it, and also able to be modified in the actual funding decisions for the near-term TIP.

Seattle Times on climate and salmon

So what I want to focus on here is the weirdness of our scoring rubric, under consideration at the Tuesday meeting of the Policy Committee for our local Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Here are the final two pages of the Salem candidate project list, which has nearly 14 full pages in the packet. At the far right is the column header "wtd," short for weighted. The highest scoring projects have a weighted score of 17. The ones on these final two pages top out with score no more than 4. These are very low scoring projects!

Penultimate page of low rankings (13/14)

But look at all the green "committed" tags. Some of them score a zero even! Those are projects with funding attached in the near term. 

A committed project is one that has funding identified (including local match) and will be built within the next five years. The project is typically also in the TIP. Projects that are listed as included have the highest priority to be constructed in the next 20 years, and funding is reasonably anticipated to be available. [Illustrative and proposed projects are outside the "reasonably anticipated" funding, and are lower priorities.]

So our current scoring system does not correspond very well with actual funding decisions. There is an empirical disconnect here. What we say we value doesn't always correspond with what we actually value in budget decisions.

Saturday, October 22, 2022

City Council, October 24th - Zoning on Commercial, Deceptive Airport Estimates

You will recall the request from SCAN for a group of blocks along middle Commercial to be zoned MU-II instead of MU-III. 

The car dealerships south of McGilchrist had already been zoned MU-III in the Our Salem project. 

Automotive businesses on Commercial at Judson

Just north of it are two more blocks, nearly all of which are related to the dealership businesses, which were part of the longer extent SCAN had requested to be zoned MU-II. At the last Council meeting the owners and the Chamber objected, and Council obliged with a request to Staff for a carve-out.

At Council on Monday Staff now propose about one and two-thirds blocks for MU-III zoning.

Proposed MU-II with MU-III carve out
(base map pre-Our Salem)

MU-III carve out from MU-II proposal

Since blocks to the south with the car businesses had already been zoned MU-III, and the blocks in question are mainly parking lot already, this is not a very big change, seems likely to be an acceptable compromise, and not something to fuss over.

Friday, October 21, 2022

Under Kwan's was old Grocery Store and Tavern

Since the demolition of the former Kwan's restaurant has been in the news, it was interesting to consider what was under it.

The assessors property record suggests it had been built c.1930.

September 23rd, 1934

Sure enough, in the 1930s there's a grocery store there! In September of 1934 they advertised Bohemian Club Beer. And "plenty of parking space."

January 30th, 1934

Earlier in the year, just after the Repeal of Prohibition, they advertised Salem Beer.  It must have been operating also as a kind of restaurant. The manager in 1934 was William La Roche. The business morphed into La Roche's Tavern.

January 24th, 1952

There's a lot of petty burglary from it in the paper, and it may have been a slightly shady business.

July 7th, 1932

You may recall the Pay' n Takit store that opened in 1932 just one block south at 935 S. Commercial. Within a few years Safeway purchased the building and business, and remodeled it in 1942. It might have been difficult for a smaller grocery just a block away to survive, and the tavern business might have been much better.

Maybe there will be more to say later about the Basket Grocery and La Roche Tavern. It would be nice to find a photo of the building pre-Kwan's!

See previous notes on grocery history, especially on old Safeways, here.

Monday, October 17, 2022

1972 Plan for Downtown Featured Plazas, Still Misunderstood Traffic

One of the pernicious myths about traffic is that we can redirect or channelize traffic in order to save other places from traffic.

We see this in our street heirarchy, in which we channelize traffic to collectors and arterials in order to shelter local streets.

We see this in parkways, bypasses, and beltlines, all aimed at channelizing traffic for efficient flow and to remove it from other places.

Back in 1972 there was here an early version of this. The "Central Salem Development Program" envisioned multiple plazas downtown on Liberty Street at the intersections with cross streets. While Liberty was not envisioned as fully pedestrianized and closed to car traffic, it was understood as a slow street and appears to have chicanes on it even.

Detail, downtown - Feb. 29th, 1972

To provide the shelter for those plazas, it relied on a traffic plan focused on the Front Street bypass and Pringle Parkway. It also would have routed more traffic on the High/Church couplet, and blasted through a continuation of 12th Street north of Safeway.

The CSDP traffic plan would remove through traffic from Commercial and Liberty Streets and thus allow more convenient parking, more landscaping and better pedestrian environment in the retail core. A system of "bikeways" is proposed along the Willamette riverfront, the creeks and some streets.

Detail, traffic plan - Feb 29th, 1972

It also proposed even larger parking garages than we actually built. One of them would have taken out the Grand Theater, for example, and the Chemeketa parkade would go one block further north, taking out the Wilson garage (Santiam Bicycle) and also use the Rite-Aid parking lot. 

Though we did not expand the High/Church couplet or blast 12th street, the Front Street bypass and Pringle Parkway have not removed sufficient traffic from Liberty Street to make those plazas.

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Capitol Apartments Proposed in 1922 and Abandoned

100 years ago Salem had a housing crunch. A consortium announced a proposal for a large apartment project.

October 15th, 1922

Supporters said "Salem wants this." A few days earlier, a news piece said "People have been roosting in the trees - almost - and living in attics and even tramping the streets for lack of homes."

Oct. 10th, 1922

It was proposed for the "Thielsen corner," the corner of Court and Capitol where today there is a service station and parking lot.

Service Station on Court and Capitol (2013)

It had been the family home for the Thielsens.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

It may be Time to Rethink the Columbus Day Storm

Last month Hurricane Ida blasted Florida, and its remnants moved north, causing massive flooding.

Washington Post last month

Yesterday for its 60th anniversary the paper looked back at the remnants of Typhoon Freda as the Columbus Day Storm of 1962.

History column yesterday

A comparative stance risks lapsing into simple whataboutism. The equivalent to category 3 hurricane winds is no small thing.

But as we consider the "mindboggling" impacts of that remnant typhoon here, it may be time to do more about considering it relatively rather than absolutely, to do more for placing it in context - not merely the context in 1962, but the context in our changing climate and the context with other disasters nationwide, including prospects for future disaster.

Three days at TB Times; Washington Post
on intensification from climate change

The iconic status of the Columbus Day Storm isn't exactly nostalgia, no one is really longing for a return to that particular moment in the past, but isn't it still being offered as a disruption to the normal fabric of a simpler, better time? The toppled Circuit Rider Statue is a key image and seems to express a threat to our Oregon myth of origin.

This approach to the anniversaries may also impede our ability to think critically about likely forms of future disaster. With climate disruption, we are likely to have to face some future remnant typhoon whose impacts are much worse than that storm. We still see the Columbus Day Storm as an off-the-charts outlier, but as with our 117 degree heat dome episode last year, and the orange skies in early September of 2020, exceedingly improbable and rare events are growing less improbable and rare.

With our carbon pollution Mother Nature is just laughing: You ain't seen nothing yet.

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

City Seems to Ignore Get There Oregon Challenge

Back in July, the Climate Action Plan implementation subcommittee considered a number of strategies on transportation. One of them, TL21, called for a "commute trip reduction program."

Considered at the July 11th meeting

During this glorious stretch of early fall weather, as local partner Cherriots has been promoting the "Get There Oregon Challenge," an example of a "commute trip reduction program."

via Twitter

Is the City participating? Who knows! They haven't said a word about it, and are not engaging in any promotion for it.

In and of itself this is not something that is going to yield a meaningful absolute reduction in emissions. But as an index for the way the City is approaching the Climate Action Plan, it is notable silence and further evidence for a lack of seriousness about implementing the Plan.

The Challenge was a gimme, low-hanging fruit, right there for the taking. It was an easy opportunity for leadership by example, promoting it internally to City staff and externally to Salemites generally.

But instead we have Plannerpalooza.

Monday, October 10, 2022

Strong Towns: McGilchrist Project "Not an Improvement"

This morning it was amusing to see Strong Towns got a hold of the McGilchrist project for their own critique.

"not an improvement" - Strong Towns

They focus on it as an investment:

This is a terrible project. Almost $8,000 per current trip. That’s absurd. And just looking at the local part of this investment, how much does the Salem tax base need to increase from this project to justify the city spending $15.2 million? A heck of a lot more than the $19.4 million their ridiculous benefit-cost analysis optimistically estimates.

If all of that optimistic increase happens immediately (it won’t), and they tax 2% of that property value each year (they tax less than that), Salem will bring in $388,000 per year in additional taxes from new development due to the project. Forget the fact that their day-to-day maintenance costs increase after they expand the street, and forget that they have a bigger and more expensive street now that they someday have to reconstruct—forget those small details. At $388,000 per year, it will take them 39 years to recoup the money they are putting into this project. That’s ignoring any time value of money or interest, discounting, or opportunity cost.

However, it does not seem Strong Towns considered the problem posed by the need for sidewalks and bike lanes here, as well as the engineering problem of handing water and drainage here in this low part of town.

Back in 2012

And in 2013

This is a kind of "seagull" analysis, swooping in, dropping some criticism based on their stock analytical scheme, and flying back out. They score points to be sure, but haven't taken the time to understand the full problem on McGilchrist. It's a little careless for an organization that really wants to foster local understanding and local power. The audience for a piece like this is not just members of a national audience who will appreciate the scorn for a distant city, but members of our local group who might like a better understanding and direction for an improved project.

For a decade of previous posts on the McGilchrist corridor see here.

Sunday, October 9, 2022

Canard of Careless Walking in Comic Strip from 1922

100 years ago, the morning paper ran a strip satirizing the canard of "careless walking." Titled "Experience Don't Count Here," it was a gag about a driver accused of hitting and injuring a person on foot.

About the strip, "Squire Edgegate," there's not much online. It was distributed nationally, and not a local production. One historian sums it saying 

The strip about a country judge/attorney (his job description was a bit fluid) was drawn simply, and the gags were simple, too. There wasn't anything really wrong about the strip, but there wasn't much particularly right about it either.

The gag here does give the last word to the person on foot. Note also the subject of the action: "you struck this man with your auto." No erasing the driver.

Panel 1

Panel 2

Saturday, October 8, 2022

City Council, October 10th - Airport Mania and Climate Denial

On Monday Council will consider whether to expand the Fairview Urban Renewal Area boundaries in order to subsidize airport expansion.

To expand the Fairview URA boundaries?

We're just gonna ignore our Climate Action Plan, aren't we? Somehow the City's own discourse and analysis about expanding the airport is wholly exempt from any climate analysis. We just are going to pretend we can ignore any increased carbon pollution, lead and particulate pollution, and noise pollution.

There are trade-offs. Some number of discretionary driving trips to Portland (and Eugene) would be eliminated by having commercial air service in Salem. But we don't know how strong that effect might be, because we haven't done a formal analysis. We also haven't asked if we could satisfy that same travel demand with better rail or bus service. Nor have we looked at how much extra air travel, and extra pollution from it, the convenience of a Salem airport might induce.

Before Council commits to chasing air service, they should demand a real analysis of carbon pollution and other pollution.

Then there are the economics of the thing.

Friday, October 7, 2022

Former Barrick Funeral Home Announced 100 Years Ago

Though it's a fully moot point now and mere footnote, with the former Barrick Funeral Home demolished a few years ago and a drive-thru coffee shack erected in its place, it had been an interesting mystery how old was that building.

February 25th, 1925

You may recall the basketweave upper level on the vaguely modernist box, but underneath part of it was a gable and an old chimney. Photos in the paper showed an old stained glass window, also. It seemed like there must have been an older structure underneath.

October 5th, 1922

Indeed there was. 100 years ago, in October of 1922 Webb & Clough announced a new building, which they completed and opened in February of 1923. It was remodeled at least once, and perhaps more than once.

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Comment on Projects for the 2023 Long Range Plan at the MPO

Yesterday the MPO sent out notice that they have opened a social-media style map for comments on projects being considered for inclusion in the long-range plan.

Click those hearts for projects you support
(SKATS 2023-2050 MTP comment map)

They said:

The Salem-Keizer Area Transportation Study (SKATS) is updating its long-range plan. The Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP) addresses regional mobility, safety, maintenance, and improvements for all modes of travel through the year 2050. It will include a list of anticipated future projects.

There are 263 projects under consideration. Not all projects will be included into the financially constrained long-range plan. The Policy Committee will review the draft project list at their November 22, 2022 meeting, based in part on scoring and public input. Public input via the map is open until November 15, 2022.

You can see the preliminary score of each project when you click on it (from a range of 0 to 17, higher is better).

Previous maps with a few tens of project have seemed like good ways to solicit comment. But this map is simply overwhelming. You have to scroll a long ways down to hit them all. It might be better to break up projects into clusters somehow. Are these all new projects since the 2019 RTSP (which the MTP replaces)? If not, maybe the old projects carried forward should be separate from projects brand new since 2019.

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

MWACT: Update on Center St Bridge Seismic, on Freight, and on new Innovative Mobility Program

The Mid-Willamette Valley Area Commission on Transportation, a local committee advising the Oregon Transportation Commission and ODOT, meets on Thursday the 6th, and they'll get an update on the Center Street Bridge seismic retrofit.

Nothing more in the meeting packet, alas

There's no additional information in the meeting packet, so there's nothing more to say at the moment. Still, even just as a "hello, I'm still here," kind of notice, it's nice to see. The significant detail is "construction year is estimated to be in 2025." That doesn't sound very confident, however, and since the last cost estimate is from 2019, cost escalation will very like a complicating factor. Maybe there will be more to say later.

On Updating the Freight Plan

They'll also get an update on the Oregon Freight Plan and the project to revise it. MWACT's area is all of Yamhill, Polk, and Marion counties, so there are strong agricultural and rural interests on it.

But freight interests need a better countervailing force. On freight's dominance BikePortland has a good recent piece, "Oregon’s rogue freight advisory committee might have finally overstepped" and an older piece from 2012, "Advocates help push back alarming freight power grab in Salem." 

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Crossing Wallace Road at Second Street and Studying a Brush Fire Recovery: West Salem Bits

A couple of meetings for West Salem have items of interest this week.

WSRAB agenda for Wednesday

On Wednesday the 5th in the morning, the West Salem Redevelopment Advisory Board will revisit the concept and challenges for an at-grade crossing across Wallace Road at Second Street, the former railroad alignment and current termination of the Union Street Bridge pathway.

ODOT letter September 2015

You will recall that ODOT has opposed this strongly.

Nevertheless they had a temporary crossing there this summer, and unsurprisingly it was a big hit.

Monday, October 3, 2022

Newest Iteration for Kuebler Village at Planning Commission Tuesday

On a remand from City Council, tomorrow, Tuesday the 4th, the Planning Commission will consider revisions to the Kuebler Village concept and plan. This is immediately to the east of the new Costco, and west of I-5.

From the Staff Report:

[Council] voted to remand the decision to the Planning Commission for further consideration on the Mixed-Use proposal, with instructions to incorporate all new evidence that was presented to the City Council, including the public hearing recording, in their reconsideration of the application...[Recently] the applicant revised their proposal to eliminate their request for CR and CO zoning and instead are proposing a zoning designation of MU-II (Mixed Use-II) for 8.06 acres, and MU-III (Mixed Use-III) for 16.58 acres

Old (top) and new concept plans

At the general level of zoning, the neighborhood association now has close what they have asked for, and in the revised application the developer indicated they can move forward with that. This looks, then, like it could be an acceptable compromise. It would also be a legitimate test case for what our new mixed use zoning can accomplish. 

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Looking at the First Half-Year of the Climate Action Plan Committee

On Monday the Climate Action Plan Implementation subcommittee meets and they'll be talking a lot about trees.

Three days at TB Times; Washington Post
on intensification from climate change

In a different situation and approach, the committee might instead be analyzing the prospects for increased emissions, lead pollution, and particulates from commercial air flight at the airport. But the City is intensely swerving away from that topic.

If we are thinking about rail, why not air also?

More generally, I really don't grasp the shape and plan of the committee. The accumulated agenda from a half-year now just don't look like any expression of a city that was moving in a determined fashion towards a goal. They are getting updates on projects or approaches from other agencies and entities, looking at City policies that are nice and all but affect emissions mainly on the margins. It's very temporizing and passive.

Slide to Committee from May 2022

By my count and including the October items, the committee has now looked at 52 separate policy strategy concepts. Of those six only were rated with "high potential" for reducing greenhouse pollution. And the subset of those with the City as lead agency was one only, and that has been punted a little.

  • TL24 - Right-priced parking policy (deferred now to after the November election)
  • TL08 - Increase bus service (Cherriots is lead)
  • EN32 - Promote Energy Trust Incentives for all-electric new construction (Energy Trust is lead)
  • EN30 and EN09 - Collaborate with PGE for Clean Energy community program (PGE)
  • EN14 - Collaborate with PGE, NW Natural, Salem Electric et. al., for weatherization program

Whatever the committee is doing, it has strayed significantly from May's outline of 55 early concepts with "high potential" for reductions in pollution and with the City as lead.