Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Director of Public Works to Retire

Salem Reporter has the scoop!

via Twitter and Salem Reporter

Director of Public Works Peter Fernandez has announced his retirement.

We'll probably come back to this, but he leaves a real mixed legacy. 

Most discussions will tout the accomplishment of the bond measures, one in 2008 and the most recent one, and the success on the cyanotoxin and water treatment problem. The Woodmansee Park aquifer project is notable. There might be Willow Lake successes also that should be noted. Probably there are nuts and bolts operational details that deserve to be surfaced also.

An opportunity refused in 2013

But here it was the stubborn attachment to the Salem River Crossing and the refusals to advocate more forcefully on provisions for non-auto travel and on greenhouse gas emissions that linger in memory. Transportation things too often were oriented to the previous century and to automobile travel.

The City will have a chance to make a new hire, and from outside might be best. A fresh perspective and a stronger commitment to curbing our emissions from transportation would be helpful. The new City Manager also might like some new thinking.

We'll see how it all shakes out, and again there may very well be more to say later in a longer assessment.

Addendum, December 1st

As a pleasant tangent is the news that ODOT has pushed out more control over local speeds.

Front page today

Hopefully that will be a tool embraced by a new Director.

ODOT Wildly Overengineers Early Concept Drawings for OR-22 and OR-51 Project

A reader from our 350org chapter wrote to suggest that the project for OR-22 and OR-51, which has been holding an online Open House this month, was worth more notice.

4 possible sets of roundabouts and ramps

In particular, they suggested ODOT was wildly missing on the spirit and intent for reductions in emissions and VMT.

They are right!

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Everson House actually the Small House: A Gap in the Historic District and a Hearing on Short-Term Rental Proposal

Back around 2015, as the debate over Howard Hall had found its sad conclusion, the Hospital had purchased the house across the street at 795 Church Street SE, now called the Everson house of 1935 in the Historic District, and wanted to turn it into some kind of short-term stay facility. There was at least one Hearing at the Historic Landmarks Commission. (The process, which I did not follow closely, may have had more turns.)

795 Church, corner of Mission and Church

Apparently they have sold it, and a new owner wants to turn it into a "short term rental."

Hearing Notice

On the one hand this would be a subtraction from our housing stock and might be criticized on those grounds. On the other hand, Mission Street is changing and an even better use for that corner might be a small apartment block.

The Historic District, however, has an explicit aim to foil that kind of change as "encroachment" to be defended against.

The history of the house shows the thinness of our concept for the Historic District, and undermines some of the importance attached to it. Rather than arguing for or against the short-term rental proposal, I want to push against the way we understand and use Historic Districts.

When the Historic District was originally nominated nearly two full generations ago in 1986, historians and authors had very little to say about any significance for the Everson house and described its importance as "secondary." They identified the Eversons as the current owners, but did not at that time ascribe any significance to the Eversons in the historic context of the house.

In the Historic District Nomination

It's a nice older house in the generic sense of "old house," but did not seem to say anything significant about Salem history.

So to call it the "Everson House of 1935" is almost certainly an inflation of historical significance. It's a bit of bluster to conceal gaps in our knowledge, actually.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

City Council, November 28th

The front page today had a story I've been wanting all late summer and fall. Vegetable gardens seemed to be a real struggle this year, and I wondered how the professionals were handling the growing season.

Front page on the growing season and climate

The body of the article was great. It surveyed a broad range of farmers growing food, drink, and ornamental plants. 

The headline focused on the wet and cold, which is true, but perhaps did not place it in the correct context. It could be read as an ordinary vicissitude of farming. But the season was not altogether inexplicable. The body of the piece correctly centered climate disruption, which yields both flood and drought, and makes the swings between more wild.

No fact-checking

Farther in the paper, the piece on the community survey was a dud, soliciting the hate-clicks and rage-reads, without doing any fact-checking. Were the sentiments well-founded? You'd never know.

A different mood - via Twitter

But if the city is so terrible right now, so badly off track, the mood so sour, why did the holiday parade seem like a success? The real story about the city has to be more nuanced.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Pep Band Introduces Jazz at State Rivalry Game in 1922

As the hand-wringing over what to call today's great state rivalry football game continues, it is a little interesting to see how they handled the name in 1922. "State Championship" seemed to be the dominant name.

But much more interesting is that the Daily Emerald claimed the pep band played jazz for the first time around here at a sporting event.

"State Rivalry Game," Oregonian, Nov 19th, 1922

Nov. 17th, 1922

From the Emerald:

Jingling, jangling jazz, pep-inspiring selections of various kinds, and a whole repertoire of good music will be furnished by the University band to the students who flock to Corvallis Saturday to back the Oregon football team in its annual struggle with the Aggies....

The band will be composed of fifty or more pieces, making it one of the largest and best bands the University has seen for some time. Some special music of the jazz variety will be played Saturday for the first time. These selections are new to the college bands of the Northwest and are expected to rouse the Oregon rooters to the zenith of their enthusiasm.

I couldn't find any follow-up on how this new instance of jazz was received at the game. Five years after it was first in the news here, in 1922 there is still criticism of jazz as immoral or bad, but it is being assimilated and adopted, and the appearance of jazz may not have been very remarkable.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Thanks for Murals and More Art in Salem

Earlier this month on one of the decent days I got out to see the street painting at Belmont and Cottage.

Library, benches, and mural at Belmont & Cottage

No one was walking by or hanging out, no one drove by, and the lot kitty-corner from the sidewalk library and benches was still vacant. The paint seemed like it might have faded a little already. It didn't pop in the way the first photos posted on social media suggested. So the energy at the intersection was a little slack and inert. Maybe at other moments it's more vibrant, but at that moment it was not.

Still, as a kind of grace note it was great to see.

Hopefully in a broad range of expressions there is new energy for public art in Salem.

Problem of tanks specifically
and 3-D surfaces generally

At Council on Monday, Councilor Nishioka will offer a motion to adjust our mural code to accommodate some three-dimensional surfaces.

We found through the permit process of the Maraschino Cherry Mural that permanent three-dimensional objects are not allowed to be painted, only flat surfaces. The Maraschino Cherry Mural on Portland Rd NE is a mural on a flat wall with two silos that sit in front of the mural wall. The artist and Pacific Coast Producers had designed the mural to include the silos as an integral part of the mural. With the unpainted silos, the viewer cannot see the full mural as it is hidden by these permanent structures. If the silos had been included in the mural installation they would mirror the hidden sections of the mural. With the current code permanent three-dimensional structures such as silos and water towers are not included in the Salem Public Arts permit codes. I would like the City staff to prepare potential amendments to these types of murals for review by the Salem Public Art Commission.

That too would be great to see, and perhaps prompt even more creative kinds of murals.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

One Quarter of our MPO files Suit to Halt new Climate Action

This week a group of 14 jurisdictions, including the City of Keizer and Marion County, two members of the eight that set transportation funding and policy at our Metropolitan Planning Organization, SKATS, filed suit against the Climate Friendly and Equitable Communities rules the State adopted earlier this year.

Suit against the CFEC rule-making

See Willamette Week and OPB for more:

At the May meeting of SKATS earlier this year, Keizer Mayor Clark echoed several themes in the lawsuit, saying "Keizer can set their own priorities," a little bit of "don't tell me what to do" spirit.

May SKATS PC meeting

But what Keizer wants is for the MPO (and the State) to adopt its looser priorities and values so it can still get funding for bad projects. This penalizes Salem, however, and other jurisdictions that might want funding for good projects which do not conform to older autoist standards. (Not to mention the penalty to the commons, to all of us indirectly harmed by Keizer's recalcitrance.) Marion County has said similar things, with even more explicit climate denialism.

Latest Affordable Housing Projects Still Enforce Compulsory Autoism

Recently the Housing Authority entered into agreements for affordable housing projects on Battle Creek Road and 27th Avenue SE.

"Car-dependent" and "minimal transit"

Very "car-dependent" and "some transit"

Most of each project is aimed at households at or below 60% of the area median income and each project will have around 100 homes.

The Staff Report on the 27th Avenue project claimed:

This area of Salem is quickly developing with the addition of a new Costco off Kuebler Road to the south and numerous single-family neighborhoods being developed to the west and north. With close proximity to Kuebler Road, residents of the 27th Avenue Apartments will have convenient access to multiple bus lines provided by the local public transportation agency Cherriots. Numerous grocery stores and retailers are located within two miles of the site, including WinCo Foods, Trader Joe’s, Walmart, Walgreens, and Safeway.

The Staff Report for the Battle Creek Road project makes no similar claim.

But the observation that WinCo and Trader Joe's is "within two miles" would require walking down Kuebler Boulvard for much of the connection. That is not walkable in any realistic and practical understanding of the term. Even once the developments near Costco are built out, crossing Kuebler will remain a formidable barrier. Who wants to be walking across it with a bag or cart of groceries?

The "convenient access" here is by car

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

City to Consider Proposals for new Fossil Fuel Infrastructure; They Show Gap in CAP

A couple of notices for proposals of new fossil fuel infrastructure suggest another gap in our Climate Action Plan.

Near Lancaster and Mission Street

Near Kuebler and Turner Road

The proposals for new gas stations will be subject to administrative approvals by the Planning Administrator, and not a full Public Hearing process.

The time is right (SF Chronicle, September)

As part of our climate action, we need to halt the development of new fossil fuel infrastructure, and shift incentives and development to electrification.


Whoops, I forgot the good news!

The South Salem Fred Meyer is proposing to install six EV chargers. That's more like it.

This is helpful EV mania

But maybe this kind of thing should be allowed by-right?

Monday, November 21, 2022

Placing the SRC in the MTP and Review of Cherriots Plan: At the MPO

Finally some reckoning for the failed Salem River Crossing. The Policy Committee for our local Metropolitan Planning Organization will consider vestigial elements of the Salem River Crossing in revisions to Chapters five and nine of the forthcoming long-range 2023 Metropolitan Transportation Plan.

Incorporating the SRC "No Build" decision in MTP

The changes generally shift the discussion from the relative definiteness of the "needs and gaps" chapter to the more speculative and uncertain nature of the "outstanding issues" chapter. On balance this is good! 

NY Times today

But there's still no real acknowledgement of the Climate Action Plan and our need to reduce driving and VMT. The passive fatalism of "It is expected that...trips traveling across the bridges will increase...." is a denial of our need to manage actively and positively to actual reductions in car trips across the bridges and everywhere in the Salem area.

We aren't yet managing to plan for reduced trips

I hadn't seen an updated chart of bridge traffic counts recently, so that was helpful.

Latest on bridge traffic counts

But we still treat the counts as if we are helpless to alter them, and cannot manage actively to reduce them. Traffic as a rising tide against which we are helpless. Well, that's not true.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Notes on the Salem Cigar Factory, August Huckestein, and Samuel Adolph

Earlier this week, over at the Mill they posted a note about the Salem Cigar Factory.

via FB

They note the industry was "long forgotten." 

Well, there are reasons for that! It was never a large industry, really only the scale of small business and cottage industry, and one of many attempts at "home industry" that never panned out in any enduring or significant way.

Plus, tobacco, and all that implies.

Still, there are a number of interesting threads that connect here and radiate outward. There are still some details to settle, so these are notes only, provisional in some cases.

August 8th, 1895

February 25th, 1905

This note from 1905 contains some interesting observations about importing tobacco from distant lands, about the capital tied up in ageing tobacco inventory, and about the factory location, which may have been in one of the Moores buildings, or the Bush-Breyman block. It's hard to say how reliable are these details, however. They could just be hyping inferior tobacco. But if it is true, that is evidence for international trading networks.

Mr. Huckestein is obliged, in the making of 350,000 cigars a year, to keep a big lot of money invested in leaf tobacco. He has stacks of it, for wrappers, running as high as $5 a pound.

He has on hand tobacco grown in Sumatra, Cuba, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and several other states. Some of the tobacco, if not all of it, must have age before being made into cigars. It must ago for two years or more.

The Salem cigar factory occupies a considerable floor space upstairs in tho building next to the Capital National bank. It is up off the street, and very little is known by the general public of its workings.

On either side of the Bank
Also note bikes!
(c. 1913, University of Oregon)

Here's an early 19-teens image of Commercial Street looking north from State Street. The Pioneer Trust building is up, so it's after that was completed. But there are still horse-drawn carts and lots of bikes in the street. The last bit of the Moores building hasn't been hollowed out for the drive-thru, and the Bush-Breyman building is twice as large. This ad corresponds to a billboard in the photo and is at the right location, so I propose January, 1913 as the date of the image.

The cigar factory could be on the second floor of either of the Moores or Bush-Breyman buildings.

Friday, November 18, 2022

City Council, November 21st - Work Session on Strategic Plan and Policy

Council meets on Monday for a formal Work Session on the Strategic Plan, review of 2022 Policy, and starting to set the Policy for 2023.

Is transparency really a priority?

The first thing that comes to mind is the disconnect on transparency and secrecy. There are more than a few disconnects, in fact. There is too much on mood and appearance, and not enough on measurable policy outcomes.

Open data or Salem city secrecy?

One of the policy goals is to "Share performance measures and metrics."

What happened to the ones from Our Salem, eh?

Part of a Report Card concept in 2019

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Cherriots Board to Start Review of draft Long Range Plan

This evening the Cherriots Board will get a first look at the draft Long Range Plan. (I am late to this, as it is a week early because of Thanksgiving, and I missed that. Full board packet, containing the Plan is here.)

Draft Long Range Plan

For the moment here are some selected clips and brief comment. SKATS and other agencies will also be reviewing and commenting, and there will be more to say. Final adoption for now is scheduled for December 15th.

The first two chapters are introduction and context. Chapter three starts the long range plan itself.

Map of future service areas and routes

It is interesting to see neighborhoods identified for expanded services (and in some cases wholly new service), new candidate enhanced transit stops and mini transit centers, and some new frequent service lines.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Oak Tree Study Undermines Correlation of Trunk Diameter and Tree Age

Yesterday the Planning Commission looked at a bundle of proposed code amendments that seemed at first glance to be essentially technical fixes, and did not seem to merit a full post. 

Maybe that was wrong. A closer look at the Staff Report for the proposed tree codes turned up an interesting letter from the Willamette University Oak tree project.

Trunk diameter not an index of age in Oaks

As part of their Oak tree cookie project, students and faculty were able to plot diameter against tree age, and they found a very weak correlation, hardly one at all. Look at the scatter on those data!

The inference they draw is that since we can't tell how old they are, Oaks deserve a stronger blanket protection:

[All] Oregon white oaks [should] be added under the heritage tree definition as a new subsection, a heritage species, thus granting any tree of the species the same protections given to individually designated heritage trees.

That seems like overcorrection, and some compromise is needed. To designate all Oaks as "heritage" trees sounds good, but that could become a radical eco-NIMBY move to halt needed housing.

At the same time, like we have seen at the Meyer Farm, there would be ways to preserve stands of Oaks; and, instead of developing single detached housing, developing more middle housing types. Single housing on large lots is a wasteful approach to land use, and something about which we badly need to think more critically. Large parking lots for commercial or residential development in a suburban mode, all distant from useful things and utterly car-dependent, are also a problem.

Hopefully this analysis of diameter and tree age will be incorporated into our tree debate and we can figure out better ways to build more housing for people and fewer parking lots for cars, while also stewarding our trees and increasing total tree coverage.

Updates on Climate Office and new Great Streets Program: At the OTC

The Oregon Transportation Commission meets tomorrow the 17th, and the update from the Climate Office appears a little obtuse, even willfully so, focusing on EV mania, and utterly silent on reducing VMT and driving less.

That's a parking lot! Driving itself is a cause.
(Climate Office slide deck)

Highway to Hell?
Not at ODOT!

ODOT and the OTC still operate primarily on a model of EV mania for "reducing GHG emissions from transportation" and do not give enough weight to "driving less."

Monday, November 14, 2022

Driver Strikes and Kills Man Chasing Dog on I-5

A terrible cascading chain of catastrophe resulted in a driver striking a person on foot on I-5 in the north Salem area.

Milepost 259 just north of Portland Road
(State of Oregon milepost map)

from Oregon State Police:

On November 13, at approximately 1:30AM, the Oregon State Police responded to a vehicle vs pedestrian crash on I5 near MP 259.

The preliminary investigation indicated the deceased operator, Michael Ernest Summers (38) of Salem, was traveling northbound on I5 when he lost control and struck the jersey barrier for unknown reasons. Summer's dog was freed and running in the lanes of travel. Summers was chasing his dog on the roadway when he was struck by a Toyota Camry, operated by Amy Biggins (83) of Salem, traveling north on Interstate 5. Summers was pronounced deceased at the scene. The operator of the Camry remained on scene. This is an ongoing investigation.

Addendum, November 16th

The paper mystified the death a little, in the headline saying nothing about the cause of death, and in the body erasing the driver and employing the "hit by car" formula.

Yesterday's paper

By contrast, Salem Reporter indicated in the headline there was a crash, not a mysterious death of unknown cause, and avoided the "hit by car" trope, properly describing a driver operating a car at lethal speed and unintentionally causing death.

At Salem Reporter

This post may be updated.

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Alexander Phimister Proctor Visits Salem after Roosevelt Statue Dedicated in 1922

The sculptor with the funniest name came to town in November of 1922.

Contemporaries weren't chuckling at the name, though. They took him very seriously.

Alexander Phimister Proctor came to Oregon to dedicate the equestrian statute of Theodore Roosevelt on the Park Blocks in Portland near what is now the Portland Art Museum.

Oregonian, November 12th, 1922

The ceremony was on Armistice Day. Though the Rough Rider always seemed more interested in starting wars than ending them, this did not seem to occasion any sense of dissonance.

Here was neither the statesman nor the president, but the character that most endeared itself to America, as expressive of Roosevelt the man who led a certain famous regiment, athletes, adventurers, cow punchers, prospectors, patriots and sportsmen all, to certain famous fields of Cuba - where Bucky O'Neill got his at Kettle hill. And it seemed most fitting, since children will have their heroes, and he among them, that the gift of the bronze rider should be to the boys and girls of all America.

The unveiling and dedication of the statue of Theodore Roosevelt marked the climax of a memorable Armistice day, when the veterans of three wars paraded through the applauding streets and the city gave itself to proud memories of a very gallant past. The great processional itself, bright with steel and gay brassards and medals shining from tunics, passed and repassed the flag shrouded rider and came at length to rest in the south park blocks near the heroic statue. [O'Neill was killed in action, link added]

Oregonian, November 12th, 1922

The statue is in storage now, in a sense even is in hiding, after it was damaged in the protests of 2020.

Certainly as Rough Rider, Roosevelt needs more context. If we are going to remember him in positive ways in public memory, the statue is not at all appropriate. There are other aspects to his personality, force, and accomplishments more worthy of commemoration.

Friday, November 11, 2022

City Council, November 14th - Overlay Zones and Video Promotion

At Council on Monday, as a kind of sequel to the second reading for enactment of the rezone on middle Commercial to MU-II and MU-III zoning (see previous notes here), there's an interesting motion from Councilor Stapleton in Ward 2 about overlay zones, specifically "the Superior-Rural, Oxford-West Nob Hill, Oxford-Hoyt, Hoyt/McGilchrist, and Saginaw Street overlay zones." This is a small area, and that's a lot of overlays! She says,

These existing overlays complicate the process and diminish the potential in this walkable neighborhood with access to frequent transit.

Overlay zones on or near south Commercial
(City of Salem zoning map)

This is Councilor Nishioka's ward, and it is at least a little interesting that she is not originating the motion. Councilor Stapleton is certainly correct about complication and red tape, and it will be interesting to learn more about the intent for the overlay zones if the motion can get enough support to generate an analysis, report, and formal discussion.

Between Hines and Oxford, E-W connectivity is zero

At 20th Street SE there is a little stub of Cross Street that currently dead ends and functions as a parking lot. Back in October, Council accepted a petition to vacate the stub so an adjacent business can use it more permanently as a parking lot. In researching the petition, the City realized that there was undeveloped land nearby, and east-west connectivity a real problem between Hines Street and Oxford Street.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

New Willamette University Prof Researches Walkability, Parking and Driving

This summer there was a small and interesting bit of news. A new appointment at Willamette University, Assistant Professor Nicole Iroz-Elardo is a transportation researcher in the Department of Public Health.

via Twitter

The Hatfield Library had tweeted out a link to an article on a study in LA showing that less off-street parking means fewer miles driven! AKA, the more parking we provide, the more people drive. Parking induces driving. (Free download: "Households with constrained off-street parking drive fewer miles.")

Last year Portland State also tweeted out her study on walkability surveys. (PSU summary, and the article itself, which is paywalled, "Measuring perceptions of social environments for walking: A scoping review of walkability surveys.")

via Twitter

Has Willamette had someone with a specific academic interest in transportation planning before? That may be a new thing, and something very exciting to watch!

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Muscle Car Mural at the Public Art Commission

Tomorrow on Wednesday the 9th, the Public Art Commission will consider accepting into the public art collection an existing mural commemorating muscle cars.

On the backside of a building across from the Police

The notice says

The painting pays homage to the long-time former use of the property as home to multiple car dealerships in the area, in addition to recognizing significant points of interest in Oregon, specifically Mt. Hood and the Oregon State Capitol. The intention was to bring vibrancy to the building and property and to highlight its historical association with automobiles, which goes back to the 1950’s. These businesses have a long history of participation in our city, selling and repairing various vehicle makes and models. This mural, depicting two iconic car models, is a salute to these dealerships and their many years of involvement in our community.

The rhetoric here isn't false, but it shows the way we launder the legacy of our autoism by appealing to long-established businesses and "classic" cars. The mural looks more like an ad for cars than any homage to long-time businesses and civic involvement.

Sunday, November 6, 2022

What was your Favorite Walk in Salem this Year?

So much rain and gloom. I know we need the rain - if not exactly the gloom.

To dispel the gloom, partly anyway, it is consoling to think about pleasant walks in fair weather earlier this year.

Late this summer on a long weekend ramble, you might say even a hike, an out-of-town guest curious about the Fairview project spotted a hops bine on the side of the road. It was a little past its prime, the cones dried out and open but still fragrant.

Hops at the former Fairview site

An abandoned Nomination to the National Register of Historic Places did not discuss any hop growing at the farm.

No hops, in a National Register Nomination

A different historical assessment of the Fairview property didn't turn up anything either, nor a brief newspaper search. We hoped the hops might be a survival from early or even mid-century farming, but more likely it was just a volunteer.

Later we passed a garden with some cultivated hops that had already been harvested.

Thompsons in 1965 (Salem Library Historic Photos)

So it seemed natural to toast the harvest and find refreshment with a fresh hop ale near the end of the walk.

There were of course other small pleasures on the way, and between the terrific company and the unexpected hops it just went to another level. 

It was the best walk of the year so far, and it's hard to see anything in the next two months overtaking it.

What was your best walk in the Salem area?