Monday, March 20, 2023

W. E. B. Du Bois Lectured at Willamette University 100 Years Ago

Amid the rising popularity of the Second Klan, and in support of an early book concept, W. E. B. Du Bois lectured at Willamette University 100 years ago on March 20th, 1923.

WU Collegian
March 14th, 1923

The announcement hit the morning and afternoon city papers also. The morning paper simply churned the notice in the Collegian. The notice in the afternoon paper gave a different title to the lecture and seemed to be somewhat independently composed.

Afternoon paper
March 19th, 1923

Morning paper
March 20th, 1923

"The Black Man in the Wounded World," the title from the Collegian and the morning paper, is very likely the correct title. In a recent article, "In the Shadow of World War: Revisiting W. E. B. Du Bois's Black Reconstruction," Chad Williams writes:

Du Bois, in fact, envisioned Black Reconstruction as the first of two consecutive books exploring the history and meaning of democracy for Black people in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The second book was a study of the participation of African Americans and other people of African descent in World War I, titled The Black Man and the Wounded World....Du Bois initially titled the book “The Black Man in the Revolution of 1914-1918.” He offered a detailed, albeit preliminary, survey in the June 1919 issue of The Crisis. The first indication of his revised name for the book appeared in early 1923, when he delivered a series of lectures on the Black experience in the World War under the title “The Black Man in the Wounded World.”

The book never got finished. (You can see an outline from 1936 here. I am sorry I did not find the lecture notice in time for the showing of the Buffalo Soldiers film last month!)

The afternoon paper's review the next day seems somewhat more engaged and less skeptical than the morning paper two days later, though they repeat phrases as if they were working off a common text.

Friday, March 17, 2023

Early Stage Plan for Climate Friendly Areas Seems Awry

As the City looks to implement new Climate Friendly Areas, as required by new land use and transportation regulations, they seem to be heading down a path that may meet the letter of the law and violate the spirit of the law. Things look awry.

CFAs/WaMUAs can hold 30% of needed housing
(February online meeting slides)

Terms and the Goal

Maybe to avoid politics of the word "climate," the City is attempting to rebrand them as "Walkable Mixed-use Areas." Since "walkable mixed-use area" is a generic description of the kind of "traditional development pattern" Strong Towns and many others extol, the pattern we see in nearly any older city worldwide, restricting the phrase to a technical term of compliance with new State regulations will make the concept less useful in other discussion. It's really limiting. Suddenly a place that is (or is proposed to be) mixed-use and walkable, but which is not formally recognized as a WaMUA, either is discounted or needs a new name. The City should strongly consider leaning into the word "climate" and restoring the statewide name. Even if CFA seems awkward, it is unusual enough that it is not a phrase we might want to use in ordinary conversation, and can reserve it for this matter of technical compliance. Then we are free to use walkable mixed-use areas as a generic description and value.

In any case, the new rules call for cities to "demonstrate that CFA/MaMUAs can accommodate at least 30% of needed housing."* (From the slide at top.)

In new memos they recently published the City has started the process to demonstrate complicance.

Arguing with a Max Use Scenario

The City appears to be focusing on downtown and close-in West Salem. Last month's slide showed the "focus on mixed-use areas" for approximately 26,000 residences.

26,000 residences in mixed-use areas
(February online meeting slides)

Back in 2012 the City published a Master Plan for the Minto bridge and path. They argued for "up to 21,700 non-automobile commuters" using the path system. Even though the "up to" formula rendered it technically true, the statement was nuts. As a truthful statement it met the letter, but not at all the spirit.

Not at all a plausible forecast from 2012

With the CFA/WaMUA analysis, the City and our Council of Governments/MPO is engaging in a similarly inflated claim and argument. The City is literally proposing to say it is reasonable and plausible to add nearly 20,000 residences downtown, and nearly 10,000 residences in close-in West Salem by 2035. That is 12 years away. 

Max capacity for downtown and West Salem?
(This is a composite from the technical memos)

It's all an "up to" formula that meets the letter, but again violates the spirit. This is not a very helpful estimate or forecast. Its aim is to ensure Salem doesn't have to do anything more on climate.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

New ODOT Climate Dashboard is Unconvincing

At the OTC meeting last week ODOT proclaimed great new progress on emissions.

Did we really do that much in four years?

To support this they've rolled out a new "dashboard." It is propaganda more than sober analysis, a bit of a slick farrago. (Old dashboard here.)

New dashboard home page

In general terms, the structure of the dashboard is hard to parse. Everything is hidden. A paper report has a table of contents, pagination, an executive summary, and appendices. You can grasp the whole shape.

Here with a website only, those elements and any structure are concealed. Who knows how deep you might have to click to find something. The structure is designed to look informative, but in in fact it obfuscates. If the progress were truly so great, the structure would be more transparent and easier to parse.

Meagre comparison section

More specifically, it lacks any detailed discussion of what changed between the 2018 forecast and 2022 forecast. It waves away all the changes as a product of the new Executive Order, but does not drill into detail. Those three paragraphs just above are it!

It is also incoherent.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Focusing on "Schedule," Cherry Blossom Story Could use more Context on Climate

It's always fun to read about the cherry blossoms on the Capitol Mall. This year's story calls them "behind schedule."

Front page today

After noting the blossoms were running late in our cold winter, the story focused on the history of planting and the current maintenance and rejuvenation plan for the trees, which are planted over a parking garage in soil that is not very deep.

March 7th, 2015

You may recall the best ever story on the trees from 2015. It was a glorious nod to citizen science, conducted by then 88 year old Wilbur Bluhm.

Each week Bluhm takes a stroll through Bush Park, the Willamette University campus, Chemeketa Community College campus, Deepwood Estates and a couple of other parks to collect plant, flower and tree data.

The retired horticulturist of 30 years records a variety of information including when trees are leafing, flowering, done flowering, bearing fruit, showing fall colors, and when they lose their leave among other things.

Bluhm has been collecting this the data each week for the past 56 years and says that this spring season is the third earliest date that the cherry blossoms have been blooming outside of the capitol.

"On average, the cherry blossoms bloom around March 15," Bluhm said. "But this year they started on March 1."

Each year, the story should reference this data! Our cherry blossom dates are a climate story, in addition to everything else. That dimension is not much addressed in this year's story. Mainly the inconvenience of not being "on schedule," particularly with the festival scheduled for this weekend. 

Indeed, with changing climate what even is "the schedule" these days? It is likely that climate change will bring earlier blossoming as well as increased year-over-year variability, as we also get colder, wetter winters sprinkled in among the warmer ones. "The schedule" is rather fictive, not some stable thing.

The annual blossoming date of the cherry trees is an excellent capsule of a climate story, and that should be in the frame always.

Addendum, March 20th

Here's the Washington Post centering climate: "early warning," "signaled a warming climate."

Front page, Washington Post, March 20th

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

To Restore the Street Grid with Smaller Blocks: ULI Report on West Salem

You may recall that the City engaged the Urban Land Institute for a technical assistance panel report on jump-starting redevelopment of the Industrial parcels between Patterson Street and Wallace Road in West Salem. With the Pandemic (and perhaps other stuff), it got delayed, but they've finally published the report.

cover of report

It came out in December, and then early this year parts of it were presented to the West Salem Neighborhood Association, but the City's never talked about it to any more general public or made it available on the City website.

No results found on City website

The quiet has seemed a little odd.

In any event, one of the big ideas is to break up the existing industrial superblocks with new street segments. They even talk a little about Portland's smaller 200 foot block faces.

Big idea: Break up the superblocks

They talk about:

  • Extending Taggart south to Edgewater
  • Extending Basset west to Patterson and east along the park margin to Glen Creek Road
  • Extending Bartell Drive south across the path to connect with Musgrave

Monday, March 13, 2023

Adam Stephens House of 1876 Likely Demolished for I-5 Route in 1954

Adam Stephens house of 1876
(History of Hayesville Church)

Hopefully you saw in the Sunday paper the history column on "Sgt. Major John W. Jackson [and] his indomitable wife Caroline Woodson Jackson," who moved to Salem in the 1880s, initially had a farm in Hayesville, and are buried in the Hayesville Cemetery. It was full of interesting details.

On a Black Civil War veteran in Sunday paper

The Hayesville location and link to Adam Stephens spurred circling back with some new ideas on finding historic places impacted by I-5. You will recall the initial concept for a Salem bypass, which then was absorbed and built up as the alignment of I-5.

January 7th, 1952

The bypass intersected the old highway, still 99E/Portland Road, at the Hayesville Cemetery.

Saturday, March 11, 2023

City Council, March 13th - Second St NW and the Charmless Concrete Bunker

On Monday Council looks to confirm the cancellation of part of the railroad easement along the former Salem, Falls City & Western line, now Second Street NW, west of Wallace Road.

Salem, Falls City & Western Line, 1915 USGS map

There were alternate universes in which this might have been a path and trail extension from the Union Street Bridge, but a street with limited bikeway provisions will have to do. 

The scope of the easement cancellation is a little ambiguous. The legal agreement itself suggests termination at Patterson. The "project location map" with the Staff Report is for the whole Second Street project and might seem to suggest termination at Gerth. But as I read it, the actual easement in question here is between Patterson and Wallace.

Patterson to Wallace
Formerly private, this section is becoming a road

A decade ago and more, connectivity on this segment of Second Street seemed a very distant prospect. Of course it still lacks a crossing, at-grade or grade-separated, on Wallace Road, and the City still seems to have designs for connecting Second Street with Marine Drive, very much compromising the path connectivity to the Union Street Bridge. But it's a partial connection even with those qualifications.

It will be very interesting to see ultimately how it all turns out.

Other Items

There are several First Readings on the agenda, but as First Readings they are still more preliminary than substantive.

Far bigger than the easement, but nothing on which there is anything new to say, is First Reading of the proposal to eliminate parking requirements citywide. Council will hold a Public Hearing later. The debate on it is sure to get shouty, but it will be a great improvement once enacted. 

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

There's also a First Reading for deletion of the various overlay zones immediately along the Commercial Street corridor from the Cemetery to Mission Street. (Also the "initiation" agenda item which essentially duplicates the Staff Report.)

Friday, March 10, 2023

Cooke's goes back to 1870s, not just 1930s

Oof! In unsurprising but still painful news, it looks like Cooke Stationery is closing. 21st century retailing and digital modes finally caught up with the distinctly analog and old-school stationery store.

Though the headline focuses on 88 years, the lineage of Cooke's is even older than that.

July 1st, 1936

It was a surprise to learn that Cooke's is a direct successor to the Patton book and stationery store. Perhaps that has been minimized or even erased in family and business lore. But measured that way, its roots go back to the 1870s, not merely to 1936 (or 1935 as the current news and family lore reports).

The Boon/Patton store in 1880s
(Salem Library Historic Photos)

The Patton Block of 1869 was right next to Ladd & Bush bank on State Street. You can see the older section of the bank on the right, a portion of the Patton Block on the left, and after cutting away part of the Patton block a Belluschi addition to Ladd & Bush, now lost, in between. Eventually it was all demolished for the rebuilt Ladd & Bush. (The cast iron facade is historic, but the building structure underneath is more modern, see here and here.)

Patton Block, Belluschi addition, Ladd & Bush, 1959
(University of Oregon)

There seemed to be two stationery stores in the building in the 1870s. One was associated with H. D. Boon, son of John Boon, whose building is now our great pub, and one with Walter Jackson. (This is a little obscure, but not necessary to untangle just now.)

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Transportation Safety Action Plan Launches with Survey: At the MPO

The MPO is cranking up a new Transportation Safety Action Plan. Though it looks like it is open already with a soft launch, formally they will hold an online Open House and survey starting March 13th.

A crash at Ferry and High

Summarizing data from 2015-2019 they write:

There is an average of 3,700 crashes per year within the Salem-Keizer area. Each year, these crashes resulted in 3,000 injuries, 100 serious injuries, and 18 fatalities. On average, 150 of these crashes involve a bicyclist or pedestrian, resulting in 6 fatalities and 12 serious injuries each year.

And introduce the focus areas:

  • Safety while walking/rolling (i.e., using a wheelchair or other mobility device)
  • Safety while riding a bike
  • Safety while driving a motorcycle or other motor vehicles
  • Safety at intersections
  • People who are distracted while travelling
  • People who are under the influence of alcohol or other drugs while travelling
  • Speeding
  • Safety of aging adults

It is annoying that the "distracted" focus area is framed with false egalitarianism to embrace the canard of distracted walking, and that there is not enough focus on speed generally, including the frequent lethality of lawful posted speeds.

There is also research on the effectiveness of various strategies, and it does not seem very useful to ask non-experts for an opinion on effectiveness. People will call for education, even when education campaigns have shown to be of limited utility.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Mayor Giesy attends Klan Dinner in 1923

100 years ago the afternoon paper published news that Salem's Mayor attended a Klan dinner honoring Fred Gifford.

March 6th, 1923

Clear links between Salemites and the second Klan have been scarce, and this was very interesting to see. In Salem Klan activity had been furtive, masked, and not much discussed the newspapers.

A day earlier, the first coverage of the dinner in the afternoon paper, and featured on the front page, had focused on Governor Pierce's attendance. Pierce had practiced a kind of "plausible deniability" in his relation to the Klan, and this was an undeniable sign.

March 5th, 1923

The afternoon paper also published an editorial in the same edition.

Monday, March 6, 2023

Draft Oregon Transportation Plan Shows new Themes, Still Biased for Driving: At the OTC

This month's meeting on Thursday the 9th of the Oregon Transportation Commission is jam-packed with interesting things on climate and non-auto mobility. There is too much, in fact, for a single preview. I'm sure others will have interesting things to say.

Climate and non-auto mobility

We'll start here with a high-level document, the draft of new Oregon Transportation Plan.

Early in it, in a discussion of "key drivers of change," the way the authors handle two "conflicting trends" does encapsulate a bias that still infects the whole.

Encourage reduction vs. driving demand

They write

climate change implications are encouraging a reduction in single occupancy vehicle use. On the other hand, emerging technologies...are driving demand for single occupancy vehicles.

"Encouraging a reduction" strikes a very optional, aspirational, discretionary tone: We'll try, but maybe not very hard. It's the soft science of social psychology. "Driving demand" strikes a different tone of realism and accommodation. It's the hard science of economics and the market. 

In this pair and framed in this way, the second is clearly the one to honor.

Throughout the new draft plan, there is not enough on actual policy to reduce driving and VMT. It's still stuck in the theoretical and discretionary realm of "transportation options" and not enough attention given to policies that actually reduce driving, that induce people actually to make the choice not to drive.

Saturday, March 4, 2023

Questions for Traffic Modeling: Climate Action Plan Committee meets Monday

The Climate Action Plan subcommittee meets on Monday the 6th for their bi-monthly session. The change in transportation analysis remains interesting.

March agenda

In yesterday's paper

Transportation Modeling

In the packet is final report on the new emissions inventory on 2021 data, and as we noted in January on the video presentation, it has some important analytical changes. One of them is on transportation.

Revised pie chart on transportation
(yellow highlighting added)

About the change, which purports to use empirical data rather than computer modeling, they say:

The 2021 data used in this report were based on...Google's proprietary location history data....The source for local VMT data in 2016 was the Salem-Keizer Metropolitan Area Travel Demand Model. This model provides a computer-generated estimation of vehicle trips and does not use on-the-ground measured data.

Friday, March 3, 2023

From Corpses to Cars: Mid-Century Redevelopment at the former Withnell Dodge Site

The mid-century history of the just-shuttered Withnell Dodge dealership site is quite interesting. On the edge of the city at that time, it cycled through several types of business before settling on the car dealership for a half century. It may be only coincidental, but that history has an amusing echo of the Ike Box and Starbucks on Ferry and Church, both of them also on the sites of former mortuaries. It also is another instance of a mid-century move of a car dealership from downtown farther out.

The redevelopment started with Ladd Funeral Home in 1940. In 1938 Thomas W. Ladd had proposed to open one on Cottage and Marion, but the school board opposed it so near to Garfield School. He was able to secure a different site, apparently just far enough from McKinley that proximity to a school was no longer a problem.

April 14th, 1940

The mortuary lasted only a few years at that site, and immediately after the war the building became a nightclub, the Normandy Manor. 

December 23rd, 1945

That didn't last long either.

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Remedy on Mildred Lane Misses Real Cause of Problem

The City posted a note yesterday about a new stop sign with flashing lights around its rim on Mildred Lane at south Liberty Road.

A new flashing stop sign on Mildred Lane at Liberty
via FB

The intersection has had its problems. About the new sign the City says:

New stop signs are in place at Liberty Rd S and Mildred Ln S. The new 30-inch edge-lit solar-powered stop signs will flash 8 bright LED lights continuously to warn drivers on Mildred Ln to stop and look both ways for oncoming traffic on Liberty Rd S.

The LED flashing system is designed to draw attention to the intersection and reduce running through the intersection.

Remember to drive carefully and obey all traffic signals, especially during times of extreme weather and low visibility.

August 2022

Speed is the real problem, however. Though a recent lawsuit about a death at this site focused on signage and messaging, a more fundamental problem is the road design itself.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

An Earmark for Cherriots and the South Salem Transit Center: At the MPO

The Policy Committee of our Metropolitan Planning Organziation meets today, Tuesday the 28th at noon. Their big item is a review of the full draft long-range Metropolitan Transportation Plan.

Last month on big rains, flooding, and climate

Earlier this month, the minutes for the technical committee in January had a revealing note on "climate change planning." It framed climate action as this outside thing, a little strange even, a phenomenon "increasing in importance" and something that could "potentially influence MPO planning." Staff will "monitor federal, state, and local efforts and ascertain how the regional transportation planning may need to be adjusted accordingly."

January TAC in Feb TAC minutes on climate

That looks again like a clear statement that the MPO remains uninterested in climate, will always do the minimum possible, and will only do what other agencies require it to do. The MPO really should embrace planning for climate and be more active and assertive on it, rather than passive and reluctant.

On today's agenda is formal recognition of some tasty pork. I am not sure this has hit the local press yet even though it is news a month old or more. The news has been about the youth pass and changes to the fare structure, but not this Federal grant. Cherriots got an earmark for purchasing the site for the South Salem Transit Center. It really looks like it is going to happen this time! So that is some unambiguous and terrific news.

Pork! A helpful earmark for Transit

Last month, Councilor Phillips, an ER doctor it should be remembered, indicated he wanted to participate on the Steering Committee for the new regional safety plan. He advanced Councilor Stapleton's name also. That is great to see. 

Less great is that there still has been nothing publicly said about Denise Vandyke, the co-worker whom a driver killed in a crosswalk in December. It is a strange silence.

Saturday, February 25, 2023

City Council, February 27th - Civic Center and downtown Parking

Council meets on Monday, and Mayor Hoy finally makes the move to initiate right-priced parking downtown. Hooray!

The Downtown Advisory Board has been asking about it for years.

Request to move to right-priced parking last year

The Climate Action Plan calls for it.

Time for TL24 and right-priced parking!

The Congestion Relief Task Force called for it.

Congestion Relief Task Force called for it

There are so many studies and policy aims that call for right-priced parking. They all converge.

Friday, February 24, 2023

A Century Ago, a Gas Station and Hotel on Corner of State and High

Wednesday the Mill posted a nice picture of the corner of State and High before the New Bligh Building and Capitol Theater was built.

Union Oil gas station, c.1925
(detail WHC 2016.090.0001.041)

Images of this part of State Street hadn't circulated much, and it is interesting to highlight it a little.

Behind the service station you can see one of Salem's early hotels. It had multiple names and owners, and an early one was Cook's Hotel.

Cook's Hotel, c. 1890 (Oregon State Library)

Throughout early  1889

Later, at the time of the gas station, I believe it was called the Salem Hotel.

The hotel was set back from the corner, and there was a decent-sized lawn or field there.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Few Sneckdowns to Document it Seems; Froth on a Streetcar as Shiny new Toy

Well, it looks like the snow is melting too quickly this morning and there may not be much opportunity to document excess space in our roads and streets. But if you are out and about and see places where snow remains, where cars clearly have unneeded space, and where roads could be narrowed, crosswalks shortened, or bike lanes added, take a picture for our TSP update!

Sneckdowns on State and 12th in 2019

See notes from 2016 and 2018 for more on sneckdowns.

On State Street by Pioneer Trust at Commercial
(via State Archives)

Also Rep. Andersen has a hearing today on his streetcar proposal, and there is a good bit of uncritical enthusiasm for it. Significantly, Cherriots appears to be silent on it. If it were such a great idea, you'd think they would show more visible support. As a shiny toy it attracts support, but as an expensive infrastructure solution with real costs, a boondoggle too often in cities, supporters have not thought through:

  1. Value. Any rail solution will be very expensive. Are there alternative solutions at a lower cost that will yield the same or nearly the same benefit?
  2. Opportunity cost. If we make a great capital investment for streetcar, what opportunities for investing elsewhere will we have to pass by? Does a streetcar hoover up discretionary dollars for things like the bikeway system and sidewalks?
  3. Cannibalizing walking and biking space. There are constant threats to poach space on the Union Street Bridge. If we want to reduce driving and to make walking and biking more lovely, why do we not reduce driving lanes instead of degrading walking and biking space? Why not reallocate existing auto capacity for higher ends?
  4. What about operational expenses and future maintenance obligations? Will a new system cut into existing bus service or make increased frequency less likely?

Previously here:

Addendum, March 3rd

The paper today had a story about the streetcar bill. It had got the hearing on the 28th, after having been postponed on the 23rd.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Warehouses on the Edges and Walkable Neighborhoods on the Interior: A Disconnect in Scale and Site

Earlier this month the LA Times had a story on big warehouses that "replace farmland and spew pollution."

LA Times, Feb. 2023

Yesterday the paper featured a front-pager on a supposed shortage in warehouse and industrial land.

It seemed to be written for multiple markets, for the Statesman Register Journal Guard Today, and its framing didn't correspond well at all to local conditions here in Salem. It was a misleading headline, alarmist, not a very good expression of any "objective" journalism. (It was, in fact, a kind of advocacy.)

Misleading headline yesterday

There had been just a few days earlier a story about another big warehouse and distribution center going up.