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.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

City Council, February 21st - Work Session on the Budget Hole

With the holiday, Council meets today, Tuesday the 21st, downstairs in the Library for a formal Work Session on revenue and the budget.

January 2023

The decision to blow $2.4 million on the airport really should have been postponed to after this Work Session and to place it better in the context of the annual and on-going budget process.

A significant part of the Staff Report is vaguely about "sustaining" existing services, but they sure are talking about a pretty sizable staffing increase. (The table comes from the meeting materials; the pie chart is generated from that table, but is not itself included in the Council packet.)

3/5 of the pie = Police and Fire

Budget Committee Report

The relative proportion of "need" for Police and Fire is sure to be a topic.

Monday, February 20, 2023

More Modernism by the Civic Center

With the successful Nomination to the National Register of Historic Places and a forthcoming corresponding local designation on the Civic Center, modernism in architecture and in planning is on the mind. It's definitely a mixed bag, and we'll be returning to it, as there are several interesting threads to pursue. 

Here's an extended footnote on an older post, "Mid-Century Modern in Salem: Four Buildings Better than the Bank."

Just across the street from the Library at the west end of Gaiety Hill are two other modernist buildings of a little earlier vintage.

One of them has been the office building and mall on the northwest corner of Leslie and Commercial Street.

Insurance Center, from Commercial (2013)

We've been interested in the building for a while, and in 2019 wrote:

A firm that may be a successor to Payne Settecase Smith, Anderson Shirley, is in one of Salem's interesting mid-century modern things across the street from the Library. It would be good to learn whether it is a Payne Settecase Smith design.

Guess what, it is!

November 2nd, 1964

When it was under construction in 1964 the paper blurbed it, focusing on the construction firm, whose owner was also part owner of the building, and notes "the drawing is by Payne & Settecase, architects." (This is before Smith joined the firm.)

It opened in 1965. Eight or so small insurance firms clustered in it.

Friday, February 17, 2023

Bike Bus Bill has Hearing at Legislature Monday the 20th

One of the most exciting bills at the Legislature is HB 3014, which would fund more flexible school transportation than merely yellow bus service. Chief sponsor Rep. Pham is calling it the "Bike Bus Bill."

There's a hearing on Monday the 20th - which seems a little odd because of Presidents Day, but that's what everything says.

via Twitter

Part of the bill says:

The rules adopted under this subsection must allow for the reimbursement of costs incurred by a school district in lieu of providing transportation, including public transit passes, payment for crossing guards or pedestrian or bicycle group leaders and payment for the promotion and coordination of alternative transportation options.

Projects like bike buses that depend on volunteers are hard to sustain year after year. By making jobs out of it, a more sustainable structure can be put into place.

See the discussion at BikePortland, "‘Bike Bus Bill’ would give school districts more flexibility with transportation funding."

Mayor Hoy and Manager Stahley on left
Councilor Gonzalez out of camera - via FB

It was great to see Mayor Hoy, Councilor Gonzalez, and City Manager Stahley, in pictures from the winter Walk + Roll to School Day last week.

How often did Mayor Bennett and Manager Powers do stuff like this? I think this is a real change in tone and interest. It's very encouraging.

The Bike Bus Bill would help fund walk leaders so walks like this could be more frequent and not depend on parent volunteers. It would allow Safe Routes staff, who are also in the photos, to build out more programming not dependent on their presence. The bill has a force multiplier effect.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Short Segment of Court Street goes Two-Way, Small Part of 2013 Plan

The City's announced work on Court Street downtown for a conversion to two-way traffic between Commercial and High.

via FB

The work arises from the old Downtown Mobility Study (formally "Central Salem Mobility Study"), adopted by Council in August of 2013.

Adopted recommendations, August 2013

This is a partial completion, as the recommendation was for the full length of Court Street between Commercial and 12th, and for completion by 2028. So theoretically there is still time to meet the target, but that does not at the moment seem very likely.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Why Salem got the Prison, Asylum, and Feeble-minded Institute, but no University

Yesterday was a history day, mainly for the State of course, but here's something on the State Capital. In a Letter to the Editor of the morning paper 100 years ago, Charles B. Moores offered "some unwritten history on the way Salem was made the Capital of Oregon."

At the end of the letter, he offered an analysis of what has been an ongoing mystery here, why Salem had no State institution of higher education in addition to Willamette University. How did Salem avoid being a real college town, yielding that to Corvallis and Eugene?

February 4th, 1923

He wrote about politics and horse-trading:

Salem, having secured the capital, was wary in protecting her possession. In 1866 and 1868 there was fierce contention between the east and the west side railway companies to be designated as the beneficiary of the government railway land grant. The west side won in 1866, but lost on reconsideration by the legislature in 1868, and Benton county took advantage of the situation to secure the agricultural college. In 1872, when Salem had a bill for an appropriation of $100,000 for a state capital building, Eugene was wise enough to put through a bill authorizing Lane county to appropriate funds for a state university building, and this matter was clinched at the next session by the permanent establishment of the school at Eugene. At that time, 60 years ago, there was perhaps not a single educational institution in the country having as many as 1000 students. To Salem a capitol building and an east side railroad looked better than any college, and to Eugene and Corvallis a college each was ample reparation for the loss of the capitol. The outcome was profitable all around. Since then Salem, feeling secure and undisturbed by the taunt of "Salem Hog," has proceeded industriously to secure everything (and then some) that was due her as the capital of a great sovereign state...

Which on his account is why we got the Prison, Asylum, and Feeble-minded Institute, but no State University.

The Moores family was prominent. You may recall notes on the Moores building, now the site of Pioneer Trust Bank. Charles' father, John, was behind that early downtown brick.

After Charles died in 1930, the afternoon paper looked at his life as nearly a symbol of the city's history.

January 7th, 1930

Moore's 1923 book, Oregon pioneer wa-wa : a compilation of addresses of Charles B. Moores relating to Oregon pioneer history, is digitized at the OSU Library. (I suppose that is a play on Chinook Wa Wa, and that might deserve a whole separate note.)

There might be more to say another time.

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Mid-Century Brick Arches Embody Spirit of Old City Hall

The brick building on the northwest corner of Chemeketa and High has always seemed out of place, randomly dropped into downtown.

First Federal Savings & Loan (photo, 2014)
Wilmsen, Endicott and Unthank, architects

When I saw this photo a few years ago, it snapped into place.

Old City Hall, 1966
Looking a little southwest along High Street
University of Oregon, Building Oregon Collection

It was a modernist homage to old City Hall.

The building has an even more interesting history it turns out. It was designed by Wilmsen, Endicott and Unthank.

November 10th, 1964

When it opened, Robert Wilmsen, who seems to have been the main designer of it, but who also could just be in public as the senior partner, talked explicitly about its relation to old City Hall and echoing its arches.

Saturday, February 11, 2023

City Council, February 13th - Policy Agenda

Council meets on Monday and the proposed Policy Agenda for 2023 continues to bury climate action.

"Support briefings" - passivity on Climate

It hides climate as a minor subpoint rather than elevating it as a governing high-level value with specific, actionable goals nested under that. One of the six high-level strategies is "Responding to our Sheltering Crisis," and surely "Responding to our Climate Crisis" is at least as important, even if a much longer-range goal.

The TSP and "lower traffic speeds" are nice to see, though.

Still, conceptually, the plan may need revision.

Sheltering Crisis and Our Future

Under "Responding to our Sheltering Crisis," the Policy Agenda really focuses on the management and herding of disorderly people. The underlying problem, however, is lack of housing. Mental illness or addiction, or other problems, may exacerbate the crisis, but the fundamental problem is not enough housing and too costly housing. We don't just need more "supportive housing." We need housing of all kinds.

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Evidence for Downzoning to Limit Apartments in the 1970s

Over at Sightline they've got a new piece that is interesting. In "Yes, Oregon, There Is a Way to Build Enough Homes" they look at the housing production in the 1970s, and suggest that widespread downzoning in the 1970s was one ingredient in the decline in housing production.

Multifamily construction in Oregon soared in the 1970s, plummeted in 1980, and has never recovered. By the 2010s, the share of net new Oregon homes in multifamily buildings hit its lowest average in 60 years.

In part, that’s because the public backlash against what former Governor Tom McCall had called “coastal condomania” had also reached far inland. For example, as part of a national trend in the ‘70s, a major downzone banned apartments from much of inner southeast Portland.

We've touched on the rise and fall of construction before here, most recently on last year's Council Work Session on housing.

We are currently underbuilding homes
(Oregon Office of Economic Analysis)

There is some evidence for increasing downzoning here in Salem also.

This will just be a glancing, impressionistic survey, and there are many questions to follow up on in more detail. There are overlapping debates that could have led to downzoning, and not all the downzoning was aimed at banning apartments in the city. A lot of the discussion in the papers about downzoning concerns rural land and County planning, zoning, and land use decisions. It looks like the County had to approve the City's plans, and that appears to have been unwound in today's regulatory scheme, for example. Any good history of 1970s action will also require more knowledge of land use law itself, of SB 100 and the early DLCD, of County-City relations, and of City planning documents. Since this remains in living memory for some, you may know more about one or more of these!

Just at the city level, the adoption in late 1974 of new Statewide Planning Goals arising out of SB 100 and the development of Neighborhood Associations, together seemed to trigger new interest in downzoning. There was also was a recession around 1980 and so it is important to say the downzoning was but one ingredient in any decline in housing production, and not the only factor. (The Sightline piece discusses a couple other factors, too. There are multiple variables in play here and, again, this is merely a sketch.)

The Comprehensive Plan Map was not always Aligned with the Zoning Map

The 1973 Comprehensive Plan described "rapid production" of apartments. Interestingly it did not "distinguish between Single-Family and Multi-Family Residential areas" and talks at least in passing about a "mixture of residential with other uses in and near the core area and along major arterial streets." This may represent a course-correction from the 1963 Plan, which employed "buffer zones" between single detached housing and commercial zones. Any shifting extent for sort-and-separate zoning is not clear. The 1973 Plan and zoning map deserve a closer reading.

On housing in the 1973 Comp. Plan

But the Comprehensive Plan soon came under fire. In 1975 it was in the news.

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Buffalo Soldiers and 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps, Winter Walk and Roll to School Day

Oregon Black Pioneers has news of a free showing of the documentary, Buffalo Soldiers: Fighting on Two Fronts.

They say:

Presented by The Conversation Project at Willamette University, “Buffalo Soldiers: Fighting on Two Fronts” is screening free on Thursday, February 9th at 7:00 PM in Smullin Film Studies Theatre (Room 122) in Ford Hall. Following the screening, director Dru Holley will be joined by Oregon Black Pioneers’ Zachary Stocks to discuss Buffalo Soldiers and answer questions from the audience.

Clearly the focus will be on civil rights and a longer scope, but there is another, narrower part of the history to remember! 

The 25th Infantry formed a bicycle corps in the late 1890s.

(Frank Jay Haynes, Northern Rockies Heritage Center
The link from 2010 is now dead)

Since we last mentioned this over a decade ago, there's so much more out there on the corps!

Monday, February 6, 2023

Climate Change in Newspapers here in 1931 and Especially in 1956

The Climate Action Plan subcommittee should be meeting this week, but they have decided to hold meetings in a rather desultory way, every other month.

There just isn't a lot of urgency for actual progress on cutting our emissions in half by 2035.

Here are what may be the first discussions of the greenhouse effect in local news. In scientific journals and in national publications there had been discussions in the early 20th century about carbon dioxide and warming, but nothing meaningful in local media. At the moment, these are strong candidates to be the very first mentions.

While the piece from 1931 is an outlier, the stories from 1956 form a meaningful cluster.

June 28th, 1931

This note from 1931 minimizes any harm by saying it was a "normal" oscillation.

March 16th, 1956

This piece from March of 1956 does not dwell on negative consequences.

But another one does.

Sunday, February 5, 2023

George Putnam and the Afternoon Paper's Seeming Shift on the 1923 Legislature

From here, a century later, the best part of legislative news coverage in the 1920s are the caricatures drawn by Murray Wade, whose versions for 1923 the afternoon paper rolled out gradually, publishing a group of six every few days.

Murray Wade's caricatures of legislators
January 25th, 1923

This is the second one, with some transportation themes, an orator with airs, and Senator Kinney. There are surely other subtle digs and celebrations, not all of them apparent to us now.

After the campaign and election in 1922, and all the criticism of the Klan from the afternoon paper, I was expecting to see more of that in the news - and these cartoons - in January and now starting February of 1923.

But the papers haven't highlighted the Klan or connections to Klan associated legislation at the Legislature as the session has got going. The local coverage really falls off a cliff. They publish steadily about trials and attacks elsewhere, but not very much about activity in Salem and at the State House.

The morning paper had not been very passionate about criticizing the Klan the previous year, so the lack of coverage in 1923 might not be so surprising. 

But the quiet in the afternoon paper was surprising. One reason might be that even though George Putnam, its publisher, has been lauded for his anti-Klan stance and investigations, he actually shared good part of their bias. He did not, in the end, stand that far outside of popular norms and culture, and he had newspapers to sell. At the moment, I see him more in continuity with the nativist and reactionary culture than standing against it. He opposed the mode and style of the Klan, but not so consistently its policy aims.

For example, he wrote positive editorials about eugenics bills and explicitly racialized them. Here is one of them.

Editorial, afternoon paper, February 1st, 1923

And he did not appear to write criticism of the school bills that focused on "inculcating patriotism," fighting socialism and Bolshevism, and forbidding "slighting references to American patriots."

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Asahel Bush: A Footnote in the History of Letitia Carson

A few days ago the Oregon Historical Society published a post on Letitia Carson, "the only known Black woman in Oregon to successfully secure a land claim."

via Twitter

The post drew on materials from the Letitia Carson Digital History Collection. Buried in the collection was a receipt from Asahel Bush to the main villain of the story, Greenberry Smith, for advertising Carson's estate, which Smith had seized.*

Receipt from Asahel Bush for ads, Oct 10th, 1854

I couldn't find those ads in late 1854, but here is another series of ads in the Statesman from a little more than two years later.

March 10th, 1857

April 28th, 1857

The time line on these is very interesting.

Friday, February 3, 2023

Hotel de Minto is More Complicated than Cheery Charity

Photos of the "Hotel de Minto" sometimes make it look like a charming act of charity.

Yesterday's piece in Salem Reporter repeats that frame, oversimplifies, and erases much of the ambiguity around the "hotel." In our current politics, it risks operating as a de facto kind of copaganda, perhaps intended by the City as a way to shore up support for a mode of homeless shelters.

via Twitter

From the piece:

Hotel de Minto was sometimes referred to in jest as the name of Salem’s city jail, but it was actually a place where transients stayed who had nowhere else to go. The earliest mentions of the hotel can be found in the Oregon Statesman beginning in 1885.

The Minto name is associated with three of Salem’s early city law enforcement officers who were descendants of the Oregon pioneer John Minto....

Local newspaper accounts reported that Hotel de Minto was open and managed by Salem’s police from the late 1800s and through 1925.

However, during the Great Depression, then-Police Chief Frank Minto opened the Hotel de Minto as a shelter and a place to get a hot meal - serving a need in the community as it had historically.

Early mentions of the "Hotel de Minto" are clear that it was primarily carceral. Any jest about the minimalist accommodations was sardonic and ironic.

June 10th, 1887

A few years later, under a different head of police, it was called the Hotel de Gibson. Its occupants had little choice in the matter. And the goal was not to serve people in distress but to "rid the city of the hobo element."

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

More on Roundabouts: Eugene's Current Planning for Franklin Boulevard

The City of Eugene is in the middle of a planning process to redesign Franklin Boulevard along the University of Oregon campus. Tomorrow they have a formal Open House to discuss the latest proposal. As an absolutely current, up-to-date discussion of roundabouts, it's worth considering some.

In an ostensibly bike-friendly town, the proposal is still hampered by autoism, it turns out, perhaps even self-negating.

Franklin Boulevard at 13th and Matthew Knight Arena

The City of Eugene says:

We're spearheading a planning process for Franklin Boulevard from Alder Street to Interstate 5, including Garden Avenue. The purpose is to transform Franklin from an auto-focused state highway to a pleasant, multi-modal urban street that is safe for people walking, biking, riding the bus and driving.

Franklin Boulevard, with its wide lanes, can be an unsafe and uncomfortable street. For people who walk, bike, or ride the bus, Franklin Boulevard can be a significant barrier to getting from place to place. Because of that, fewer people choose to walk or bike to make connections between the University of Oregon, surrounding neighborhoods and Willamette River trails to the north, hindering the our long-term efforts to reach climate reduction goals. The project will also encourage new ways for businesses and neighborhoods near Franklin Boulevard to redevelop the boulevard into a more comfortable connector of places, rather than a divider.

That sounds pretty good!

The current proposal includes three primary roundabouts, at Onyx Street, 13th Avenue, and Walnut Street, staggered at every other intersection in the university district. (Nearer I-5 there are two other secondary roundabouts also, for a total of five in the current concept plan. The Glenwood area, nearer to Springfield, already has a couple in a compound intersection and weird figure eight.)

In the latest analysis and recommendations report, they talk about how people biking would us the roundabouts.