Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Questions on the Cannery Proposal

Despite the PR success in the media, with any sale of the former Truitt Bros. Cannery not yet closed, recent talk of a redevelopment project remains conceptual and speculative. 

Here are some questions and things that we'll be watching here. Maybe you will have others, too. (Drawings here are mainly from the project site.)

Realistic Schedules

As proponents hype the project, how much will published conceptual schedules be accelerated beyond realism?

Consider real schedules at the former Boise Cascade, the former Fairview, and the former north campus at the State Hospital (as well as the EWEB Steam Plant on the riverfront in Eugene). They all have taken longer than initial timelines suggested.

Scope of Preservation and Adaptive Reuse

The amount of preservation and reuse at Boise, Fairview, and the State Hospital have all been much less than originally hoped for.

The initial concept drawings on this project appear to show the retention and reuse of only one small building, a boiler and steam plant. The structure of two other buildings looking out over the river may be retained, but as buildings they appear to be wholly gutted and turned into covered dining pavilions. So a kind of half-preservation on those?

The gabled building dated 1914 only really retained

The long, main cannery building visible from Front Street looks like it is demolished and replaced by wholly new construction, probably the 5-over-1 style that prevails now. This demolition/replacement has not much been directly addressed in the early press.

5-over-1 construction along Front Street

Here are current conditions, with my interpretation of the plan added.

Monday, April 24, 2023

Summary of the SKATS Safety Survey: At the MPO

Each year the City has commissioned a satisfaction survey, and they ask about walking and biking in it.

Most recently, walking and biking safety had a low satisfaction, a significant drop from the rating in previous years. The sample size has always been small, and the people asked aren't also asked how often they walk or bike. It is likely that many who primarily drive, and themselves rarely walk or bike, are giving answers on walking and biking safety.

From the 2022 City survey

The MPO is in the process of writing a safety plan and just conducted a survey on safety. At the meeting of the Policy Committee on Tuesday the 25th, they'll discuss some of the findings.

Respondents to the survey were self-selected with an interest in transportation or in safety, and so it's not like this is necessarily a more neutral sample. But it is an important sample, as it better captures response from people who actually walk and bike or would like to.

From the 2023 Transportation Survey

Its results for "walking/rolling" seem comparable to the satisfaction survey: 38% said they felt "very safe or somwhat safe" walking and rolling, and 36% were "satisfied or somewhat satisfied" with "walking/biking" safety.

But there is a great disconnect on biking alone. Only 15% in the safety survey said they felt "very safe or somewhat safe" while "riding a bicycle." Conversely, 79% said they felt "somewhat unsafe or...not safe at all."

Sunday, April 23, 2023

New Bank for Hollywood Urban Renewal District in 1972

The Sunday paper has an update on a new use for the former US Bank in the Hollywood neighborhood as the area continues toward a medical clinic monoculture. When the bank opened in 1972, it was "the first new building in the Hollywood Urban Renewal Project."

Morning paper, April 5th 1972

Afternoon paper, February 29th 1972

It was going to "reshape Hollywood."

Afternoon, June 4th 1971

The new theater planned to replace the old one never materialized, and instead was more loosely "replaced" with the Lancaster Mall theaters.

Thursday, April 20, 2023

City Council, April 24th - Second Reading on Parking Mandates

On Monday Council looks to pass the Second Reading of ordnances to remove parking mandates citywide

There will be no parking apocalypse.

Also on the agenda as an information item is approvals on a large apartment complex on Cordon Road at the corner with Highway 22.

396 apartments with a lot of parking

Minimum of 558, proposed 774

Since the project was not near core transit, under current parking requirements there was a still a minimum of 558 spaces. The project is proposing 774 spaces.

The minimum was not relevant here. Whether the minimum was zero required parking spots or 558 parking spots, this project still would have 774. The developer had great freedom to choose less than 774, and still proposed a lot more than the minimum.

Developers will still be building a lot of parking, only they will respond to market and project requirements rather than more clumsy government mandates. (Then, of course, the next step is to figure out how to make large parking lots like this unnecessary.)

Walking School Bus centers Enforcement and Engagement

It was very interesting to see the walking school bus on the front page today.

Front page today

Back in 2020 the National Safe Routes Partnership dropped the E of Enforcement from their "five Es" and "six Es" framework:

For more than 15 years, Safe Routes to School programs have used the five E’s (Education, Encouragement, Enforcement, Evaluation, and Engineering) as their organizing framework. In recent years, we added a sixth E, Equity, to bring the focus towards creating healthy, thriving communities for people of all ages, races, ethnicities, incomes, and abilities. Effective immediately, we are dropping Enforcement as one of the 6 E’s of Safe Routes to School....We recognize that there may be healthy, community-driven relationships with law enforcement that support some programs across the nation; however, we will no longer recommend such partnerships as foundational to the start, maintenance, or growth of a successful Safe Routes to School program.

In a note on social media the local Safe Routes group says:

Safe Routes to School will welcome Salem Police Department as we walk to school with Washington Elementary School and Community Members.

Safe Routes to School is comprised of six E’s: Engagement, Engineering, Education, Equity, Encouragement, and Evaluation. It is my pleasure to grow the Salem-Keizer Safe Routes to School program through engagement within our community. Engagement is, “connecting directly with students, parents, teachers, and community members to hear their needs and to work together on designing programs that will authentically benefit their schools and build connections with local resources.”

Parents and neighborhood organizers deserve great deference as they formulate plans responsive to local conditions.

As we continue to debate modes of policing for our current moment, and try to shift our paradigm of safety so that it is not so autoist and does not sideline those not in cars as marginal or secondary users, it will be interesting to see how our Safe Routes group employs or varies this approach across the city.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Library at the Budget Committee; Neighborhood Traffic Plan - Bits

Back in February at a formal Work Session, Council examined a study of staffing and funding levels of city service areas in comparison with the levels of a group of peer cities.

From the February work session

The study of course had a set of aims and a rhetorical shape. It was meant to buttress the case for more City staff and funding. It showed a lot of red for areas of concern with "understaffing" and "under-resourcing."

In a neat bit of advocacy judo, retired State Librarian Jim Scheppke took the benchmarking study as a template and applied it to Library staffing and funding in those same peer cities. He presented his findings in comment to the Budget Committee, which meets tonight on Wednesday the 19th.

Public Comment for April 19th

The undernourishment of our Library has been a consistent theme over the years, and this was a useful new angle on that, employing the City's own mode of analysis.

Will Council listen? Or get distracted by the appetites for Police and Fire?

Salem Reporter has more on the agenda, including some extended comment from Councilors, "Committee considers fees, taxes in effort to balance 2024 Salem budget."

Two new plans bundled

More than a little quietly, back in January the City apparently published a draft of the Neighborhood Traffic Management Plans. They split them into a Traffic Calming Plan and a Stop Sign Plan.

Monday, April 17, 2023

Cost Escalation and Overengineering Swamp McGilchrist Project

From March 2023 Bond meeting
(comments in red added)

Mostly we love Strong Towns, but last Fall they swooped in seagull style on the McGilchrist project. They failed to do their own first step: Humbly observe and ask what people need. Had they done so they would have learned about the Social Security office, the Veterans clinic, the brewery district, the poor east-west connectivity in this section of town, lack of bike lanes and sidewalks, and the drainage problems in routine high water. 

Drainage is a real problem (2022 RAISE grant app)

Instead, they looked at a map and saw a different drainage problem. They seem to have got seduced by the opportunity for some bathroom humor:

You probably would not have guessed (I certainly didn’t) that it is a one-mile stretch of nondescript industrial road that currently serves 3,600 vehicle trips per day, mostly people going to line dance at the Honky Tonk Bar and Grill or rent a porta potty from Honey Bucket.

They still haven't fixed the image of 12th street they labeled as McGilchrist.

The critique moved directly to the second step and faulted the City for not iterating, for not doing the smallest thing that can be done today. They seemed to want more straw bales and traffic cones first. They saw only a giant and expensive engineering project.

The process and joking rhetoric by Strong Towns was bad. And it is astonishing, honestly, that the Salem Strong Towns group hasn't pushed back, and has seemed ok with it all. It's not a kind of mocking or betrayal? Apparently not.

Nevertheless, Strong Towns identified real problems: The project is too expensive and overengineered. They are totally right about this - and it's got worse.

Sunday, April 16, 2023

History in the Sunday Paper: Truitt Bros Cannery, Bush House, Saun Lee Lewis

A theme of history and change rings in several articles in the Sunday paper today. It's a reminder that the bundled product of a print edition remains pretty neat.

Concrete imprint on a loading dock (2015)

On the front page was news that the former Truitt Bros. cannery had a proposed sale and redevelopment project in the works.

Front page today

A century ago they were hyping dehydration at the plant.

June 1th, 1923

Dehydration hype, Canning Age, January 1920

It ran its course, important but not quite as revolutionary or enduring as it might have at one time seemed.

The area has been of interest. Here's a proposal for mixed-use zoning from the 1997 North Downtown Plan.

Saturday, April 15, 2023

Real Outcomes, not Potential on Paper, is Goal for Climate Friendly Areas

Earth Day is in a week, and the latest UN report on climate out last month should give us renewed urgency and motivation on climate action.

Front page, Oregonian, last month

It should also remind us that our goals are for real outcomes, not merely theoretical ones on paper. The current approach to Climate Friendly Areas, which the City is branding Walkable Mixed-use Areas, still seems underpowered. Here is more on that.

Focus on Real Outcomes over Theoretical Potential

Methods Guide

We'll start with the question about how the CFA/WaMUAs are designated. Here is the basic problem again.

There are two approved analyses, formally designated "prescriptive" and "outcome-oriented."

1000 Friends letter Jan. 11th, 2023

Back in January, 1000 Friends of Oregon sent a letter to Cities suggesting some gaps in the prescriptive method.

Friday, April 14, 2023

Rep. Mannix Hears about I-5 Bridge Replacement on Joint Transportation Committee

Yesterday a group of Portlanders came to the Capitol to lobby for a right-sized I-5 bridge replacement.

ODOT currently is operating a variously deceptive campaign to enlarge the bridge and expand adjacent highways. It will induce more driving and lead to more emissions. They say "replacement" but it's a whole lot of additional widening and capacity, a shady kind of "replacement+."

After talking with Legislators individually during the day, many in the group stayed for a meeting of the Joint Transportation Committee.

Rep. Mannix, too - via Twitter

And it turned out there was a Salem-area Legislator on the Committee. Next to Rep. Pham, who is distinguishing herself as a critic of ODOT and a champion for safer streets and non-auto transportation, was Rep. Mannix.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Forthcoming Book! Tribal Histories of the Willamette Valley by David G. Lewis

Here's a forthcoming book to look forward to!

Anthropologist and historian David G. Lewis has written Tribal Histories of the Willamette Valley. PSU's Ooligan Press has it scheduled for a November publication.

After reading an advance copy, Willamette University Professor David Craig blurbed it, and noted extra significance for Willamette and its relation to Jason Lee and others:

Lewis’s book is a must-read for every Oregon educator, field-based scientist, and natural resource manager in the Willamette Valley....

This book reveals the cultural and natural history of tribal people through settler colonialism, providing a critical perspective for understanding current and future problems of ecology and social justice.... 

This book will add momentum to the Land Back movement and invites those of us operating in Oregon’s oldest institutions to do more to acknowledge the harm caused by our founders and many of those who followed.

The book doesn't yet have an entry in the Salem Public Library/CCRLS catalogue, and hopefully they'll order it and fix that soon!

In the meantime, lots of the material in preliminary, draft form can be found at Lewis' blog. His most recent post is on emerging Camas and management by cultural fire.

Monday, April 10, 2023

Cost Overruns and 2024-2029 Funding Cycle: At the MPO

On Tuesday the 11th our Metropolitan Planning Organization will hold meetings for its technical committee and also a public Open House for the 2024-2029 funding cycle, whose formal document is called the TIP, the Transportation Improvement Program.

It is a little baffling the way the MPO is framing the TIP. On social media they write:

Planning through 2029. The Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) allocates $20 million of federal funds over the next six years to bicycling, walking, transit, and road projects in the region.

On the project page they invite the public to "provide comments of the draft projects."

They are framing it like there's some opportunity for the public to comment on which projects get funding!

"no new projects" in the 2024-2029 TIP

But because of our current pattern of cost overruns, "no new projects, beyond those that were [already] included in the previous illustrative years and on-going programs, were recommended for funding."

The project prioritization and selection in this 2024 document totally depend and follow on the project selection and prioritization for the 2021 document.

In a basic way, there is nothing new here. And there is very limited scope for the public to shape and prioritize any new project funding.

The MPO should be clearer in public communication about what the real opportunities are for comment.

Friday, April 7, 2023

City Council, April 10th - Airport Mania and Parking

Last Wednesday in a work session Council continued to think about an operations fee and new revenue. (See also Salem Reporter on that work session.) On Monday, they will be thinking about the airport and its subsidies.

Gerrymandered boundaries
(Yellow highlighting added)

On the agenda are two airport items. One is a gerrymander for the Fairview Industrial Urban Renewal Area in order to extract $1.8 million in URA funds for the airport remodeling.

The other is the air carrier agreement for subsidy over two five-year periods, also with the airline still redacted from the non-disclosure agreements.

In the event the Airline fails to realize the defined minimum revenue, it will invoice the City on a monthly basis for the shortfall. The City will utilize its federal grant funds and local matching funds to support the Airline and ensure that it is at least revenue-neutral for each flight operated to and from Salem up to a total amount of $1,200,000, including $50,000 for marketing.

(The agreement in a "financial performance guarantee" section lists LA, SF, Vegas, and Phoenix as destinations, and an airline buff might be able to figure out which one it is.)

Still no GHG analysis on the airport

We will see this as foolish in the years to come. It reverses progress on climate and emissions, and the opportunity cost is so many other more valuable things we might invest in or subsidize instead.

Thursday, April 6, 2023

On the Decline of Cycling and a Grant for Salem Bike Vision

Yesterday the team at Salem Bike Vision announced they had won a grant from People for Bikes to support their advocacy with community bike rides and for more attention to improving quality and number of bike lanes in projects funded by the infrastructure bond.

via Twitter

That is great news!

The news was also a little old, having been announced by People for Bikes in December, and was something we totally missed here.

We don't pay as much attention to pure bicycle advocacy as we used to here on the blog, and this might be a good moment to discuss that again.

via Twitter

BikePortland published this week a long meditation on the decline of cycling in the last decade or so in that city, "My thoughts on the cycling decline and a list of theories to explain it," and you should read it in full. They identify multiple variables:

  • A socio-political-cultural shift
  • The bike scene is still too white and too centrally located
  • WTF WFH (Work From Home)
  • Erosion of public safety
  • Infrastructure & traffic safety fears
  • The enforcement problem
  • Driving is too easy
  • Bike facility maintenance (and lack thereof)
  • Gas is too cheap
  • Demographic forces
  • The local advocacy ecosystem
  • Bike theft
  • The rise of carsharing and micromobility 

From here the most important have seemed to be:

  1. Gas is too cheap
  2. Driving is too easy
  3. Slack land use with useful things spaced too distantly (maybe geography more than demography)
  4. Infrastructure & traffic safety fears

The others are real factors, but they have seemed more secondary.

Sunday, April 2, 2023

Counts and Rates and Danger for Whom: Thinking More about Most Dangerous Intersections

It was nice to see the Transportation Safety Action Plan on the front page today, but the way it, and possibly the MPO, is defining "safety" is problematic.

Front page today

It ranks "most dangerous intersections" by count of crashes involving "serious injury" or death.

In an article just a week ago on Police shootings, the paper took care to discuss rates rather than counts.

A week ago

While the count of Police shootings in Portland is higher than in Salem or Eugene, the proportion to residents in Salem is lower. Rates are significant.

Similarly, the "most dangerous intersections" have lots of car traffic, and even if the rates of crashes were lower than at other sites, the total count of crashes will be higher.

A focus on raw counts of crashes will not always give an accurate sense of danger.

There is also the matter of asking dangerous for whom?

The crash counts are weighed towards those inside of vehicles, protected by sheet metal, safety belts, and air bags. The whole regulatory environment for cars and roads is biased towards occupant safety. Other road users, non-occupants, those not as encased or protected, are more vulnerable, and do not yet enjoy the same regulatory protections.

Ranking danger this way by counts also does not account for those who avoid places because they feel unsafe, and therefore depress counts of travelers and counts of incidents. Dangerous places repel people walking and rolling. When they have a choice, they don't even try to walk or roll there. The walks and bike rides not taken are meaningful. Absence also is an index for danger.

Finally, speed and total vehicle miles traveled correlate with danger and crash counts and rates, and more visibility should be given to those factors.

Fortunately some of the comments in the article address some of this. Hopefully a more nuanced and less autoist notion of danger and safety will emerge as the study and its analysis unfold.

Previously on the Safety Action Plan: