Thursday, August 31, 2023

St. Joseph's Downtown Damaged by Major Fire

Terrible news this morning about a four-alarm fire downtown at St. Joseph's.

Here are some brief clips while we wait to learn how extensive is the damage and confirm that no people were injured or killed. It is an old parish, one of Salem's oldest congregations. For a capsule history, see "St. Joseph Church" at the Mill's republication of the Salem Online History.

March 4th, 1952

March 17th, 1953

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Moore Building Celebrates 100 Years this Week

The building erected by early 20th century bike dealer and City Councilor Arthur H. Moore celebrates its centenary this week.

Moore Building on High Street (via Streetview)

September 1st, 1923

September 1st, 1923

Nine months earlier he'd purchased the lot(s) and a couple months later announced some design details. (The TG Bligh Building on the corner also went up at the same time, frequently linked in stories, and that might be for another time.)

Monday, August 28, 2023

City Council, August 28th - Parking at the Airport

As we see real signs of our climate crisis in smoke, heat, and fire, and as we debate a municipal budget problem and a deeply contested payroll tax, it is not surprising the City's proposed use of the utility fund to finance parking lot expansion for the airport prompts questions.

Wildfire right here, Friday

Yesterday's paper

Council meets this evening, and a set of four interlocking agenda items to fund more parking at the airport looks a little odd.

Front page Saturday

That our Climate Action Plan contains no provision to evaluate new Council actions and decisions in terms of greenhouse gas emissions shows its designed limits. It's not a very flexible and useful policy document for novel events and future-facing decisions outside of its listed "strategies."

Silent on evaluating novel actions

In the face of the budget problems, if borrowing from the Utility Fund is no big deal, something routine, the City should have made a list of previous borrowings from the Utility Fund and the purpose of each instance. The City merely says, "the Utility Fund has maintained unrestricted reserves which have been used in recent years for other internal borrowings." A little more detail would be helpful.

The whole transaction appears to be structured so that parking rent from meters is supposed to provide an annual payment of $210,620 to replenish the Utility Fund.

But what happens when the airline follows Delta, Seaport, and others who abandoned Salem and parking demand at the airport plummets?

Some have argued that the lot and building would be an asset that could be repurposed or flipped and perhaps this is true. But the City Staff Report should discuss that as a realistic possibility.

Maybe this is a reasonable thing in light of the current commitment to the airport, but the timing and lack of detail make it look like a risky concept in many ways and it deserves more scrutiny.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

The Limits of Bike Culture and Encouragement Programming

Over at our local Strong Towns group, they posted a note about Encouragement programming for creating a culture of bicycling.

via FB

There's nothing wrong or false in the piece, "Supporting Cycling Goes Beyond Infrastructure," but it might not have quite the right emphasis or proportion in real ingredients for more bicycling.

If you look at that picture, it shows urban midrise construction. (Quite possibly in Europe, also. With the cobbled street, it doesn't look very American. It is nearly certain to be pre-automobile era.) Pretty consistently bicycle advocacy misses on the values in proximity and adjacency, and the value of land use.

Walking and biking trips require short distances
People for Bikes, italics and vertical rule added

Most people biking don't go very far, and data even on Dutch cyclists show bike trips peak at about one mile in length. 

Useful things need to be close together! Not separated by parking lots, expanses of single detached housing, and wide zoomy arterials.

Encouragement only goes so far in the context of our city form, which is truly a geography of discouragement. 

Friday, August 25, 2023

Transportation Options Group and Bike Rental System with more Ambition at Cherriots

In the last decade or so the small group at Cherriots working on mode shifting has been called Rideshare, Trip Choice, and now for a year or so Commuter Options. (Maybe there are some other names also.) The group has too often seemed like an afterthought and ultimately was unfocused and underpowered.

Last night the Board for Cherriots received an Annual Report and also a short-term plan for 2023-2026. (Salem Reporter has more on the other agenda items.)

New Plan

There's a shift in tone and detail, and it looks promising. In the 2023-2026 Strategic Direction plan, they hope to "transform...from a static information-only to a responsive and integrated program...." Yes, that's the ticket!

Shift from passive to active

In one of the detail bullets they say they hope to "incorporate transportation options into local and regional transportation land use planning processes." These connections are conducted on the surface frequently, in language, but not very deeply in executed policy and actual decision.

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Maps, Aumsville, and Voting Structure: At the MPO

The Metropolitan Planning Organization meets on Tuesday the 22nd, and they are a little bogged down in some tedious map-making and line-drawing.

FAUB, UGB, City Limits in West Salem

One of the events the 2020 Census triggered was redrawing the Federal Aid Urban Boundary. 

On map-drawing

Unfortunately, different regulatory schemes demand slightly different maps, and the discontinuities look like they might add a lot of administrative sludge to the total amount of red tape: The Federal Aid Urban Boundary is not the same as the Metropolitan Planning Organization Boundary is not the same as the Urban Growth Boundary (which is not the same as city limits also):

the Federal Aid Urban Boundary (FAUB) is updated every ten years following the decennial census. The FAUB is intended to reflect the areas that are “urban” based on the Census Bureau’s methodology for defining urban areas.

The revised FAUB is used as part of the process to update the Federal Functional Classification (FCC) of roads. The FAUB informs the revisions to SKATS MPA (metropolitan planning area) boundary. However, it is not the same as the MPA boundary. The MPA is larger than the FAUB. The MPA boundary, along with the Air Quality Boundary, will be evaluated later to determine what revisions need to be made....

Mr. Jackson reminded the group that Oregon has Urban Growth Boundaries (UGBs) that other areas of the country do not have. The Census definitions of “urban” are applied nationwide.

Climate affects in today's headlines

The boundary lines matter because "Chair Cathy Clark noted that one of the benefits including specific areas in the FAUB is the ability to use federal urban funding for improvements on major roads."

Friday, August 18, 2023

Ambitous Food Cart Pod opens in West Salem near Brush College and Salemtowne

You might recall a little over a year ago approvals for a food cart pod in West Salem on Wallace Road near the intersection with Riverbend Road.

Site plan for a food cart pod in 2022

The site is close to Salemtowne and Brush College, neighborhoods in the north of West Salem.

The site (yellow pin) in north of West Salem

Earlier this week the paper featured a note on its opening.

14 carts!

It has 14 carts! It's pretty ambitious, and it will be very interesting to follow into the fall and then the gloomy rainy season.

How will the immediate neighborhoods support it? Will West Salemites from up in the hills travel to it? How easy is it to walk and bike to?

The project could have implications for future neighborhood hub scaled business in West Salem and around the city.

Here, anyway, it feels like a meaningful pilot and something to follow. Hopefully it has real success.


Thursday, August 17, 2023

A Note on Cherriots Carbon Management Plan

A week ago in a formal Work Session, the Cherriots Board heard a presentation on a "Carbon Management" plan. They saw a greenhouse gas emissions inventory and a list of recommendations.

Presentation on "Carbon Management"

This Carbon Management plan is a subplan nested under a broader Climate Action Plan, and is clearly oriented to the internal operations of Cherriots as a corporation.

A brief introductory memo

Here is a comment on the plan, criticizing it a little for something it does not aim to be. So on the one hand, strictly speaking the plan is immunized already against any critique along these lines. But on the other hand, our broad climate goals should make us hesitate to dismiss the comment.

The most important thing for Cherriots on climate is to increase ridership. The more trips taken on bus, the fewer trips taken by car!

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Zoning and the Loss of Neighborhood Grocery Stores

Earlier this month Strong Towns published a note on neighborhood grocery stores, "The Death of the Neighborhood Grocery Store."

In it they seemed to place the primary blame on zoning for excluding small retail from residential districts.

In essence, this means that in most residential neighborhoods, people don’t have a choice. They are forced to drive to get their groceries. What’s more, thanks to zoning codes, residents have been stripped of any avenue to come up with solutions to the problems facing their neighborhood. They have no agency over whether or not a large supermarket chooses to locate in their area.

What if, instead of being at the mercy of the workings of a giant corporation, headquartered hundreds or thousands of miles away, residents were allowed to open a produce stand? More broadly, what if residents were allowed to respond to the needs of their community? Wouldn’t that be a more equitable landscape?

It used to be possible. It isn’t anymore.

But the move away from neighborhood grocery stores is much more than a story about zoning, even if it also correlates with zoning. Zoning reform is a necessary ingredient for the return of neighborhood grocery, but far from a sufficient cause.

This is not a major criticism of the piece, but a quibble about emphasis and proportion.

The movement and building forms of the downtown Safeway encapsulate the complexity. In 1936 they opened a store on 13th and State. Even though it was a chain store, it was still neighborhood scaled and had no parking lot. It was outdated quickly. In 1941 they replaced that store with the one on 14th and State. The chain had purchased two lots in order to have a parking lot alongside the building. Within a decade it too was obsolete, and Safeway opened the large supermarket at the current site a few blocks north.

June 19th, 1936

July 3rd and October 1st, 1940

Successor store, just 15 years later
November 13th, 1951

The note at Strong Towns does not give sufficient weight to the fact that the centralization of grocery stores was driven also by consumer demand — by cars and by customers who wanted to drive for groceries, by the businesses' desire to supply parking lots for those customers, and by the quantity pricing advantage of chain stores. Just look at how much business Costco does today.

Drivers kill People Biking near Jefferson and Albany

Drivers have killed two people biking south of Salem in the past month. These are a little old, and the one in Linn County certainly is outside of the greater Salem area, but they should be noted.

A hit-and-run, from Oregon State Police earlier this week (links added to both releases):

On Saturday, August 12, 2023, at approximately 7:05 P.M., the Oregon State Police responded to a vehicle versus bicycle crash on Hwy-164, near milepost 5, in Marion County.

The preliminary investigation indicated a bicyclist, Harley Auten (42) of Jefferson, was riding in the bike lane southbound on Hwy-164, through the intersection of Talbot Rd SE. A Dodge RAM 3500, operated by Brian Hammons (55) of Jefferson, turned from eastbound Talbot Rd onto southbound Hwy-164 and collided with the bicyclist.

The bicyclist (Auten) was transported to Salem Hospital where he was later pronounced deceased.

The operator of the Dodge (Hammons) left the scene after medical personnel arrived, but prior to LE arrival. Hammons turned himself into investigators on Sunday, August 13, and was lodged in the Marion County Jail for Hit and Run and Criminally Negligent Homicide.

The corner has a cluster of school facilities and is also part of the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway. Charges came swiftly, and fault does not seem very ambiguous.

The view of the driver, eastbound on Talbot
Note signs for Scenic Bikeway and School Zone

The corner just above "N 2nd St" label

On the other hand, the release from State Police on a second fatality at the end of July comes with good deal of ambiguous language:

On Monday July 31, 2023, at about 8:00 A.M., the Oregon State Police responded to a vehicle versus bicycle crash on Highway 20, near milepost 6 in Linn County.

The preliminary investigation indicated a bicyclist, identified as Brenden Dwyer (34) of Ontario (OR), entered Highway 20 from Knox Butte Road, when it contacted a westbound Kenworth CMV (bunked, empty log truck), operated by Jamie Rowden (53) of Dallas (OR). The crash occurred in the westbound lane of Highway 20.

Dwyer suffered fatal injuries and was pronounced deceased at the scene....

Rowden remained on scene and cooperated with investigators....

This is an ongoing investigation and will be forwarded to the Linn County District Attorney for review when complete.

Highway 20 has a high speed swooping curve here, traffic from Knox Butte Road is stopped and would need to yield to traffic on Highway 20, and the weird language of "contacted" suggests a failure to yield or error in judging the speed of on-coming, westbound traffic from the left. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Planning Commission Looks to Initiate Code for Solar and Trees on Parking Lots

The paper nearly has a real thread of climate coverage in the first section this morning. As it is, and leading with the trope of water play rather than any image that expresses danger, the paper leaves connections mostly implied, merely the result of juxtaposition, and not connected nearly enough.

Opportunity for fun or hazardous air?

Youth and death

This evening the Planning Commission looks to initiate some code changes on parking as well as on other matters. This is only to start a process, and later they will schedule a formal Public Hearing with draft code and a much longer Staff Report.

Monday, August 14, 2023

As with Carbon Offsets, EV Mania has Limits

Today's front page had a piece on what increasingly looks like something of a climate boondoggle. Wildfires, whose intensity, frequency, and probability are all increased by our greenhouse gas emissions, are burning up forests that had been, or could in future be, devoted to carbon storage.

Today on false allure of offsets

Clearly, our climate interventions need more primarily to target emissions, and to keep after-emission sequestration or mitigation in more secondary and supporting roles. But that's been a hard sell.

Another major notion about climate is that by simply converting our gas cars to electric cars, we don't have to change a thing.

A week ago the Sunday paper had a promo boosting that EV mania.

A week ago Sunday paper on EV mania

The next day the paper had a front page piece on tire dust and salmon mortality.

A week ago Monday on car lethality to salmon

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Truck Driver Strikes and Kills Elderly Man on Sidewalk

The driver of a large refrigerated freight truck struck and killed an elderly person walking on a sidewalk yesterday.

From Salem Police:

Emergency responders were called just before 11:00 a.m. to the 1900 block of Turner RD SE on the report of an elderly man struck by a tractor trailer exiting the driveway of the Walmart store.

The Salem Police Traffic Team is leading the incident and learned 81-year-old John Alvin Schwiewek was on the sidewalk walking northbound on the east side of Turner RD when he was struck by a tractor truck pulling a refrigerated trailer. The driver of the semi was exiting the Walmart parking lot and turning for northbound travel when Schiewek was struck and killed.

The driver, identified as John Lee Griffin, age 62, is cooperating with the investigation and requirements for commercial drivers in collisions of this nature.

The Traffic Team investigation continues, and as such, no citations have been issued or arrest made. 

The completion of the crash scene reconstruction kept the roadway closed for approximately three-and-a-half hours. 

Today’s fatal collision is the ninth to occur this year, and in total, have resulted in ten deaths.

The description is a little ambiguous about which driveway and how far into the sidewalk the truck and driver encroached.

The northmost entry is fully signalized and with marked crosswalks at Turner Road, and doesn't seem like a "driveway." It seems more like a "street."

Fully signalized with crosswalks

The center driveway, the one most like a "driveway," has a sign forbidding trucks.

The more central driveway says no trucks

The entry farther south has a marked crosswalk.

A driveway farther south has a marked crosswalk

This post may be updated.

Saturday, August 12, 2023

City Council, August 14th - Crosswalks for 25th and State

In addition to the continuation of the appeal on proposed apartments in West Salem, the other big matter will be the payroll tax. Others have had good things to say!

Of more particular interest here is a report on five lots impacted with construction and small permanent easements necessary for the intersection work on 25th & State. The project includes 

construction of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant ramps, one ADA-compliant driveway, installation of a cut-through median island, modification and extension of an existing median island, installation of street lighting, and signal improvements.
State St between 24th and 25th

The intersection is marked 25th on the map above. Though it's a dog-leg with a segment of 25th on the north side, the work is only on the section with existing crosswalks in line with the segment on the south side. A second dog-leg with 24th is also marked, but there is no work there. This part of State Street is five auto lanes wide, one of them a continuous center turn lane, and at 24th transitions to four auto travel lanes without a turn lane.

See previously:

Something to note is that this would be the transition to a 4/3 safety conversion if we can get there.

Evaluating the 4/3 safety conversion (April 2018)

Back in April of 2018, Staff indicated "a commitment" to "evaluate the lane reconfiguration west of 17th a year and a half after it is constructed" in order to see if the 4/3 conversion between 13th and 17th can be extended to 24th. That lane reconfiguration is in the bond project list, but is still a ways off, to be funded in the second or third tranche, and not in the current funded one.

Friday, August 11, 2023

Details in Statute too often keep Values Merely Aspirational

On Monday Council will continue and deliberate on the appeal of a proposed large apartment complex in West Salem.

Several of the disputed items repeat themes we have recently seen at the Meyer Farm and at the former Mushroom Plant, themes that reappear over and over in debates over development. 

That the City, developers, and neighbors keep getting sucked into these protracted debates and disputes may mean there is not enough clarity in our development standards. 

Rather than trying to weigh in on this particular proposed development, I want to use it for more general observations.

One particular problem is the way we don't carry higher level policy values into statute, Salem Revised Code.

Here, one of the appeals at the former Blind School in 2014 was clarifying. (You may have discovered this state of things earlier or later, of course.)

At the former Blind School in 2014

This theme is back. An attorney for the developer cites "uncodified elements of the City's Comprehensive Plan" and "unclear standards."

Uncodified elements of Comp Plan

The City may say "we need flexibility," but from climate to trees to safe walking and biking, there are so many instances where our high-level policy statements are effectively just words for show because we don't translate policy language and values into statute.

One of the items is a question about "safe and convenient bicycle and pedestrian access."

What is "safe and convenient"?

Over the years here we've argued that this is a nearly useless approval criterion. Usually it is resolved through lines on a map, whether there is a blue line signifying a bike lane nearby, a very theoretical kind of proof, and not anything most people would agree is in fact "safe and convenient." The revealed preferences of people after these things are built show the "access" is rarely "safe and convenient" and instead induces car trip after car trip.

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Herons of Bruce Horsfall at the Library and at OHS: 100 Years Ago

Here's some fun trivia. Much of the art at the Library, perhaps even most of it, is associated with the opening of the Civic Center 50 years ago. Some of it, though, is older. Even if it is not always to contemporary taste, the art is interesting historically.

The Great Blue Heron
(City of Salem)

In the Library on the main floor is a painting by R. Bruce Horsfall, "The Great Blue Heron." It is not probably noticed very much. Certainly I have passed by it and not given it much attention, merely reading it as "old."

Back in 1923 it received much more attention and was more highly regarded.

August 10th, 1923

While the old Carnegie Library was raising funds for its acquisition, for a few days it was on display in the Reed Opera House, in Miller's department store.

The Library was successful, and the tag at the current Library lists the accession date as 1924.

Earlier it, or one very similar, had been in a show at the Carnegie Library sponsored by the Oregon Audubon Society.

Sunday, August 6, 2023

EV Mania, RR Balkiness, Climate Disconnect, Sustainable Cities Residency: Bits

Things are a little slow at the moment, so here are bits, some of them perhaps to revisit in more detail later.

On Thursday, Eugene Weekly had a charming story about a man's conversion of a vintage car from gasoline to electric.

On Thursday

It didn't give enough attention to significant details about the batteries, though.

“The two Tesla batteries add 600 pounds of weight to the car,” Diethelm says, opening the front bonnet to display one of them. It looks like a rectangular high-tech suitcase with very sharp corners lying inside the otherwise empty compartment. The other battery is behind the rear seat, for weight distribution. That all makes the car heavier than it used to be. “So I had disc brakes put on.”

We don't talk enough about the materials and mining for the batteries, or about the increased safety hazard and lethality from the additional weight. What is the social utility of conversions like this? As a hobby and kind of nostalgia it's great, though also expensive, but as an emblem of any approach to climate, the benefits are more private than public.

Saturday, August 5, 2023

More on Dr. Susan Araminta Davis Bean

The paper just posted online - and it'll probably appear in the Sunday print edition - another neat history piece, pegged to the current exhibit on local medical history, from the Mill.

"The female doctor who served Salem residents from 1890 to 1941" is a biographical sketch of Susan Araminta Davis Bean.

Here are some interesting clips not themselves directly in the piece and prompted by it.

On the Eclectics and presenting a paper, only a year after coming to Salem.

October 8th, 1891

An early ad for her practice.

November 7th, 1891

That would be the current site of the Firestone building and driveway/empty lot immediately south of it.

Old First National Bank building
SW corner, Commercial and Chemeketa

On her popularity and attending a suffrage conference.

Thursday, August 3, 2023

Harding's Death 100 Years Ago Prompted Giant Headline Here

In the evening of August 2nd, 1923, Salemites learned President Harding had died.

August 2nd, 1923, evening Extra

The morning paper had scrambled to print an Extra evening edition with the news on the 2nd.

August 3rd, 1923

A few days earlier Harding had traveled down the valley and declined to give Salem any early morning whistle stop.