Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Center St Bridge Seismic runs into Roadblock, now Split into Two Projects, One Unfunded: At MWACT

Even from beyond the grave, the SRC continues with tricks instead of treats.

At the August meeting of our Area Commission on Transportation, a tri-county board advisory to the Oregon Transportation Commission, ODOT gave an update on the Center Street seismic retrofit, the sensible project arising from the SRC wreckage. There had been no presentation or other information in the meeting packet, so at that time there was nothing to say. The meeting minutes suggest a reason there was no presentation included! The news is kinda bad.

August minutes in November packet

ODOT's formal engineering study for the project identified six distinct areas for work and a separate subproject for each.

About the "West Approach" and "West Ramp," ODOT says they "are not practical for retrofit due to poor soil....the cost to retrofit the west side of the bridge is almost as much as replacing and there are no additional funds for either." Seismic work on the west side will therefore have to be "a new project that could move forward independent of the current retrofit project."

So even when the $100 million retrofit is "complete," the west side connections will not be stabilized and will still be vulnerable.

Ultimately this is not wholly surprising.

SRC Geological Addendum, Sept. 2016
(inset detail added)

On the "liquefaction hazard map" in the "Salem River Crossing Project Geological Resources Technical Report Addendum" of September 2016, the soils around the west side approaches are on "category 4" of 5, and surrounded by "category 3" soils. That's bad.

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Proposed Building could give good Jolt to Electric Alley Downtown

There's a Hearing Notice for a fascinating project on the alley between Court and Chemeketa, and Commercial and Liberty.

It's in the Downtown Historic District, and so the Hearing will be at the Historic Landmarks Commission.

Intact portion of Eldridge Block (L) and
Modified England-Wade building (R)

As it comes to us today, the building in question, currently called "the England-Wade building," was remodeled at the middle of the last century. It's the green box. It does not look very distinctive or historical.

In the National Register Nomination, authors note the remodel, but still claim it should be regarded as a "historic contributing" resource.

In the National Register Nomination

(Nomination continued)

There are several other buildings downtown whose bones appear to be about as old or older, but which did receive more stylish and attractive moderne remodels. The Nomination is very squishy on them as a group:

[T]he presence of several buildings designed or remodeled in the Modern period throughout the district clearly convey the impact of the national post-World War II boom in building construction on developmental changes in Salem's commercial core. Several buildings in the district underwent substantial exterior remodeling on the main facade during the 1940s. They include the: Breyman Brothers Block (two buildings at 174-180 Commercial, NE), England Block (216-220 Commercial, NE), England-Wade Building (two buildings at 236 Commercial, NE), Steusloff Building (399 Court), Brewer Block (405 Court), and the Hughes-Durbin Building (160 Liberty, NE). Although varied in style, buildings in the Salem Downtown Historic District share similar proportions and classical design elements that give the district an overall visual cohesion.
Here's the original building — two of them, apparently. One with three window units, the other with four.

The building in 1892
(Salem Library Historic Photos
and compare in 1940)

The bones of the building make some kind of claim, but so much of our approach to historic designation is about aesthetics from the curb, and the facade of the current building is heavily altered, very generic and dull. It has lost vital "integrity."

Friday, October 27, 2023

New Union Street Drawings shown at the City Bond Committee Meeting

Yesterday the Bond Steering Committee saw some new drawings on the Union Street bikeway.

A new crosswalk and crossbike at the bridge

The City (and advocates too) really should stop calling it "family friendly," though, as it does not fully meet "all ages and abilities" standards. It relies too much on buffered bike lanes, and does not employ enough separation to meet a full "family friendly" standard. There's a good bit of "rounding up" going on here.

Union Street overview
(split into three, click to enlarge)

Even so, it will be a great improvement. 

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Old General Hospital Site Housing, Northwest Hub with 2nd Mayor's Award, Union Street Traffic Light, New Critical Mass - Bits

100 years ago what became known as General Hospital started admitting patients. Its construction had been delayed multiple times, and it was finally open.

Nov. 2nd and Nov. 8th, 1923

Yesterday, Salem Reporter had news on a proposal for housing on the old hospital site, "Construction to begin on 120 affordable apartments in northeast Salem by fall 2024."

Salem General Hospital, c.1930 (State Archives)

Salem General Hospital - Maternity Unit, 1980s
(Salem Library Historic Photos)

It's been bare ground for several years, and it will be great to see housing there. Once the site plan review is scheduled and there are more concrete plans and drawings, there will likely be more to say!


Earlier this week Salem Bike Vision posted an update on installation of the Union Street bikeway. Most exciting was the new light at Liberty and Union, which will assist crossing the new two-way configuration of Liberty. It looks like they are striping crosswalks also. That will be great to use on bike and also on foot.

New light on Liberty at Union - via FB

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Siloed Discourses on Fossil Fuel

On Saturday the front page had an ostensibly neutral, he said, she said, news piece on Federal approvals for an expansion of a methane pipeline.

Two takes on Methane
Sunday and Saturday, front page

On Sunday, the front page had an expose and investigation on dangerous methane leaks at the landfill. It was not so much of a he-said, she-said piece. It was more clearly an assertion that methane was leaking and doing so in violation of regulations.

By contrast, the pipeline approval was apparently within regulations. But it was still to transport methane.

Is the main problem the violation of regulations? Or the methane itself, and the reason for the regulations?

On transportation, which creates the greatest proportion of greenhouse gas emissions, we continue to have ongoing pieces about the inconvenience and ostensible "costs of congestion," but have much less on the emissions from driving, a very great "cost of driving," but one generally elided.

Two takes on driving
Front pages, June 2015 and June 2019

Are greenhouse gases bad? Or are they just a minor annoyance? Is driving an important source of them?

On Drive-thrus: August (L) and a year ago (R)

The period when we finally get a consistent through-line on emissions will be interesting and important to see. 

At the moment, we silo off emissions, sometimes considering them, sometimes erasing them, depending on the popularity of the topic: Garbage is gross, cooking with gas is great, and driving is delightful.

This month on fire and drought

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Jockey Earl Sande was Front Page News 100 Years Ago, Later Buried Here

 One hundred years ago, a jockey and horse match race were front page news.

October 21st, 1923

About it wikipedia says:

On October 20, 1923, one of the most significant match races in worldwide thoroughbred racing took place at Belmont Park on Long Island, New York with a purse of $100,000 up for grabs in a special race called the International Stakes, set to run 1 ½ miles. The two horse race brought the Kentucky Derby winner against vs. the Epsom Derby winner, Papyrus....

Zev's victory marked the first time a Kentucky Derby winner defeated an English Derby winner.

An important reason there was so much local attention was the jockey riding the winning horse, Earl Sande, had parents who lived here in Salem. His mother was also featured on the front page.

October 21st, 1923

The year before, his holiday visit was featured on an interior page.

Friday, October 20, 2023

City Council, October 23rd - Overlays and Sidewalks

At Council on Monday is final action on the compromise measure for the overlay zones along Commercial Street by Bush Park and the Cemetery.

Compromise on the overlay zones

Broadly, Councilor Nishioka's motion looks like successful legislation and compromise:

To eliminate the Oxford-West Nob Hill, Oxford-Hoyt, and Hoyt-McGilchrist Overlay Zones and amend the Saginaw Street and Superior-Rural Overlay Zones to increase the maximum height to 45 feet and remove all other use and development standards in these two overlay zones.

It's an improvement and addresses some, though not all, of the objections. Because the Oxford-Hoyt overlay has split underlying base zoning, it already has a height limitation even without the overlay, so neighbors' objections to height there is already accommodated. This allowed the matter of height to be finessed in the Oxford-West Nob Hill overlay and in the Hoyt-McGilchrist overlay.

Apartment zoning across from overlay

It was a little surprising, though, that it seemed necessary to retain height limits in the Saginaw Street overlay near Mission Street. That is mostly across the street from apartment zoning, and honestly seemed like the easiest overlay to delete altogether. But apparently that was not the case.

In any case, the resolution is incremental progress and it falls within the range of "what reasonable people can disagree on." On to the next thing!

New ramps at Winter and D Streets

There's an update on the City's Sidewalk Repair Program. One report shows the work on sidewalk and ramp repairs done in 2023, and another lists locations planned for work in the next six months. It's nice to see the cracks, heaving, and gravel fixed up!

Somewhat related is a process proposed to select and prioritize sidewalk and crosswalk work funded by the bond.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Cordon Road Study Thumbs Nose at Climate: At the MPO

The Policy Committee for our local Metropolitan Planning Organization meets on Tuesday the 24th, and in the minutes to last month's meeting are finally some details on the plan for Cordon Road. The Cordon Road website is not being updated, and the draft plan not yet published for public comment. It's a little weird.

Here's a map keyed to minutes from the last meeting. (The map here is a composite from materials published separately.)

South of Silverton Road widened

South of Silverton Road the study recommends full widening to four lanes.

A "hybrid" design is preferred

The recommendation for widening to four travel lanes just utterly ignores our need to reduce driving traffic in Salem.

First level Climate Goals: A 10% reduction

That the study was going to ignore climate was strongly implied from the start:

They also sprinkle in several roundabouts.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Oregon Electric Klan Special to Corvallis Stops in Salem in 1923

At the same time as the American Legion was unable to condemn the Klan explicitly at their national convention in San Francisco, some Salem Klan members were getting on an Oregon Electric Special to Corvallis for an initiation and parade. The morning paper seemed a little eager to help promote it.

October 18th, 1923

The language of "naturalization" and the pile-up of Ks are interesting in the Albany ad.

Albany Evening Herald
Oct. 15th, 1923

There were no similar ads in Salem papers, but the morning paper did feature notices for the Oregon Electric special train, which they seemed to understand as a public service. The afternoon paper also mentioned it, but it was a short item buried in a list of similarly small items, and did not give it a full headline.

October 18th, 1923

Indeed, a few days later the morning paper started listing the Salem parade and meeting on November 10th in a daily calendar of events. They did not seem to find anything very objectionable about it.

Monday, October 16, 2023

On the Nasty Origin of Conspiracy-based Criticism of Walkable Neighborhoods

In the last week or so you may have seen a story at NPR on 15 minute cities, "It's a global climate solution — if it can get past conspiracy theories and NIMBYs."

at NPR

Willamette University historian Seth Cotlar picked up on it, and wrote about subtexts and maintexts for a great proportion of the criticism, commenting on "The 55 year history behind the conspiracy theories dogging today's advocates of 15-minute cities."

via Rightlandia

His research, which he was documenting on twitter, before it was eMuskulated, and now is sharing on substack, focuses on Walter Huss, who managed to become Chair of the Oregon GOP for a brief period on the late 70s.

August 13th, 1978 and March 13th, 1984

At the time Huss was regarded as a fringey nutjob, but his temperament and interests have become mainstreamed now. He was forerunner, not fringe.

In public he presented as a "common-sense conservative," an ostensibly reasonable White Christian Nationalist, and in private he was much, much worse.

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Spot Problem or System Problem? Safer Streets Map is Limited

When the City announced this week with great hoopla a new interactive map for "Safer Streets," the first thing that came to mind was the busted up crosswalk stop sign on Market Street at Winter, on the formal Neighborhood Greenway, and right at the Elementary School.

They finally gave up on replacing the sign!
School crosswalk on Market at Winter

Some combination of the City and School District seem to have decided to abandon the stop sign and stop replacing it because drivers keep hitting it.

But that should be a sign the crosswalk needs further hardening! It needs more, not less. Removing the sign is bass-ackwards.

So the intersection of Winter and Market was a logical place to comment and make a request.

At Winter & Mission: Rejected!

But even though the map's name is "City of Salem Neighborhood Traffic Concern Reporting Portal" you can't report this! It kicks you out to another map and set of forms. Screw that. That's just another, counterintuitive barrier, more administrative sludge.

The City should consolidate maps and just employ one single reporting tool.

The whole thing is too limited, in fact. The City clearly envisions it for spot reporting on a very limited menu of problems. Citizens are already enlarging its scope, and some tried to focus more on corridors.

Friday, October 13, 2023

Notes on Walk to a Park Day

In the press and city PR for National Walk to a Park Day this week, the City underlined that only half of residents live within a 10 minute walk to a park. Here are some meandering notes on that - a walk, as it were.

Crossing Liberty near Skyline - via FB

Wednesday paper

Proximity alone is not always an inducement or barrier. The quality of a walk matters also! Does it feel comfortable and safe? Often enough a 20 minute walk on pleasant streets beats a 10 minute walk along a dusty, zoomy stroad.

The City said

Salem joins the Trust for Public Lands and its 10-Minute Walk initiative to build quality parks close to home and eliminate the park equity gap.

It would be helpful to learn more about the 51% statistic (and its reciprocal, 49% live within a 10 minute walk). 

The Trust for Public Land itself appears to make a different claim, and suggests 71% of Salem residents live within a 10 minute walk. That's a non-trivial gap of more than 20%!

Trust for Public Land assessment

In the 2013 Parks Master Plan, the deficiencies seemed to be clustered in unincorporated Marion County, east of I-5.

Proposed parks, 2013

Additionally, however, there might be data weirdness. The Trust for Public Land map for Liberty School and Wendy Kroger Park looks very odd. (This cropped up in the first instance of the map from 2020.)

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Loss, Clinging, Regeneration: Tree Care, the Life Cycle, and Art

Over the weekend the Oregonian online had a very interesting piece, part of a series it appears, on Oak trees in the winery and vineyard ecosystem, metaphorically and literally.

"Cho Wines in Hillsboro is looking for a few good acorn hunters" features the Willamette University acorn project, and quotes Professor David Craig.

To replace some of the white oaks lost to nearly 200 years of Willamette Valley development, Lois and David Cho are participating in a partnership between Willamette University’s student-led Oregon Oaks project..."Wineries have a special opportunity to plant oaks in places that will allow large old oaks to grow, but they’ll have a few decades of small, not very impressive trees....it will take planning on the scale of decades, like is done with the management of old vines," Craig said....Craig also stresses the importance of advocating for the trees that are still standing. "Planting acorns to promote more Oregon white oak is absolutely necessary, but the higher priority is protecting the very large, very complicated, and very old Oregon oak trees which provide unique structures for biodiversity," Craig said.

The context was rural and sub-urban agriculture and the open space of vineyard land.

Here, urban Oaks in more constrained contexts have been in the news lately.

A killer tree in happier times (2013)

Salem Reporter had a series of articles on a tree whose falling branch killed a person recently.

Late last month the paper had a front page brief on a new pest, which may impact both rural and urban Oaks.

September 30th

And there's an ongoing problem at the IOOF Pioneer Cemetery with trees, especially Oaks. This summer another big tree failure toppled tombstones.

Tree damage (early July)

While a tree does not intend damage the way a vandal does, the total damage to cemetery monuments in the last few years from trees is unquestionably much greater than any damage from vandalism over the same interval. A few notes here:

Here's more from January 2022.

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Drivers Strike and Kill People Walking on Lancaster Drive and Highway 22

In the past week, in separate crashes two drivers have struck and killed people on foot in the Salem area. In both instances Police took care to note people were not in marked crosswalks. On Lancaster Drive marked crosswalks are spaced inconveniently apart, and Highway 22 west of Salem has no meaningful crosswalks. Both crashes also occurred at night. Subtly in one case, more overtly in the other, the Police releases directed blame at the person on foot for improper walking. 

Over 1/4 mile between signalized crosswalks
at Sunnyview and Wolverine

From Salem Police today:

A 64-year-old Salem man was killed in a traffic collision in the 2000 block of Lancaster DR NE just north of Sunnyview RD on Monday night, October 9.

Emergency responders were called to the area at approximately 10:00 p.m. on the report of a man struck by the driver of a sedan as he walked across Lancaster DR. The pedestrian, Ronald Bert Olbekson, was pronounced deceased at the scene.

The Salem Police Traffic Team responded, and their preliminary investigation revealed Olbekson was walking eastbound across Lancaster DR outside the marked crosswalk when he was struck by the car which was traveling northbound. 

The driver, 20-year-old Daniel Chavarria Gaytan, and a 16-year-old passenger were uninjured in the collision. Gaytan remained at the scene and is cooperating with the investigation.

No citations have been issued or an arrest made as the investigation is ongoing.

As is easy to see on the aerial (at top), the area is rich with destinations and driveways, and it is reasonable for a person on foot to want to cross Lancaster without so much out-of-direction travel to the marked crosswalks on Wolverine or Sunnyview. All the driveways also create ambiguous corners that might look like unmarked crosswalks.

Lots of crashes on Lancaster (also Market)
SKATS, 2017-2021

Lancaster is terrible, and for the five years of 2017-2021 you can see lots of crashes on it with people on foot. This is not some isolated case of supposedly improper walking. On Lancaster this is a whole system problem with a terrible, dangerous stroad that induces risky driving practices and punishes people on foot.

About a second crash there is less to say.

Monday, October 9, 2023

Sustainable Cities Residency Kicks-off Wednesday with Open House

On Wednesday the 11th, the City and University of Oregon are kicking off the public phase of the Sustainable City residency program at Peace Plaza. (With the current weather, it seems very possible they will move indoors to the Anderson rooms.)

Kick-off and Open House flier

One of the classes of particular interest here is a GIS course in the Geography department. Geography 482/582 will conduct "walkability and corridor assessments."

Walk Score for Salem

There is already Walk Score, which could be refined. A full service grocery store nearby is more valuable than a convenience store, and the algorithm may not fully account for this. Equally, a big box store with ample sidewalk connectivity but bounded by zoomy stroads, is less walkable than a somewhat smaller store on less busy streets. There are qualitative nuances that probably could be added to the algorithm. Walkability isn't just about destinations and raw proximity, it is also about quality of connection.

Friday, October 6, 2023

A Toast to Roger Hull's Historic Preservation Work

Terrible news this evening from Hallie Ford Museum of Art. When they are celebrating their 25th anniversary, they must also mourn.

via FB

This evening they announced the passing of Professor Emeritus Roger Hull. There will be plenty to say from the art world in encomia. 

What may get less attention is Hull's work for historic preservation and on Salem's history. Here are a few moments.

He wrote the Court Street Chemeketa Street Historic District Nomination.

Court-Chemeketa HD, written by Hull

He was active in conversation about the loss of old, historic homes on the Capitol Mall.

Thursday, October 5, 2023

City Council, October 9th - Climate Mitigation for Parking Lots

On Monday Council looks to have a short set of items on the agenda. Two are of interest here.

Some search results for "parking lot solar awning"

Council will hold a First Reading for a set of code amendments for climate mitigation on large parking lots and increased housing options.

The proposed code amendment will require climate mitigation when developing new parking lots larger than one-half acre; allow existing parking lots citywide to be converted by a public agency to park and rides; allow single-room occupancy housing in all residential, commercial, and mixed-use zones;

The parking lot provisions include options for:

  • More trees,
  • Solar installations, or
  • Paying into a fund for new wind and solar power

The State is making these requirements, so the code package is largely a matter of compliance with those requirements, and hopefully should be a straightforward adoption.

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Critter Art at Public Works, Asking the Legislature to Fund the Acid Ball Eco Earth

Though with the budget crisis and debate on the payroll tax the optics are terrible at this moment, the new Public Works building looks pretty neat!

Drawings from a year ago

The paper published yesterday a suite of photos from the private, soft opening, and here are some comments.

The interior light looks pretty great, especially on dreary winter days. Hopefully that's a representative image, not something juiced for promos.

The light looks pretty nice!

Half of the art seemed visible. I could not discern anything for the interior by Claire Burbridge. Maybe it hasn't been installed. (See update below!)

The outer sculpture by Brad Rude was visible though. For water and sewer, and our location in Oregon, the beaver seemed properly iconic! Did they put the beaver in a stormwater swale, even? My first impression is that the beaver should have been the dominant figure, though.

A beaver is a natural engineer of water

The ram may be too much of a nod to a truck brand, and if we are meant to see the beaver as a symbol of water management, I am not sure how to get to transportation from the ram, other than by the big truck brand.

Still, even without any symbolic interpretation, the critter art looks like something that will be enjoyed broadly in ways that the Eye of Salem Sauron at the Police Station never will be.

Monday, October 2, 2023

Sunday History Column on Anti-Catholic Legislation points to Much More

The history column in the Sunday paper on the anti-Catholic "religious garb" legislation was nice to see. Not that the topic was reassuring, but the second Klan and the radicalism of reactionary conservatism deserve much more attention at our particular moment.

Brief reference to the Klan

With word count limits, the piece could only go so far. Its focus was on the aftermath and struck a positive tone, on "collaboration" and "partnership," not on conflict, and contained only a brief reference to the second Klan. 

There is so much more to say of course! In particular the Klan wasn't just "them," just some vague and mysterious force out there. It was "us." Many Salemites were sympathetic and a substantial number were active in it. In March of 1923, Salem Mayor Giesy attended a public Klan banquet, you may recall.

It also relates to Mill history. Narrowly, Thomas B. Kay, owner of the Woolen Mill, voted for the anti-Catholic religious garb bill. More generally, the Kay family seems to have displayed sympathy for Klan politics and may even have been active in it.

Legislative preview, January 9th, 1923

There is a need for research on tension and sympathy between Thomas B. Kay, who was prominent in State government in the 1910s and 20s, and Speaker of the House Kaspar K. Kubli, whose initials say everything about his politics. There may be specialist academic histories on this, but any discussion has not influenced enough our popular history.

The relation was not likely a simple one. In the primary election of 1922, through a front organization and under dodgy auspices, the Klan endorsed Fannie Kay Bishop, sister of Thomas B. Kay. They could have endorsed, but did not, Thomas.

May 17th, 1922

Bishop danced around repudiating the endorsement, saying only that she had "not sought the endorsement or entered into alliance with any organization..." (Also in that May 17th issue.)