Thursday, November 30, 2023

Shrock Motor Company and Commercial Bank: Midcentury Style on Chemeketa at Church

As Salem Bike Vision says that "Union Street will be the key East-West Bike Corridor," I hope they do not lose sight of Chemeketa Street. It is twice is long as Union Street, going out to 24th instead of stopping at 12th, and it connects more directly to the heart of downtown. There is also now the proposed project on the old City Hall site, and housing conceptually proposed for the former State Insurance building site, both on key corners with Chemeketa. Union Street is crucial with its direct connection to the Union Street Bridge, but Chemeketa has always seemed more axial. Alas, the City has not improved it further, and the sharrows installed back in 2010 have seemed feeble and a temporizing dead-end rather than prelude to anything greater.

Chemeketa is pretty nice for walking, though, and on the north side of Chemeketa and Church, opposite the empty transit mall patio and the former Statesman offices, are two interesting midcentury modern buildings. And it turns out, their history is somewhat related.

Commercial Bank building (streetview, May 2012)

The earlier one, on the northeast corner, is now occupied by Amerititle. It had been a Hudson dealership, Shrock Motor Company, constructed in at least two phases between 1946 and 1948. Here's a clip on the second phase on the alley. The architect, Frederick Eley, later competed for the new County Courthouse, whose commission went to Pietro Beluschi. Eley might be someone we return to later.

September 17th, 1948

In May of 1954 Hudson merged and formed American Motors Corporation. About the same time, and it cannot be a coincidence, Clarence Shrock sold the property.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

From Church to Bank Drive-Thru: A Lot and Urban Erosion on Chemeketa Street

Over on FB a person posted a vintage postcard image of old City Hall.

via Postcard dealer Mary L. Martin

Across the alley was a portico that didn't look like the porch for a house or business. What was it?

Classical portico, detail

The lot is where the recently demolished drive-thru for Petro Belluschi's also demolished First National Bank had been located.

January 11th, 1955

At the very same time in 1955 Ladd & Bush Bank had demolished some buildings next door for their own drive-thru. These are candidates for the first instance of demolishing potentially useful buildings downtown for a low-intensity drive-thru use. In more suburban type development with plenty of open space that did not require demolition there may have been earlier drive-thru restaurants or other concepts. So I'm not saying these were the first absolutely, but there are reasons to think they were the first that replaced existing walkable development. That is a real moment in our autoism and the erosion of place. We'll return to this in more detail another time.

The lot's history of use is a little interesting. The 1890 Sanborn showed a small house on it.

Monday, November 27, 2023

What is Equitable and Proportional Representation? At the MPO

The Policy Committee for our Metropolitan Planning Organization meets on Tuesday the 28th, and the main thing on the agenda is thinking about representation. You'll recall over the years that non-urban interests are overweighted in the governance structure. This seemed particularly to be a problem in trying to get the MPO to consider greenhouse gas emissions when evaluating projects for funding. Non-urban interests had easy veto power.

The problem is gaining visibility, and in the November packet is a letter from Friends of Marion County, calling for more "equitable and proportional representation."

Letter from Friends of Marion County

They note

a single city council ward within the City of Salem boasts a population exceeding the combined populations of Turner...unincorporated Marion and Polk County...and the City of Aumsville combined.

In the current governance and voting structure, Salem is outvoted one to four, with Turner, Aumsville, Marion, and Polk County each have an equal vote to Salem. Moreover the requirement for unanimity on some votes give each an explicit veto, and the current culture of consensus gives an informal veto as well on other matters that don't require unanimity. 

Just an intuitive notion of fairness suggests the voting structure needs to be reconsidered, and there is also legal language calling for "equitable and proportional representation" on the MPO. Apparently interpretation of this is not settled, however, and there is formal rulemaking process underway with the Federal Highway Administration, which will yield more clarity in guidance. We'll see how they resolve it.

Previously on the problem of representation see:

Cherriots Director Sadie Carney has been particularly good on asking questions at the MPO, and here's another from last month about the way the MPO values and ostensibly "balances" congestion relief and safety.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

City Council, November 27th - A little Greenwash for the Airport

Also on Monday Council will consider a pricing update for airport parking:

At the Salem Municipal Airport, there is parking available for customers. The current daily rate is $15 per day and this action would decrease the rate to $10 per day to encourage more customers to use available parking spaces.

The Planning Division of the Community and Urban Development Department proposes adding a fee to comply with State of Oregon rules around Climate Friendly and Equitable Communities....

The new fee will set a charge of $1,500 per parking space for the proportion of climate mitigation not resolved with solar power generation and / or tree canopy.

Later in the Council agenda for Monday is the Second Reading for enactment of the new parking lot rules that include the provision for the fee. So the City is getting ahead of the new rule and somewhat voluntarily applying it.

Last week's Community Report and
this week's Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan

But consider it this way: The City encourages driving and parking and more emissions by reducing the price to park, and then adds back a climate surcharge, as if that somehow reduces the emissions you instead induced? Not to mention the fossil fuel and emissions from the air flight itself.

That's hard to embrace sincerely and whole-heartedly.

The point is to reduce emissions, not to increase them and then by a dodgy bookkeeping move somehow to offset and "mitigate" them.

Some headlines this month

The move looks like some greenwash for the airport. It is implicit recognition of a trade-off, but is a little glib and superficial, even BS.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

City Council, November 27th - Restoring the Church Street Bridge

Of all the Salem bridges associated with the influence of Conde McCullough and more directly R. A. Furrow, the Church Street bridge is the most picturesque and merits the greatest effort in preservation. If the other bridges are replaced at the end of their expected 100 year lifespan, it would be terrific for the Church Street bridge to be restored and preserved as the best example of the 1920s/30s bridges here. (See the appreciation at On the Way from 2014.)

Stairs on the Church St Bridge (2014)

At Council on Monday is news that the City has submitted to ODOT four requests to fund bridge repairs in the 2027-2030 cycle. As context the City adds: "19 of the City’s 58 bridges are greater than 90 years old and bridges are normally designed for a 100-year design life. The average age of the City’s bridges is 63 years old."

  1. Turner Road SE over Mill Creek - $15.4 million replacement project. This 66-year-old bridge provides the main connection to the City of Turner.
  2. Church Street SE over Pringle Creek - $2.9 million rehabilitation project to fix bridge rails, concrete deck, and substructure cracking. This 94-year-old historic bridge is adjacent to Pringle Park near the Salem Hospital.
  3. Airport Road SE over Shelton Ditch - $8.5 million replacement project. This 69-year-old bridge is functionally obsolete due to its narrow width. It also lacks pedestrian and bicycle facilities.
  4. Liberty Street SE over Pringle Creek - $40.3 million replacement project. This 95-year-old historic bridge is experiencing scour concerns and additional concrete degradation at multiple locations.

Three of the projects are replacements, and the rehabilitation project is indeed for the Church Street bridge! Hopefully there is money for all of them.

Moss, delamination and flaking, corrosion
Church St Bridge (2017)

Here, then, is another item to be thankful for. Not all the bridges associated with McCullough can be preserved. They are at the end of the 100 year life, and it's fine to celebrate them and also replace them. (As we did with the Commercial Street bridge at Mirror Pond and the Winter Street bridge at the Hospital.)

But since the Church Street bridge is lovely, the auto travel demands on it are not so high, and we should be promoting non-auto travel on Church Street anyway, it should have a reasonable chance of lasting beyond 100 years. The rehabilitation project is terrific.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

City Council, November 27th - A Project for the Old City Hall Site!

Here's something to be thankful for this weekend! On Monday, as Urban Renewal Agency, City Council will consider a plan for redeveloping the Old City Hall site, a long time void in the downtown urban fabric. Be still my beating heart.

High and Chemeketa (streetview, 2012)

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

At the URA is not full consideration of any site plan. It's important to say the project is still conceptual and we've seen proposals for this corner before.

Abandoned concept for High & Chemeketa (2007)

Here's a much grander concept from 2007 or so. It was abandoned in the Great Recession of 2008. Since then the bank on Chemeketa and Liberty was demolished and we still have Belluschi Pond and Crater, which is not part of the proposal at the URA on Monday. 

It's been a struggle to get this block face of Chemeketa going, and it has been very low-value surface parking for 50 years. This new proposal is so welcome.

At the URA is a request for grant and grant exception.

Agency Board action is needed to approve a grant in the amount of $749,999 as an exception to the maximum grant amount of $300,000, which is the maximum amount that can be approved by the Director...

The proposed project is a redevelopment of an existing paid, public parking lot located at 277 High Street NE. Until demolition in 1972, the parking lot was the original location of the old Salem City Hall....

The current redevelopment plan is to demolish the existing parking lot and replace it with a new six-story, mixed-use building, including 105 units, of which seven units will be ground floor commercial live/work units with street front access for the business owners/residents. Fifteen percent of the total units, or 16 units, will be affordable. Total project costs are estimated to be $27M....

The design of the building will include a lobby, community deck, resident community room and on-site bike washing, storage and repair station. The unit mix will be comprised of studios, and one- and two-bedroom units.

An estimated 26-29 parking spaces will be included onsite and residents will be encouraged to use alternative modes of transportation.

Again, as a concept, what's not to love here? And this is the right kind of project for the URA grant funding.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

With more Tolerance for Jaydriving, Salem shifts to Prohibit Jaywalking in 1923

100 years ago, back in 1923 Salem City Council passed its first ordinance penalizing the new crime of jaywalking.

February 27th, 1923

The real momentum came that spring.

March 28th, 1923

After several rounds of debate, the final package of ordinances attracted more attention for parking reform, and it was parking limits that got the big headline in November.

November 20th, 1923

For Salem, this moment in 1923 seemed to be a real cusp, a tipping point in the shift to full Autoism.

August 15th, 1923

An earlier note had expressed the sentiment that people on foot posed a greater danger than those in cars. Pedestrian control rather than car and driver control was the central matter. Jaydriving was a trivial matter. Jaywalking was the big problem. Any asymmetry in lethality was just ignored or erased.

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Tribal Histories Lecture and Book Talk, Monday, November 20th

Tuesday the 14th was the official release date and book launch for Tribal Histories of the Willamette Valley.

On Monday the 20th at 4:30pm in the Putnam Center there is a lecture at Willamette University to support and promote it!

They say:

The Willamette Valley is rich with history—its riverbanks, forests, and mountains have been home to the tribes of Kalapuya, Chinook, Molalla, and more for thousands of years. This history has been largely unrecorded, incomplete, poorly researched, or partially told. In these stories, enriched by photographs and maps, Oregon Indigenous historian David G. Lewis combines years of researching historical documents and collecting oral stories, highlighting Native perspectives about the history of the Willamette Valley as they experienced it.

The timeline spans the first years of contact between settlers and tribes, the takeover of tribal lands the creation of reservations by the US Federal Government, and the assimilation efforts of boarding schools. Lewis shows the resiliency of Native peoples in the face of colonization.

Undoing the erasure of these stories reveals the fuller picture of the colonization and changes experienced by the Native peoples of the Willamette Valley, absent from other contemporary histories of Oregon. 

David G. Lewis, Ph.D. and member of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, is a recognized researcher, scholar, writer and assistant professor of anthropology and Indigenous studies at Oregon State University.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Parade Photo may show Rough Riders on State Street in September of 1899

For a Veterans Day post, the Historic Landmarks Commission reposted this photo from the Library's historic photo collection.

"Military marching band" on State Street
(Salem Library Historic photos)

It was worth a closer look. A decade or so ago, we remarked here on some lady bicyclists in the background. Was there more?

Ladies on bike (detail)

In the foreground, it certainly does look like a "military marching band." Earlier I had thought a sign on a building might be a significant clue, but that is likely a red herring. It is interesting anyway!

Advertisement for Walter L. Main circus (detail)

In the back pasted onto a building wall is a large ad for the Walter L. Main circus. It appeared a few times in the late 1890s here.

Monday, November 13, 2023

High Crash Corridors: At the MPO

The technical committee for our Metropolitan Planning Organization meets on Tuesday the 14th, and in their agenda is finally some published information on the Safety Plan project. It has not had agendas or meeting packets published in any formal Public Notice process, and so it has been operating largely in stealth mode.

Here is a proposed list of twenty "high injury crash corridors."

High crash corridors

These track closely to any intuitive sense of zoomy, busy streets that are uncomfortable for walking and biking.

One way the table might be improved is to focus less on "daily traffic," as if the primary problem was simply count of cars and drivers, and to replace that column with a measure of speed and perhaps add a measure of lane width. These vary of course over a corridor segment of a mile or two, but we should highlight that a street with 20,000 daily car trips averaging 20mph is less lethal than a stroad with 20,000 daily trips at an average of 40mph. The count of cars by itself is not a very helpful measure.

At number six on the list is Silverton Road from the intersection with Portland Road to west of I-5.

Silverton Road bond project

As it happens, this segment will be one of the first rehabilitation projects funded by the Salem infrastructure bond. Council recently saw the sidewalk projects rolled up into the larger road project.

Over at our Strong Towns group recently there has been discussions of 4/3 safety conversions and of more narrow lane widths.

Saturday, November 11, 2023

City Council, November 13th - Scenario Planning

Council meets on Monday and they will look to approve an intergovernmental agreement with ODOT for scenario planning.

From the Staff Report:

The regional scenario planning process requires the Salem-Keizer metropolitan area to evaluate and determine what changes are needed to land use and transportation plans and programs in order to meet the State’s Greenhouse Gas (GHG) reduction targets. The process is similar to the scenario planning work that was done with the Our Salem project; the focus then was on land use changes. Staff anticipates that the new regional scenario planning work will focus on transportation changes, including current and future investments in active transportation, fleet and fuels, transit, pricing, parking management, education, marketing, and roads. Specifically, the planning process will establish regional performance targets and local performance measures that Salem will then incorporate into its Transportation System Plan.

I hope that the Scenario Planning process will in fact yield "performance targets" and "performance measures." 

But so far, the scenario planning work in Our Salem has been so very squishy. See the header image for the blog! That "preferred scenario" hardly made a dent in emissions. 

The Climate Action Plan has all this groovy language about a 50% reduction by 2035, just a little over a decade away, and yet our actual planning and progress look remote from attaining this. The link between target/measure and action has not been very close.

Oriented to process rather than a plan
(DLCD, August 2022)

A year ago, a one pager from DLCD used more general language, and talked about helping people "understand issues." That might set more realistic expectations for this round of Scenario Planning.

If Salem only were involved we might be able to attain those firmer performance targets and measures. But the process specifically calls for "consensus":

A regional advisory committee - referred to by the State as a “governance structure” - will be formed to make key decisions during the scenario planning process. The City has worked with staff and elected officials from the City of Keizer and Marion County to propose the following composition of the committee of elected or appointed members: three Salem members, two Keizer members, two Marion County members, and one member from Cherriots. The committee will make decisions by consensus.

Even if representatives from Salem and Cherriots embrace climate action, there is no way representatives from Keizer and Marion County are going to support urgency in climate action. Consensus in governing structure looks like recipe for watering down, and the project outcomes and deliverables will be rounded down to the lowest common denominator (even as the framing rhetoric will round up to the most optimistic outcome).

Still, hopefully the process will be able to give more visibility to current incoherence in our planning.

Friday, November 10, 2023

With Parade from Fairgrounds to Downtown and Back, Klan Celebrated Salem Charter 100 Years Ago

On his 90th birthday in 1978, retired Pastor V.K. Allison of Santa Cruz was celebrated as a kindly old man who loved music and the ministry.

Santa Cruz Sentinel
March 9th, 1978

A full lifetime earlier, on November 10th in 1923, pastor V.K. Allison of Lebanon preached here in Salem at the Fairgrounds as the "Grand Titan" of a local KKK. (In other reports from 1923 and 1924 he was also "Exalted Cyclops.")

November 11th, 1923

The morning paper reported him saying:

All ideas of pure Americanism, no immigration in any degree from southern Europe and Asia, the supremacy of the American race and the necessity of keeping the blood of the Anglo-Saxon race are the objects of the Ku Klux Klan...The Ku Klux Klan is anti-nothing that is not anti-American. It strives to teach the doctrine of pure Americanism. Alien influences have grown to such an extent in this country that they made necessary an organization to teach and sustain the ideals of Anglo-Saxonism. The Ku Klux Klan stands for the principles of Protestantism and believes that the present position occupied by the United States was attained because it was a Christian nation and was Protestant.

November 12th, 1923

The afternoon paper highlighted the "plea for white supremacy" and echoed phrases from the morning paper.

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Rezoning the Former Reform School and Prison Annex Area: At the Planning Commission

You might recall an odd story a year ago about some land being auctioned by the State. There were claims of native burials and both the lots lines and the line between family lore and verifiable historical fact seemed rather fuzzy.

State Reform School for Boys, c.1900
(State Library of Oregon)

That land has apparently been sold, and the City's published a Hearing Notice for zoning changes requested by the new owners.

New zoning proposed

As with the former north campus of the State Hospital and with the former Fairview, this proposal for redevelopment of an abandoned state institution is fascinating. The concept here places any project at the intersection of a lot of interesting and important debates we are having right now.

Monday, November 6, 2023

With Events at Armory and Fairgrounds in 1923, Klan had Pervasive Salem Support

Back in March of 1923 there was a Klan lecture at the Armory downtown. For an even bigger rally and parade in November, the Klan used the Fairgrounds.

The morning paper seemed pretty excited about the November event. They wrote about a "great gathering" with a "parade of thousands." The notice was more PR than reported news.

Oct. 21st, 1923

By contrast, the afternoon paper was a little skeptical, and did a basic kind of actual reporting to find out whether the Fairgrounds had actually been rented to the Klan and who was responsible for approving any rental.

October 22nd, 1923

Other than Mayor Giesy's appearance at a Klan banquet earlier in the year, the scope of local approval for and participation in the Klan has not been very explicit. They were a secret society, after all. But the fact that they were able to use the Armory and Fairgrounds suggests the magnitude of local government approval and general popularity.

Earlier this year, Eugene Weekly had written about an exhibit at the Lane County History Museum that extended and built on the Oregon Black Pioneers traveling exhibit, "Racing to Change." (Which just started at Salem Library this month.)

Eugene membership list, October 26th, 1922

They wrote:

In 1922, the Salem Capital Journal published a list of all registered Klan members in Eugene, found during a raid in Los Angeles. In Eugene, however, the story was buried by the city’s paper, whose editor had Klan ties.

As a way to confront this history, the Lane County History Museum now displays the list in its entirety — the first time it has been publicized since its original publication in the Salem newspaper. The names include such community leaders as J.H. Shelton, publisher of the Eugene Evening Guard, and C.A. Huntington, star of the 1917 University of Oregon football team that beat Penn in the third Rose Bowl, and later a UO coach.

So far no similar membership list for Salem has turned up. Still, some glimpses are visible.

Sunday, November 5, 2023

Climate Action Plan Committee to see Student Public Relations Project

Yesterday the paper featured on the front page (but not at all online) a new warning from "legendary climate scientist James Hansen": Things are heating up faster than the current standard forecasts say.

Front page yesterday

On Monday our own Climate Action Plan Committee meets, and they might consider more strongly the urgency expressed in this comment from Hansen.

LA Times, Thursday

On their agenda are several items that do not seem to communicate much urgency.

from the UO SCI Open House last month

One item on the agenda is part of the University of Oregon Sustainable Cities residency. It is focused on "public relations," and an ongoing concern here is that the City fundamentally sees response to our Climate Crisis as a problem of public relations rather than a problem of reducing emissions.

from draft 2023 Annual Report

It also appears to repeat the frame of individual responsibility, which you will recall is a discourse of delay.