Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Bits on Climate Coverage, Mahonia Hall, McGilchrist Area

It was good to see on the front page yesterday a big headline, "Heat records alarm scientists."

Front page yesterday

It was a national USA Today story about ways current temperatures, both land and ocean, are not just meeting but exceeding those in climate change models.

But so many of our local stories are also climate stories, and the paper could do much more on making connections. There's a misalignment in tone and detail on climate between national stories and our local stories. For more examples of disconnects between climate and local news see:

March 15th, 1924

100 years ago the afternoon paper showed a drawing for the house we now know as Mahonia Hall. I am a little puzzled by the use of "pretentious"! On the one hand, the house was bigger and fancier than anything in Salem at that time, and it would be reasonable to call it pretentious. On the other hand, the caption is sincere and positive, even flattering, and lacks negative connotations suggested by "pretentiousness." So it's hard to say how the house was received and understood by Salemites.

Lack of east-west connections

The City's announced street closure and detours for the first phase of the McGilchrist project at the intersection at 22nd.

Among other things, the detour map shows the lack of east-west connectivity between Hines/Mission on the north and Madrona on the south (compounded by the railroad and airport, of course). The industrial development really degraded any street grid. The City recently vacated a small segment of Cross Street, which by itself is not very meaningful, but in the context of the whole area, the City should be cautious about further disconnection and vacation.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Showdown on Aumsville: Drama at the MPO

On Tuesday the 26th, at the MPO is a showdown on how to admit Aumsville.


The conversation and debate last month led up to this. 

Since at least June of last year it has been known that the Feds had ruled that Aumsville was going to be joining the metropolitan area for the MPO. So how to add them? There was some flexibility on this part. The most simple way, and the way that was used 20 years ago when Turner was to join, was to give Aumsville a single representative and vote on the Policy Committee. This is to take the mode of the US Senate rather than the US House, a mode that gives very small jurisdictions and their residents the same voting weight as very large jurisdictions and their residents.

The City of Salem and Cherriots are interested in rebalancing things with a somewhat more proportional representation.

In February the Mayor of Aumsville, with 4,200 residents, said that "the city of Aumsville's voice will be diminished if Salem is provided additional votes."

One vote for 4,200 residents vs. 175,000

Mayor Hoy pointed out that Salem has 175,000 residents, whose voice is very diluted if they have the same voting weight as the 4,200 of Aumsville. Mayor Hoy asked for "fair and balanced representation."

175,000 residents vs. 4,200

Councilor Philips offered some additional math: "the city of Salem is equal to 42 'Aumsvilles'."

Salem = 42 Aumsvilles in population

The Mayor of Turner asked if Salem had had two votes, what would have been different.

Mystery of Thomas King Solved!

In the paper this morning the history column is an especially good one!

In today's paper

 A couple of years ago this obituary turned up in research on the Wallace orchards.

March 5th, 1904

Nothing else turned up in preliminary research on King, and it was something to put on the back burner for another time.

But now Kylie Pine has found a good deal more! This is great to see and will provide leads for further research. Check it out.

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Cherry Blossoms Arrive on Schedule this Year - But What's a Schedule Now?

Before the rain and cloudy skies arrived, did you get out to see the Cherry blossoms last weekend?

Wednesday's Seattle Times had a front page piece about tracking the dates of Cherry blossoms for science.

Seattle Times front page, 20th

They wrote:

In 2018, [university researchers] began collecting data on bud development and bloom for more than 100 trees covering 25 species on campus, to help inform local events centered on the bloom....

Records in Kyoto, Japan, and Washington, D.C., suggest those cities’ cherry trees are blooming earlier in response to a changing climate. UW researchers have hypothesized the bloom would also be earlier as a result of increases in spring temperatures but only if the trees experienced winter temperatures cool enough to complete their dormant, or rest period.

Researchers in 2011 found peak bloom in D.C. could be as much as four weeks earlier by 2080 depending on how much warming occurs.

“The cherry blossom has been kind of used as an indicator of climate change that we can see,” said Soo-Hyung Kim, a UW professor....

This year here in Salem peak bloom at the Capitol happened "on schedule," happily coincident with last weekend's nice weather and the officially scheduled "Blossom Day."

Front page here, March 17th

Last year, you may recall, it was "behind schedule."

Thursday, March 21, 2024

City Council, March 25th - A New Urban Renewal Area?

The most interesting item at Council on Monday is a proposal to create a new Urban Renewal Area. (Curiously, I thought we were going to start calling them Tax-Increment Financing Districts.) As Urban Renewal Agency, Council will consider initiating the process.

As the downtown Salem becomes built out, interest is growing in development and redevelopment opportunities within the north waterfront/north downtown area. Building on prior City-wide strategic planning efforts that examined areas for future urban renewal areas and current interest in redevelopment along Front Street, Staff is seeking Agency Board approval to begin the process of creating a new urban renewal area between the Riverfront-Downtown Urban Renewal Area and the North Gateway Urban Renewal Area.  This area meets the statutory requirement of “blight” due to changing economics, uses, and vacancies. With Board approval, staff will begin the process to create a new urban renewal area (URA) to assist with redevelopment of the area. Following the analysis of a potential new URA, staff would bring back to the Agency Board a draft plan, draft financial report, and draft geographical boundary for review before initiating the steps to adopt a new plan as outlined by Oregon Revised Statute.
Industrial parcels along Front St.

While the lots along Front Street, including riverfront parcels, have been slow to redevelop, there are also residences along Liberty, Commercial, and Broadway whose residents could be displaced in Urban Renewal. Drawing boundaries and considering displacement would need care.

A prior question that Council should insist on asking is how effective are the URAs to begin with. They are an instrument to fund wanted projects, but we have no idea how effective they are to "grow property tax valuation."

When it was closed, the value of the old Pringle Creek URA seemed to underperform a simple calculation of inflation.

It is nonsense, devoid of real meaning!
(Comments reversed in white added, chart from 2020)

In published materials, the City, seemingly willfully, has muddled city-wide property value appreciation in general with URA appreciation specific to the district. A few years back they trumpeted "growing assessed value," but they did not say anything about compared to what. In our current market a vacant, rotting building is "growing" in value. Merely to assert growing value is a trivial claim. And if the growth inside a URA is not exceeding the growth outside it, we should look more closely at whether we need that URA.

We need a more critical analysis, even audit, of the whole URA program and figure out whether it is really doing what we want it to do.

ODOT Online Open House at Charlie Foxtrot by Police Station is Thin and Weird

ODOT has a new online "Open House" for a project on Commercial Street near the new Police Station at the charlie foxtrot that is the intersection of Division, Front, and Commercial.

Part of the "Open House" imagery

The whole thing is weird.

The context map shows a much larger area

It says "Market Street to Union Street," but the detail map (at top) shows only a one block segment from Division to Union.

Is there more?

As for the Division to Union segment, overall it retains the Rube Goldberg system of crosswalks, islands, deviation, and multi-phase crossing procedure that together prioritize car travel and make walking and biking through it inconvenient.

The Open House has four numbered places on the map with a little more detail.

Monday, March 18, 2024

Grocery Outlet Looks to Open Store in South Salem

While lots of us hope for a new grocery store in the heart of downtown some day soon, an area that has seemed relatively well supplied with grocery stores, an area Safeway abandoned not too many years ago, and whose store was replaced by a Wilco, looks to get a new Grocery Outlet soon.

Grocery Outlet has initiated with City planning a "tenant build out of existing 17,366 sqft building into Grocery Outlet."

The building at 3975 Commercial St SE is next door to Northern Lights Theater Pub.

November 5th, 1964

The shopping center dates from the mid-60s, and unsurprisingly this part started out as a grocery store. Piggly Wiggly opened in 1964.

Approvals had been contested and took several months. (By our standards today it was not so long, but by theirs it was slow.)

October 11th, 1963

Within a few years ownership churned and a grocery store there operated in the 1970s under several different names.

Then it stopped being a grocery store, and now looks to return to that.

Nearby major grocery stores

Major stores nearby are Lifesource, Roths, Fred Meyer, Natural Grocers, Trader Joe's, and WinCo. Some of these are more niche, specialty grocers, but they are much larger than a corner store.

This would be the third Grocery Outlet in Salem, joining the downtown-ish one on D and Commercial and one on Lancaster Drive.

This is an interesting move and there might be more to say later.

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Meeting Bits: Parks & Rec, SCAN, Highland

The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board meets Thursday the 14th, and in the February minutes and March agenda are many interesting items to note briefly.

From the February minutes, mostly sentiment was very supportive of the concept for a West Coast League team and associated ballfield improvements at Bush Park, but one person was wary of it and expressed concern. (At SCAN also is a tidbit that organizers might seek funding from the Legislature, as on a larger scale the Hillsboro Hops successfully did for their new stadium. If more detail comes out on that, there may be more to say, as economists generally are skeptical of stadium subsidies.)

Beaver Board and Qing Ming Shrine

There was interesting news on the Beaver Board across Broadway/High from Boon's. Do we need two of them? Marking the Mission site seems like it remains appropriate, even if it also needs some new contextualization. Totally removing that marker might be a mistake, however. A new marker at Riverfront Park also seems appropriate to mark an original indigenous village site. That's an interesting conversation to watch.

A renovated Qing Ming shrine also sounds very interesting.

Battery chain saws and trimmers?

In new information reports for March, there is talk about converting at least some gas-powered tools to electric. (Previously on Quiet & Clean Salem.)

ODOT wants to hog space for Center St. Seismic

Unsurprisingly, ODOT wants to take over a lot of parking lot area for staging on the Center Street Bridge Seismic retrofit. They also want to take out a bunch of trees and other riparian plants.

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Will Scenario Planning just Restate the Obvious? At the MPO

The technical committee for our Metropolitan Planning Organization meets on Tuesday the 12th, and while there's no specific action item to comment on here, a broader and freer "project roundtable" discussion is a good hook for a couple of comments.

A couple of "roundtable" items

The Scenario Planning project has already garnered some informed concern about its methods and work products, chiefly that as it is currently organized here, it's not going to tell us anything we don't already know. A person with long experience generally and specific knowledge of the modeling package writes:

it is so high level ("strategic") that it largely tells us what we already know: our existing plans will fall far short of meeting GHG and VMT goals, and if we do lots of things differently (pricing, land use, investing in transportation options, driving cleaner cars, etc.) we can get at least close to those goals.   This is pretty much what we learned more than a decade ago from the STS, Metro's "Climate Smart" plan and efforts by a couple of other MPOs. What scenario planning leaves unanswered - and puts off to some future process - is proposing and evaluating ways that we might actually double or triple non-auto mode share or actually plan for 30% of all housing in climate friendly areas.

For example, instead of just assuming a particular amount of mixed use development (an input to the VisionEval model), the city should identify specific areas, including the proposed CFAs as areas that are planned for walkable, mixed use development. Similarly, instead of just assuming an increase in revenue hours of transit service (another VisionEval model input) identify specific routes where high levels of service would be provided - such as 10 minute peak hour service on several of the core transit network routes. And, for bike and pedestrian travel identify a set of actions that could reasonably be expected to support doubling or tripling the share of bike and pedestrian trips made throughout the city.   (Again, in VisionEval this is an input assumption.)  In short, the city should translate the VisionEval assumptions about levels of effort into specific proposals for changes to land use and transportation plans, policies and programs that could be expected to achieve these outcomes. [italics added]

Will the Scenario Planning be much more than wishcasting?

Saturday, March 9, 2024

City Council, March 11th - Ambulances and Trees

On Monday Council will consider a report on bringing ambulance service back into the Fire Department and ending the contract with a private business.

Reports arrive by magic!

Here what has seemed striking is how if we want a pedestrian safety study downtown, if we want a Vision Zero plan, if we want a Twenty is Plenty plan, a Councilor has to make a motion and Council has to approve it and approve an appropriation for it or approve a grant application.

But many of these Police and Fire studies and plans are apparently covered under an administrative purchase and approval process that doesn't even seem to hit the Council "administrative purchases" report. They just appear!

A search for the authors of the latest Fire Department report, "triton," turns up nothing, and a search for "ambulance" turns up several recent items, which crucially do not mention studying the prospect of bringing service in house.

There should be more public process, transparency, and Council oversight of these reports and studies.

Friday, March 8, 2024

Punch some Holes in the Wall! New Owners Should Open Mall to Sidewalks

In the news about the sale of the downtown mall to a consortium of Oregonians the main entries and skybridges were featured.

The dead blankness on Chemeketa Street

But as we've argued here several times over the years, a major problem with the mall is the way it moons the sidewalks, showing a blank backside only. Draining even more sidewalk activity, the skybridges only make that worse.

The corner is not characteristic

In Salem Reporter's story, one small bit is suggestive.

It’s early in the process, he said, but options for vacancies could include a grocery store, local food and beverage options with openings to the street, and entertainment.

“Our focus is going to be on determining what fits best with the needs of the community, and downtown specifically, as it goes through this incredible transformation,” he said.

Openings to the street! Yes, punch some holes in that facade and make it connect with sidewalk life and also give the building edge some visual interest for foot traffic. And demolish the rest of the skybridges!

The whole thing needs to be reoriented to downtown residents who will walk, and away from more distant visitors who will drive. Main street, not mall!

There's lots of promise here, and hopefully they can realize it.

Walter Huss lived in Salem in the late 1950s

It's been fascinating to read Seth Cotlar's ongoing research briefs as he develops a history of Walter Huss and his relation to Oregon mainstream conservatism and to reactionary expressions.

His latest is "'Silver Shirts for Reagan!': Walter Huss and the American 'conservative' tradition with roots in 1930s-era fascism."

Throughout his career as a public figure in Oregon (1960-2000), almost no one in the state’s media or politics used the “f-word” to describe Huss. He was usually categorized as “an ultraconservative,” “a charismatic preacher with traditionalist social views,” “a kook,” or, on a few occasions, “hate-monger.” In 1978, when former President Gerald Ford inquired with a Republican friend in Oregon as to whether they’d managed to oust Huss from the GOP chairmanship yet, Ford referred to Huss as “that nut.” Soon after being elected chair of the OR GOP in 1978, Huss gave an interview in which he made an off-hand reference to Portland’s “Jewish-controlled press.” That fascistic phrase raised a few eyebrows, but still, no media outlet at the time explicitly said “that’s how Hitler used to talk about the press!”....

To be sure, there were and are good reasons to be parsimonious with the use of the noun “fascist” or the adjective “fascistic” to describe our fellow citizens. But in this case, I feel quite confident saying that Walter Huss’s world view was “fascistic,” even if he always kept some plausibly deniable distance between himself and the more overt “fascists” in the Pacific Northwest, many of whom were Huss’s longtime friends, who plotted and engaged in acts of violence intended to bring about political change.

And it turns out Huss lived here in Salem for a while in the late 1950s. One of his projects was setting up schools. He knit himself into Salem society in other ways also.

Thursday, March 7, 2024

Hayesville Interchange Prompts Hayesville School to Move: More I-5 History

Another substantial impact from what became the I-5 alignment was at the Hayesville Interchange, where Portland Road, the old highway, intersected with the Salem Bypass and Salem-Portland Expressway, which together were absorbed into I-5 few years later.

Hayesville School, looking NE along Portland Rd.
(Salem Library Historic Photos, 1917)

Though its building and land were not directly required for the Interchange, a newly constructed onramp from Portland Road to the Expressway encroached on the front of the schoolyard and required children to cross a road where a new expectation for highway speed and flow was fundamentally incompatible with walking safety.

Looking SE at new Interchange, February 8th, 1961

In this 1961 photo, you can see a crosswalk striped across Portland Road and the start to the slip lanes and onramp. (I'm pretty sure that's right at the modern intersection of Astoria/Ward and Portland Road. In aerial views you can still see the outline of older ramps in compressed, less fertile soil and growth.)

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Throwaway Comment on Wife of George H. Williams Leads to Religious Cult and Fasting Deaths in 1890s

George H. Williams has been on the mind lately. As Territorial Judge, he decided Holmes v. Ford in 1853, which had been brought up by Mary Jane Holmes Shipley Drake. He was also mixed up in stories about a significant banker and Mayor here (and was himself Mayor in Portland a decade later).

Oregon Historical Society

When George H. died, the Oregonian called him "15th Amendment Williams." That Amendment is not directly in the news right now, though it is very present as background, but its neighbor, the 14th Amendment, is very directly in the news.

April 5th, 1910

Last year Fergus Bordewich's book, Klan War: Ulysses S. Grant and the Battle to Save Reconstruction, came out, and it seemed like it might have a good discussion of George H. Williams as Attorney General and his actual relation to the 15th Amendment and the Enforcement Acts.

Bordewich, a writer and popular historian, but not himself an academic historian, focuses on the activities of Williams' predecessor, Amos Akerman. Klan prosecution and Reconstruction itself was losing steam by the time Williams was appointed, and Bordewich doesn't discuss any Williams' authorship of the 15th Amendment. Or indeed very much about Williams at all.

Monday, March 4, 2024

Neighborhood just North of Geer Park May be Most Impacted by I-5 Corridor in 1950s

It turns out news articles are not the best way to find displacement, demolition, and condemnation for what became the I-5 alignment.

Auction ads are much better!

They show more houses moved or demolished than the news suggested. There are twenty six households represented in this list, just for the Salem Bypass, not including the Hayesville Interchange. This is not likely yet a complete list, and we may add to it. 

1957 Salem and Stayton USGS maps

The most impacted neighborhood might be the new one just north of what is now Geer Park up to Center Street.

October 14th, 1951

Additionally, the first ad in the series suggests this was a new method: "First time homes have been offered under this method by Highway Commission."

Saturday, March 2, 2024

Questions on Salem Bypass and Salem-Portland Expressway at Chemewa Indian School: More I-5 History

A query the other day about I-5 and Chemawa from historian SuAnn Reddick suggested the greatest Salem-area disruption from the I-5 system might be at Chemawa.

New expressway and bypass at Chemawa
January 29th, 1953

You may recall Reddick from the large package the paper ran in October of 2021 on the Chemawa Indian School, unmarked burials, and its policies and finances.

October 2021

She's been researching the history of Chemawa for a long time. 

She had found this piece that mentions the State Highway Commission approving a route for the Salem Portland Expressway, which "would bisect the Chemawa Indian School Property." Was there more?

November 25th, 1952

On the 24th, the day before, in its story on the Highway Commission's meeting, the evening paper had a little more and suggested the bisection might be contested.

Highway department officials were somewhat concerned over obtaining permission from the U. S. department of Indian affairs to route the new freeway through the school property.

However, these fears were abated with the announcement that Oregon's Governor Douglas McKay would be the new secretary of the interior, under whose jurisdiction the department of Indian affairs operates. There is little doubt that the new interior secretary will grant his approval to the request."

The paper seemed to be silent on the alignment at Chemawa, finding it of little consequence.