Thursday, May 6, 2010

As Go the Chickens, so Goes the Music

Salem has high turn-out for ElderTunes, like the Symphony or Opera, but not so much for the ClubTones at modest levels at 10pm.

ClubTones, it turns out, also gets the City's panties in a bunch!

Just last week we learned about the woman who brought the Met's HD broadcasts to the Regal Santiam Stadium 11. Demographics matter in Salem. No Trader Joes.

K. Williams Brown has zeroed in on an index issue just as relevant as urban hens. Yesterday in the Statesman she wrote a story about night life, livability, and an outdated noise ordinance and followed it up today with a report on the hearing, which yielded a request for written arguments and a delay in a decision.

The arguments offer that deja vu all over again feeling.

Salem likes its chickens the way it likes its music! To turn armchair sociologist for a moment, we have a feeling that the chickens appeal to settled folks the way the music appeals to younger folks. Both are matters that seem trivial to outsiders, but which are indexes for a host of other livability issues. They are generational banners for change. And both threaten people the same way.

Brown writes:
David Glennie, who runs the company that built and owns the rental properties, said he didn't see it as an issue.

"I think the Statesman Journal's done a remarkable job in drumming up a controversy," he said. "Congratulations."

In the longer article yesterday, Councilor Laura Tesler zeroed in on the core issues:
"We wanted mixed-use and we were all really excited about it," Councilor Laura Tesler said in a phone interview. "You know, I guess I thought most people who would live downtown or on Broadway would be OK with noise ... But I guess people do have the right to be able to open their window on a hot night after 10 and not having sound pounding in their window."

"We never thought about it, never even discussed it. And I have to admit, that was a faux pas on our part."
The measured noise levels are, it turns out, far below "sound pounding on their window." But the code is at best awkwardly situated to regulate this since it uses over-simple categories appropriate to 1950s suburban development.

The Mayor doesn't want any change. According to Mayor Taylor,
"I've lived in Salem since 1956 and experienced a tremendous amount of live music over my many, many years, so I think we have entertainment zones where a business feels that they can be successful and follow the current noise ordinance," she said.

And, she said, she was concerned with whether anyone would want to live downtown if there was an entertainment zone.

"You've got about eight blocks where we're trying to encourage the mixed-use ... if you had loud music until 1, 2 in the morning, you would get nobody. You might get some people who want to be there with the loud music, but you're not going to get a good mix of residents."
The noise ordinance, however, sets a 10pm cut-off.

Between 10pm at 2am is a vast middle ground. We don't think the owners of The Space are asking for a 2am time. We bet they are asking for something more like midnight on a weekend.

If Salem wants mixed-use development, as it should, if Salem wants to retain some proportion of its talented young people, its residents have to tolerate and indeed encourage real diversity and vitality, not a neutered suburban blandness suitable for residents who pine for a return to Mad Men and Far from Heaven.

Two of Willamette Week's top 10 bands for 2010 were Salem bands: Typhoon and Wampire both moved to Portland. While it still may be necessary for bands to move to Portland, current policies and prevailing cultural norms practically enforce an exile for talented young adults. It would be nice for that to become a difficult choice rather than no-brainer.

(Image: Far from Heaven)


  1. I have been reading about this issue closely. I have to say I am surprised that anyone that lived in a mixed use area isn't expecting some noise. Mixed use is meant to bring both together which means you will smell bakery and delis that are down below you, you'll get traffic noise, and you'll get late night noise.

    Subdivisions are for people that don't want that.

  2. We like what Virginia Green has to say in the new Historic Downtown Walking Tour booklet (more thoughts on which are in the works!):

    "Once upon a time, before shopping malls and giant parking lots, Salem families could find everything they wanted within a few downtown blocks...a variety of small retail establishments answer[ed] every household need. People of modest means lived downtown on the second floors above the shops and the more prosperous walked the few blocks from their fine homes. It was, in fact, the model of current Urban Redevelopment."

    We hope that this model doesn't include quite the same class differentiation: Higher-density residential above commercial space should not be exclusively "modest" as she puts it. At the same time, the residences shouldn't all be luxury condos, either. We hope for a greater diversity of means and lifestyles.

    And the activity level and ambient noise is, as you say, expected to be higher.

    We find interesting the appeal (implied or direct) to recent history - the 1950s - and leap-frogging the slightly more distant history of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

    We think this the noise and activity is, on balance, a good thing and that Salem needs less subdivision and suburb and more downtown.