Generic Form Letters Mailed To Owners Of Poorly Maintained Surface Parking Lot Notifying Them Of Code Violations

In May I posted about the parking lot to the East of my condo building, see Deplorable Surface Parking Lot At 1601 Locust Cited, Fined. The next month I submitted a request to the city for copies of the notice(s) sent to the owner. I’ve finally received  them. Here’s the timeline: …

August 2nd Primary Precinct Turnout Ranged From 7.46% to 675%: St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners

While the battle over absentee ballots on the 78th House race continuers (see Absentee ballot applications and their envelopes are public record, St. Louis judge rules), I decided to focus on voter turnout at the precinct-level. Two days after the August 2nd primary I posted about the outcome: A Look at Some …

Sunday Poll: Two Questions on Urban Food Production

A number of things online recently got me thinking about urban food production: City and suburban agriculture takes the form of backyard, roof-top and balcony gardening, community gardening in vacant lots and parks, roadside urban fringe agriculture and livestock grazing in open space. (USDA) One of the things that got …

An Example Of How The St louis Region Fails Pedestrians, Transit Users

Part of the implied contract when taking a bus to a destination is when you’re dropped off at your stop, you’ll be able to get to the corresponding stop in the opposite direction for the return trip. Seems simple enough, right? But in many parts of the St. Louis region …

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Generic Form Letters Mailed To Owners Of Poorly Maintained Surface Parking Lot Notifying Them Of Code Violations

August 30, 2016 Downtown, Featured, Parking 10 Comments

In May I posted about the parking lot to the East of my condo building, see Deplorable Surface Parking Lot At 1601 Locust Cited, Fined. The next month I submitted a request to the city for copies of the notice(s) sent to the owner. I’ve finally received  them.

Standing water in some of the many holes in the paving, August 23rd
Standing water in some of the many holes in the paving, August 23rd

Here’s the timeline:

  • Friday June 3 @ 9:09am: Emailed request to St. Louis’ centralized custodian of records.
  • Wednesday June 8 @ 4:43pm:  Reply from the city acknowledging the request, describing the process. “We anticipate completing this process during the week of June 13, 2016.”
  • Tuesday June 21 @ 10:03am: I replied to followup on the status.
  • Friday August 12 @ 11:02am: I replied again, but copied Maggie Crane in the mayor’s office, I wrote: “It’s been nearly three (3) months since my request was made. Guess I’ll have to file a complaint with the state…”
  • Friday August 12 @ 11:46am: I received a reply from the custodian of records: “I apologize for the delay in getting back to you regarding your above-referenced Sunshine Law request. I appreciate your patience in this matter. Attached are the responsive documents.”

I was initially encouraged when I found out the city had centralized the request process, as opposed to having a person in each department be familiar with Missouri’s Sunshine Law and ensure compliance. I was disappointed I didn’t receive a response by the date they said I would. I was upset when I didn’t get a reply to my followup email. By the time I remembered in mid-August I was furious.  I should’ve copied someone else on my initial followup of June 21st.  Lesson learned.

Cars overhanging & parked on the public sidewalk, August 23rd
Cars overhanging & parked on the public sidewalk, August 23rd

Here are the documents I received:

I now know the name of the building inspector, we’ve talked by phone and are communicating. I’ve asked if the owner is being fined and if it can be sent to court for prosecution of the violations. I’m not an expert in these matters, but I don’t think mailing letters to an LLC in Illinois regarding a surface parking lot with the first sentence that reads “Thank you for choosing to live in the City of St. Louis” is an effective strategy.

I didn’t want to do this, but yesterday morning I emailed Carl Phillips at Parking Enforcement and asked them to warn/ticket people who end up over/on the sidewalk. After lunch I went out and the same two cars from 6 days earlier had something under their wiper.

Looking North
Looking North
Looking South
Looking South

Hopefully drivers will start paying attention, or will park elsewhere. If the owners lose enough business perhaps they’ll take action.

— Steve Patterson

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August 2nd Primary Precinct Turnout Ranged From 7.46% to 675%: St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners

The St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners is on the first floor at 300 N. Tucker (@ Olive)
The St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners is on the first floor at 300 N. Tucker (@ Olive)

While the battle over absentee ballots on the 78th House race continuers (see Absentee ballot applications and their envelopes are public record, St. Louis judge rules), I decided to focus on voter turnout at the precinct-level.

Two days after the August 2nd primary I posted about the outcome: A Look at Some of Tuesday’s Primary Results. On the 15th the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners generated at detailed final report based on ward and precinct.

The overall turnout for the city was 28.26%. Of course, some wards have higher turnout than others. The ward-level turnout ranged from a low of 20>2% (25th) to a high of 38.1% (16th) — source. Each of the 28 wards are divided into 6-11 precincts — 222 in total. I entered the turnout from each into a spreadsheet so I could find the precincts with the highest & lowest turnout.The results weren’t what I expected.  Remember, overall the citywide turnout was 28.26% and the ward-level range was 20.2-38.1%.

Three precincts had single digit turnout:

  • Ward 19, Precinct 2: 9.8% (5 out of 51 registered voters)
  • Ward 08, Precinct 6: 8.45% (6 out of 71)
  • Ward 09, Precinct 7: 7.46% (5 out of 67)

On the high side there were 9 precincts that were in the 40s, and another 4 at 50% or higher. This is where it got strange:

  • Ward 14, Precinct 8: 50% (28 out of 56 registered voters)
  • Ward 02, Precinct 6: 78.7% (11 out of 14)
  • Ward 01, Precinct 7: 106.42% (116 out of 109)
  • Ward 15, Precinct 7: 675%! (27 out of 4)
From the election results dated 8/15/16. The 4 is registered voters, the 27 is votes cast.
From the election results dated 8/15/16. The 4 is registered voters, the 27 is votes cast.

I emailed St. Louis Board of Elections commissioner Gary Stoff Thursday morning to enquire about these impossibly high numbers. Stoff quickly replied saying they weren’t possible, he’d look into it and get back to me. At this point I’ve not heard back and the results with these numbers are still online, here. I assume at some point they’ll take it down, so I’ve uploaded a copy here (3,144 pages). It’s dated 8/15/16 at 14:36:35. I also uploaded the summary results here.

I don’t know why some precincts have so few registered voters, when many others have over 1,000. Is geography (distance to polling place) keeping some voters away? How can there be more voters than are registered? I hope we find out what happened before November 8th.

— Steve Patterson

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Sunday Poll: Two Questions on Urban Food Production

Please vote below
Please vote below

A number of things online recently got me thinking about urban food production:

City and suburban agriculture takes the form of backyard, roof-top and balcony gardening, community gardening in vacant lots and parks, roadside urban fringe agriculture and livestock grazing in open space. (USDA)

One of the things that got me thinking about this was a Facebook post by Ald Cara Spencer, which included a link to a local survey on policy:

St. Louis Food Policy Coalition wants to hear from you about your interest in growing food in the city!

We want to learn from St. Louis residents 1) what you and your neighbors are already growing, 2) what types of agriculture activities you would like to see in the city, and 3) how you would like those activities to be regulated. (SLU)

Because of the range of topics, I decided this deserves two questions today.

Question #1

Question #2

Please respond to both before they close at 8pm. If you haven’t already, please also respond to the survey mentioned above.

— Steve Patterson

 

Readers Don’t Prefer Rock Concerts In Outdoor Stadiums

August 24, 2016 Popular Culture 5 Comments

The Sunday Poll here each week is non-scientific, but occasionally I think we can learn from it. The recent poll had no right or wrong answer, it is entirely personal.  This is rare — I don’t have an opinion on the subject matter. Why? I’ve never attended a major pop/rock concert. Ever. I did attend one day of the New Orleans Jazz Fest in 2004 — I got to hear some legends, such as Bonnie Raitt, while sitting on a big grass field. She was a speck on the stage, so I’d glance over at the video monitor when I wasn’t people watching or chatting with my friend.

Here are the poll results:

Q: What is your favorite type of venue for a major pop/rock concert?

  • Indoor theater: Fox, etc 20 [57.14%]
  • A field/lawn: Forest Park, etc 5 [14.29%]
  • TIE 3 [8.57%]
    • Indoor sports stadium: Scottrade, etc.
    • Other:
      • small club (Off Broadway)
      • Off Broadway
      • a small venue like the Sheldon or the Pageant
  • TIE 2 [5.71%]
    • Outdoor amphitheater: Hollywood Casino Amphitheater, etc
    • Unsure/no answer
  • Outdoor sports stadium: Busch, etc. 0 [0%]

What I find interesting is that nobody picked outdoor sports stadium as their favorite type of venue, yet the recent Paul McCartney concert was sold out.

 

I would like to see James Taylor perform sometime, which is usually a venue like the Hollywood Casino Amphitheater. Though a smaller place like The Pageant would be awesome.

— Steve Patterson

An Example Of How The St louis Region Fails Pedestrians, Transit Users

Part of the implied contract when taking a bus to a destination is when you’re dropped off at your stop, you’ll be able to get to the corresponding stop in the opposite direction for the return trip. Seems simple enough, right? But in many parts of the St. Louis region being able to reach a bus stop in the opposite direction is impossible if you’re disabled. I don’t go looking for them, I run across them just going about my life.

Since the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 became law, transit operators, like Metro St. Louis, formerly Bi-State Development Agency, have equipped their fleet of buses with either a lift or ramp in new low-floor models. This permits those us who use wheelchairs to board every bus with access to hundreds of routes throughout the region — theoretically, at least. Bus routes are operated on municipal/county roads throughout our region. The responsibility for these public rights-of-way (PROW) are that of the municipality, county, or state — depending upon the entity that has assumed responsibility. Regardless, the transit agency generally isn’t responsible for the pedestrian infrastructure (sidewalks, curb cuts. etc) to/from their bus stops.

Today’s example involves a 2.5 mile stretch of Manchester Ave from McCausland Ave to Kingshighway Blvd — all in the City of St. Louis. A third of this stretch is fronted by the St. Louis Marketplace — a strip retail center that opened in 1992 — it was St. Louis’ very first TIF project. A former industrial area was reclaimed for retail by relocating railroad tracks further away from Manchester. The entire site was new from scratch and post-ADA.  Furthermore, Manchester Ave has had a bus route for the entire 26 years I’ve lived in St. Louis — probably for at least 3-4 decades. For years it was the #59, but after the Cross County MetroLink line opened in 2006 the #59 stops at Maplewood and the #32 was extended West to Maplewood.

The morning of August 11th my husband forgot his phone, so I decided to take it to him. His morning client lives a few blocks North of Manchester Ave. in the Franz Park neighborhood (aka Dogtown), 24th ward. With my car key I was able to leave his phone in the door pocket and a note on the seat. I needed to return to Manchester Ave and catch the #32 Eastbound.

I crossed Manchester at the light at Prather Ave, Google maps told me the stop was to the right. Thankfully ramps were built.
I crossed Manchester at the light at Prather Ave, Google maps told me the stop was to the right. Thankfully ramps were built.
Looking West toward the bus stop
Looking West toward the bus stop
Thankfully my chair had enough power to roll over the grass. If it had been wet or muddy I couldn't have reached this bus stop . A user of a manual chair probably couldn't have. and finally, why should ab;e-bodied pedestrians have to walk through grass? The bus stop sign is attached to the light post.
Thankfully my chair had enough power to roll over the grass. If it had been wet or muddy I couldn’t have reached this bus stop . A user of a manual chair probably couldn’t have. and finally, why should ab;e-bodied pedestrians have to walk through grass? The bus stop sign is attached to the light post.

When I boarded the bus from this stop the driver asked me how I managed to get to the stop!  On the bus I noticed a stop further East that I’ve blogged about before.

A bench head been casually placed at the stop, partially blocking the pad that was barely big enough for a wheelchair user to turn around.
A bench head been casually placed at the stop, partially blocking the pad that was barely big enough for a wheelchair user to turn around.

I paid attention to all the stops as we passed each one. I decided I needed to look at the entire stretch, not just one stop here or there. Again, the distance between Kingshighway and McCausland is 2.5 miles. There are 12 MetroBus stops in each direction.  All 12 in the Westbound direction are accessible — not ideal but adequate.  However, in the Eastbound direction only half are accessible/adequate.

Six aren’t accessible, although I was able to power through the grass to reach one of them. Four of these six inaccessible bus stops are in front of the St. Louis Marketplace, the retail development that was created 100% from scratch after the ADA became law. Let’s take a look.

 

Starting at Ecoff Ave on the West edge of St. Louis Marketplace, you can see the curb ramp in the lower right corner but it leads to grass not sidewalk
Starting at Ecoff Ave on the West edge of St. Louis Marketplace, you can see the curb ramp in the lower right corner but it leads to grass not sidewalk
My guess is either the city or developer were supposed to add a sidewalk
My guess is either the city or developer were supposed to add a sidewalk
This is the stop I used on August 11th
This is the stop I used on August 11th
The next EB stop has a place for the bus to pull over and a shelter -- the city & Metro planned ahead for this stop
The next EB stop has a place for the bus to pull over and a shelter — the city & Metro planned ahead for this stop
The back side shows a curb prevents access from the parking lot
The back side shows a curb prevents access from the parking lot
The next stop also has a space for the bus and a shelter, but no sidewalk along Manchester
The next stop also has a space for the bus and a shelter, but no sidewalk along Manchester
This looks accessible. right?
This looks accessible. right?
Like the previous stop, a curb prevents access from the parking lot
Like the previous stop, a curb prevents access from the parking lot
The last of the four stops in front of the shopping center also has a shelter. Here you can see concrete was recently added -- the old walkway next to the shelter was too narrow to meet the ADA minimum.
The last of the four stops in front of the shopping center also has a shelter. Here you can see concrete was recently added — the old walkway next to the shelter was too narrow to meet the ADA minimum.
Oh yes, it's wide enough now, But no sidewalk leading to the bus shelter and shrubs are at the back
Oh yes, it’s wide enough now, But no sidewalk leading to the bus shelter and shrubs are at the back
Charter vans blocked my view of the walkway but it's safe to assume it has a curb like the two previous stops.
Charter vans blocked my view of the walkway but it’s safe to assume it has a curb like the two previous stops.
The next stop East of the shopping center isn't accessible at all
The next stop East of the shopping center isn’t accessible at all
But yes, Metro added a wheelchair pad in a recent round of ADA improvements. I guess we're expected to cross Manchester between signals to reach this stop? If I'm heading EB would a driver let me off at this stop? Anyone using this stop risks getting hit crossing Manchester.
But yes, Metro added a wheelchair pad in a recent round of ADA improvements. I guess we’re expected to cross Manchester between signals to reach this stop? If I’m heading EB would a driver let me off at this stop? Anyone using this stop risks getting hit crossing Manchester.
The bench that was blocking the stop at Hampton was moved after I tweeted about it, but seating is needed -- just not blocking the pad.
The bench that was blocking the stop at Hampton was moved after I tweeted about it, but seating is needed — just not blocking the pad.
And the 6th inaccessible stop is just East of Macklind
And the 6th inaccessible stop is just East of Macklind
Metro also poured a pad here even though there's no safe way to reach it.
Metro also poured a pad here even though there’s no safe way to reach it.

Previous posts on a couple of bus stops on this stretch of Manchester:

 

Gee, I wonder why few walk or use public transit? Seems so inviting…

— Steve Patterson

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