October 2014: 10th Anniversary Month For UrbanReviewSTL.com

The last day of this month, Halloween 2014, is the 10th anniversary of UrbanReviewSTL.com. Throughout this month I’ll look back at the last 9 years 11 months, picking out some of my favorite topics from thousands of posts. I started the blog as a way to focus after my dad’s …

ADA Violation: Mini of St. Louis Doesn’t Have Required Pedestrian Access They Said They Would

Back in 2011 Mini of St. Louis announced they would relocate from Clayton to a large site adjacent to the Sunnen MetroLink light rail station (blue line).  I took the opportunity to remind them they needed to provide an accessible pedestrian route. They said ” Oh, of course!!! That’s a non-issue. …

Reminder: 15th Ward Candidate Forum Tonight; Another Thursday October 2nd

If you’re a registered voter in the 15th ward I urge you to attend the candidate forum at 7pm tonight, Monday September 29, 2014, Carpenter Library, lower level, 3309 S. Grand Here are the four candidates, in reverse ballot order: Rhonda Smythe Megan Ellyia Green Joshua D. Simpson Missy Pinkerton-McDaniel The special election …

Poll: The US ‘War On Drugs’ Is…

Over four decades ago the United States declared a “war on drugs:” In June 1971, President Nixon declared a “war on drugs.” He dramatically increased the size and presence of federal drug control agencies, and pushed through measures such as mandatory sentencing and no-knock warrants. Nixon temporarily placed marijuana in …

Recent Articles:

October 2014: 10th Anniversary Month For UrbanReviewSTL.com

Me pre-stroke in the December 2006 issue of St. Louis Magazine. Photo by Dillip Vishwanat
Me pre-stroke in the December 2006 issue of St. Louis Magazine. Photo by Dillip Vishwanat

The last day of this month, Halloween 2014, is the 10th anniversary of UrbanReviewSTL.com. Throughout this month I’ll look back at the last 9 years 11 months, picking out some of my favorite topics from thousands of posts.

I started the blog as a way to focus after my dad’s heart attack ten years ago today, and his long recovery that October.  Writing, sharing my views & ideas turned out to be the perfect therapy for me.

In the last decade I’ve run for public office, bought a motor scooter, went car-free twice, both of my parents died, I had a stroke/became disabled, attended graduate school, and so much more.

If you’re so inclined, I’ve added a button at the top of the right sidebar for a $10 one-time donation. Thank you for reading UrbanReviewSTL.com

— Steve Patterson

 

ADA Violation: Mini of St. Louis Doesn’t Have Required Pedestrian Access They Said They Would

Back in 2011 Mini of St. Louis announced they would relocate from Clayton to a large site adjacent to the Sunnen MetroLink light rail station (blue line).  I took the opportunity to remind them they needed to provide an accessible pedestrian route.

Twitter conversation in June 2011
Part of Twitter conversation in June 2011, read from the bottom to the top. My reply they responded too last (top) was “@miniofstl you still must provide pedestrian access to the public sidewalk.”

They said ” Oh, of course!!! That’s a non-issue. We have all that in place already…” but I knew the dismal record of their architects on pedestrian accessibility.  In October 2012 I blogged about what I was seeing happening at this station, see Transit-Ignored Development (TID) At Sunnen MetroLink Station

Earlier this month I visited again to see if it turned out as I’d predicted. Unfortunately, it did.

Upon arrival on a WB train you can easily see the way out to the extended Sunnen Dr
Upon arrival on a WB train you can easily see the way out to the extended Sunnen Dr
The civil engineer responsible for Sunnen Dr didn't plan a way for pedestrians to cross it, the only option is to squeeze between the crossing gate and track.
The civil engineer responsible for Sunnen Dr didn’t plan a way for pedestrians to cross it, the only option is to squeeze between the crossing gate and track. This might explain why Mini thought pedestrians wouldn’t cross the street.
Once across the street and on the new public sidewalk you can easily see the destination, but no accessible route.
Once across the street and on the new public sidewalk you can easily see the destination, but no accessible route.
I west up Sunnen Dr  looking for an accessible  pedestrian route into the dealership.
I west up Sunnen Dr looking for an accessible pedestrian route into the dealership.
This entry could've easily included at short accessible route, but it doesn't
This entry could’ve easily included at short accessible route, but it doesn’t
Out along Hanley Rd they've got hundreds of feet of new sidewalk but no accessible way for pedestrians to enter.
Out along Hanley Rd they’ve got hundreds of feet of new sidewalk but no accessible way for pedestrians to enter.

It’s very simple folks, if you’re building on a site that has public sidewalks, transit stops (bus or rail), or another way for a pedestrian to reach the building you need to provide an accessible route. The Dept of Justice, in a 1993 letter, gave an example of when an accessible route isn’t required:

For example, the Standards would not require that a developer provide an accessible route between an accessible entrance to a retail store and a major highway bordering the site, if customers only have access to the store by driving to the parking lot. (US DOJ — recommended reading)

In urbanized areas (non-rural) even sites next to highways can be accessed by pedestrians because of other streets & sidewalks. This type of anti-pedestrian development isn’t tolerable anywhere in the region, especially next to a light rail station that had such potential. Crossing the street at the station can be retrofitted as can an accessible route to Mini of St. Louis.

For once I’d like it if our new construction included planning for pedestrians.

— Steve Patterson

Reminder: 15th Ward Candidate Forum Tonight; Another Thursday October 2nd

A candidate forum will be held on Monday September 29, 2014 at the Carpenter Library, 7pm
A candidate forum will be held at 7pm tonight, Monday September 29, 2014, at the Carpenter Library

If you’re a registered voter in the 15th ward I urge you to attend the candidate forum at 7pm tonight, Monday September 29, 2014, Carpenter Library, lower level, 3309 S. Grand

Here are the four candidates, in reverse ballot order:

The special election is a week from tomorrow, Tuesday October 7, 2014. Previous post: Upcoming 15th Ward Special Election In Three Weeks; Candidate Forum Monday September 29, 2014.

Can’t make it tonight but want to meet the candidates?  The Royale St. Louis Bar & Grill has another forum on Thursday, October 2nd 9pm-10:30pm. Here’s the description of the Facebook event as of 9/18:

Megan Ellyia-Green (independent) – confirmed
Missy Pinkerton McDaniel (Democrat) – invited
Joshua Simpson (Republican) – confirmed
Rhonda Smythe (Independent) – confirmed

Michael R. Allen, moderator

In a special election on October 7, voters if the 15th Ward will elect a new alderperson. Three candidates are running for the open seat, and this event will allow them to share their views and passions. The format will be simple: the moderator will pose questions with yes or no answers, and then allow each candidate time for the short one-word answer and an elaboration. People will leave knowing without a doubt where these candidates stand. Clear answers make informed voters who make a stronger city.

The Royale is a great venue because it serves Tower Grove South, the ward’s largest neighborhood. While currently located in the 10th ward, the Royale has been previously included in other wards before including the 15th, and has many patrons within the 15th. In 2023, when the city reduces from 28 to 14 wards, who knows — the Royale could be represented by one of the four stars of this evening’s event!

Neither the Royale nor the moderator have endorsed or otherwise supported any of the four candidates, or any committee that has endorsed or supported them. Fair and impartial, y’all.

If you’re a 15th ward voter please try to attend one or both of these events.

— Steve Patterson

Poll: The US ‘War On Drugs’ Is…

September 28, 2014 Featured No Comments
Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar
Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar

Over four decades ago the United States declared a “war on drugs:”

In June 1971, President Nixon declared a “war on drugs.” He dramatically increased the size and presence of federal drug control agencies, and pushed through measures such as mandatory sentencing and no-knock warrants. Nixon temporarily placed marijuana in Schedule One, the most restrictive category of drugs, pending review by a commission he appointed led by Republican Pennsylvania Governor Raymond Shafer. In 1972, the commission unanimously recommended decriminalizing the possession and distribution of marijuana for personal use. Nixon ignored the report and rejected its recommendations. (Drug Policy Alliance

Every administration up to the present has continued this war on drugs, with variations in policy, emphasis, and implementation. The poll question this week asks, “Currently, the US ‘War on Drugs’ is…”  A range of answers are provided, presented in random order. The poll is in the right sidebar.

— Steve Patterson

Olive Sidewalk East Of 13th Street Improved

Back on May 6th I got fed up with the sidewalk condition along Olive at 13th, so I emailed Bill Burkhardt, the city employee in charge of asphalt, and copied his boss, Director of Streets Todd Waelterman.

One of the photos I sent showed bucked sidewalk sections, the raised edges were hard to pass over in my wheelchair and a trip hazard for others.
One of the photos I sent showed bucked sidewalk sections, the raised edges were hard to pass over in my wheelchair and a trip hazard for others.
In the same block, to the east, two concrete utility covers were very rough
Another, in the same block, to the east, two concrete utility covers were very rough
Less than a week later a little asphalt was now placed at various points to make the sidewalk less hazardous, but the rough utility covers remained for months.
Less than a week later a little asphalt was now placed at various points to make the sidewalk less hazardous, but the rough utility covers remained for months.
But on August 27th I noticed one had been removed, the spot prepped for new concrete
But on August 27th I noticed one had been removed, now facing west
The following day it was prepped for new concrete
The following day it was prepped for new concrete
On September 6th the other was removed
On September 6th the other was removed
On September 15th the 2nd had been poured but workers remained.
On September 15th the 2nd had been poured but workers remained.
September 17th all workers are gone, both rough utility lids replaced,
September 17th all workers are gone, both rough utility lids replaced,

Turns out the underground utility vaults belong to Ameren, the worker I spoke to said the lids shouldn’t have been allowed to get that bad. Eventually the sidewalk needs to be replaced, but the asphalt makes it tolerable in the meantime. Very glad the city contacted Ameren about their lids.

— Steve Patterson

Springfield’s Hy-Vee Grocery Store Made Same Pedestrian Mistakes As St. Louis Developments

In March 2013 I posted about a newly built grocery store near downtown Springfield IL, see Springfield IL & Niemann Foods Don’t Understand Pedestrian-Friendly Design. By May 2013 they’d added a pedestrian route, a non-compliant afterthought, see County Market Near Downtown Springfield IL Retrofits A Pedestrian Route.

My March post prompted a post, and a followup post, from the State Journal-Register in Springfield:

Also in response to Sunday’s column, Ward 7 Ald. Joe McMenamin came to the newspaper office Monday morning to show us plans for the Hy-Vee grocery store coming to MacArthur Boulevard, replacing the blighted old Kmart building.
I am no expert, but it looks to me like Hy-Vee is doing it right. McMenamin used orange marker to show the new sidewalks on both north and south ends of the store and pedestrian access to the store, including two ways for pedestrians to get to the entrance from across busy MacArthur. He used green marker to show the landscaping. There’s a lot.

This is not because of pressure from the city, however. Hy-Vee is doing this on its own. On its own, the company is going above and beyond what Springfield city ordinances require. If only every company was as classy. But they aren’t, which is why the city needs more stringent requirements. (Critique of Springfield’s image touches nerve)

Reading this in April 2013 got me curious about a future store opening in an old Kmart, an important part of retrofitting suburbia is the reuse of existing vacant retail buildings.

Visiting Springfield in May 2013 we went by the Kmart store -  vacant  for a decade
Visiting Springfield in May 2013 we went by the Kmart store – vacant for a decade. Click image for map.
In April 2014 we saw the retrofit in progress. The only sidewalk connection was to the north
In April 2014 we saw the retrofit in progress. The only sidewalk connection was to the north, not two ways as indicates a year earlier
Last month we visited the Hy-Vee store, which opened earlier in the summer
Last month we visited the Hy-Vee store, which opened earlier in the summer
After our previous visit they added a second pedestrian route, this one to the south. Why wasn't this done when all the curbs were formed, concrete poured?
After our previous visit they added a second pedestrian route, this one to the south. Why wasn’t this done when all the curbs were formed, concrete poured?
Two pedestrians ignore the circuitous route and walk directory to exit.
Two pedestrians ignore the circuitous route and walk directory to exit.
Looking back out, this route was retrofitted after new concrete was poured for this project. Not the right way!
Looking back out, this route was retrofitted after new concrete was poured for this project. Not the right way!
The 24-hour store is very nice
The 24-hour store is very nice

The Hy-Vee faces MacArthur Blvd, a busy Springfield arterial road, yet none of the two sidewalk connections are direct. Three bus lines run on MacArthur in front of the store.

Still, the St. Louis region does no better. The Target store on South Hampton is similar, accessible pedestrian access is to the north & south, not directly from Hampton. The build pedestrian-friendly cites the buildings should connect to the public sidewalk network in such a way the general public (read: alb;e-bodied) will use the paved accessible route because it’s the most direct path to the entrance.

Here’s a good example:

The redevelopment of an old Schnucks Plaza added a pleasant way to reach stores from Manchester Rd in Des Peres. Click image to read post from 2012.
The redevelopment of an old Schnucks & shopping center added a pleasant way to reach stores from Manchester Rd in Des Peres. Click image to read post from 2012.

No pedestrian is going to walk in the entry driveway here, or hunt on the sides for a way in. For good design, developments should have accessible pedestrian routes conneting directly as possible to all adjacent public sidewalks. The Hy-Vee in Springfield, like our Target on Hampton, has three adjacent streets. Both connect to just two of the three streets, ignoring the primary street.   Pedestrian fail.

Two buildings out nest MacArthur Blvd were razed, the entire site (paving, curbs, etc) are all brand new. This could’ve been so much better.

— Steve Patterson

Readers Use Plastic (Debit/Credit) For Most Purchases

September 24, 2014 Crime, Economy, Featured, Weekly Poll 3 Comments

You may have heard the phrase “Cash is King” before, but it doesn’t refer to paper or coin currency:

The belief that money (cash) is more valuable than any other form of investment tool. The “cash is king” phrase is typically used when prices in the securities market are high and investors decide to save their cash for when prices are cheaper. It can also refer to the balance sheet or cash flow of a business; a lot of cash on hand is normally a positive sign, while strong cash flow allows a company more flexibility in regards to business decisions and potential investments. (Investopedia)

Currency is being replaced with plastic and digital money, just in time too:

In 2013, the cost of making pennies and nickels exceeded their face value for the eighth year in a row. The cost of minting a penny stood at 1.8 cents, nearly twice its face value. Nickels cost twice as much as dimes – 9.4 cents vs. 4.6 cents – despite being worth only half as much. (The Washington Post)

How does this compare to paper currency?

Each year, the Federal Reserve Board projects the likely demand for new currency, and places an order with the Department of the Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which produces U.S. currency and charges the Board for the cost of production. The new-currency budget for 2014 is $826.7 million, and reflects the following costs per denomination: 

  • $1 and $2 = 5.4 cents per note
  • $5 = 10.1 cents per note
  • $10 = 9.2 cents per note
  • $20 and $50 = 10.2 cents per note
  • $100 = 13.1 cents per note (source: Federal Reserve)

A nickel costs more to make than a dollar and ten dollar notes? Over $800 million per year to create the physical currency some use?

As of July 2013, currency in circulation—that is, U.S. coins and paper currency in the hands of the public—totaled about $1.2 trillion dollars. The amount of cash in circulation has risen rapidly in recent decades and much of the increase has been caused by demand from abroad. The Federal Reserve estimates that the majority of the cash in circulation today is outside the United States. (Source: Federal Reserve)

Many still use cash, but the numbers are shrinking:

The national telephone survey of 983 adult U.S. credit card holders found that 1 in 3 usually uses a credit card or a debit card for in-person purchases of less than $5. The breakdown: 11 percent prefer credit cards, 22 percent debit cards, 65 percent cash.

But the generational divide is striking. A slight majority (51 percent) of consumers 18-29 prefer plastic to cash, the only age group to do so. A preference for cash becomes stronger in each advancing age bracket, until at age 65-plus, 82 percent prefer cash. (CreditCards.com)

Here’s another look:

While credit and debit cards represent more than half of the purchases made for retail goods and services in the U.S., cash continues to dominate in small transactions. A recent consumer survey conducted by the Federal Reserve found that cash represented 66% of transactions under $10 and 58% of transactions under $25. When the transaction was more than $50, cash was used in less than 20% of the payments. (Wall Street Journal

It was the above statistics on cash use that prompted the poll last week, here are the results:

Q: What size purchase would you use cash versus plastic (debit/credit)?

  1. No amount, I use plastic for most purchases 49 [55.06%]
  2. Cash for $20 or less 13 [14.61%]
  3. Cash for $5 or less 11 [12.36%]
  4. Cash for $10 or less 9 [10.11%]
  5. Any amount, I use cash for most purchases 6 [6.74%]
  6. Unsure/No Answer 1 [1.12%]
  7. Cash for $15 or less 0 [0%]

The results make me wonder if location (urban vs suburban vs rural) has a role in cash vs plastic use? Income & education level? Include me among the 55% that use plastic for nearly every purchase, regardless of amount. I just know I rarely have more than $5 in cash on me, only for emergency stations or the occasional retailer that doesn’t take plastic for sales under some limit.

Despite the shift away from cash, using plastic is far from perfect. Last year many of us got new card numbers after the data breach at Schnucks grocery stores. Since then we’ve seen data breaches from nationwide retailers like Target, Neiman Marcus, and recently Home Depot.

That’s the risk of using debit & credit cards, right? For the moment:

Beginning later next year, you will stop swiping the credit card. Instead, you will insert your card into a slot, just like people do in much of the rest of the world, where the machine will read a microchip, not a magnetic stripe. You’ll still be signing for the time being, but the new system also enables the use of PIN numbers, if card issuers decide to add them to their cards.

The U.S. is the last major market to still use the old-fashioned swipe-and-sign system, and it’s a big reason why almost half the world’s credit card fraud happens in America, despite the country being home to about a quarter of all credit card transactions. (Wall Street Journal

Yes, we’re the last to use swipe-and-sign. I remember the 80s well when we used carbon slips to get impression of the face of cards, before the back magnetic strip was common.

By May 2014 the Target on Hampton had these new readers with a slot
By May 2014 the Target on Hampton had these new readers with a slot

But this type still isn’t the latest. Soon cards will have a chip imbedded allowing customers to just tap the card at retail stores with appropriate POS (Point of Sale) systems, my Ventra card for Chicago’s transit system has a chip and can be used as a prepaid debit card as well.

Alternatively your physical cards won’t be used, your phone will store the information and use NFC (Near Field Communication) to communicate with the store’s POS. Interesting times ahead.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Apartment Parking Garages: New Vs Retrofit

Apartment projects, by their nature, have a greater density than neighborhoods of detached single-family dwellings. A century ago few parking spaces were needed in apartment projects, but now at least one parking space per unit is expected. Parking garages are often the answer to parking needs in urban areas.  This post will look at two current examples: a new project under construction and a 1950s project adding a garage.

Recent new construction projects like 3949 Lindell have a highly visible attached parking garage, but there’s a better way — placing the garage in the center so the building conceals it.

The Standard now under construction at Forest Park & Vandeventer. The parking garage is built first, the units will wrap around the perimeter to conceal it.
The Standard now under construction at Forest Park & Vandeventer, shown here on 9/3/14. The parking garage is built first, the units will wrap around the perimeter to conceal it.  Click image for stltoday.com story on the project
As seen from Vandeventer on 9/14/14
As seen from Vandeventer on 9/14/14

Lining the perimeter of a parking garage with residential units is a great solution for new construction, but what about existing buildings? With old warehouses, such as my loft, parking is usually placed within the existing building footprint. The same usually doesn’t work for 1950s urban renewal apartments. So what do you do? Plaza Square was an urban renewal project that started with a 1953 bond issue, the six buildings opened in 1962. Only one has underground parking.

Mills Properties is using the name CityView for its Plaza Square buildings
Mills Properties is using the name CityView for at least two of its four Plaza Square buildings
To increase the amount of off-street parking they've built a parking garage between two of their buildings
To increase the amount of off-street parking they’ve built a parking garage between two of their buildings
17th & Chesntnut
The new garage as seen from 17th & Chestnut back in June
The new garage isn't connected to either building
The new garage isn’t connected to either building

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Jefferson & Russell Intersection Improved, Far From Perfect

A year ago I posted about a need to improve the pedestrian experience at Jefferson & Russell (map), see Jefferson Avenue Needs A Road Diet, Corridor Study Part 1.

A female pedestrian makes her way across Jefferson at Russell
September 2013: a female pedestrian makes her way across Jefferson at Russell
September 2014: Within the last year automatic pedestrian signals have been added (circled in red) and the crosswalks made more visible.
September 2014: Within the last year automatic pedestrian signals have been added (circled in red) and the crosswalks made more visible.

It’s a small start, a few low-cost improvements until a new streetscape can be planned and funded. For those who cross Jefferson at Russell these are welcomed changes.

— Steve Patterson

Poll: Are Body Cameras For Local Police Worth The Expense?

September 21, 2014 Featured, Weekly Poll 2 Comments
Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar
Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar

Since the deadly police shooting of Michael Brown more than a month ago police departments here, and elsewhere, are now considering body cameras. For example:

A panel of Minneapolis officials has approved a $170,000 pilot program to place body cameras on 36 police officers.

A Minneapolis City Council committee authorized the pilot Monday. It directed city employees to report back on questions including how the success of the six- to nine-month pilot can be measured and independently reviewed.

The city has pledged another $1.1 million for the camera program next fall. The full council is set to finalize the pilot plans later this week. (CBS Minnesota)

The cameras are $300-$400 each, but storage & management systems are costly. It adds up:

The cost to outfit the city’s police force with body cameras will come with a price tag of $1.2 million — and that’s just the start.

Richard Gray, the city’s public safety director, told an aldermanic committee on Tuesday morning that the department would need an additional $500,000 to cover labor and maintenance costs, plus an increase in the department’s annual budget of about $800,000 to $900,000 for replacement and maintenance costs. (stltoday)

As the headline indicates, the poll question this week is: Are body cameras for local police worth the expense?

— Steve Patterson

10th ANNIVERSARY MONTH! OCT 31, 2004 — OCT 31, 2014

The end of October 2014 marks the 10th anniversary of UrbanReviewSTL.com -- same ownership, same URL!

If you've enjoyed UrbanReviewSTL.com over the last decade please consider making a one-time $10 donation.





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