I’m Opposed To Sales Tax For Zoo, Expand Zoo-Museum District And/Or Charge Admission

Two mornings a week admission to the Missouri Botanical Garden is free to those who live in St. Louis city & county — who pay property taxes to the Zoo-Museum District. The rest of the time admission is charged. The zoo, however, is free. In 1972, the Metropolitan Zoological Park …

Deplorable Surface Parking Lot At 1601 Locust Cited, Fined

Yesterday I posted about a privately-owned surface parking lot that has used 75o square feet of the public right-of-way for years, see Deutsch Family Has Profited From Public Right-Of-Way For Nearly Two Decades. Today’s post is about another privately-owned surface parking lot five blocks West. The lot at 1601 Locust …

Deutsch Family Has Profited From Public Right-Of-Way For Nearly Two Decades

Some take big all at once, but others take just a little over a long period — the latter can continue with few noticing and nobody able to stop it. Seven years ago I posted about theft of public property, see Stealing a Sidewalk (images since lost). Since then nothing has changed. In …

Sunday Poll: Support or Oppose a Regional Sales Tax for the St. Louis Zoo?

In the news last month was the idea of a 5-county sales tax to support the St. Louis Zoo: The chief executive of the St. Louis Zoo says a regional sales tax is the right way — and perhaps the only way — to preserve the zoo and its animals …

Recent Articles:

I’m Opposed To Sales Tax For Zoo, Expand Zoo-Museum District And/Or Charge Admission

St. Louis Zoo
St. Louis Zoo

Two mornings a week admission to the Missouri Botanical Garden is free to those who live in St. Louis city & county — who pay property taxes to the Zoo-Museum District. The rest of the time admission is charged. The zoo, however, is free.

In 1972, the Metropolitan Zoological Park and Museum District – the Zoo Museum District – was formed. Through the District, the citizens and taxpayers of St. Louis City and County make possible the extraordinary quality of five institutions that are essential to life in St. Louis: the Zoo, Art Museum, Science Center, Botanical Garden and History Museum. (Zoo-Museum District)

Limiting the district to city and county made sense, that’s where the bulk of the population lived:

In 1970, the large majority of St. Louisans came together to save the cultural institutions. Today, less than half of the citizenry is left to carry the tax burden that fulfills the dream. There are actually 220,000 fewer residents today than there were in 1970 within the combined borders of the city and county, while the metropolitan area has grown by more than 400,000. (St. Louis Magazine, March 2009)

Yes, in 2009 the population of city & county is less than what it was at formation of the district.

St. Louis and St. Louis County residents already pay property taxes that raise more than $70 million a year for the region’s five cultural institutions. The zoo gets $20 million a year, as does the St. Louis Art Museum. The Missouri Botanical Garden, Missouri History Museum and St. Louis Science Center each receive about $10 million annually. (Post-Dispatch, October 2013)

From last month:

Zoo lobbyists are now working in Jefferson City to get legislation passed. The bills would allow county councils to put the tax on county ballots, perhaps as early as next spring.

But a variety of regional leaders have asked the zoo to consider an entry fee for nonresidents instead.

Charging St. Louis and St. Louis County residents with two taxes is unfair, said Ben Uchitelle, a former board member of the Zoo-Museum District, which collects and distributes the existing property tax. He’s also worried about accountability with a new tax. The Zoo-Museum District “carefully studies and holds accountable” the five regional institutions, including the zoo, that receive property tax dollars. Who would collect the new tax? Who would monitor its use? (Post-Dispatch)

In the non-scientofic Sunday Poll a majority supported a sales tax in five counties.

Q: The St. Louis Zoo may propose a 5-county 1/10th of a cent sales tax. Support or oppose?

  • Strongly support 10 [27.78%]
  • Support 8 [22.22%]
  • Somewhat support 2 [5.56%]
  • Neither support or oppose 0 [0%]
  • Somewhat oppose 3 [8.33%]
  • Oppose 5 [13.89%]
  • Strongly oppose 7 [19.44%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 1 [2.78%]

Support was 55.56 % to 41.66% for opposition. Count me among the opposition. We already have a good model for regional cooperation, we just need to expand it the way population has.

— Steve Patterson

Deplorable Surface Parking Lot At 1601 Locust Cited, Fined

Yesterday I posted about a privately-owned surface parking lot that has used 75o square feet of the public right-of-way for years, see Deutsch Family Has Profited From Public Right-Of-Way For Nearly Two Decades. Today’s post is about another privately-owned surface parking lot five blocks West.

The lot at 1601 Locust St. is next door to my condo building. When the original condos were sold, and when I bought a couple of years later, in 2007, the lot was under control/ownership of Loftworks  — the developer of Printer’s Lofts. The plan was to construct a new building and connect to the existing two. However, the economy fell out and Loftworks lost control of the lot.

Paving issues, from May 2013
Paving issues, from May 2013
Another from June 13, 2014
Another from June 13, 2014
From April 29, 2016. The car in the background has been booted for non=payment
From April 29, 2016. The car in the background has been booted for non=payment
Also from April 29, 2016 -- a close up at one of the pothole ponds
Also from April 29, 2016 — a close up at one of the pothole ponds

I first complained about the condition to the Citizen’s Service Bureau in 2013, have done so twice since then. Each time the complaint has been marked resolved. I’m told by 5th Ward Neighborhood Improvement Specialist Sharie Taylor that the owner has been sent multiple violation letters. In an email to me she wrote:

[The inspector]  currently has this property under notice and will be doing a reinspection in the near future. If the owner has still not complied, then they will receive fines for each violation. Unfortunately, beyond that, the city can’t do much to force the owners to fix the lot.

I asked about court, and she confirmed that’s the next step if fines aren’t paid. My motivation, however, is maintenance & upgrades. Upgrades, not just new asphalt? Yes, because two other problems exist. The one disabled spot is not identifiable:

Faded wheelchair symbol in 2013, lacks vertical sign
Faded wheelchair symbol in 2013, lacks vertical sign

What remained in 2013 is no longer visible. The other issue is people parking on the 16th Street sidewalk — easily prevented by wheel stops.

September 2013
September 2013
June 2014
June 2014
The worst I've ever seen, from April 4, 2016
The worst I’ve ever seen, from April 4, 2016
Also from April 4th
Also from April 4th
April 27th
April 27th
April 28th
April 28th

Again, wheel stops along 16th Street would prevent cars from pulling so far forward they overhang the sidewalk or have tires fully on the sidewalk.

Unsatisfied with the city’s pace, I faxed the owner, Kathleen Bonan, manager of Saylor Properties #1, LLC, which has the same address as the law form Bonan, Bonan, & Rowland: 116 E. Market St. McLeansboro IL  Faxed? Yes, no website or email could be found for their law firm.

There are a lot of Bonan’s in McLeansboro, like Hunt:

One of southern Illinois’ largest contributors to Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s campaign fund denied pay-to-play politics were a factor in his appointment to the state Department of Employment Security. 

Since 2002, Hunt Bonan, owner of Market Street Bancshares, the holding company for Peoples National Bank, made personal contributions to Friends of Blagojevich totaling $20,375, according to the State Board of Elections. Contributions listed as provided by Market Street Bancshares total $124,225. 

Bonan is one of six residents from either Mount Vernon or McLeansboro to receive appointments during the governor’s six years in office. (State Journal-Register)

He and his brother bill are part of People’s National Bank.

On August 8, 1988, shareholders Bill Bonan, an attorney, and his brother, Hunt Bonan, formed a bank holding company for the purpose of acquiring 100% of the stock of Peoples National Bank. The holding company was named Market Street Bancshares, Inc. as a reference to the location of their family law firm, Bonan & Bonan, on Market Street in McLeansboro. At the time the holding company was formed, Peoples National Bank assets totaled $50 million. The original Board of Directors of the holding company was comprised of:

Bill Bonan, Chairman of the Board, Secretary and Treasurer
Hunt Bonan, President
Frank Bonan, Attorney at Law – Father of Bill and Hunt Bonan
Duane Baumann
Steven Epperson
Richard Rubenacker
Bob Prince
Don York

I don’t see financial hardship being a reason for the condition of the lot.

Later this week I plan to stop by the offices of the operator, SP+/Central Parking, located at 720 Olive, Ste 1650. Between them and the owners this mess needs to get addressed!

— Steve Patterson

 

Deutsch Family Has Profited From Public Right-Of-Way For Nearly Two Decades

Some take big all at once, but others take just a little over a long period — the latter can continue with few noticing and nobody able to stop it. Seven years ago I posted about theft of public property, see Stealing a Sidewalk (images since lost). Since then nothing has changed.

Much of city block 823 bounded by 11th, Locust, Tucker, & St. Charles, is surface parking. Miss Hullings Cafeteria was located on the NW corner of 11th & Locust for decades.
Much of city block 823 bounded by 11th, Locust, Tucker, & St. Charles, is surface parking. Miss Hullings Cafeteria was located on the NW corner of 11th & Locust for decades.

In the late 1990s, Larry Deutsch was finally allowed to raze the historic 4-story building at 1101 Locust St. that housed Miss Hullings Cafeteria for decades. After the demolition crew left, new sidewalks were poured and the lot was covered in asphalt for surface parking. That’s when the line dividing private from public property was moved more than 3 feet. Legally the lot is 121 feet x 102 feet 6 inches. But by narrowing the public sidewalk, they made their lot 124.33′ x 105.83′ — a gain of 6%! This is roughly 750 square feet of public space that has been used privately for years.

This allowed them to have 5 additional parking spaces. The current daily rate is often $10, but let’s say $5/day. With about 300 revenue days a year, that’s $7,500 in additional revenue per year. Over 18 years the total estimate is $135,000. Serious money made by taking from the public right-of-way.

Looking West we can see how the sidewalk doesn't relate to the building line
Looking West we can see how the sidewalk doesn’t relate to the building line next door.
It's a difference of 3 feet 4 inches
It’s a difference of 3 feet 4 inches

 

Looking South along 11th you see the difference. The sidewalk in the foreground is owned by someone else, but it narrows at Deutsch's lot across the alley
Looking South along 11th you see the difference. The sidewalk in the foreground is owned by someone else, but it narrows at Deutsch’s lot across the alley

It’s very obvious in person and pictures. You might be thinking the legal property lines are different than the adjacent properties to the North & West. Typically the Public Right-Of-Way (PROW) doesn’t narrow suddenly by more than 3 feet. I know from a Sanborn Fire Insurance map the line was straight in February 1909 (see for yourself).

As we know, the city has been vacating streets & alleys for decades — perhaps this was changed when nobody was looking? So last week I went down to city hall to look at the official plat records.

Photo of the plat of city block 823
Photo of the plat of city block 823
Photocopy of the page shows the adjacent property aligns -- the PROW isn't 3+ feet narrower
Photocopy of the page shows the adjacent property aligns — the PROW isn’t 3+ feet narrower

The owner is Double Delta Arizona LLC. This Missouri LLC was created in July 2009 by Larry Deutsch, 14 Wydown Terrace in Clayton, MO. It is to register a foreign (non-Missouri) entity of the same name, but located in Arizona and created on October 27, 1993.  A search of the Arizona Corporation Commission confirms that Double Delta Arizona LLC was formed on that date. The current agent is Michael Benjamin Deutsch, 33 Oakwood Hills, Chandler AZ. Maricopa County Assessor’s records show the owners as Michael & Jill Deutsch.   Double Delta Arizona LLC is a property management company located at 2130 West Chandler Boulevard, Chandler, AZ. Chandler is a suburb of Phoenix.

Back in our city hall, I stopped by the Recorder of Deeds office to look up public records on 1101 Locust. The most recent was from April 2006, a Quit Claim Deed (Wikipedia) to transfer ownership.

Signatures transferring ownership on page 2. Click image to view 2-page PDF on Scribd
Signatures transferring ownership on page 2. Click image to view 2-page PDF on Scribd

The 1101 Locust Street Corporation was created in June 1993, dissolved in November 2007.  What I don’t know is if the PROW was reduced deliberately or accidentally.

Here’s what I’d like to see happen:

  1. The Deutsch family acknowledge they’ve been using part of the PROW for years.
  2. The Deutsch family pay the city for the cost to a) remove asphalt and pour additional concrete or b) pour new sidewalks up to the legal property line.
  3. The Deutsch family update the surface parking lot to the city’s current parking lot standards. including physical separation (fencing, landscaping) between private & public property.
  4. The city remove/reduce the existing curb cuts, requiring access via the alley on the North side of the property.

Some of you might be thinking this is not big deal — a sidewalk still exists. Yes and no. At the drives there is basically zero ADA-compliant sidewalk width. Zero.  This is a pain for many besides myself — families with a baby stroller, for example.

This is yet another example of the awful pedestrian experience in St. Louis. The problem has been identified, now it should be corrected!

— Steve Patterson

Sunday Poll: Support or Oppose a Regional Sales Tax for the St. Louis Zoo?

Please vote below
Please vote below

In the news last month was the idea of a 5-county sales tax to support the St. Louis Zoo:

The chief executive of the St. Louis Zoo says a regional sales tax is the right way — and perhaps the only way — to preserve the zoo and its animals for years to come.

President Jeffrey Bonner, in an impassioned argument for a five-county sales tax, said the zoo needs money to repair sewers, roofs and animal exhibits on its 100-year-old Forest Park campus. And it can’t consider operating a proposed 300- to 400-acre conservation breeding site without the new tax.

An admission fee is not the answer, Bonner said. Charging nonresidents for entry would create long lines, discourage attendance, reduce visitor spending and cost the zoo an estimated $50 million in turnstiles, ticket booths and the like. (Post-Dispatch)

The tax, if passed, would be collected on sales in the following counties: Franklin, Jefferson, St. Charles, St. Louis, and the independent City of St. Louis. Currently, the Zoo receives about $20 million annual from a property tax in St. Louis city & county.

This is the subject of today’s poll:

The poll is open until 8pm.

— Steve Patterson

 

Mansion House Center 50th Anniversary

During the Urban Renewal era St. Louis leveled much of downtown — chasing away residents, businesses, shoppers, workers, etc. By the mid-1960s blocks and blocks of once-vibrant land began to get new structures. In October 1965 the top piece of the Arch was set into place. A couple of weeks before Busch Stadium II opened, a new residential project opened: Mansion House Center.

The Mansion House center faces 4th Street, 2011 photo
The Mansion House center faces 4th Street, 2011 photo
A plaque next to the center fountain lists those involved and the date -- April 29, 1966. Photo from April 2011
A plaque next to the center fountain lists those involved and the date — April 29, 1966. Photo from April 2011

It was everything good & bad about 1960s modernism. On the plus side it had clean lines and quality materials. On the negative, it rejected the public sidewalk & street grid. Cars stored in the massive, but confusing, garage faced the new Arch. One level up from the public sidewalk, a private promenade level sought to remove residents from the street.

As I’ve said before, the three towers are good. It’s the low-rose platform base & garage that need to be reworked. Olive & Locust need to be reopened. The East face needs to be connected to a future boulevard. The center is divided among multiple owners, so the likelihood of a project to undo the anti-city aspects is slim.

— Steve Patterson

 

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