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Walk-ins Welcome, Well Not Literally

As part of my monthly ‘appreciate the city day’ I visited a friend out in the older ring suburb of Richmond Heights. I’m working on a highly detailed post about the reconstruction of I-64 (aka highway 40) but in the meantime I wanted to share just one bit of what I saw yesterday. It is these little trips out to the burbs that help me remember that no matter how bad things are in the city they are usually worse in suburban areas.


So walking along Clayton Road between Hanley and Brentwood I spotted the above sign, “Walk Ins Welcome.” I immediately smiled when I saw the sign…

Despite all the cute architectural elements of this building, meant to evoke images of home, is as auto-centric as everything else. Sure, walk ins are welcome but only from the parking lot — they don’t provide a sidewalk to the front door from the public sidewalk. Oh the irony that someone had to walk through the grass to put out the welcome sign.

While I appreciate the care this facility offers I am continually amazed that the simple notion of providing a means for someone to walk to a facility is omitted. Conveniently they placed their phone number on the board so I pulled out my cell phone and called. The nice receptionist was a bit taken aback when I asked how I was supposed to walk in without a sidewalk. She said, “Are you in the parking lot?” “No” I replied, “I’m on the public sidewalk.” “Oh, I see you now.” I left a message for their director but I’ve not heard back.

So they are certainly not going to let those in their care, especially those with memory issues, out for an afternoon walk along a busy street. However, family and friends of those in the facility might live nearby and it would be convenient for someone to walk or bike over.

When planning new facilities we should make sure walk ins truly are welcomed.


Currently there are "12 comments" on this Article:

  1. john says:

    Yes amazing especially since these designs must be approved by a Planning and Zoning Committee and a City Council. But even more amazing is that the MetroLink station is only 800 feet away but to get to it one would have to walk west on Clayton Rd to Brentwood Blvd, then south to the Galleria Parkway and then east to the station… a total of over 3,200 feet via sidewalks or five stop lights if on a bike. Not only is this auto-centric but dangerous to all if one analyzes the traffic flows in the area.

  2. Expat says:

    It isn’t just guests and residents. What about employees?

  3. LisaS says:

    One of the key concepts of assisted living is that the elderly can keep more of their independence intact … they have as much help (daily nurses, etc.) or as little (cooking & cleaning) as they need. Some assisted living facilities have parking areas for the residents. In that location, so close to a Metrolink station, on a road with lots of buses and near lots of other shopping, the more able residents could enjoy access to all kinds of amenities without owning a car at all. Given the usual pay scale for such places, I’m sure many of the employees do use public transit to get there. Would an extra 30 feet of sidewalk have been too much to pay for a little more safety for everyone? Just another wasted opportunity ….

  4. MattHurst says:

    what’s wrong with walking through the grass? i know it sounds like a studpid question, since it would leave out people who need wheelchair access. but i walk through the grass all the time. maybe it’s because i grew up w/o sidewalks biking everywhere, but sometimes you just have to cut through a lawn/yard

    [SLP — Some, such as myself, could walk through the grass or in the path of cars in the auto lane but why should I? Why shouldn’t this facility have been made to comply with the ADA & Fair Housing laws like so many other places do?  Many people cannot just cut through the grass — say someone that uses a walker or even just a cane.  Grass areas are not always even and I’m guessing they have sprinklers in place to keep the grass looking so green in such hot weather.  Those who designed and approved this project did not consider that someone might approach on foot.]

  5. Bill Burge says:

    I’ve found your commentary on sidewalks and entryways to be a real eye opener. It’s the kind of thing that able bodied people might completely overlook, but the more you point these things out, the more I see them in my own day to day. This shouldn’t be happening on new construction.

  6. Expat says:

    What is wrong with cutting through the grass? First the obvious, not possible for some, such as wheelchair users. Very difficult for a blind person unfamiliar with the area. A blind person cannot just start walking across a lawn and hope it ends up in the right place. Difficult for an older person with balance problems as they step up and down curbs, especially while carrying bags. Difficult for women in high heels, especially if the ground is wet & muddy. Difficult for anyone that doesn’t want to soil their shoes when the ground is wet & muddy. Very dangerous for everyone during snow and ice, since they are unlikely to clear the lawn. The list goes on and on. I have been through it. When you work somewhere and face the walk on a daily basis, it isn’t the same as riding your bike on a nice day and sprinting across your lawn in sneakers. One more thing, eventually a dirt path will form, which is unsightly. The path gets even muddier. If they care about appearance, they will block the path with landscaping or wall, forcing all of the above to share the street with cars.

  7. maurice says:

    While you may find it ironic to use the phrase Walk In, it actually refers to when potential residents and their families visit the institution unannounced for a sales tour.

    If a family is bringing aging mom or dad in to look around, they aren’t going to be metro-ing it or walking because assisted living means they need some sort of assistance with their daily needs.

    [SLP — Do you really think I didn’t know what they meant?  Geez…]  

  8. publius says:

    Universal standards redound to one thing: bleak autocracy. I applaud their eschewing of sidewalks mainly because it got your exquisitely sensitive dander up. Probably 99.9999% of the people who visit that facility drive their cars and park in the parking lot. You’re obviously aware of this, given your sanctimonious “auto-centric” jibe. But, you see, in a vibrant and competitive marketplace, you get to choose whom you patronize. And it ain’t the responsibility of business to enforce your concept of urban planning, whatever convoluted mess of environmental, sociological and metaphysical truthiness might undergird it.

  9. Jim Zavist says:

    Another example – St. Louis Community Credit Union just opened a new facility at 1436 S. Big Bend Blvd. in Richmond Heights. It has a nice new sidewalk along Big Bend and it has a sidewalk along the east side of the building to get people from their cars in the parking lot into the front door on the south side. What it doesn’t have is an ADA-compliant sidewalk between the public sidewalk on either street and the front door.

    Having some time to ask some questions today, I did. First, one of the sweet-young-thing tellers told me that “people in wheelchairs usually drive, but if they were on the sidewalk, they could use the driveway”. (No surprise there – the “innocence of youth, plus “it’s not their job”.) Next, I spoke with Mike, the Richmond Heights building official, and he stated that the structure was in compliance since it was built under the 1999 Building Code, and that he advises every permit holder that they are additionally responsible for ADA compliance (both of which are technically correct – the newer Codes have much-more-stringent requirements for site access and most building departments want nothing to do with enforcing the ADA).

    That leaves the advocacy community to fight these battles, at least until more jurisdictions move to adopt the current versions of the International Building Code . . . quoting the ADAAG: “4.3.2(1) At least one accessible route within the boundary of the site shall be provided from public transportation stops, accessible parking, and accessible passenger loading zones, and public streets or sidewalks to the accessible building entrance they serve. The accessible route shall, to the maximum extent feasible, coincide with the route for the general public.”

    [SLP — Thanks for the additional Richmond Hts example.  The building codes, as you know, do not have to require an access route because the ADA does — via the ADAAG you quoted (Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines).  The architects, developers, builders and clients must all understand that the locally adopted building code is not the only rules under which they must comply.  Depending upon the project the ADA, Fair Housing and other laws are applicable.  The sad part is that compliance in many cases really is simple common sense and during new construction involves a trivial amount of money.]

  10. john says:

    The municipal excuse: “It’s not part of our code and therefore we’re not responsible”. Such is the MO of our plethora of municipalities and why it is so difficult to get basic rules enforced and create a level playing field. Even worse, this MO excuse is often used for “selective enforcement”: “If you’re favored, the code officials cannot find the rule and you’re allowed to build without adequate and consideration to all members of the public. If you’re not favored, they use another set, larger and more difficult, of rules to interfere and drive up the costs. Whether it is law or code enforcement, the outcome is predictable and obvious. The advocacy community is not strong enough or equipped to fill the gap. Fragmentation hurts everyone and it is often hard to spot.

  11. Jim Zavist says:

    john – The reality is, at least when it comes to trying to enforce anything as a city employee, if it’s not in writing, you’re on thin ice. I’d rather deal with this official’s “MO” than the alternative, of creating “regulations” “on the fly” / out of one’s kiester. I doubt we can ever legislate out completely the reality of selective enforcement, but we can certainly push for reasonable requirements like a walkable connection between the public sidewalk and the front door of every new commercial structure. And yes, this should remain a local issue, one that we can hopefully convince our elected officials to embrace, much like they embrace the sanctity of the 4-way stop! 😉

  12. john says:

    Just because it isn’t directly stated in a municipality’s code doesn’t mean that the regulation doesn’t exist. Typically muni-governments adopt the BOCA National Code and therefore numerous regulations are there and not in the local code. Secondly, ADA compliance is based on voluntary actions and requires individual lawsuits from the disabled (one of the main complaints concerning the legislation) when such compliance is not voluntary. A community that is fair minded and well managed, understands the necessity of ADA compliance and has such committees as Planning and Zoning to insure that litigation does not become the principal method of designing public policy. No one has suggested that regulations should be fabricated. However, the use of selective enforcement IMO and experience is alive and thriving in our area more than the public/media likes to believe or discuss. But again, Steve’s main point (paraphrased: “how in this day and age can will issue building permits for puiblic facilities without sidewalks”) should be answered. What does this failure say about the mindset of the people appointed to Planning and Zoning?


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