Home » Site Info »Travel » Currently Reading:

Third Anniversary of UrbanReviewSTL.com

October 31, 2007 Site Info, Travel 17 Comments

Today is the 3rd anniversary of this site. Started on Halloween 2004, it has turned out to be scary for our so-called leaders that cling to our 60-year old zoning code so they get a chance to play auto-centric developer.

When I started I had no plan for where this would go. The beginning was actually due to a tragic event. My father, at then age 75, had a major heart attack on October 1st of 2004. He had blacked out while driving due to the heart attack, two off-duty paramedics saw him drive over a curb and come to a rest — they gave him CPR until an ambulance arrived. Initially he was not expected to survive. I got the call from my brother late on a Friday evening — I was downtown for the gallery tour. Very early the next morning I was driving back to Oklahoma with my black suit — just in case. It is a long drive to Oklahoma City but as you can imagine it was very long that day. My dad is a tough man and he pulled through after several weeks in the hospital. That entire month I was, to put it mildly, a complete basket case.

So it was on that Sunday, Halloween 2004, that I decided to begin writing as a means of gaining some clarity in my life. Rather than write about my personal life, I chose to express my frustration about the urban environment in the St. Louis region. My first post that night was on the Kirkwood Plaza Station project on the old site of the Kirkwood Target.

So much has changed since that first day three years ago. My father is doing well but my mother passed away in June 2006 (see post). A few months after starting the blog I ran for public office, losing two months later (see post). In these three years I’ve done over 1,300 posts and you’ve responded with well over 11,000 comments. I’ve received some good press along the way as well as my share of detractors (Ald Florida called me a “zealot” in St. Louis magazine). At one time I was rather anonymous — able to attend public meetings and be noticed only because of my size, shaved head and tattoos (those things don’t really “blend” in most places). Today, however, seldom is there a meeting where I’m not known.

Being recognized certainly has some benefits but it also has drawbacks, it was certainly never a goal. In fact, I had no goal other than to share my thoughts. Since then I’ve certainly struck a nerve with many equally frustrated by St. Louis’ political structure and auto-centric development patterns. Others are frustrated with all the talk and want to see more action. Many want me to host meetings and gather the troops troupes to fight various battles. First, however, I need to finish my masters in Urban Planning and Real Estate Development at St. Louis University.

This is not to say that I’m closed to the idea of starting something new.

At this point I do have some very tangible goals, my wish list if you will (in no particular order and by no means complete):

  • See the complete replacement of our old zoning codes in the city, to be replaced by form-based codes which reflect the community’s vision for neighborhoods and commercial districts. This is a compliment to the city’s 2005 Strategic Land Use Plan that is basically useless without new zoning. Similarly, I’d like to see form-based codes throughout the region with urban nodes where logical (around major transportation hubs, for example).
  • See the establishment of a permanent program to establish bike parking along commercial streets. In parking lots for retail properties I’d like to see a bike/scooter/motorcycle parking requirement.
  • Break through the leadership vacuum in the city and region, get progressive urbanists into decision making roles.
  • See a charter change to eliminate partisan elections within the City of St. Louis. Term limits of 2-3 terms might be a part of this as well.
  • See the population of the City of St. Louis reach 500,000 people — an increase of nearly 45% above today’s figure.
  • See the return of a frequent localized transit system serving the city and inner-ring suburbs. This would most resemble a return to numerous streetcar lines designed for local users — not a system designed to get the suburbanite to downtown as fast as possible. This would system would include a variety of systems, including bus and light rail.
  • See the urbanization of sites such as Loughborough Commons, Gravois Plaza and so many others that are currently acres of asphalt.
  • And so much more. Suggestions?

The how and when of the above and others isn’t exactly clear. While I am working on being somewhat more patient I don’t want to become too patient so that I’m willing to wait 20-30 years for these things. Unfortunately I think it may take something drastic to bring about the level of change I think we need. It may well take the fallout from peak oil and global warming to wake up the populous to the need to change our ways. When gas is $6/gallon and coastal cities are wiped out from rising ocean levels then we’ll then see a call for better transit and more pedestrian friendly retail. Hopefully we will not be too far behind the curve.

I had hoped to plan a big splash party for this 3rd anniversary of the blog but I’m really not a flashy party type of person. Besides, those always seem to call for valet parking! So how am I celebrating this milestone moment? Well, I’m on a plane this morning to Miami. I’m also not a beach person but that is where the annual Rail~Volution conference is being held and this year I am a panelist. I think being in Miami Beach on Halloween, staying in a nice hotel along the beach and checking out a new city is celebration enough. I will be blogging from Miami, including some posts from the panel on Thursday afternoon. Sadly the forecast calls for scattered showers all weekend.

Upon my return next week I will be preparing for a panel at the Missouri state American Planning Association conference. That same week I will also be moving into my new place. Yes, I am staying within the city but moving out of Dutchtown and the 25th ward. Where? I will give you a hint — I’ll let you know who the alderwoman is as part of my post next week with all the details — that narrows it down to 10 possible wards. A new location in the city will certainly give me a different perspective as well as new material to write about. I’m sure I can find plenty to write about for at least another three years.

Thanks to all of you for helping make UrbanReviewSTL.com part of the dialog about the future of our city and region!


Currently there are "17 comments" on this Article:

  1. Curtis says:

    Congrats, hope I can make it to 3 years as well. Would also like to see a lot of your changes implemented around the city. I’m also really looking forward to the next Mayoral election. I hope we can drag up a good candidate for the next term. What are you or Michael Allen doing about then???

  2. DeBaliviere says:

    Congrats and happy aniversary!

  3. john says:

    I’m spooked! Be sure to enjoy that great Cuban food and I look forward to being spooked for years to come! (I just had a black cat experience/the security word is “sprawl”)

  4. dude says:

    You zealot! All of your plans will fail! Baawahahahaha.
    Considering one day you post about poorly striped cross walks and the next week they’re fixed…

  5. Jim Zavist says:

    One, both congratulations and thanks. Two, you’d do better rallying the troops than rallying the troupes. Three, being a “zealot” ain’t a bad thing. Four, I agree with your goals (and can’t think of any more that might be more important). Five, I take that back, we need to convince County voters to support the Metro tax increase next spring. Six, notoriety, as you’ve discovered, comes with both upsides and downsides – use it wisely. And seven, does moving push your (re)run for the Board of Alderman off for another two years?

  6. Jim Zavist says:

    . . . and from Metro’s own website: “Did You Know… In 1953, the Broadway streetcar ran every .75 to 1.25 minutes during rush hour.”

  7. Bill says:


    While the reason you started this blog isn’t anything to celebrate, the fact that you’ve kept going with deep cutting topics bring excellent discussion and sometimes even banter…I do congratulate you on a job well done.

    You know that I don’t always agree with your thoughts and tactics…our journey takes different paths, I do believe that our destination is the same.

    Keep up the great work by being a “thorn” just enough to get the job done, yet not be such a pain that people stop listening.

  8. GMichaud says:

    Thanks Steve for working so hard on this blog. It is a real service to the people of St. Louis and creates a forum for voices that would not otherwise be heard. As a harbinger of democracy and urban thought this blog points to the inevitable change.
    The corporate and political establishment like control. They wish to control money first and foremost for their benefit, but also wish to shape society in a way they imagine makes them the most money.
    The failure to of leadership to address the problems of America and St. Louis are colossal at this juncture in time. Your suggestions address some of the problems we are facing.

    Energy conservation should inform all decisions. Energy conservation trumps all new forms of energy and will help shape the city of tomorrow.
    The ramifications of not acting are severe.

    The antidote is a search for the truth.

  9. Howard says:

    Not to worry, Jim. My guess is that Steve will file for the 15th or 7th ward seat in 2009 after a groundswell of support by several dozen people including several who actually live in the ward.

    Steve is more about spreading the love around instead of a put down roots, establish a base, run a real campaign sort of guy. Moving around affords him the opportunity to raise awareness while not getting bogged down with details, not being bored to tears listening to others, not having to negotiate with those not as smart as him, the sort of things that change usually requires here. Local voters don’t elect aldermen who don’t have shared parochial experiences and/or a record of responsibility for others or to others. This flaw in the local electorate is also the leading cause of Provel.

    Spoiler Alert, the campaign will include scooter drama involving sidewalk parking.

    [SLP —Thanks for a good laugh.  Let’s see, I moved in 1994 to my place on Tennessee, then in the 13th Ward.  After redistricting I ended up in the 25th ward.  A few years ago I bought a nearby building that was condemned — also in the 25th ward.  I don’t really move around a lot — I have a lot of stuff to prove it!  Right now I have  place that is over 2,600sf — way too big.  I am downsizing and getting closer to many of my activity points.  

    Also, it is funny since I am often accused of focusing too much on details while others say I don’t want to  get “bogged down with details.”  You know, I had one campaign that started on the very last day to file — I’ll never make that mistake again.  How effective was your first run for office???] 

  10. shocked and in awe says:

    How fun would it be if he ran against Florida? How ugly would the campain be if he ran against Phillis? I don’t see how you could win against her. *Nevertheless, I would volunteer for your campaign.* My goal for you is to run for office, but that is my goal. I hope you consider it;).

  11. Dan Icolari says:

    Urban Review StL is one of my three daily must-reads. That about says it. Congratulations, Steve.

  12. Richard Kenney says:

    Steve, I’m reminded of all the times (prior to your blog) that you and I drove through the streets of St. Louis with on-going interesting discussions and dialogue about urban issues and city history. Of course, there was always a friend or two in the back seat who was dying of boredom. But it’s incredible that these very relevant discussions have found a venue through Urban Review St L. Every time I’m in St. Louis, I’m amazed at the unbelievable amount of potential in that city, and saddened that so much of it may be demolished before that potential is realized by your polticians. Congrats on evading death threats for three years now!

  13. Matt says:

    He hasn’t evaded the threats–he’s only avoided their realization!

  14. Steve is either moving to the 5th Ward, the 19th Ward, or the 15th.

  15. I like your suggestions…the one I would add is the overhaul of the riverfront. A coherent riverfront connecting soulard with Lacledes Landing would be a huge step towards building a successful urban core. Many of the changes you propse relate back to this center amyway.

    I just found out about the site and also would like to congradulate you on your anniversary…it’s nice that some people realize we need to instigate change ourselves.

  16. southsidered says:

    Thanks for three always-interesting years of blogging. I wish St. Louis didn’t need you, but I’m glad St. Louis has you. May Urban Review be effective enough to put itself out of business someday.

  17. Buzz says:

    Congratulations on your anniversary. I hope you realize that you’ve become one of my must-sees each week…I started reading your blog less than a year ago, but it quickly became one of my most-viewed sites.
    It’s coincidence that you’ve brought up $6/gallon gasoline. I recently wrote an entry on my blog about a professor and businessman, Dr. Stephen Leeb, who feels we are much closer to that being eclipsed than most Americans would believe. He contends $200/barrel oil is mere months away. THAT ALONE could lead to several of your ideas being more immediately under consideration in St. Louis.

    I’ve posted the link to my blog article for you.


    Keep up the GREAT writings, thinkings, etc. It is great to have such dialogue available.


Comment on this Article: