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Safety Expert Killed Crossing 4th Street 15 Years Ago Today.

March 20, 2017 Downtown, Featured, Walkability Comments Off on Safety Expert Killed Crossing 4th Street 15 Years Ago Today.

I post often about the poor pedestrian conditions in downtown St. Louis — such as these from last year:

Fifteen years ago this morning a safety expert was killed while walking across 4th street.

ST. LOUIS — A Washington state woman who was one of the country’s top experts on bicycle and pedestrian safety was killed yesterday morning when she was struck by a tour bus while crossing a downtown intersection here.

Susie Stephens, 36, of Winthrop, Wash., was struck shortly after 8:30 a.m. 

The driver of the Vandalia Bus Lines vehicle told police he did not see Stephens as he made a left turn.

Stephens, a consultant, was in St. Louis to help stage a conference on innovative approaches to transportation sponsored by the Forest Service, said William “Bill” Wilkinson of the National Center for Bicycling and Walking in Washington.

Stevens was just a year older than me.

This intersection has been improved, the crosswalk length shortened. However, pedestrians don’t get an advance signal to give them a head start.

There have been numerous events remembering her since she was killed here, this one from 2015 is touching:

The 2015 Stihl Tour des Trees began in Orlando Oct. 25. From there the group cycled 103 miles to Ruskin. Then 70 miles to Sarasota and 93 miles to Punta Gorda. Wednesday morning the group left for the 70 mile ride to Matlacha Park where they planned to plant a Live Oak Tree.

“In the course of this tour we will plant 13 new trees,” DiCarlo said. “Today’s tree is dedicated to Susie Stevens and The Susie Forest. Sadly Susie Stevens was struck and killed by a bus crossing the street in St. Louis in 2002. Her mother, Nancy McCarrow, has been volunteering for many years with the Stihl Tour des Trees planting trees in remembrance of her daughter. We call this collection of trees ‘The Susie Forest’. (Source)

Hopefully the next mayor will take pedestrian experience & safety seriously.

— Steve Patterson

 

New Arch To Riverfront Ramps Are A Great Improvement

February 20, 2017 Downtown, Featured, Parks Comments Off on New Arch To Riverfront Ramps Are A Great Improvement

When I first moved to St. Louis in August 1990 the grand staircase down to our riverfront wasn’t complete — it was grass with steps only on the North & South edges. At some point the center steps were completed.But even as a young (20s) able-bodied person the steps were a pain. I recall one time, in the early 90s visiting the Arch grounds with my parents & grandfather — in their early 60s & mid-90s, respectively, The steps were a huge problem.

Visitors to the Arch grounds yesterday enjoy the sun on the grand stairs

This weekend I visited the Arch grounds twice — along on Saturday and with my husband on Sunday. Both days I did all four of the new ramps connecting the upper Arch grounds to Lenore K Sullivan Blvd on the riverfront.

Looking South from the North outlook area,a new ramp on the right and the North steps on the left. The steps are closed currently because they’re in poor condition.
At the bottom of that ramp
Moving toward the river you can begin to see how much longer the ramp is vs the steps
The North steps, mirrored to the South
The two South ramps each feature a longer flat section with s bench. — excellent for those who may need to sit and rest
Looking North from the South lookout area

I saw many people using the new ramps both days, but nobody else in a wheelchair. Users were all ages, some were biking, others walking their dogs, some pushing baby strollers, most just out with family and/or friends.

The Arch & grounds were designed at a time when the disabled were institutionalized — not independent members of the community. Ramps just weren’t done back then.  Today, thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, those of us who are disabled are better able to live independent lives.

These four ramps, plus the connection next to the Eads Bridge, make getting to/from the riverfront a pleasure.

— Steve Patterson

 

Finally Visited The National Blues Museum

February 13, 2017 Downtown, Featured, Popular Culture Comments Off on Finally Visited The National Blues Museum

Last month my husband and I finally visited the National Blues Museum, just a 15 minute walk from our loft. The museum opened in April 2016, but we never got around to visiting until recently. First, we had lunch a Sugarfire Smoke House located in the same building at 6th & Washington.

I’ve been a vegetarian for a quarter century now, but I have no problem eating at BBQ places — as long as they offer something like a portobello sandwich. Smart BBQ places do.

My portobello sandwich at Sugarfire

The museum isn’t large, but it’s well-organized. The displays  and signage is fresh looking.

Entry to the National Blues Museum
Photography isn't allowed inside. but I got one photo
Photography isn’t allowed inside. but I got one photo

There was a concert later in the evening, our tickets would’ve gotten into that as well. I’ll keep that in mind — will plan our next visit, followed by dinner and a blues concert.

Very glad to see the museum completed, I was a sceptic when I first heard the concept.

— Steve Patterson

 

St. Louis Building Division Ignores 1968 Surface Parking Lot Regulation Meant To Ensure Proper Maintenance

December 19, 2016 Downtown, Featured, Parking, Planning & Design, Politics/Policy Comments Off on St. Louis Building Division Ignores 1968 Surface Parking Lot Regulation Meant To Ensure Proper Maintenance

After posting about the deteriorated condition of the surface parking lot next door at the end of August, see Generic Form Letters Mailed To Owners Of Poorly Maintained Surface Parking Lot Notifying Them Of Code Violations, the building department was very defensive about their complete lack of results. An inspector told me they couldn’t do anything about the poor condition of the for-profit parking lot — just send more letters.

Photo of 1601 Locust from April 29, 2016 -- a close up at one of the pothole ponds
Photo of 1601 Locust from April 29, 2016 — a close up at one of the pothole ponds

“You can’t block off access?”, I asked. “No, that would be illegal”, he replied. I decided to research the law myself.

Naturally, I started with the St. Louis, Missouri – Code of Ordinances and Chapter 8.70 — Parking Stations.

The 2nd subsection defines a parking station as a parking lot. the 3rd discusses a permit:

No person, firm or corporation shall operate, maintain or conduct a parking station in the City without first obtaining a parking station permit from the Building Commissioner. A permit must be obtained for each parking station and no permit shall be transferable from one person to another nor transferable from one lot to another. 

The Building Commissioner may order barricades for any or all parking stations not in full compliance within one hundred and eighty days from the date of original notification.

Here are three later sections:

8.70.070 – Permit—Suspension or revocation—Hearing.
The building commissioner may refer any permit heretofore issued to the board of public service with the recommendation that a hearing be held to determine whether the permit should be suspended or revoked. The board shall designate a day for the hearing, and after considering the evidence and arguments submitted, may suspend or revoke the permit and license heretofore issued, upon proof of any of the following: 

A. The operator has knowingly made any false or materially incorrect statement in his application; 

B. The operator has made any charge for parking in excess of the rate posted on the required sign; 

C. The operator fails to keep an attendant on duty during the times specified in his application; and 

D. The operator has knowingly violated or knowingly permitted or countenanced the violation of any provision of this chapter. 

(Ord. 55061 § 1 (part), 1968: 1960 C. § 388.150 (part).)

See also §§ 8.70.090, 8.70.110
8.70.080 – Permit—Suspension or revocation—Barricading lot.
 
Upon suspension or revocation by the board of public service the police department shall upon notice by the building commissioner barricade the parking lot until further notice. No lot barricaded as herein provided shall be used for the purposes of a parking station. 

(Ord. 55061 § 1 (part), 1968: 1960 C. § 388.150 (part).)
8.70.090 – Annual inspection fee.
 
The building commissioner shall make or cause to be made an inspection at least once a year of every parking station within the city to ascertain whether the station is operated within the provisions of this chapter. An annual inspection fee shall be payable on the first day of January each year in accordance with the capacity of the parking station as follows: 

A. Under ten cars, seven dollars;

B. Ten to fifty cars, fifteen dollars;

C. All over fifty cars, twenty dollars;

Except these fees shall not be deemed to apply or be applicable to parking lots or parking stations operated by a church solely and exclusively for church parking. 

All inspection fees shall be paid within thirty days of billing date after which time they shall become delinquent, which shall because for revocation of the parking station permit. 

(Ord. 55932 § 2, 1971: prior Ord. 55080 § 2, 1968: Ord. 55061 § 1 (part), 1968: 1960 C. § 388.040.)

So I did a Sunshine Request asking for a copy of the most recent permit. The response?  “We don’t do that anymore.” Really? Can a city department just decide not to follow city ordinances?

All the ordinances listed in the various subsections of 8.70 were enacted prior to them being online, 1963-1979. So I went to the 3rd floor of the central library and looked up each and every ordinance. Fascinating documents up there! Anyway, in 1968 the original 1963 section was repealed & replaced. After changes were minor, dealing with the amount of the permit fee. The first such change came months after being enacted.

In another sunshine request I asked who made the decision to ignore this law, and when. The city didn’t have an answer. I suspect it was in the 1980s, which would explain how the owner of the parking lot at 1101 Locust got away with using public right-of-way (PROW) for years.

The URL for this section includes the word PAST after the chapter number (https://www.municode.com/library/mo/st._louis/codes/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=TIT8BUTALIRE_CH8.70PAST), but it’s still listed. I wasn’t able to locate an ordinance repealing it. It looks like a valid regulation that has simply been ignored by the building division for years, possibly longer than anyone currently working there. Did a past administration direct the building division to ignore this ordinance to make St. Louis more friendly to parking lot businesses?

I just don’t know. What I do know is that my inquires finally got long-needed action next door. Again, on August 30th, I published the awful generic letters the city sent the out of town owners for the last couple of years.

Overview from April 2015, the center pavement was in poor condition. The disabled spaces were no longer marked.
Overview from April 2015, the center pavement was in poor condition. The disabled spaces were no longer marked.

 

Cars were able to park on the public sidewalk because nothing physically prevented it, from April 4, 2016
Cars were able to park on the public sidewalk because nothing physically prevented it, from April 4, 2016

Again, on August 30th I published the awful generic letters the city sent the out of town owners for the last couple of years. Right after that I had phone conversations & emails with a defensive building department. I began digging and submitting sunshine requests.

I took this pic on September 17th after curbs had finally been installed to prevent cars from parking on the sidewalk. The blue Mustang had been parked on the sidewalk for weeks, once it was moved a curb was placed there too
I took this pic on September 17th after curbs had finally been installed to prevent cars from parking on the sidewalk. The blue Mustang had been parked on the sidewalk for weeks, once it was moved a curb was placed there too
On Tuesday September 27th equipment was on site and the lot marked as closed
On Tuesday September 27th equipment was on site and the lot marked as closed
The smaller signs indicate the work will be done September 27th & 28th.
The smaller signs indicate the work will be done September 27th & 28th.

Meanwhile, I continued emailing with the building department because no permit was listed online. Permit isn’t required for maintenance, they say.  I email David Newburger, commissioner on the disabled, to make sure he’s reviewed the plan, disabled spaces, signs, etc. He has nothing to review.

The morning of the 28th the equipment is gone and the lot is full.
The morning of the 28th the equipment is gone and the lot is full.
Posted on September 28th
Posted on September 28th
The morning of Sunday October 1st I noticed they planned to work on the lot the next two days, October 3rd & 4th.
The morning of Sunday October 1st I noticed they planned to work on the lot the next two days, October 3rd & 4th.
Monday morning October 2nd they were adding a new layer of asphalt one the deteriorated center section
Monday morning October 2nd they were adding a new layer of asphalt one the deteriorated center section
The new layer over the old on the afternoon of October 3, 2016.
The new layer over the old on the afternoon of October 3, 2016.
By the afternoon of Wednesday October 5th the balance had receive a sealer.
By the afternoon of Wednesday October 5th the balance had receive a sealer.
By the afternoon of October 6th the stripping had been done and cars returned
By the afternoon of October 6th the stripping had been done and cars returned
One thing I'd pointed out to the city with the old lot was not al the spaces were long enough for a car.
One thing I’d pointed out to the city with the old lot was not al the spaces were long enough for a car.
From above we can see these were marked again as five spaces, you can see from the car at the bottom how short the spaces are. I complained to the building dept for not requiring spaces as defined by code.
From above we can see these were marked again as five spaces, you can see from the car at the bottom how short the spaces are. I complained to the building dept for not requiring spaces as defined by code.
On October 10th I replied to various building dept officials because required vertical signs still weren't in place at the three disabled spots.
On October 10th I replied to various building dept officials because required vertical signs still weren’t in place at the three disabled spots.
By October 18th I noticed the five too-short spaces had been blacked out.
By October 18th I noticed the five too-short spaces had been blacked out.
By October 28th the parking stops had been moved forward and the space s were back.
By October 28th the parking stops had been moved forward and the space s were back.
A vertical sign at one disabled spot had also ben installed, as required by code and the ADA
A vertical sign at one disabled spot had also ben installed, as required by code and the ADA
But the other two spaces didn't yet have the required signs three weeks after cars returned to the lot.
But the other two spaces didn’t yet have the required signs three weeks after cars returned to the lot.
By the afternoon of November 4th they'd finally been installed. Now if the pavement marking fades drivers will still know these require a disabled placard/plate
By the afternoon of November 4th they’d finally been installed. Now if the pavement marking fades drivers will still know these require a disabled placard/plate
Also on November 4th I noticed two czars parking in the short spaces, and sticking out into the drive.
Also on November 4th I noticed two czars parking in the short spaces, and sticking out into the drive.
So I went inside and got my tape measure. only 12 feet 2 inches.
So I went inside and got my tape measure. only 12 feet 2 inches.

I complained again and the short spaces were removed…again. The last few years trying to get this parking lot maintained has been eye opening. I naively thought reporting it to the Citizen’s Service Bureau a few years ago would get it resolved fairly quickly — boy was I wrong! I thought the main obstacle was the owner and/or operator. Turned out it was the Building Division,, who seem to defend the operators and fight tax paying property owners.

The city has many departments/divisions. I assume some are worse, most better. The next mayor needs to clean it up, fixing the existing culture. Unless repealed, the permit process for parking lots needs to be upheld.

— Steve Patterson

 

Opinion: Downtown Needs a Form-Based Code, Not An Old Height Restriction

December 7, 2016 Downtown, Featured, Planning & Design, Zoning Comments Off on Opinion: Downtown Needs a Form-Based Code, Not An Old Height Restriction

The building at 620 Market, like most, has had numerous uses since it was first built, I recall attending a meeting at East-West Gateway when they were on the 2nd floor — back in the 90s. The most recent occupant was Mike Shannon’s restaurant, which closed January 30, 2016.

7th St facade of 620 Market St, May 2012 photo
7th St facade of 620 Market St, May 2012 photo

When St. Louis’ Chinatown, known as Hop Alley, was razed in the 1960s for Busch Stadium (1966-2006), a 35 ft height restriction was placed on the 620 Market deed. A taller building could have allowed occupants to look down into the new stadium. For a decade now the replacement Busch Stadium has been to the South and the old site a slowly developing mixed-use project between the Cardinals & developer Cordish, called Ballpark Village. Ironically, Phase 2 of Ballpark Village will include a tall building where occupants can look down into the current stadium.

Meanwhile, Mike Shannon has been trying to sell 620 Market. I’m sure, for the right price, he could find buyers willing to accept the 35 ft height restriction. Like anyone who owns real estate, he correctly views the substantial public & private investment in Ballpark Village as increasing the value of his property. Shannon’s former employer, the Cardinals, don’t want to agree to lifting the height restriction unless they get a say in what may replace the current building.  See Messenger: Mike Shannon takes on the Cardinals in battle to sell his building.

Results from the recent Sunday Poll:

Q: Agree or disagree? Cardinals/Cordish should get to approve/reject proposals for Shannon’s site in exchange for releasing 35ft height restriction.

  • Strongly agree 1 [4%]
  • Agree 0 [0%]
  • Somewhat agree 3 [12%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 4 [16%]
  • Somewhat disagree 1 [4%]
  • Disagree 6 [24%]
  • Strongly disagree 9 [36%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 1 [4%]

I’d forgotten to uncheck the option allowing user-entered answers, I turned it off after the first, which read: “no subsidy for Cordish unless restriction lifted” Agreed, but that should read ‘no ADDITIONAL subsidy for Cordish unless restriction lifted’.

This is another demonstration of failed urban design policy in St. Louis. Within the central business district the only regulation on height of new construction should be minimum height — not maximum.  Issues such as heights and design could easily be addressed within a form-based code, replacing our 1940s use-based code. Even a form-based overlay for Ballpark Village and surrounding a decade ago would’ve been a good idea.

St. Louis would rather battle parcel by parcel rather than determine a larger vision through a public process. Great for those in control, bad for creating a healthy city.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

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