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Deutsch Family Profiting From Public Right-of-Way…Again

April 16, 2018 Downtown, Featured, Parking, Walkability Comments Off on Deutsch Family Profiting From Public Right-of-Way…Again

A couple of weeks from now will mark two years since my post titled: Deutsch Family Has Profited From Public Right-Of-Way For Nearly Two Decades. It was a more detailed follow up to an April 2009 post called Stealing a Sidewalk.

From the 2016 post:

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.

After my May 2016 post they put orange cones in the parking spaces that were partially on public property.

The building represents the property line, not the concrete sidewalk.

On the East end of 1101 Locust St the same thing along 11th — they [placed cones along the actual property line
Each time I’d go past the cones would be out — not as good as pouring new concrete sidewalks at the actual property line. But the other day I noticed they were back to stealing public right-of-way for their profits!

The driver’s half of this car is parked on the public right-of-way
And along 11th half of this vehicle is parked on the public right-of-way.

Ownership hasn’t changed. As I said two years ago, the city needs to force the Deutsch family to pour new concrete sidewalks that extend all the way to the property lin. They also need to bring this surface lot up to current standards for surface lots — with physical barriers between sidewalk & parking so cars can’t park on or drive on public sidewalks.

I’ll be reminding 7th Ward Alderman Jack Coatar about this today.

 

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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

 

Generic Form Letters Mailed To Owners Of Poorly Maintained Surface Parking Lot Notifying Them Of Code Violations

August 30, 2016 Downtown, Featured, Parking 17 Comments

In May I posted about the parking lot to the East of my condo building, see Deplorable Surface Parking Lot At 1601 Locust Cited, Fined. The next month I submitted a request to the city for copies of the notice(s) sent to the owner. I’ve finally received  them.

Standing water in some of the many holes in the paving, August 23rd
Standing water in some of the many holes in the paving, August 23rd

Here’s the timeline:

  • Friday June 3 @ 9:09am: Emailed request to St. Louis’ centralized custodian of records.
  • Wednesday June 8 @ 4:43pm:  Reply from the city acknowledging the request, describing the process. “We anticipate completing this process during the week of June 13, 2016.”
  • Tuesday June 21 @ 10:03am: I replied to followup on the status.
  • Friday August 12 @ 11:02am: I replied again, but copied Maggie Crane in the mayor’s office, I wrote: “It’s been nearly three (3) months since my request was made. Guess I’ll have to file a complaint with the state…”
  • Friday August 12 @ 11:46am: I received a reply from the custodian of records: “I apologize for the delay in getting back to you regarding your above-referenced Sunshine Law request. I appreciate your patience in this matter. Attached are the responsive documents.”

I was initially encouraged when I found out the city had centralized the request process, as opposed to having a person in each department be familiar with Missouri’s Sunshine Law and ensure compliance. I was disappointed I didn’t receive a response by the date they said I would. I was upset when I didn’t get a reply to my followup email. By the time I remembered in mid-August I was furious.  I should’ve copied someone else on my initial followup of June 21st.  Lesson learned.

Cars overhanging & parked on the public sidewalk, August 23rd
Cars overhanging & parked on the public sidewalk, August 23rd

Here are the documents I received:

I now know the name of the building inspector, we’ve talked by phone and are communicating. I’ve asked if the owner is being fined and if it can be sent to court for prosecution of the violations. I’m not an expert in these matters, but I don’t think mailing letters to an LLC in Illinois regarding a surface parking lot with the first sentence that reads “Thank you for choosing to live in the City of St. Louis” is an effective strategy.

I didn’t want to do this, but yesterday morning I emailed Carl Phillips at Parking Enforcement and asked them to warn/ticket people who end up over/on the sidewalk. After lunch I went out and the same two cars from 6 days earlier had something under their wiper.

Looking North
Looking North
Looking South
Looking South

Hopefully drivers will start paying attention, or will park elsewhere. If the owners lose enough business perhaps they’ll take action.

— Steve Patterson

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The Things You Hear & See In An Urban Environment, Part 2

July 27, 2016 Featured, Parking Comments Off on The Things You Hear & See In An Urban Environment, Part 2

Last month I posted about seeing a car get repossessed from below our balcony, see The Things You Hear & See In An Urban Environment (w/Video).  That event happened on the evening of Monday May 19th.  A little over a week later, at 6:30am on the morning of Tuesday May 27th I saw & heard a tow truck in front of an SUV in the lot to the North. My thought was it was going to be towed away for non-payment.

View from our balcony, see in the upper left corner
View from our balcony, see in the upper left corner
Here's a crop of the image above
Here’s a crop of the image above

I quickly realized the flatbed tow truck had dropped off the SUV on the lot!

By June 3rd I was surprised it was still there , unmoved. Not ticketed or booted.
By June 3rd I was surprised it was still there , unmoved. Not ticketed or booted.

Here we are two months later and it’s still there! No tickets, no boot!

— Steve Patterson

 

Line For Post Office Parking Garage Two Blocks Long

Recently I saw a line of cars Eastbound on Market waiting to turn right onto 16th to park in a parking garage. For the Blues playoffs? Big concert at Scottrade Center? No, shift change at the main post office. Seriously.

At right a white car waits on 18th St to turn right onto Market St, 6:50am on 5/26/2016
At right a white car waits on 18th St to turn right onto Market St, 6:50am on 5/26/2016
Thew line of cars you see aren't parked on Market, they're in the outside drive lane in a line to access the USPS parking garage
Thew line of cars you see aren’t parked on Market, they’re in the outside drive lane in a line to access the USPS parking garage
These cars, between 16th-17th, are also waiting. The parking is on the upper level(s) of the addition to the main post office shown in the background
These cars, between 16th-17th, are also waiting. The parking is on the upper level(s) of the addition to the main post office shown in the background
This view shows cars waiting next to a line of cars parked on the street
This view shows cars waiting next to a line of cars parked on the street
Looking East from 17th the waiting cars are now against the curb because parking isn't allowed on this block
Looking East from 17th the waiting cars are now against the curb because parking isn’t allowed on this block
When a car exists another is allowed to enter. Supervisors don;t wait in line, they come up from 16th and enter upon arrival.
When a car exists another is allowed to enter. Supervisors don;t wait in line, they come up from 16th and enter upon arrival.

A postal employee waiting in line told me this was a routine shift change…waiting for parking. Another said the garage has about 300 spaces…and exposed rebar. I was unable to determine when the addition was added to the East of the main post office. I’d guess 1960s or 70s.

While I did see some workers arrive via Madison County Transit, more need to consider public transit, car pooling, etc. All these running cars, polluting my neighborhood, waiting to park is unacceptable.  Recently I posted about intersections that bookend the post office, on 16th & 18th.

— Steve Patterson

 

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