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The Public Sidewalk Is Not Your Private Driveway

Over the years St. Louis has vacated both streets & alleys, this means land previously part of the public right-of-way (PROW) is now private. Usually the phrase “vacate public surface rights for vehicle, equestrian and pedestrian travel” is used in the ordinance (from a block west), typically splitting the surface rights between the adjacent properties. The description of the vacated surface rights are very precise, also from the block to the West:

Beginning at the point of intersection of the western line of 11th Street, 60 feet wide, with the northern line of said alley; thence south 14 degrees 58 minutes 30 seconds west 15.00 feet along the western line of said 11th Street, to the southern line of said alley; thence north 75 degrees 05 minutes west 176.75 feet along the southern line of said alley; thence north 14 degrees 58 minutes 30 seconds east 15.00 feet to the northern line of said alley; thence south 75 degrees 05 minutes east 176.75 feet along the northern line of said alley, to the western line of said 11th street and the point of beginning, and containing 2651 square feet. are, upon the conditions hereinafter set out, vacated. 

The alley that is the subject today must have been vacated prior to the library putting ordinances online.

February 1909 Sunburn map shows city block 280 bounded by Olive, 10th, 11th & Locust. I've circled the vacated alley that is the subject of this post. Click image to view full page.
February 1909 Sunburn map shows city block 280 bounded by Olive, 10th, 11th & Locust. I’ve circled the vacated alley that is the subject of this post. Click image to view full page.

This section of alley was extra, the vacation still allowed access to all buildings and 10th & 11th Street — note that the number & configuration of buildings has changed since 1909.

Looking south from the Locust St sidewalk into the vacated alley
Looking south from the Locust St sidewalk into the vacated alley

Ok, so we’ve established the surface rights are now private — but this changes where? The building line — not the curb. From the 1909 Sunburn map we know the Locust PROW is 60 feet wide — from building face to the opposite building face. The roadway and sidewalks on both sides are within this 60 foot wide PROW. Unfortunately, one tenant/owner thinks the alley surface rights extend past the building line to the curb line.  Ever since the former Bride’s House building  at 1008-10 Locust was renovated people have  been partially parking in the PROW. I finally began photographing to document the ongoing problem.

November 28, 2014
November 28, 2014
December 19, 2014
December 19, 2014

Finally last month, on May 7th, I went into the adjacent business, asking if the SUV belonged to them. When they said yes I told them they can’t park blocking the public sidewalk. We had a big argument outside which continued via text after I left my business card.

May 7, 2015 -- this owner of this SUV had received "7 tickets this year and between 40-50 tickets in the last two years at that same address."
May 7, 2015 — this owner of this SUV had received “7 tickets this year and between 40-50 tickets in the last two years at that same address.”
On May 29, 2015 at 10:01am it was back, I emailed the Director of Streets Steve Runde, a patient of the business, and the city parking enforcement dept that keeps ticketing vehicles that park here. I also texted the business.
On May 29, 2015 at 10:01am it was back, I emailed the Director of Streets Steve Runde, a patient of the business, and the city parking enforcement dept that keeps ticketing vehicles that park here. I also texted the business.
May 29, 2015 at 10:58am: An hour later the SUV had moved to a metered parking space (circled in red), but a white sedan took its place
May 29, 2015 at 10:58am: An hour later the SUV had moved to a metered parking space (circled in red), but a white sedan took its place

I don’t know the total number of tickets the city has issued for vehicles here, likely in the hundreds. The business even got another patient involved — an elected official. I returned her phone call explaining where the line is between private property and the PROW, I also emailed her the pictures through May 7th. Hopefully she got back to more important business in Jefferson City.

In the future I’m not going to text the business, I’m just going to email Streets & Parking Enforcement and hope the vehicle’s owner must negotiate with a tow truck operator. I don’t know the total number of tickets the city has issued for vehicles here, likely in the hundreds.

Parking is allowed in the PROW — we have meters placed to know where it is ok to do so.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

 

Good News Friday: Better Bike Parking at Culinaria

May 29, 2015 Bicycling, Downtown, Featured, Parking, Planning & Design, Transportation Comments Off on Good News Friday: Better Bike Parking at Culinaria

The best urban bike racks:

  1. Allow the cyclist to secure both wheels & frame to the rack
  2. Support bikes that don’t have kickstands
  3. Position the bike so as not block the public sidewalk
  4. Are located near the entrance

When downtown’s grocery store, Culinaria, opened in August 2009 they had bike parking but missed on all four of the above points.

When Culinaria opened in August 2009 I was disappointed by the four "dish drainer"  bike racks along 9th Street
When Culinaria opened in August 2009 I was disappointed by the four “dish drainer” bike racks along 9th Street

The “dish drainer” is the worst urban bike rack.

Over a year ago when I was working with Culinaria’s new manager, Adam Scheer, on reducing the number of cafe tables blocking the public sidewalk (see Balancing Sidewalk Seating & Walkability at Culinaria) I also discussed bike parking with him. A few weeks later he told me they were working on new bike parking — which was just completed.

May 26th I posted this image to Twitter & Facebook of the new rack being installed on 9th Street
May 26th I posted this image to Twitter & Facebook of the new rack being installed on 9th Street
When I returned Yesterday installation was complete
When I returned yesterday installation was complete
Closer view of the rack using previously wasted right-of-way
Closer view of the rack using previously wasted right-of-way

High visibility is a boost for cycling — everyone coming/going at Culinaria will see the bike parking — hopefully cyclists will begin using it in large numbers.

Yesterday morning only one bike was parked in front of the store, narrowing the sidewalk.
Yesterday morning only one bike was parked in front of the store, narrowing the sidewalk.

I’m not sure if they plan to remove the four dish drainer racks, I mentioned that when I emailed them sharing my pleasure at the new rack on 9th near the entry.

— Steve Patterson

 

Parking in St. Louis? Get The Parkmobile App

May 5, 2015 Featured, Parking 2 Comments

I’ve now had two instances where I used the Parkmobile smartphone app to pay for time parking on-street, both downtown. The first was on 10th Street between Olive & Locust, the second on 13th between Olive & Pine.Both were last month.  The Parkmobile app had been on my phone since late 2014, I’d only set up my profile (car license plate & credit card) but never had a need to use it since I rarely drive our shared car.

1) 10th Street: 

As soon as I hit "start parking" the countdown timer began.
As soon as I hit “start parking” the countdown timer began.

After parking I had two choices: walk a car length in the opposite direction of my destination and use the pay station or try out the mobile app. The combination of a shorter walk and getting to use my phone rather than fumble with money or credit card made the decision a no brainer. I knew this convenience would cost me $0.35.

I manually typed in the zone number & space number indicated on the sign for my space, I opted for two hours (maximum) and used most of it by the time I returned.

2) 13th Street: 

The second time we were returning home from lunch on South Grand, we decided to stop for dessert. My husband could’ve put change in the meter while I was getting out of the car, but I wanted to use the app again.

This spot had the meters we're all pretty familiar with  plus a new green sticker with the zone number and a QR code in the bottom right
This spot had the meters we’re all pretty familiar with plus a new green sticker with the zone number and a QR code in the bottom right
This time I selected "scan" rather than type the number. This is the menu that pops up. I selected the first but it wouldn't read it so I canceled and entreated manually.  No space numbers here since meters are individual.
This time I selected “scan” rather than type the number. This is the menu that pops up. I selected the first but it wouldn’t read it so I canceled and entreated manually. No space numbers here since meters are individual. Note: this screen shot was made later that day
We paid for an hour, I'd received a 15 minute warning from the app
We paid for an hour, I’d received a 15 minute warning from the app, I took this screen shot when we got bask to our car. As we had only used 1 hour of the 2 hour maximum the app gave us the option to extend the session — which costs the time plus another $0.35 fee.

While we had dessert I tweeted about the problem with the QR code. The Treasurer’s office tweeted back “The QR code allows you to download the app…not enter the space #” This, it turns out, was untrue — more later.   Whomever was tweeting even suggested I watch Parkmobile’s video if I needed help — the video isn’t on Parkmobile’s mobile-friendly site anyway.

As it turns out I was using the app correctly — the person tweeting for the Treasurer’s office didn’t understand the use of the QR code within the app. Parkmobile clarified in two tweets:

  • First“Hi , if you scan the QR code in our app it will populate the zone #.”
  • Second  If you scan it through an independent QR scanner, it will take you to our website. Hope this helps!” 

So when it wouldn’t load that first time it was either my AT&T service or their server. If this happens to you just manually enter the zone, I tested the QR code later and it worked in seconds.

Here’s the video the Treasurer’s Office office wanted me to watch, which clarifies the QR code can be used within the app — something they didn’t realize! Have they not watched it?

I really like this app, the fact the QR code does double duty is a nice bonus. I realize not everyone likes the idea of paying $0.35 every time they park on street. But if you have a smartphone I’d advise having the app set up in case you find yourself parking and not having any change for the meter — you don’t want to wait until that point to 1) download the app 2) add your vehicle 3) link to your credit card — just have it ready to use. Eventually every meter in the city will be marked for mobile payment.

The Parkmobile app works on the following mobile devices:

Give it a try!

— Steve Patterson

 

 

 

Not All Surface Parking Lots Are Secured Despite 2011 Rules

In 2011 St. Louis experienced a rash a car break-ins at various downtown surface parking lots, to restore the public confidence City Hall made a big deal about a new rule to make sure they’re secure. From a September 2011 press release about the new rules:

The City of St. Louis and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (SLMPD), worked together to create new public parking lot rules. The highlights are:
• Parking lots shall be attended by an employee when in operation; and
• Parking lot attendants shall be educated by the SLMPD; and
• Parking lots shall be secured when not in operation.

The City of St. Louis Building Division will grant waivers to parking lots that have demonstrated they are safe and secure. These waivers will be reviewed periodically.

You can read the complete Building Commissioner’s Order #1001.

On April 30, 2014 I emailed various city officials, including Building Commissioner Frank Oswald, about the surface parking lots adjacent to the east & north of my building, asking if they were exempt from this rule.  I also mentioned the poor condition of the one to the East (1601 Locust).

I included this May 2013 image of the rough paving with my email
I included this May 2013 image of the rough paving with my email

Mr. Oswald replied the next day:

Steve, These lots are not exempt. It sounds that you are telling me the one lot is used for ballpark pay parking? I will copy my staff to put this on there list to check on for compliance with order 1001. I am not sure but it sounds if you are concerned that one or both lots are in poor condition, I would appreciate you putting in a c.s.b. complaint so we have a record. 622-4800 and we can then do a property maintenance inspection.

I contacted the Citizens Service Bureau (CSB) and the next day replied to all with their report number — SR #601609.

This email I included a current pic of a car parked in the one disabled spot with the disabled marking barely visible
This email I included a current pic of a car parked in the one disabled spot with the disabled marking barely visible
And a pic of the sign for $5/day
And a pic of the sign for $5/day

One staff person replied to all:

Frank,

We have looked at lots in this area very recently and have found many lots don’t appear to have an actual physical person attending the lot. One of the big problems in enforcing Rule # 1001 is the difficulty in determining if an attendant is within 1 (one) mile of the lot. For example, an attendant for the lot at 1200 Washington could actually be at the Casino Queen in Illinois and still be considered in compliance according to the “Rule”!

Huh? How can an attendant watch a lot that’s one mile away? This lot used a metal collection box for parkers to self pay — no attendant unless during a special event. Oswald replied to all:

Ok but if we look at it 3 times in 10 days and no one is there each time I think we can conclude they are not monitoring in accordance to the policy and we should tell them they are in violation.

That was the last I heard from them on this issue. Here are some more photos:

May 2, 2014
May 2, 2014
June 13, 2014
June 13, 2014
June 22, 2014
June 22, 2014 — cars frequently pull up and block the sidewalk
June 13, 2014
June 13, 2014

Things only got worse as the months passed by, nothing changed — until November 25th — the old metal cash box was gone.

November 25, 2014
November 25, 2014 — a new concrete pad
December 2, 2014
December 2, 2014 — a worker finishes set up of the new electronic payment box,
The new electronic collection station
The new electronic collection station

The other change is the parking fee dropped from $5/day to $3/day to compete with the lot to the north of our building.

Recent photo of what used to be pavement
Recent photo of what used to be pavement collecting water
The blue Hyundai is parked in the one disabled spot -- without plates or hangtag
The blue Hyundai is parked in the one disabled spot — without plates or hangtag
Now a Cadillac is parked in the disabled spot without disabled plates/placard
Now a Cadillac is parked in the disabled spot without disabled plates/placard
Not really the fault of those drivers, the pavement marking is almost gone and the space lacks the required vertically-mounted sigh
Not really the fault of those drivers, the pavement marking is almost gone and the space lacks the required vertically-mounted sigh
The recent pic from a neighbor's balcony shows the poor condition of the pavement
The recent pic from a neighbor’s balcony shows the poor condition of the pavement, the disabled spot (far right) is vacant in this shot

Recap: poor physical condition, not secured, cars able to overhang the sidewalk, only one disabled space — not properly marked, no attendant.

This lot is owned by PHAM LLC of Wood River, Il., the tax records are mailed to a residence. The resident is Peter Heinz, principal at Cardinal Investments, Inc., of the same address. The lot is managed by Central Parking. Time to follow up with Frank Oswald and perhaps mail a letter to Mr, Heinz in Wood River IL.

— Steve Patterson

 

Downtown’s Papa John’s Pizza To Reopen In Different Parking Garage

After Papa John’s Founder & CEO John Schnatter commented on the Affordable Care Act during the 2012 presidential campaign I stopped patronizing the downtown location — then located just 4 blocks East. My taste buds, waistline, and wallet were grateful.

Pape John's was located at Tucker & Pine until July when it closed for repairs to this parking garage.
Pape John’s was located at Tucker & Pine until July when it closed for repairs to this parking garage.
Workers building out the interior of the new Papa John's 2 blocks South in the Park Pacific garage.
Workers building out the interior of the new Papa John’s 2 blocks South in the Park Pacific garage.

It will be nice seeing a business in these storefronts facing Tucker, the spots facing Pine are occupied. More space remains available facing Tucker & Olive.

Renovation work at the garage where Papa John’s had been located (see Parking Garage Undergoing Time-Consuming Multi-Million Dollar Restoration; Businesses Closed, Jobs Lost) has slowed to be almost nonexistent. Yesterday the security guard told me what I already suspected — there was far more damage than originally thought. The owner isn’t sure how much more they want to put into it but a couple of guys are still around working — but nothing like the crew when the work first started.

How long can the owner keep a garage that’s producing zero income?

— Steve Patterson

 

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