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Top-Down Auto-Centric Thinking Continues In Ferguson, Still Time To Change

We all know the phrase: “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”  Those living in low-income areas, especially those of color, have been sent this message for decades: Mill Creek Valley, Pruitt-Igoe, etc. In other words, we know what’s best for you so just accept what we decide to give to you. In the near term the gifts seemed like a good idea, but in hindsight they were ill-conceived and corners were cut. Pruitt-Igoe:

As completed in 1955, Pruitt–Igoe consisted of 33 11-story apartment buildings on a 57-acre (23 ha) site, on St. Louis’s lower north side. The complex totaled 2,870 apartments, one of the largest in the country. The apartments were deliberately small, with undersized kitchen appliances. “Skip-stop” elevators stopped only at the first, fourth, seventh, and tenth floors, forcing residents to use stairs in an attempt to lessen congestion. The same “anchor floors” were equipped with large communal corridors, laundry rooms, communal rooms and garbage chutes.

Despite federal cost-cutting regulations, Pruitt–Igoe initially cost $36 million, 60% above national average for public housing. Conservatives attributed cost overruns to inflated unionized labor wages and the steamfitters union influence that led to installation of an expensive heating system; overruns on the heating system caused a chain of arbitrary cost cuts in other vital parts of the building.

Nevertheless, Pruitt–Igoe was initially seen as a breakthrough in urban renewal. Residents considered it to be “an oasis in the desert” compared to the extremely poor quality of housing they had occupied previously, and considered it to be safe. Some referred to the apartments as “poor man’s penthouses”.

Despite poor build quality, material suppliers cited Pruitt–Igoe in their advertisements, capitalizing on the national exposure of the project.

The people were expected to adapt to the solution, rather than the solution adapt to the people. Locally and nationally little has changed since the 1950s.

Early residents were thankful, those displaced not so much. Within a decade what had seemed like a great solution turned out to be an expensive nightmare. Most of the site remains vacant four decades after being cleared.

The players today are different — non-profits and the private sector in place of the federal government. The attitude, however, is the same: ‘we want to do something to help you — why should we ask for your input?’ The unintended consequences of the well-intentioned were huge. Eventually the federally government realized the folly of this way of thinking — changing to rules & regulations to require environmental impact studies, public input, etc. This is not to suggest these will avert all unintended consequences — they won’t — but the results are better than those designed in isolation. Which brings me to Ferguson.

As I wrote about a week ago two community plans intersect at former ferguson QuikTrip site. Rather than QuikTrip officials quietly talking with the St. Louis Urban League for six months I think they should’ve empowered the local residents by getting them involved in the process of determining what to do with the site. The Urban League’s slogan is “Empowering Communities. Changing Lives.”

This was an opportunity for Ferguson’s residents to have a say in their future — to have a seat at the table. Empowerment through engagement.

Rendering of the Empowerment Center of Ferguson shown on March 16, 2015
Rendering of the Empowerment Center of Ferguson shown on March 16, 2015

The speakers for their presentation was exclusively top-down players:

  • Michael P. McMillan President and CEO, Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis
  • Michael Johnson Board of Directors, QuikTrip Corporation
  • Warner Baxter Chairman, President & CEO, Ameren
  • Patrick J. Sly Executive Vice President, Emerson
  • Thomas J. Irwin Executive Director, Civic Progress
  • Kathleen T. Osborn Executive Director, Regional Business Council
  • Susan Trautman Executive Director, Great Rivers Greenway
  • Steven Sullivan President and Executive Director, Provident

The proposed new building would be built in the same spot as the old QuikTrip — not up to the sidewalk to make the area more pedestrian-friendly as suggested by the Great Streets Initiative. Great Rivers Greenway said they’d hire some who complete the 4-week jobs 101 course to be Gateway Rangers to bike the North Riverfront Trail — the planned trail next to the site wasn’t mentioned.

Today’s buildings are more disposable than those build 100 year or more years ago, this QuikTrip opened in 1989 — it lasted 25 years until burned following the shooting of Michael Brown. As I said in the comments on Monday, the building had been fully depreciated. Yes, the St. Louis County Assessor still said it had value, but the business view is different — for tax purposes you want deductions: a facility you can depreciate or lease payments.

QuikTrip just razed their 2851 Gravois location built in 1991 — to be rebuilt. QuikTrip sold this property two years ago in a 15-year sale leaseback.   The two-year older Ferguson location wasn’t sold to an investor, so no deductions. The 1.14 acre site was too small to build a new QuikTrip.  So they opened a new location a mile and a half north at 10768 W. Florissant Ave. on 3+ acres.

It was either the night of the shooting, August 9th, or the next night when the older QuikTrip was burned that QuikTrip Board Member Michael Johnson called the Urban League’s Michael McMillan to offer to donate the property. I can’t blame them — they probably had wanted to close the location anyway. So began the six month process involving corporate CEOs and heavy hitters collectives like Civic Progress.

A few misunderstood my point a week ago — involving the public or at least respecting the plans the public helped draft  — isn’t an “either or” situation. They could’ve done exactly as they did but announced this building will represent the new W. Florissant Ave with a up to the sidewalk design to respond to the needs of the high pedestrian population. Instead they just decided to put the new building where the old building was.

St  Louis County records list the irregularly-shaped property as being 1.14 acres.
The building was located on the East edge of the site, set back from W. Florissant and Northwinds Estate Drive
QuikTrip never made added an accessible route to the entrance, as required by the ADA
QuikTrip never made added an accessible route to the entrance, as required by the ADA
The North side is the easiest to meet the one route minimum, but most pedestrians will come from W, Florissant.
The North side is the easiest to meet the one route minimum, but most pedestrians will come from W, Florissant.

Locating the building at the street corner would make access from the sidewalk easy. Keeping the building at the back will require a circuitous route(s) — not pedestrian-friendly. Bare minimum — not empowering!

Additionally, if the Urban League builds at the back of the lot behind parking it’ll be difficult to convince others along W. Florissant Ave  to rebuild in an urban manner — effectively killing an important part of the plan. The St. Louis region is known for developing plans that sit on the shelf and collect dust — now we’re killing plans through willful ignorance.

When I asked during the press conference about why the building wasn’t up to the sidewalk Mike McMillian, said “remediation.” I guess that means QuikTrip isn’t remediating the contamination enough to build over the old tank location, but even that doesn’t make sense.   To remediate the site enough for residential use would be onerous — but a commercial building should be able to be constructed after the tanks are removed and basic remediation has been completed. I think they simply failed to consider the pedestrian population of Ferguson.

Nothing is built yet — the site isn’t ready yet. I hope they’ll do the right thing and work to set a good example for future buildings this stretch of W. Florissant.

— Steve Patterson

 

Many Disabled Couldn’t Enter Hotel Building Containing Disabled Rooms

I considered using today’s topic for a Sunday Poll but decided it was too technical to get a good response. My original plan was to ask for the ideal clear width next to the pull side of a door.

jjj
ADA diagram

Here’s the text description of the above diagram:

Plan view drawing showing the clear floor space adjacent to a hinged door. Door swings out into the clear floor space. An arrow indicates a forward approach to the door on the pull side.

Clear floor space is shown with a dotted line. The clear floor space extends 60 inches minimum from the door (closed position). The clear floor space width is the door width plus 18 inches minimum (24 preferred). A minimum of 18 inches clear space (24 inches preferred) is provided adjacent to the edge of the door (latch side) on the pull side.

My thought is many, likely the architects, would’ve selected 18″ instead of options like 0″, 6″ 12″, or 24″. This is because the bare minimum number (18″) has become so well known, the preferred/ideal of 24″ gets lost. The 18″ minimum is just that — a minimum — not ideal. Less than 18″ and many wheelchair users are unable to open the door. With the m,minimum of 18″ I find myself having to rub against the baseboard/wall to get into position to open the door.

Why bring this up? The architect/designer of the hotel we stayed at in Oklahoma City was confused. The Days Inn at 122nd & I-35 is an older hotel that later added another 2-story building in what was originally an oversized parking lot.

Both entrances to the newer building containing their rooms for the disabled had zero to the side of the pull side of the door.
Both entrances to the newer building containing their rooms for the disabled had zero to the side of the pull side of the door. Really?

Our room also wasn’t as ADA-compliant as you might expect for a disabled room: the bathroom door handle was a knob rather than a lever. The shower wasn’t roll-in as listed — it was a standard shower base. I was able to use it ok but others I know wouldn’t be able to shower.  I’ve submitted a complaint to Days Inn about the design.

— Steve Patterson

 

Contractor Thought The Public Sidewalk Was A Good Location For Construction Signs

Recently, while taking 14th Street, I noticed construction signs limiting the width of the too-narrow public sidewalk — the East side between Olive & Locust — adjacent to the main library.

Looking North
Looking North from Olive you see the first sign on the sidewalk. Behind it is another on the sidewalk and a third in the grass to the right of the sidewalk.
This is the 2nd sign on the sidewalk, a bus stop is just beyond
This is the 2nd sign on the sidewalk, a bus stop served by five MetroBus routes is just beyond

I posted one image to Facebook & Twitter with the caption: “14th street sidewalk almost completely blocked by temp road sign #ADA” A response on Twitter suggested I tweet this to the CSB (aka Citizens Service Bureau). Instead I emailed two people at the Streets Dept, copying two from the Office on the Disabled.  Streets quickly identified the culprit — hired contractor Intren — working for Ameren.

The two signs on the sidewalk were reduced to one on the grass.
The two signs on the sidewalk were reduced to one on the grass.
The 3rd sign that was always on the grass --likely because they didn't want to cover/block the fire hydrant.
The 3rd sign that was always on the grass –likely because they didn’t want to cover/block the fire hydrant.

Temporary signs are a necessity, but so is the sidewalk next to the main library used by 5 MetroBus routes. The sidewalk is too narrow for the pedestrian volume but the historic library landscaping and the street width prevents it from being widened.  Once again, people unaware/unconcerned about pedestrians.

— Steve Patterson

 

St. Louis’ Low Standards Turns A Once-Proud City Into A Suburban Office Park

We can all agree St. Louis must retain existing employers and attract new ones. Unfortunately, St. Louis has a habit of forgetting about urban design along the way.   Let’s take a look two examples; one within the proposed 100 acres site for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and one to the immediate West.

First is a warehouse currently occupied by Faultless Healthcare Linen.

This warehouse, built in 1991, will be razed if the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency picks the city site over three others in the region.
This warehouse, built in 1991, will be razed if the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency picks the city site over three others in the region.
This small building from 1899 helps hide the awful warehouse behind it.
This small building from 1899 helps hide the awful warehouse behind it.

I remember when this was built in 1991 — I’d just moved to Old North St. Louis and passed it daily on Jefferson.  One street was closed, the rest are faced with blank concrete block walls.

The next example is Pharmaceutical company Sensient Colors Inc., their 30-acre campus at 2515 N. Jefferson is to the West of the potential National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency site.

The Sensient building was built in 2004.
The newest Sensient building was built in 2004 faces Jefferson but no entrance here, no public sidewalks even.
Looking NE from Elliot Ave between N. Market & Benton. The company has removed public sidewalks from the public-right-of-way adjacent to their facility.
Looking NE from Elliot Ave between N. Market & Benton. The company has removed many public sidewalks from the public-right-of-way adjacent to their facility.

Never heard of Sensient? I hadn’t either, but you’ve likely seen their products — on your plate.

Most of the world’s largest food and beverage manufacturers use Sensient colors and flavors to make their household brand-name food and beverage products. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Now, the demand for natural colors is suddenly outpacing demand for synthetics, and Sensient, which makes both, is responding. It has sophisticated technology it won’t explain (it does mention doing “supercritical CO2 extraction”) to pull the coloring agents from botanicals. It has a Fusion Precise Natural Color system that lets customers specify not just a particular color, but also a subtle shade of that color. And it has a head start: 60 years’ experience with natural colors. (St. Louis Magazine)

I get it, they have trade secrets. Still, in a city people do walk to work — especially from public transit. I believe we can retain/attract employers without turning our city into a suburban office park.

— Steve Patterson

 

So Some ‘SCHMUK’ Parked In A Loading Only Zone

Since I started this blog more than a decade ago pedestrian access & walkability have been a regular theme — especially since I became disabled 7 years ago. Friday I encountered a car parked blocking a ramp. Being a car guy I tend to mention the make of car — it was a Pontiac that blocked a ramp on one of my first outings to the store in a wheelchair in 2008. The car on Friday happened to be a Mercedes.

"Mercedes owner blocked a crosswalk I needed at Richmond Hts MetroLink station"
I said “Mercedes owner blocked a crosswalk I needed at Richmond Hts MetroLink station” on Facebook & Twitter. Click to view on Facebook.
schmuk
I posted this picture of the rear vanity license plate “SCHMUK” on Twitter and in the comments on Facebook, click to view on Twitter.
schmuk
No license plate displayed on the front — as required by Missouri law. No snow or ice — just salt residue

I’m posting this to start a civil discussion about the physical design of the area and how pedestrian amenities are easily ignored.

These three images, above, were taken at 12:11-12:12pm on Friday afternoon, it was 43 °F just before noon.  Like everyone, I make mistakes.  When I do I admit as much.

Here’s what I got wrong:

  1. The ramp isn’t for a crosswalk, it’s for a passenger loading zone.
  2. It’s near the Brentwood MetroLink Station, not the Richmond Heights MetroLink Station — that’s located one station Eastbound on the Blue Line, which opened in 2006.

Very little discussion on Twitter, but Facebook erupted. Here’s some comments that remained as of yesterday (users deleted others):

Comments from a 23 year-old saying he’s the owner:

  • Thanks facebookers. This is actually my vehicle. I assure you that it was a clearly marked parking space and a car was actually parked behind me as you can see. The curbs are not marked yellow or anything. I apologize but it says nothing about not parking in that space. My plates are hilarious I know. Thanks dan for telling me about the post! Lets find something new to complain about now!
  • [After I said I contacted the police] “Omg. Like they don’t have more important stuff to worry about. Sorry you had an inconvenience. Again. The writing on the pavement was still covered in snow and ice.. Also why isn’t the other car being put on a blast? Because it was not a Mercedes!” 
  • Only tacky people use front license plates. Duh.
  • God my car is beautiful though isn’t it?!
  • I have apologized multiple times. No clear signs. No curb markers. No lines within the area. Also the other car hasn’t been called out. Just mine. I’m over the whole situation.

From his friends:

  • I find this city to be wasting more and more time on pointless endeavors that literally amount to nothing more than pessimistic chatter.
  • Go fight a war, go feed the homeless, save a child refugee…no chance of you becoming something of use to the world because you will all still be on facebook making a fool out of yourselves and the right of freedom of speech. No wonder this city is in turmoil… people being shot over petty crimes and people bitching about where cars are parked on a social media site during their off time. #sillyfirstworldproblems My finger tips were cut off a month ago. THAT is a problem. …get a life.
  • It’s the principle. I also am annoyed that my friend who is a very kind, successful individual who doesn’t deserve internet slander or harassment was being targeted as som e sort of criminal. It is as I said before petty, a waste of time, and pathetic.
  •  You guys are clearly uneducated morons! Had any of you spent as much time trying to be successful as you do running your mouths and posting stupid stuff on fb, you too could have nice things. Maybe then you wouldn’t have to run your mouth and judge ppl just to fill you free time it looks like a perfectly fine place to park to me!
  •  Wow! Pretty sure anyone who can afford a Mercedes can most definitely read! So you’re a wannabe photographer, I wouldn’t quit your day job just yet. Parking sucks all over stl & I’m sure that loading zone was so clear thru the ice that even you missed it! You even said so. I am truly nowhere near wealthy & even I have more to do in life than to be so dang petty over something so minimal! Josh is a wonderful person, I’ve known him his whole life! But you all see a Mercedes & automatically go to rich jerk….stereotype much! Sorry, I just think it’s ridiculous to waste this much time of your day venting about something when it would’ve taken 5 extra seconds to walk around the car a foot! They’re not going to give you a Jay walking ticket if there’s obviously a vehicle blocking what you THOUGHT was a crosswalk. Get a life…one where you have a legitimate reason to bash someone, for more than having money bcuz your attitude says that’s all your pissed about. Love ya Josh, glad you could handle this with the class you did, sorry, couldn’t shut my mouth when it’s about my adopted brother!
  • Wow. I know my friend would never intentionally try to hurt anyone or do wrong, as I’ve known him for eight years. Mistakes happen, and whether or not he parked incorrectly, I don’t think it warrants such persecution. He didn’t get a ticket, did he? Leave the law up to the police, not the Internet.
  • I love that the fact you’re driving a Mercedes is what is really pissing people off, [redacted]. If you were driving a POS (that’s Piece Of Shit, for you flipping idiots out there), no one would have even posted about this as that shit happens all the time! Find something else to be pissed about people. #youarethespoiledone.
  • How about using your anger to get the city to install signs on poles that would clearly state Loading zone. Not paint a street that would be covered with salt residue. do something useful instead of petty with your time.

His Dad removed his comments, but the one from his mom remains:

  • My son has apologized, he is a very caring and loving young man and has always obeyed the law, once again, we apologize for all the inconvenience.
    Loving Mother

One of his so-called apologies was this internet meme:

stopbeingpoor
Some may consider this an apology, I do not.

Another comment from the thread — from a personal friend:

I understand that it does not alway occur to people that parking in front of the sidewalk ramp prevents someone using a wheelchair from crossing the street– it is a concept that most folks have the luxury of not thinking about. The benefit of this thread is that it has had the potential to increase awareness (for those open to having their awareness increased). However, I don’t think “sorry you are poor” and related sorry-not-sorry apologies count as a sincere apology and referring to “inconvenience” is patronizing.

Friday I wanted to verify what another commenter had said — that it was clearly a loading zone on Google Maps. The aerial was too dark but the August 2012 Street View was clear, I shared the following screen shot in the thread.

In the comments I was accused of photoshopping the words LOADING ONLY even though I included a link to see it on Google -- click to view.
In the comments I was accused of photoshopping the words LOADING ONLY even though I included a link to see it on Google — click to view. I couldn’t photoshop the above, much less hack Google.

We were out that way Sunday afternoon so I drove through to check it out from a motorists prospective.

Right off Hanley you see a loading only zone with a solid white line and a sign. He was parked further West, let's see how it looks.
Right off Hanley you see a loading only zone with a solid white line and a sign. He was parked further West, let’s see how it looks.
Again, a solid white line that curves back to the curb is a good clue this isn't for driving or parking.  The text is faded and no sign is posted like the previous spot. The ramp is very visible,
Again, a solid white line that curves back to the curb is a good clue this isn’t for driving or parking. The text is faded and no sign is posted like the previous spot. The ramp is very visible,
A close up of the fading text, but the solid white line and ramp are pretty clear.
A close up of the fading text, but the solid white line and ramp are pretty clear.

This entire development is poorly designed  — it doesn’t work well for both motorists and pedestrians. After the I-64 rebuild Musick Memorial Dr became a public street, it’s how you get to Westbound Eager Rd from Hanley. From the various comments I got the view that everything East of I-270 is “the city”, with what the rest of us know as the city being downtown.   St. Louis has no responsibility for Musick Memorial Dr — that falls to either the developer or City of Brentwood.

If only there was  a massive parking garage where he could’ve parked.

— Steve Patterson

 

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