Home » Zoning » Recent Articles:

Walkability Impacts Number of Pedestrians Using Sidewalks & Transit

The form our buildings take has a direct connection to the number of pedestrians on the sidewalk: streats lined with urban buildings will see more pedestrians than those with anti-urban buildings (read: suburban). Transit riders are pedestrians on part of their journey, but many of us have no choice but to be pedestrians in unfriendly places where few pedestrians are spotted. On a recent ride on a packed #95 (Kingshighway) MetroBus this became clear.

ABOVE: Car storage separates pedestrians at the bus stop from numerous businesses.
ABOVE: The able-bodied can get inside but not everyone can
ABOVE: Eventually this building will get reused or replaced, but will pedestrians have access?

We don’t design buildings to be used by pedestrians. Sure, some will say there are no pedestrians so why should we? I say there are few pedestrians in many places because that is the result of decades of anti-urban policy.

 – Steve Patterson


One Less Urban Building on South Jefferson (Updated)

Driving home recently I spotted the demolition of the storefront building on the NW corner of Jefferson & Ann (map), I stopped to snap a picture and went on. ?

ABOVE: Feb 2012

It’s just another old vacant building, what’s the problem?

ABOVE: Former storefront at Jefferson & Ann. Source: City of St. Louis

The problem I have is we have absolutely nothing in place to require any new construction to continue to be urban in form — built up to the sidewalk and at least two stories in height with windows and doors. The only other building on this block of south Jefferson Ave is a former Taco Bell, built in 1994.

ABOVE: Former Taco Bell built in 1994 was out of place on Jefferson

The Taco Bell was an affront to good urbanity and it didn’t stay open long. The last use of the building was a credit union but it closed in 2010.

ABOVE: The intersection of Russel & Jefferson is becomes less and less urban with each demolition, reducing the number of pedestrians

One by one urban buildings are razed and replaced with non-urban buildings, creating a place not worth caring about much less walking through.

ABOVE: Like so many suburban fast food places, this former Taco Bell didn't include an ADA access route.

Non-urban buildings are designed to be approached only by car, even making access by pedestrians difficult.

ABOVE: The NE corner of Jefferson & Russel is still very urban in form

We must change our zoning to require new construction to have an urban form so we don’t erode our commercial streets with non-urban structures that end up vacant and useless.

– Steve Patterson

Update 3/6/2012 @ 9:20am:

Thanks to @icsesq for a link to a story on what’s planned for the site — a new facility for the Southside Early Childhood Center:

To get a conditional use permit, the new building had to meet Fox Park’s historical building standards, which require a brick facade and alignment similar to buildings along the block. Demolition is expected to start fairly soon, after a plan for asbestos abatement is approved. (full story)

The drawings in the article illustrate how inadequate Fox Park’s standards are. An entire block of a one-story building? Sure, it will be up to the sidewalk and wrapped in red brick.


The Future of 18th & Washington Ave

Last week I went to the MetroBus stop on the NE corner of 18th & Washington Ave to catch the #97 Delmar bus westbound. The normally full parking lot behind the bus shelter was empty except for a for lease/sale sign.

ABOVE: Lot is listed by L3 Corporation but it's not listed on their website (click to view)

The lot is owned by a couple in Glencoe Missouri but had been leased by Consumers Program Inc, aka CPI, located across the street.

ABOVE: CPI is located at 1706 Washington Ave in a structure built in 1912

Presumably CPI didn’t renew the lease to save money, having employees use one of the three parking lots they own. One is city block #831 bounded by Washington, 16th, St. Charles St and 17th — this is the block directly east of their building. This block once was occupied fully by a building that was part of Brown Shoe.

ABOVE: Entire block of surface parking east of CPI's building shown in the background

CPI’s other two lots occupy two more corners at 18th & Washington — the SE & NW.

ABOVE: The SE corner held the 10-story Marquette Hotel until it was razed in 1988
ABOVE: CPI's largest lot occupies city block 2002 bounded by Washington, 19th, Lucas and 18th

Three of the four corners are surface parking, the fourth corner (SW) is occupied by Mulligan Printing.

ABOVE: SW corner of 18th & Washington is the only one left with a building, occupied by Mulligan Printing

Mulligan Printing’s 5-story building was built in 1928. The closed up windows at the street level are unfortunate but at least the building massing is good — far better than a surface parking lot.

What is the future of this intersection? Will it always be mostly surface parking lots? The planner in me would like to see form based codes to replace our old use-based codes. Instead of detailed regulations depending upon the original intended use of any new construction, a form-based code would require a minimum height, the building pushed out to the property line, windows and doors at sidewalk level, etc. The architectural style, just like the use inside, of any new construction is of little concern me.

In the future I’d like to see the current situation reversed with buildings on three corners and only one corner with surface parking. It might take 40 years to happen but it’ll never happen under our current zoning.

– Steve Patterson


Readers Support Proposed Bike Parking Ordinance

February 8, 2012 Bicycling, Zoning 16 Comments
ABOVE: Bike parking on the campus of Washington University

Readers overwhelmingly support a bill before the St. Louis Board of Aldermen to require bike parking for some projects:

A proposed law would require bike parking for new construction or renovations in access excess of $1 million dollars. Auto parking requirements would be reduced.

  1. Great, more bike parking is needed 44 [50%]
  2. A good start, but it doesn’t go far enough 18 [20.45%]
  3. Ugh, more government regulation 16 [18.18%]
  4. Other: 9 [10.23%]
  5. Unsure/No Opinion 1 [1.14%]

I had a stupid mistake in the poll, corrected above, and a few of the other votes pointed that out:

  1. A good first step; besides handicapped parking there should be no reqirements
  2. don’t you mean “in excess?”
  3. What comes first demand or supply?
  4. need more bike lanes and paths first…
  5. Like the bike part, but no reduction for cars
  6. excess =/= access. We need more accessible and safe biking paths first.
  7. How about an option for not a good idea?????
  8. excess, not access
  9. Security is a MAJOR concern of those who use bike racks. Theft is a conern.

The 20% that said this bill is a good start but it doesn’t go far enough are correct, the number of projects in excess of $1 million dollars are few.The amount of verbiage to describe what is required in the context of our tired & old use-based zoning code is a nightmare to read and understand. Take a few minutes and read any section of Title 26 (Zoning) and you will quickly realize it’s easy to get lost in the cross references and lists of prohibitions all the while you don’t get an image of what’s actually desired.

Instead of trying to improve the city by amending our 1947 zoning code to current standards we need to toss it out completely and start over with a form-bsased code that is easy to read and understand.

– Steve Patterson


Poll: Thoughts on Bill That Would Require Bike Parking In Some Cases

St. Louis alderman Scott Olgilvie (I-24) has introduced a new bill that, if passed, would modify our zoning code to require bike parking for some major new construction or renovations:

ABOVE: Bike parking on the campus of Washington University

BOARD BILL NO. 258 INTRODUCED BY ALDERMAN SCOTT OGILVIE, ALDERMAN SHANE COHN, PRESIDENT LEWIS REED, ALDERWOMAN JENNIFER FLORIDA An Ordinance recommended by the City of St. Louis Planning Commission, requiring residential and commercial bicycle parking under the Zoning Code for all new construction or renovations equal to or in excess of one million dollars ($1,000,000);ontaining definitions; bicycle rack construction requirement, bicycle rack site requirements, bicycle parking requirements, exemptions, off-street parking reduction, an administrative waiver provision and a severability clause. (BB258)

From Olgilvie’s blog:

On Wednesday the Planning Commission approved an ordinance that will require bike parking be included in new commercial construction and certain renovations. The bill is a collaborative effort between myself and members of the Mayor’s staff. A lot of assistance was provided by the city’s legal and zoning teams to craft an ordinance that will be effective, yet flexible for existing structures. The idea follows the lead of other cities like Cleveland, Minneapolis, and Portland, to provide secure and convenient bike parking where people will use it: at their work and the stores they visit. The specific amount of parking is determined by the size of the structure, or the number of employees for warehouse, hotel, and industrial uses. The goal is to provide adequate bike parking facilities to accommodate up to 5% of trips – a goal which some other cities have already achieved and surpassed. The rules build upon the bike infrastructure progress made in St. Louis over the last decade, including GRG trails and bike St. Louis on-street routes. (ward24stl.com)

Section Two E of the bill:

The total number of vehicle off-street parking spaces required under the Zoning Code shall be reduced at the ratio of one (1) automobile off-street parking space for each one (1) bicycle space provided. The total number of required automobile off-street parking spaces, however, shall not be reduced by more than ten (10) percent for any newly developed or rehabilitated structure.

The following shows bike rack styles, half allowed and half not allowed:

ABOVE: Ald Scott Olgilvie provided this image showing types of racks allowed and not allowed

I have some strong opinions on this bill but I’ll reserve those until I post the poll results on Wednesday February 8th.

– Steve Patterson