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Poll: Will The St. Louis Rams Opt Out Of Dome Lease?

Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar
Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar

The last regular season game for the St. Louis Rams is December 28th, at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. With a 1-4 record I don’t think we can expect to see the Rams in the post-season. At the end of this season the Rams need to decide if they’re going to opt out of the last 10 years of a 30 year lease at the Edward Jones Dome. They can opt out because the quasi-government entity that owns the Dome was unable to meet the contractual obligation to keep the facility within the top 25% of all NFL stadiums. If the Rams opt out of the last 10 years they’ll switch to a year to year lease.

The negotiating climate changes rapidly. I personally had positive feelings when they drafted Michael Sam. When they released him, understandably so, my feelings cooled immediately. With players in trouble for domestic & child abuse, this year hasn’t been the best for the NFL’s image.

The poll question this week asks what you think the Rams will do. Not what you’d like them to — what will they do? The phrasing is:

“At the end of the current NFL season the St. Louis Rams have the right to opt out of the last 10 years of their lease at the Edward Jones Dome. What’ll they do?”

The poll is in the right sidebar, mobile users will need to switch to the desktop layout to see the sidebar.

— Steve Patterson

 

40th Anniversary of ‘Gone in 60 Seconds’; Planning/Policy Insights

July 28, 2014 Crime, Featured, Popular Culture Comments Off on 40th Anniversary of ‘Gone in 60 Seconds’; Planning/Policy Insights

Today’s post isn’t about St. Louis, but it is about urban planning/policy as observed through popular culture. The movie “Gone in 60 Seconds” premiered 40 years ago today — July 28, 1974. The second half of the movie is a very long chase scene — the police today would never be able to engage a suspect at these speeds.  The star is ‘Eleanor’, a yellow 1973 Ford Mustang Mach I.  By the premier, the ’73 Mustang had been replaced by the Pinto-based Mustang II. My very first car was a ’74 Mustang II, an awful car.

I’m a public transit advocate that’s also a car nut, this movie filmed in 1973 so many cars.

Company Headquarters/Streets

The chase scene passes by the USA headquarters of Datsun
The big chase scene passes by the USA headquarters of Datsun (aka Nissan) then located at 18501 S Figueroa St in Carson, CA

At the time the three biggest Japanese auto manufacturers (Honda, Toyota, & Datsun/Nissan) had their US headquarters very close to each other in Los Angeles County. In late 2005, Nissan announced they were relocating to Tennessee:

Nissan Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn said the Japanese automaker, which set up shop in Southern California in 1958, would spend more than $70 million to build a corporate headquarters complex in Franklin, about 15 miles southwest of Nashville.

Ghosn said the widely anticipated decision was prompted chiefly by cheaper real estate and lower business taxes.

“The costs of doing business in Southern California are much higher than the costs of doing business in Tennessee,” he said. (LA Times)

In April of this year Toyota announced it too would leave California:

Toyota is moving to Texas. The Japanese automaker is consolidating its various United States headquarters operations into a single campus in Plano, Tex.

Right now, Toyota’s sales and finance arms are headquartered in California, while its manufacturing and development arms are headquartered in Kentucky. Toyota also has offices in New York City and some of those jobs will also be moved to Texas. (source)

Another article noted Toyota wants to avoid the problems Nissan faced:

In moving its U.S. headquarters out of California, Toyota hopes to avoid some of the problems that Nissan encountered when it did the same thing in 2006.

Sources inside Toyota say they already dissected Nissan North America’s move and were particularly dismayed to see that their Japanese rival lost roughly 60 percent of its 1,300 Los Angeles headquarters staffers and executives when it relocated to Nashville. (source)

So what happened after Nissan left?

Nissan’s plan was treated with alarm by officials, who made a last-ditch effort to keep the automaker in town. Unswayed, Nissan brass turned out the lights and moved their North American headquarters to Nashville in the summer of 2006. After nearly 50 years in Los Angeles County, Nissan’s nerve center was gone.

Left behind was a cluster of 13 buildings, including a nine-story tower topped with a red Nissan sign that was a familiar sight to drivers passing the intersection of the Harbor and San Diego freeways. More than 700,000 square feet of office and light industrial space lay empty.

In Rust Belt cities such as Detroit, many abandoned commercial buildings fall slowly to pieces. But in a sign of the vitality and adaptive nature of the Southern California economy, the 42-acre Nissan campus has been taken over by 11 different businesses that are expected to employ more workers than Nissan did — about 1,400 in all. (Nissan’s old campus in South Bay gets ‘flipped’)

The campus now has multiple owners, employing more total people in diverse industries. In the developer’s words:

Now complete, Kearny South Bay Business Park employs more people than when Nissan occupied the property. Due to demand and the significant improvements made to the campus, the campus was quickly backfilled by firms in diversified sectors including finance, health services, high-tech manufacturing, fashion, automotive, and food processing which helped to re-energize the entire area. Of the 13 buildings, 7 were sold in 2007, 5 in 2008 and the last office building closed in December 2009. Kearny is proud of this transformation. (source)

As you might expect, the area looks different forty years later. South Figueroa St got a planted median to take up some the excess street width.

Similar view as the still from the movie, this image is from a May 2011 Google Street View.
Similar view as the still from the movie, this image is from a May 2011 Google Street View, click image to view in Google.

Property Taxes

The movie car chase conveniently goes by the ground breaking ceremony for a new Sheriff’s office where the announcer says:

gonein60seconds02
“In February 1968 the City of Carson was incorporated and since then it has grown to be one of the fastest growing cities in the southern California area, with a population of over 82,000 and an assessed valuation of nearly $350 million dollars and no property taxes.” Click image to view building on Google Maps.

At the time Carson was a new city in the region, with employers like Datsun and attracting more with the lure of no property taxes.

Carson borders Compton:

Soon, middle class blacks also found other areas more attractive to them. Some were unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County such as Ladera Heights, View Park and Windsor Hills; and others were cities such as Inglewood and, particularly, Carson. The latter was significant because it had successfully thwarted attempts at annexation by neighboring Compton. The city of Carson opted instead for incorporation in 1968, which is notable because its black population was actually more affluent than its white population. As a newer city, it also offered more favorable tax rates and lower crime. 

A more affluent unincorporated area incorporated rather than be annexed by an area losing its tax base, this happened everywhere.

By the time Carson finally incorporated as a city in 1968, its landscape was pockmarked with the dozens of refuse dumps, landfills, and auto dismantling plants which none of its neighbors would have in their own cities.

As a result, the history of the City of Carson since 1968 has, to a large extent, been the history of struggling to deal with these problems caused by its late incorporation. And to its credit, Carson has worked miracles in the short time since its birth as an independent city.

Following its incorporation in 1968, Carson acted swiftly to close down most of the unwanted facilities that had been foisted upon the city in the past, enforcing a strict building and landscaping code, and a working to attract successful new commercial ventures to the city. As a result, most of the heavy industry of the past has been replaced. The new industrial parks in Carson, such as the Watson Industrial Center, are models of cleanliness and attention to appearance. Beautification efforts by the city have resulted in numerous landscaped center medians, lighting projects, street improvements and public parks.

All these services eventually required property taxes.

b

Carson’s 18.968 sq mi makes it less than a third the size of the City of St. Louis (66.2 sq mi).  St. Louis has a slightly greater population density.

b

Ronald Moran Cadillac was featured  in the chase, it's now Penske Cadillac.
Ronald Moran Cadillac was featured in the chase, it’s now Penske Cadillac, click image to view in Google Maps.
One of the most memorable scenes was a police car s,mashing into a line of new Cadillacs.
One of the most memorable scenes was a police car s,mashing into a line of Cadillacs.

The chase ended up at the Cadillac dealership after passing by the nearby Mazda dealer.

A camera inside the showroom saw the police set up a road block right out front
A camera inside the showroom saw the police set up a road block right out front. The car in the showroom is likely a 1973 808 (aka RX-3)

Across Hawthorne Blvd was a wall, but now the road is wider with a median. Across the street is a trailer park.

Eleanor had lap seat belts, no shoulder belt. All the cars had round sealed beam headlights, as required by US law. In 1974 the law was changed to allow rectangular sealed beam headlights. It wasn’t until the easily 1980s that more headlight designs were allowed on vehicles sold in the US.

I’ve rambled enough, I’m going to get a big bowl of popcorn and watch this great movie another time. You can watch it on YouTube here or order a DVD at gonein60seconds.com.

— Steve Patterson

 

Poll: What Are Your Two Preferred Methods To Deposit A Check Into Your Checking Or Savings Account?

Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar
Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar

Banking has changed throughout the years, changing cities along the way. Every so often a new technology has come along that has changed the way we bank which go to thinking about methods of depositing manual checks (vs direct deposit of paychecks). The weekly poll question for this week is: You’ve got a check to deposit into your checking or savings account, pick your two preferred methods.

The poll is to the right, the answers provided will appear in random order for everyone. I’m not listing them here so the order doesn’t influence the outcome. Feel free to discuss in the comments.

— Steve Patterson

 

Readers Support St. Louis’ Challenge Of Missouri’s Ban On Same-Sex Marriage

July 9, 2014 Politics/Policy, Popular Culture Comments Off on Readers Support St. Louis’ Challenge Of Missouri’s Ban On Same-Sex Marriage

Last week more than two-thirds of the readers supported the decision by St. Louis officials to issue marriage licenses to four same-sex couples in an effort to challenge Missouri’s ban. While I’d like my own same-sex marriage recognized by Missouri, beyond a joint tax return, I voted for “somewhat support.”  Before I explain why, here are the results:

Q:  On June 25th the City of St. Louis defied Missouri’s ban on same-sex marriage by marrying 4 couples. Oppose or support this decision?

  1. Strongly support 92 [69.7%]
  2. Strongly oppose 21 [15.91%]
  3. Somewhat support 8 [6.06%]
  4. Somewhat oppose 6 [4.55%]
  5. Neutral 4 [3.03%]
  6. Unsure/No Answer 1 [0.76%]

As I stated when I introduced this poll, this action was being discussed quietly last year. At that time Missouri’s ban wasn’t being challenged in the courts, but in February this year:

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Missouri filed a lawsuit in state court today on behalf of eight same-sex couples who are seeking recognition for their legal out-of-state marriages. The lawsuit does not seek a repeal of Missouri’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples within the state. (ACLU

That case wasn’t a direct challenge to the ban, that came in June a day before the weddings at city hall:

Court records show the Jackson County case was filed Tuesday.

ACLU attorney Tony Rothert said Friday that it wasn’t publicized because supporters didn’t want to distract from efforts in St. Louis.

St. Louis officials granted marriage licenses to four same-sex couples Wednesday, which also has prompted a legal fight. (KSDK)

In this case two same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses are challenging the ban, a legal strategy successfully used in other states. Maybe both challenges will be stronger than just the one, it certainly got positive press for St. Louis. It also seems like a way to help Recorder of Deeds Sharon Carpenter in her August 5th primary, not a worthwhile reason for getting St. Louis sued by Missouri Attorney General:

Cases currently pending in Jefferson City and Kansas City regarding the constitutionality of Missouri’s ban against same-sex marriage will be decided in the coming months. Regardless of my personal support for marriage equality, such vital questions cannot be decided by local county officials acting in contravention of state law. 

St. Louis is arguing county recorder of deeds are free to act based on their understanding of the constitution. I can’t help but wonder if conservative Brian Nieves would issue same-sex marriage licenses if he becomes the Franklin County recorder of deeds and our ban is ruled unconstitutional? Missouri has 115 recorder of deeds, do we want them each interpreting the constitution? Their job is to record and file documents.

— Steve Patterson

 

‘Spanish Lake’ Documentary Overly Simplifies North St. Louis County In/Out Migration

Last week I finally saw the documentary ‘Spanish Lake’. Director Phillip Andrew Morton grew up in Spanish Lake, an unincorporated area of northeast St. Louis County. I suggest you see the film, showing at the Tivoli through July 3rd, but do so with a few grain of salt.

First, what the film got right:

  • St. Louis County leadership guided federal low-income housing to the area
  • St. Louis County has many municipalities
  • Nearby Blackjack was incorporated in an attempt to keep out low-income public housing
  • Real estate interests actively engaged in “blockbusting” and “steering”

If you take the film at face value you’ll walk away falsely thinking:

  • All residents from Pruitt-Igoe moved to brand new apartments in Spanish Lake
  • Spanish Lake would be perfect today if not for poor blacks moving in and quickly ruining things

The Spanish Lake area has a very long history, famed explorers Lewis & Clark camped here at the start and end of their trip (1804-1806), residents have lived in the area since. This was a rural farming community for many years, but in the 1920s new housing subdivisions were platted. Northdale, the subdivision where filmmaker Morton first lived, was among the first tract housing planned for Spanish Lake, it was platted in March 1929. The depression and World War II meant the subdivision were nothing more than a drawing on file with St. Louis County. . Northdale was platted for a parcel on the east side of a freight railroad line, Northdale 2 was platted just two weeks later, in March 1929, for the west side of the railroad line.

Before farmers began platting home sites on their property, in the City of St. Louis property owners were busy placing deed restrictions to keep non-whites from buying. One example from 1911 went all the way to the Supreme Court in the 1940s:

On February 16, 1911, thirty out of a total of thirty-nine owners of property fronting both sides of Labadie Avenue between Taylor Avenue and Cora Avenue in the city of St. Louis, signed an agreement, which was subsequently recorded, providing in part:
“. . . the said property is hereby restricted to the use and occupancy for the term of Fifty (50) years from this date, so that it shall be a condition all the time and whether recited and referred to as [sic] not in subsequent conveyances and shall attach to the land as a condition precedent to the sale of the same, that hereafter no part of said property or any
Page 334 U. S. 5
portion thereof shall be, for said term of Fifty-years, occupied by any person not of the Caucasian race, it being intended hereby to restrict the use of said property for said period of time against the occupancy as owners or tenants of any portion of said property for resident or other purpose by people of the Negro or Mongolian Race.”
The entire district described in the agreement included fifty-seven parcels of land. The thirty owners who signed the agreement held title to forty-seven parcels, including the particular parcel involved in this case. At the time the agreement was signed, five of the parcels in the district were owned by Negroes. One of those had been occupied by Negro families since 1882, nearly thirty years before the restrictive agreement was executed. The trial court found that owners of seven out of nine homes on the south side of Labadie Avenue, within the restricted district and “in the immediate vicinity” of the premises in question, had failed to sign the restrictive agreement in 1911. At the time this action was brought, four of the premises were occupied by Negroes, and had been so occupied for periods ranging from twenty-three to sixty-three years. A fifth parcel had been occupied by Negroes until a year before this suit was instituted. (Shelly v. Kraemer, 1948)

The 1948 decision meant the government courts couldn’t be used to enforce private restrictive covenants.  Real estate interests pounced on neighborhoods, playing up fears of whites that they’d better sell while they could. Go back up and reread the quote — black families had lived on that block for years. The big fear was going over a “tipping point” where all white neighborhoods would gain just enough non-whites to make the remaining whites leave; roughly 10%.  This has been the case for more than a century now.

1951
This is the house ‘Spanish Lake’ filmmaker Philip Andrew Morton lived in during the 80s, it was built in 1951

Presumably because of the Great Depression and WWII, the homes in Northdale weren’t built until 1951; each virtually identical 864 square foot slab on grade boxes (no basement). A decade later Northdale 2 homes were built on the lots platted the other side of the tracks. These homes were built in brick, with a full basement, and 3 bedrooms instead of just 2. Those early Northdale homes were the very cheapest new housing available, and with government loans cheaper than renting in the then-overcrowded city.

The now-dated Belle Parke Plaza strip mall was built in 1963 to serve the new residents
The now-dated Belle Parke Plaza strip mall was built in 1963 to serve the new residents
The 336-unit Spanish Gardens Apts/Colonial Meadows condos on Parker Rd were built in 1964, a decade before Morton says the blacks were moved from Pruitt-Igoe.
The 336-unit Spanish Gardens Apts/Colonial Meadows condos on Parker Rd were built in 1964, a decade before Morton says the blacks were moved from Pruitt-Igoe.
The 40-unit Kathleen Apts, shown in the film, were built in 1966
The 40-unit Kathleen Apts, shown in the film, were built in 1966

At the same time as the strip mall and initial apartment buildings were going up so were nicer homes, such as those in the Hidden Lake Subdivision behind the Spanish Gardens Apts and the Belle Parke Plaza strip mall. These houses face a private lake, are 1,500-2,000 sq ft  with 2-car garages.

Meanwhile…

The county had adopted a master plan in 1965 which embraced the 1,700 acres which were later to become the City of Black Jack. That plan designated sixty-seven acres for multiple-family construction. In 1970, 15.2 of those acres were occupied by 321 apartments, 483.1 acres were occupied by single-family dwellings, and the rest of the land was undeveloped. (source)

Apartments were planned before Congress changed the Urban Renewal program into Model Cities (1966).   Many many factors play into people’s decisions about where to live, when to move, etc… Yes, race may be a part of the decision; humans like to self-select to be with like individuals. Economics is another. For years General Motors had a factory in north city (Natural Bridge & Union), the Corvette was assembled there until 1981 when “production shifted from St. Louis, Missouri to Bowling Green, Kentucky” (Wikipedia). The entire plant was closed in 1987, but in 1983 a new plant opened in the St. Charles County town of Wentzville. The movement of blue collar jobs meant blue collar workers would follow.

Why keep living in a 30+ year old 2-bedroom 1-bath house without a basement or garage when you can get a newer & nicer home closer to work?   I’ll have more on the Spanish Lake area in the coming weeks, but I do suggest you get to the Tivoli to see it.

— Steve Patterson

 

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