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St. Louis Restripes Bad Crosswalk, Enforcement Needed

A few days ago I posted a piece about a crosswalk completely outside the ADA ramps. Thanks to me highlighting this situation, the intersection has now been (mostly) corrected. Here was the pedestrian crossing previously:

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And today:

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A great improvement. Hopefully some signage is on the way to remind drivers to stop on the stop line. I took this opportunity to observe how the intersection now works. Nothing scientific, obviously, but interesting.

With the stop line now pushed back where it belongs I observed that it did help, but that drivers do cross over the line still but in fewer numbers (nothing scientific, just observation). Here is what I did notice: if the car in the left lane arrives first they have a greater tendency to notice and stop at the correct spot than if a car is already at the right and over the crosswalk. Regardless of the position of a car in the left lane, drivers in the right lane continue to pull up as far as they can despite the intersection being a no-turn on red. A number of drivers ignored the no-turn signs and turned right on red anyway (as they had before).

… Continue Reading

 

Alderman Conway Calls Meeting on Halliday Parking

Earlier this month I reported on a controversial, and not approved by the city, parking lot that was paved at a condo project in Tower Grove East (see post). After a long Board of Adjustment hearing, all sides met and thought they had reached a compromise — the concrete would be torn out in favor of angled parking on the street.

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When I was told everything had been settled I knew it had not been. Why? Because the developer had not withdrawn his appeal for the denial of the permit to construct the parking pad which he had alread built.

Residents on the street received a hand delivered letter yesterday regarding a last-minute meeting on the site organized by Alderman Conway (D-8th Ward). Unfortunately I cannot make this meeting. Too bad really, I hear Conway can get a bit hot at these events. He should have to walk through the nearby intersection at Magnolia (see post).

Click here to view letter w/drawings from Ald. Conway on this issue — giving current residents two choices, keep the parking and stain the concrete or rip it out and do angled parking. Of course, in my view, this is a bigger issue than simply this block — others walk from adjacent blocks to get to Grand. The meeting is scheduled to take place on the concrete pad in question at 5:45pm today!

 

St. Louis Crosswalk Ignores ADA Ramps

This weekend, following PrideFest in Tower Grove park, I managed to get some work done by showing a property to a client in the adjacent Shaw neighborhood. Returning home I spotted a problem crosswalk that I had never noticed before, although it looks like this has been the case for some time now. The crossing in question is at the intersection of Magnolia with Grand (view on map).

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As you can see in the above image, the stop line for motorists is dead center on the ADA ramps. The crosswalk markings, where turning motorists might expect to see pedestrians, ends in curbs and lawn areas. The motorist at the left stopped well short of the intersection, keeping the area clear for pedestrians.

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From the opposite side of the street we can see the crosswalk signal on but vehicles blocking the ADA ramps, rendering them useless. This image also illustrates the poor design of the corners.
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Unlike the car in the left lane, not everyone stops at even the stop line. We are so used to making right turns on read we pull up as far as we can. My observation was that drivers do obey the no right turn on red but they still end up blocking the ADA ramps and sometimes the crosswalk as well. Above the driver is talking on the cell phone while blocking the crossing — note the pedestrian signal indicates walk.

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Here you can see the line of cars on eastbound Magnolia at they intersect with Grand. Due to the jog in the street grid traffic is forced to turn left or right, although you can go straight to enter the grocery store seen in the background. But notice the yellow sign on the lamp post — “Blind Persons Crossing.” The visually impaired do use this intersection which is also equipped with older chirp alerts to help those who are not able to see the traffic/pedestrian signals. The little raised squares at the base of ADA ramps are called truncated domes — these are to guide the visually impaired as they can be detected under foot and with a cane — the idea is to help align a person so they are in the right spot to cross the street.

In my view, the city of St. Louis should be held partially liable in the event a pedestrian is struck at this intersection. This is a poor design that, with a little effort, could be greatly improved.

What needs to happen here is the stop line needs to get pushed back and the crosswalk needs to actually get placed where it can functionally be used. To discourage cell phone talking drivers from stopping in the crosswalk, a sign should be added indicating to stop at the stop line. Painting a big “STOP” on the pavement might also help. Placing signage at the eye level of most drivers might also be helpful. These efforts will not prevent the hopelessly oblivious driver from stopping in the crosswalk but clearly the current design encourages drivers to block the ADA ramps. We can, and should, do better for our citizens.
Even though my site is well read at city hall, I will email various decision makers to let them know of this problem so it can get corrected. I will email 8th Ward Alderman Stephen Conway, Dr. Dee from the Office on the Disabled, and Director of Streets Todd Waelterman.

 

Preservation Board to Hear Appeal to Raze 19th Century House (Updated)

A first glance, it doesn’t look like much. Perhaps even the second and third glance you may not see the appeal. The home at 4716/4722 Tennessee in the 25th Ward should not be razed.

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The above home is on today’s agenda at the Preservation Board, a developer seeks to raze the home. In its current state, it looks pretty rough. For years this home was covered in a newer “low maintenance” siding which is now half removed. With the lower windows boarded and the dormer windows removed the home looks much worse than it really is.

As I had long suspected, the original clapboard siding was hiding under the newer siding and remains in amazingly good condition. The porch is original.

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Even though the front door is now boarded you can see the original transom peaking out above the red partical board. The original porch detailing is a rare find these days. A portion of the rear foundation is damaged but certainly repairable.

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A later back stoop is falling down, as it has been doing for years. You see, I know this particular building better than most as I lived next door for 10 years.

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Above is the 2-family I purchased in August 1994 and sold in January 2006 after having moved into my current place a few blocks away in the fall of 2004. Having lived next door, I knew the owners of the property during this period and through many conversations, much of the history of the structure. I have attempted to reach the prior owners but I could not track down them down.
Before I explain some of the interesting history, however, I want to talk about the demolition review process and where things have gone wrong. Ald. Kirner, whom I challenged in the March 2005 election, is under the impression it is her responsibility to broker deals and if she can’t make a deal for a purchaser then it is OK to allow a building to be razed. Aldermen should not be brokering real estate deals. Demolitions should not hinge on their ability to make a deal or not.

The Preservation Review ordinance has a number of criteria which must be met in order to permit a building within Preservation Review Districts to be razed. We will see if the appliant provides sufficient information to meet the criteria. I believe if the house were sold by itself, without the extra building lots between it and my old place, that someone would be interested in buying and rehabbing it. I attempted to explain this concept to Ald. Kirner a couple of weeks ago but I don’t think she got it — she kept talking about trying to see if a previous guy was interested in buying it. Remember, I am the licensed real estate salesperson, not her.

Back to the history.

When I purchased my 2-family in 1994 I bought it from John Held, of Held Florist next door. His grandfather had purchased the old frame house along with quite a bit of land on both sides in 1904. The only thing on the land, besides the frame house, were some greenhouses — the house and greenhouses dated to the 19th century. The Held’s continued the tradition of raising & selling the plants on this land. Over time the business passed to John’s father who built my 2-family in 1924. I was the first person, outside the Held family, to own this 2-family. At the time, in 1994, the frame house, extra lots, greenhouses with storefront and florist business were all for sale. John Held was ready to retire and his kids didn’t want to continue the business. For a brief time I considered buying the whole mess and going into the nursery business — but as a group it was way too much for me to take on. It was too much for anyone really as it had not been as cared for as it should have.

The entire collection sold in 1998 — about five years after he started selling it. The new owner, Michael Dunham, bought the property and business and did a good job starting to clean the place up until he became ill. He was in recovery in the country for a few years and the future of the property was uncertain. He was not able to return to the business and once again the entire collection of real estate was put on the market. Last year it sold but this time a new step was taken – the commercial storefront with greenhouse was legally separated from the frame house and adjacent vacant lots. An excellent move in my view, allowing the new owner of the storefront and greenhouse to renovate that structure (which she has done) without the burden of the rest.

And now a developer wants to raze the frame house and construct three new houses on the site. Although I was sitting in Ald. Kirner’s office at city hall, I was not shown any drawings of the proposed houses. The agenda for tonight’s meeting is not yet posted so I do not know what is planned for the site — other than three new houses. I just cannot support razing a viable 19th century house for some as yet unseen project from unknown developers with an unknown track record — neither should the Preservation Board. As many of you will recall, it has been 18 months since the Preservation Board approved razing the Doering Mansion on Broadway and yet construction has not begun on the replacement project — and that was with a well-known developer with an excellent track record.

I believe the current owners need to plan for two new homes on the vacant land while marketing the existing home with a narrow yard. With alley access new owners of the old frame house could construct a garage out back. If more living space is required, a new addition to the rear could easily be blended in with this frame structure. Again, I’m just saying before we toss the building aside see if anyone is interested — the house has never once been for sale by itself — it has always been part of a bigger ensemble.

The home is a classic center stair house — very 19th century. The kitchen, located in the south end, was remodeled in the 1950s I would guess. The north end is a living room. Upstairs are two rooms. The basement is the best part — it contains a brick barrel vaulted meat locker which would make an excellent wine cellar. The home has a nice presence on the street which is a hodge podge of various styles and periods although most date to the early 20th century. Three new homes were constructed in the late 1990s on the south end of the street at Delor.

Once again we are going about this all wrong. The proposed development is a secret, the elected legislator is playing real estate deal maker and lack of any real design standards could mean a proposal for front-garage houses despite an alley serving the land. I doubt we will have much more information at 4pm when the Preservation Board takes up this and other matters. The meeting is held on the 12th floor of 1015 Locust.
CORRECTION: Today’s meeting will be held at 4pm in Room 208 (Kennedy Hearing Room) in city hall.
Ald Kirner can be contacted here. The Preservation Board can be reached via the Cultural Resources staff here.

UPDATE 6/25/07 @ 10:15pm

This evening the Preservation upheld the staff denial of the demolition request — the house is safe for now. I will use this as a case study in a separate post to talk about some of the issues this brings up as they relate to the Preservation Review ordinance. In short, the appliant failed to meet the various requirements in the ordinance necessary to justify the demolition. The big question is what next? Hopefully the house can get rehabbed (by current or future owner) and a couple of new houses can get constructed on the balance of the site.
In preparing for today’s meeting I ran across a picture I took in March 1994 when I was looking to buy the place next door:

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Chevy Tahoe Driver Crosses the Line, In More Ways Than One

June 17, 2007 South City 32 Comments

Today while taking pictures of the accident involving a police car and a private vehicle (see prior post) I ended up crossing Chippewa twice, both times using the pedestrian crosswalk at Hampton. When crossing from the NE corner back to the SE corner I waited through the Hampton left turn arrows for the signal to cross. However, a big black Chevy Tahoe in the left turn lane (to southbound Hampton) was over the stop line as well as being into the cross walk area.
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As I walked in front of the 5,200 lb+ vehicle I sorta gave the driver, who was talking on her cell phone, a disapproving look. Once safely across the street and on the sidewalk I yelled back something like, “The stop line is five feet back.” Before I explain the rest I want to talk about the above image. The white pickup in the far right lane waited back behind the stop line as I crossed the crosswalk. It was only once I was through that the white truck pulled forward to see about making a right turn on red. That driver had to pull forward more than usual to be able to see past the black Tahoe.

Ok, back to the driver in the Tahoe. So I yelled to her that the stop line was back about five feet. Well, she starts screaming at me and everything was f-this and f-that. I was on foot and walking back along Chippewa to my scooter up near the entrance of the Hampton Village shopping center. As you can see, she was in the left turn lane. By the time I reached my scooter she had pulled into the back of the McDonald’s and began cursing at me again — finally exiting her vehicle and cursing up a storm while calling me fat (ok, technically true). I was a bit concerned for my personal safety at this point but I was unable to get the attention of the police across the street, all the while she tells me she is the wife of a police officer. I indicated she had technically run a red light by being over the stop line (also technically true). Timing was on my side as the KSDK camerawoman in the area for the police car accident got most of this woman’s tyraid on camera.

This woman had no reason to be this far forward into the crosswalk. Many times I’ve seen drivers realize they are too far forward and blocking pedestrians, get embarrased and back up a bit. They’d apologetically wave and smile and that would be the end of it. In this case the woman has plenty of room behind her to back up a bit but instead of accepting her mistake when pointed out she resorts to intimidating a pedestrian. Staying back behind the stop line makes intersections safer for pedestrians as well as other drivers who may find her forward position challenging when trying to turn left from southbound Hampton onto eastbound Chippewa.

Interestingly this intersection has newer signals with video enforcement, I’ll be curious to see what these cameras caught if anything. When I left the area I zig zagged through the residential neighborhoods just in case she tried to track me down on Chippewa.

UPDATE 6/17/2007 @ 3:45pm:

I got a few seconds of video as the driver was screaming at me from the McDonald’s parking lot (can’t tell a word she is saying), then she gets out to come towards me. Unfortunately, I turned off the camera (KSDK got her words after this point). Well, here is the bit that I got:

 

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