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Upcoming 15th Ward Special Election In Three Weeks; Candidate Forum Monday September 29, 2014

A candidate forum will be held on Monday September 29, 2014 at the Carpenter Library, 7pm
A candidate forum will be held on Monday September 29, 2014 at the Carpenter Library, 7pm

The 15th ward seat on the Board of Aldermen became vacant in July when Jennifer Florida resigned to accept appointment as the Recorder of Deeds, which became vacant after Sharon Carpenter resigned to end investigation into charges of nepotism. Florida was reelected to the Board of Aldermen in the Spring of 2013. Now voters in the 15th ward will return to the polls next month or elect a new alderman.

Here are the four candidates, in reverse ballot order:

Rhonda Smythe

To my knowledge, the only one of the four I’ve met in person. I met Smythe through her work at Trailnet. As an independent candidate, Smythe submitted at least 106 signatures from valid 15th ward voters to be on the ballot.

Megan Ellyia Green

Green also gathered & submitted signatures to be on the ballot.

Joshua D. Simpson

  • Website: unknown
  • Facebook Page: unknown
  • Twitter: unknown

I was unable to find online information on this candidate or how the GOP nominated him. I did find the St. Louis Republican Central Committee website and Facebook page, no mention of Simpson on either.

Missy Pinkerton-McDaniel

Democratic Committeeman Tod A. Martin & nominated McDaniel, the Committeewoman, for the ballot.

So there are the four individuals seeking to become the next alderman representing the 15th ward. If you’re a registered voter in the 15th ward I urge you to look into all four and consider attending the upcoming candidate forum on Monday September 29, 2014. 7pm @ Carpenter Library, lower level, 3309 S. Grand

The special election is in three weeks, Tuesday October 7, 2014.

— Steve Patterson

 

Readers Favor Grove Homeowners In Dispute With Music Venue; Poor Site Selection A Contributor

August 20, 2014 Featured, Planning & Design, Real Estate, South City Comments Off on Readers Favor Grove Homeowners In Dispute With Music Venue; Poor Site Selection A Contributor

Grove homeowners Brad Fratello & Doug Moore have built a beautiful custom home for themselves.  For the background see Grove homeowners are upset about loud music from the venue behind their home. Who do you favor in this dispute?

I think the modern facade works well with the neighbors from 1916 (L) and 1904 (R)
I think the modern facade works well with the neighbors from 1916 (L) and 1904 (R)

Here is the results from the poll:

Q: Grove homeowners are upset about loud music from the venue behind their home. Who do you favor in this dispute?

  1. 50/50 41 [31.06%]
  2. The home owners 100% 34 [25.76%]
  3. The home owners 75% 25 [18.94%]
  4. The music venue 75% 14 [10.61%]
  5. The music venue 100% 13 [9.85%]
  6. Unsure/no opinion 5 [3.79%]

Mathematically, the readers favor the homeowners. The venue does need to contain their noise, no doubt. The ordinance that seemed most relevant:

15.50.030 Playing of sound devices prohibited–When. A. No person shall play any radio, music player, television, audio system or musical instrument upon private property at a volume louder than is necessary for convenient, normal hearing of the person or persons who are on the property on which the device is being used or operated and who are voluntary listeners. B. Except for any lawful event occurring on a periodic basis at a venue where people assemble and that is anticipated and lawfully allowed to occur on a periodic basis and persons operating motor vehicles under Section 15.50.031 of this chapter, no person shall play any radio, music player, or audio system upon public property at a volume which is plainly audible at a distance greater than seventy-five (75) feet from the source of the sound. C. Any person participating in any lawful event as provided for in subsection B of this section may generate sound in excess of the limitations in this section only if the sound generated does not exceed reasonable sound levels in light of the nature of the event, its time, and the character of the surrounding neighborhood. (Ord. 67233 § 1, 2006: prior: Ord. 67002 § 2, 2006: Ord. 65700 § 1, 2002: Ord. 50038 § 1, 1960: 1948 C. Ch. 44 § 1 (2): 1960 C. § 760.030.)

The ordinance includes a measurement, not “plainly audible” within 75 feet. Call the police to enforce? Eventually try to get it shut down as a nuisance property? Or go after the liquor license, as they’ve done…

The Ready Room at 4195 Manchester occupies the 1930s building the new custom house backs up to
The Ready Room at 4195 Manchester occupies the 1930s building the new custom house backs up to

Their home has been published quite a bit:

Doug Moore and Brad Fratello wanted three things for their new home: a pool, privacy and a floor plan they could live with for the rest of their lives. They bought three vacant lots in the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood of St. Louis, which gave them room for a pool. The yard backed up to a windowless commercial building, and that gave them the privacy. (Houzz)

Centered on a private courtyard and a close indoor/outdoor relationship, UIC’s design highlighted Brad and Doug’s desire for a pool while maintaining privacy. The home was custom built to fit the lot. The garage is tipped at an angle and the pool and patio mirror the trapezoid shape of the lot. With no alley behind the lots, an old factory wall — a feature Brad and Doug love — closes off the space. “Our goal was to have the home have a St. Louis feel,” says Doug. “The factory wall screams St. Louis.” Incorporating the factory wall into their space played a major role in interior as well as exterior material selections.  (St. Louis Magazine)

While I think the music likely exceeds allowable levels, I also think poor site selection by the couple contributes to the current noise problem. When I first heard they were building this house I looked for it in UIC’s project nearby, off Tower Grove. Building right up against a vacant building in a rapidly changing neighborhood is very risky. In my mind the warehouse where the Ready Room is located is undistinguished, I could see it being razed for a 4-5 story apartment/condo project with street-level retail. The now private pool would be on display to all the residents of the new building. Even rooftop dining on the existing building would destroy their coveted privacy. That brick wall they like might be replaced by cinder block. I foresee more conflicts over the years as the reality of being snugged up behind a hot commercial area sets in.

— Steve Patterson

 

Absentee Landlord Quickly Located Using Internet

This post is about an absentee landlord, how the city reacts to code violations, and a blogger stepping in to make change happen. I’d originally planned to post the property address and the name of the owner, but he responded to my letter, we’ve texted, talked on the phone, and emailed. Publicly embarrassing him would serve no purpose, at this point.

Twenty-four years ago tomorrow a prominent local family bought a property in the McKinley Heights neighborhood, they’ve been renting it all these years. The house is very attractive, and maintained. The carriage house, however, has been falling down for years, at least according to a neighbor. I viewed the carriage house from the alley, from the neighbor’s 2nd floor porch, and satellite images.

You can easily see daylight by pushing on the carriage door
You can easily see daylight by pushing on the carriage door, the entire structure is covered in vines

The flat roof has large holes, the floor to the 2nd floor no longer exists. When I emailed city officials to inquire about why this property was allowed to be in this condition, I’d been cited for much less. At the last minute in my email I added a sentence wondering if the owner’s last name is why ore if it was incompetence. I got called on that, and apologized. A couple of days later a reply comes from a staff member at the Building Division with a copy of the 2011 violation letter and a note saying the owner failed to contact them, failed to show up for housing court in 2011, and a bench warrant was issued for his arrest. Wow, so a prominent last name doesn’t get them off the hook!

I got involved and within a week had the owner talking to the building department about fixing the carriage house. My secret? The internet!  The address of record for this property is the owner’s bank in suburban Ballwin, they pay the annual tax bill. However, it seems they discard all other correspondence sent by the city. I used the internet to find the owner’s home address, also in Ballwin. Before I’d heard back from the city about the violation letter and bench warrant, I’d mailed the owner a letter asking his intentions. I found his phone number online too, but chose to mail a letter knowing that would be less confrontational. He called me, we played phone tag a little before finally speaking.  He had no idea about the 2011 violation letter, the missed housing court date, or the bench warrant.

I got his email address so I could forward to him what the city emailed me, along with contact information for the Building Division, Cultural Resources, and a link to the McKinley Heights Historic District Design Standards. I immediately replied to the city officials I’d been emailing with to fill them in on the discussion along with how to reach him. The very next night the Neighborhood Stabilization Officer (NSO) told the neighborhood meeting the bench warrant had been served. With a bench warrant the police don’t come looking for you, but get pulled over for speeding you’ll be taken in when they see it in the system.

The bench warrant wasn’t served, as told to the neighborhood, I used the internet to track down the property owner. Most likely everyone at city hall followed their procedures, mailing letters to the recorded address. Waiting and mailing more letters. It’s very clear the address is in care of a bank. Many property owners have the tax bill sent to an address other than their home, sometimes it is the property itself. When the city fails to get a response from the first letter mailed to such an address they need to try something new rather than mailing a court notice to the same address.

How many other properties are in the same situation because city staff haven’t searched online for the property owner? The staff may not be incompetent, but the official procedures are if they don’t include taking a half an hour to do some searching online.

— Steve Patterson

 

Compton Hill Reservoir Park: A Century of the Naked Truth

May 27, 2014 Featured, History/Preservation, Parks, South City Comments Off on Compton Hill Reservoir Park: A Century of the Naked Truth

St. Louis is rich with history from many immigrant groups over the last 250 years, including Germans. A century ago they unveiled a sculpture in the Compton Hill Reservoir Park:

The statue called “The Naked Truth,” designated a city landmark in 1969, was controversial before it was even built. It is a memorial to Dr. Emil Preetorius, Carl Schurz and Carl Daenzer, German-American editors of the St. Louis Westliche Post. Adolphus Busch was the major donor, giving $20,000 of the $31,000 cost.

A jury selected a design by sculptor Wilhelm Wandschneider of Berlin. Busch was appalled by the jury’s selection and the controversy over the nudity in the statue prompted great debates. The sculptor refused Busch’s request that the figure be draped.

The jury voted 14 to 12 to accept the original design but said the nude figure should be made of a material other than white marble, to de-emphasize the nudity. The figure is made of bronze.

The statue is a nude figure of a woman seated on a stone bench with arms outstretched, holding torches. The figure symbolizes “Truth” and the torches are for the “enlightenment of Germany and the United States.” The figure of Truth is of bronze in heroic size. The eyes are painted as in some bronze figures of the Greeks and as in many modern German statues. The inscription on the back of the shaft in incised lettering expressing the devotion of German-American citizens to the country of their adoption. This inscription is repeated in German.

The memorial was a gift to St Louis by the German-American Alliance and was unveiled on May 27, 1914.

On the right is The Naked Truth sculpture, unveiled 100 years ago today. Photo date May 19, 2012
On the right is “The Naked Truth” sculpture, unveiled 100 years ago today. Photo date May 19, 2012

Behind the sculpture is the water tower, one of three in St. Louis, one of seven in the county. The tower is open for tours ($5) on the following dates:

2014 Saturday Openings are scheduled:
Open from Noon to 4pm

  • June 7th
  • July 5th
  • August 2nd
  • September 6th
  • October 4th
  • November 1st

2014 Full Moon Openings are scheduled:

  • Friday, June 13th, 5:30pm to Midnight
  • Saturday, July12th, 5:30pm to Midnight
  • Sunday, August 10th, 5:30pm to Midnight
  • Tuesday, September 9th, 5:30pm to 11pm
  • Wednesday, October 8th, 5:30pm to 10pm
  • Thursday, November 6th, 5:30pm to 9pm

For more information see the Water Tower & Park Preservation Society.

— Steve Patterson

 

May 26, 1954: South Broadway Drive-In Theater Opened

The Wednesday before the Memorial Day weekend in 1954 was the grand opening of a new drive-in movie theater in St. Louis, at 4300 South Broadway. As you can see below, it was billed as “the only drive-in theater in the city limits of St. Louis.”

Click image to view source
The 1954 ad announcing the grand opening, click image to view source
Eight years later, in 1962, the theater building, screen, and lot were razed for the construction of a new interstate highway. The blue lines mark the approximate outline of the theater site. Click image to view 1958 aerial
Eight years later, in 1962, the theater building, screen, and lot were razed for the construction of a new interstate highway, I-55. The blue lines mark the approximate outline of the theater site. Click image to view 1958 aerial

I began to wonder what was on this site before the 1954 theater. Sanborn Maps from October 1908 show H.H. Schweer Brick Company located east of Broadway and south of Chariton (See here & here), Brick by Chance and Fortune filmmaker Bill Streeter hadn’t heard of this company. The first linked Sanborn Map shows the St. Louis Workhouse across Chariton St from the theater. In 1908 a bowling/dance hall was north of Meramec (view map).  In 1908 & 1958 Chariton & Meramec streets continued east of Broadway, these were likely closed after the highway was started in 1962. Interstate 55 had a big impact on this area.

When I lived a few blocks away the building at 4330 South Broadway was a Big Lots store, Universal Foods opened in March this year after being vacant for several years
i When I lived a few blocks away the building at 4330 South Broadway was a Big Lots store, Universal Foods opened in March this year after being vacant for several years. I was glad to see the yellow paint indicating a pedestrian route. Anyone know what grocery store built this building in 1968?
O'Reilly Auto Parts  lists the address as 4266 S, Broadway, but city records indicate the parcel address is 4300 S, Broadway
O’Reilly Auto Parts lists the address as 4266 S, Broadway, but city records indicate the parcel address is 4300 S. Broadway. This was built in 2008.

In the coming weeks I’ll take a look at the commercial development along this stretch of Broadway and share my concept for an urban redevelopment.  Have a great Memorial Day!

— Steve Patterson

 

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