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I Scootered To A Working Farm Yesterday

Few people on small 49cc scooters make it out to rural farm country. While I did visit a farm yesterday, it wasn’t a long trip through the ring of sprawl to reach my destination . My Environmental Planning class at Saint Louis University visited the New Roots Urban Farm on St. Louis’ near north side.


New Roots is located on Hogan Street adjacent to the vacant but stunning St. Liborius church.


You can almost just pass right by — the quarter acre urban farm is very unassuming with the exception of the lively sign.



Rows of basil yet to be picked. Mmmmmm, pesto! Newer homes, set a suburban distance back from the street, complete the block and much of the street to the east.


Above, wire fencing guards the hen house.


Today was a day for members to pick up their weekly veggies. Above, a father and daughter make their way to the pickup area.


Co-founder/Farm & Program Manager Trish Grim was our instructor and guide. In the span of four years this cooperative group has gone from four vacant city lots to a working farm that feeds themselves and 25 shareholders per season. Their annual budget is now up to $50,000. Yes, a mere $50K annually. They have roughly 4 people that work full time as well as numerous volunteers and interns. Clearly they are not in this for the money.

Payments from members of the CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) make up roughly 25% of the budget, the balance coming from various grants. These members get “10-15 pounds of produce” each week during the growing season. There is a waiting list to be a member. New Roots has teamed with the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group on the North City Farmers’ Market which opened this season on 14th Street across from Crown Candy Kitchen. Saturday is the final day for that market this season — they are ending with a big “Hoe Down” with BBQ, games and music (9am-1pm).

New Roots also teamed up with St. Patrick’s Center and Gateway Greening on the City Seeds project at 22st & Pine. Where you say? The leftover/wasted land at the old 22nd Street interchange. Here the homeless are hired at minimum wage to work 3 days per week on this 2-1/2 acre farm. New Roots provides the expert knowledge on the project and another grant funds the wages for the workers. A couple of years ago I argued with developer Kevin McGowen about this project — I wanted the land to be reused in the future when the excess roadway was removed. I am correct in that in the future it will be hard to take back the land for development but I think Kevin was right — this is really a good project. Produce grown on this urban farm is sold at the North City market and the Tower Grove Farmers’ Market.

One of their goals is to be sustainable — environmentally and fiscally. So far, they are quite environmentally sustainable given their practices which includes transporting goods to the North Side Market via bicycle carts. Fiscally, however, they are not so sustainable yet. Trish referenced groups in other parts of the country —- one getting as much as 70% of their funding from sales of product.

Lest you think this is all some hippie festival, I happen to know at least one self proclaimed Republican that is a member.  In fact, the supporters tend to be more affluent types which allows New Roots to sell their produce at very fair prices to lower income folks at the local market (all are welcomed regardless of income).  To me there is something really neat about seeing our food being grown on a real working farm so close to downtown.

Be sure to check out their website at www.newrootsurbanfarm.org and especially their unique newsletter.


Final Public Open Houses for MetroLink North & South Routes

Earlier today was the first of three open houses regarding routes for the future expansion of our MetroLink light rail system. That meeting was held at the Fifth Missionary Baptist Church on Natural Bridge. Additional open houses will be held on Wednesday & Thursday. From the notice:

We need your opinion! Come to one of the final public open houses in September on expanding MetroLink in the City of St. Louis. You will be able to review the evaluation results of the different routes being considered and tell us what you think.
The same information will be presented at each meeting.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007
5:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Meramec Elementary School • Gymnasium
2745 Meramec Street • St. Louis, MO 63118
Presentations at 5:30 & 6:30 p.m.

Thursday, September 20, 2007
3:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Regional Collaboration Center • 12th Floor
One Metropolitan Square • St. Louis, MO 63102
Presentation at 4:00 & 5:00 p.m.

This is the final round of public meetings on the current study. Keep in mind, there is no funding source to actually build anything. For more information see www.northsouthstudy.org


A ‘Rural Renewal’ Program Would Provide Habitat for Deer and other Wildlife

The tony collection of McMansion subdivisions known as Town & Country, MO is back on the issue of Deer overpopulation. It seems their 1-3 acre lots amongst the natural woods are overrun with deer. The reality is that our natural environment is overrun with low-density and often tacky housing that requires an SUV to go anywhere. From a KSDK report:

“Deer like the suburbs that we build,” said Erin Shank, a Missouri Department of Conservation urban wildlife biologist. “They like that broken forest interspersed with meadow-like lawns. That’s really ideal for them, so their populations have really grown over the last several decades.”

Wow, it seems they have managed to design an environment ideally suited to the main deer population but only a small segment of the human population. A number of years ago Town & Country engaged in a horrible plan to relocate the deer but many perished due to shock (see Grim Harvest). Some municipalities allow hunting using bows to avoid shooting some VP from shooting a lawyer friend in the face. Town & Country, however, does not yet permit hunting. Some are advocating traps where they are instantly killed via a bolt to the brain. Ick. Others say the deer are fine and simply plant other vegetation that deer don’t like, a logical solution in my view.

But I have some other ideas as well. We could start by banning vegetation all together. These people with their 4-bedroom/4-car garage houses on an acre of land like the illusion of country living but we know they really are not. So I say we prohibit them from growing any sort of plants outdoors — at least the ones known to attract deer. Hey, if they don’t like it they can always move much easier than the deer. I don’t think this is going far enough though. Those brick front houses look bad enough as it is but without vegetation it would be a horrible sight. The kids there already suffer from not being able to walk or bike anywhere so they really shouldn’t have to live without hostas and ferns.

I say we hire PGAV or Development Strategies to do a blighting study on the area. We argue that all of Town & Country and everything else in St. Louis County outside of the I-270 highway loop is Ecologically Obsolete. With places like Creve Coeur, Chesterfield and Dardenne Prairie all working on town centers to create walkable destinations we can justify that others are old fashioned and obsolete forms of development. New Urbanism represented by New Town at Charles or even old urbanism represented by original city development as well as the older ring of suburban development such as downtown Ferguson, Maplewood, Webster Groves and such is more ecologically sustainable.

So much like the maps of the 40s & 50s that justified razing entire sections of the city because a percentage of the structures lacked indoor plumbing, we can create maps of the region where the obsolete development pattern is too low to sustain a walk-to town center & transit. Everything below a certain threshold would be targeted. I call it Rural Renewal. St. Louis County would identify areas for land clearance, returning the land to nature with wildlife and vegetation taking over former manicured lawns. The deer population would once again be controlled with bobcats and other natural predators. Of course we’d need to use eminent domain to take all the homes, strip shopping centers and fast food joints. We’d need to clear thousands of acres at a time.

This could all be justified, of course, based economic development for the region. By returning an area to nature we’d force residents into existing areas, assuming we also limited fringe development. People living in an $800K house in Town and Country could do wonders with a $500 house owned by the LRA! Think of the economic benefits of such a renewal plan — one that could easily past muster after the Kelo decision on eminent domain. We’d see a surge in new construction within the I-270 highway loop giving new vitality to both the city and older areas of St. Louis County. Low density areas in the county, but within the I-270 loop, would be targeted for redevelopment to accommodate those displaced for the new rural areas. Rail transit (commuter, light rail) and quality localized service via bus and/or streetcar would be far more feasible than currently. We’d naturally eliminate some of the 91 municipalities in St. Louis County as well as excessive school districts, fire districts and so on. These new large ‘rural renewal’ areas would become wonderful natural areas again — attracting tourists to our area. This could become a model program for other regions to follow.

It would, of course, be difficult on those being displaced but they really shouldn’t stand in the way of progress and that which is beneficial to the larger region. The environment and the economy both outweigh their private land interests. We’ve been through large scale land clearance projects before and the suburbanites always seemed supportive of such efforts.


Patterson a Panelist at National Rail~Volution Conference in Miami, MO-APA Conference in St. Louis

August 28, 2007 Public Transit, Travel 6 Comments

I’m very pleased to announce that I will serve on a panel discussion at the upcoming Rail~Volution conference in Miami FL. The panel on media tools will be on November 1st. I attended the annual conference for the first time last year and I was amazed at the quality & quantity of information.

Keynote speakers for the upcoming conference are, from the website:

Henry Cisneros, Chairman, American City Vista and City View
Henry Cisneros has an illustrious career that combines executive management in a variety of businesses, local and national government leadership positions, and numerous prestigious civic positions. He is the former secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and a four-term mayor of San Antonio. In these positions Cisneros has unprecedented success in revitalizing urban areas and providing housing for urban families in all income ranges. His current ventures, American City Vista and City View, focus on building significant numbers of reasonably priced homes in the central neighborhoods of major metropolitan areas. Cisneros has been awarded more than 20 honorary doctorates from leading universities across the nation.

Congressman Earl Blumenauer, 3rd District, Oregon
Congressman Earl Blumenauer, founder of Rail~Volution, has focused most of his 34 years in public service on transportation and livable communities. He served as a state-, county-, and city-elected official in Oregon before being elected to Congress in 1996. In the U.S. House of Representatives, Blumenauer promotes livable communities, the environment, sustainable development and economic opportunity at the federal level. He currently serves on the Ways and Means Committee, the Budget Committee and the Select Committee on Global Warming and the Environment.

James S. Simpson, Administrator, Federal Transit Adminstration, Washington, DC
Mr. James S. Simpson was sworn in as the Federal Transit Administrator on August 10, 2006. Jim began his career in transportation over 30 years ago as a tractor-trailer driver for a local moving company while attending St. John’s University where he graduated Magna Cum Laude with a B.S. in Managerial Science and Economics. He eventually bought the moving company and developed it into an international transportation business. Jim has been an airplane pilot for almost twenty years and flies both jet and multi-engine prop aircraft. He has a special interest in aviation and transportation safety.

William W. Millar, President, American Public Transportation Association, Washington, D.C.
William W. Millar is president of one of North America’s foremost organizations dedicated to the advancement of public transit. Millar became chief executive officer of APTA after 24 years in transit operations and is credited with re-energizing the national organization. Millar will bring us up to date on transit projects and will share his perspective on the future of public transit.

James F. Murley, Director, Catanese Center for Environmental and Urban Solutions, Florida Atlantic University, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
Jim Murley is the leader of an organization whose mission is to: “work with policy makers and the public in their pursuit of options for managing growth while preserving natural systems, promoting a strong economy and planning livable communities.” He served as secretary of the Florida Department of Community Affairs under former governor Lawton Chiles and helped draft and gain passage of Florida’s landmark Growth Management Act. Murley also is a former leader of 1000 Friends of Florida and will provide great insight into the history and vision of our host region.

Rep Blumenauer gave a great presentation last year and I had a chance to talk briefly with him about St. Louis:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gidCOjS82mU [/youtube]

You can also read my post as a summary on the conference here. Additional posts can be found in the archives. Yesterday I had a conference call with the other panelists and the moderator, a very diverse group including transit advocates, industry consultants, a transit agency representative and the federal DOT. I will give you more details prior to the conference.

Although I have visited Florida numerous times as a kid (my older brother lived in Jacksonville while in the Navy) I have never been to Miami. I hope to do some quality blogging from the conference as well as some sight seeing and taking advantage of some of the mobile workshops on the conference schedule. Last year the host group from Miami had an excellent promotional video with the music from Will Smith’s Miami.

Following the short trip to Miami I will be back in St. Louis in time for the Missouri state conference of the American Planning Association, held this year in downtown St. Louis (more details) November 7-9. This panel will be called “Daylighting Planning Decisions” — more details to follow.


Commentary on MetroLink in West End Word

August 15, 2007 Media, Public Transit 39 Comments

IMG_0974.JPGThis week’s edition of the West End Word includes an editorial from me on the one year anniversary of the MetroLink light rail extension to Shrewsbury. See ‘One Year On, MetroLink Fails to Impress.