Reading: Urban Street Stormwater Guide by the National Association of City Transportation Officials


 Though I receive a lot of new books, it’s rare to see a technical best practices manual — plus hardcover with tons of full-color photos and illustrations. But last month I received just such a book. Though not a compelling novel for the nightstand, Urban Street Stormwater Guide is very intriguing …

Opinion: Razing Vacant Buildings A Short-Term Strategy With Negative Long-Term Consequences


 Razing buildings might seem like the answer, but the unintended consequences shouldn’t be overlooked.Sure, no vacant building but then you’ve got a vacant lot unlikely to be developed. Dumping, high weeds, etc are all nuisances that can happen at vacant lots. While rehabbing an old building is more expensice than …

Pine @ Tucker Treated Different Than Locust @ Tucker


 In April I wrote how some drivers get confused on one-way Locust approaching Tucker — some turn left from either lane because it’s not properly marked. Two blocks directly South, on Tine St, is the identical situation but properly marked.  Pine is also a 2-lane street one-way Westbound.  But the city …

Sunday Poll: Would Tearing Down Vacant Buildings More Quickly Help St. Louis?


 Vacant buildings are often in the news in St. Louis, here’s two recent examples. June 2017: Forum addresses dangers of St. Louis city’s abandoned buildings July 2017; Tests confirm presence of asbestos in Clemens House fire debris The morning the historic James Clemens house burned two other vacant properties also had fires. …

Recent Articles:

Opinion: Recent Flooding An Act of Mankind, Not A Deity

May 10, 2017 Featured, Planning & Design, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Opinion: Recent Flooding An Act of Mankind, Not A Deity

The afternoon of Sunday April 29th I posted a news story to this blog’s Facebook page with a title that read: “MoDot: Very good chance Route 141 at I-44 underwater by Monday morning.” It was. Route 141 didn’t reopen again until late Monday May 8th. When posting the article I’d said: “Sprawl is to blame.”

Two comments stood out:

  1. Maybe rain is to blame. Not everything needs to be blamed folks.
  2. Poor design is to blame – how hard is it to to (re) build a road higher than known flood levels?! Higher than the adjacent flood wall?!

These two comments, both from individuals I know personally, demonstrate why the region is in this mess in the first place. The “it rains, it floods” and “just build higher” is exactly why such a major flood happened again so soon after the December 2015 flood.  We’ve been building higher which helps some initially — but water must go somewhere. More on this later.

Those who believe in a diety might say something like “It’s all part of his plan.” This is the “I can’t understand it so God must have done it” response.

Flooding on the St. Louis riverfront is a common occurrence. At least now the light fixtures stayed dry by being on raised concrete piers. May 7, 2017

The phrase “act of God” does have legal meaning:

act of God
n. a natural catastrophe which no one can prevent such as an earthquake, a tidal wave, a volcanic eruption, a hurricane or a tornado. Acts of God are significant for two reasons 1) for the havoc and damage they wreak, and 2) because often contracts state that “acts of God” are an excuse for delay or failure to fulfill a commitment or to complete a construction project. Many insurance policies exempt coverage for damage caused by acts of God, which is one time an insurance company gets religion. At times disputes arise as to whether a violent storm or other disaster was an act of God (and therefore exempt from a claim) or a foreseeable natural event. God knows the answer! (

Note that flooding isn’t in the above definition. To be fair, other definitions do include flooding. As an atheist, I prefer the term, “act of nature.” But our recent flooding was neither — it was manmade.

“Land use is really a huge factor in flooding,” Holmes said. “From what I’ve seen, it trumps climate change in some areas.”

It’s definitely “a bigger game-changer,” he says, in urban areas, where paved surfaces drive more runoff into waterways and still more water is diverted by levee systems.

Bob Criss, a professor at Washington University’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences who studies flooding, agrees that the cumulative impact of diverted water — and not rainfall — best explains the region’s recent major floods.

The problem, he says, was especially apparent with last week’s crest of the Mississippi River. Such a big river, he says, should not normally be so sensitive to similar episodes of rain. But he says it’s increasingly behaving like a small basin “because it’s far too squeezed” by levees that amplify flood severity. (Post-Dispatch)

The City of St. Louis divorced itself from the largely rural St. Louis Count in 1876. In the 20th century population began to spread out — consuming more land per person. Just in the nearly 27 years I’ve lived in the region I’ve seen lots of low flood plain get developed.

Chesterfield Commons has over 2 million square feet, this site was flooded in 1993.

In the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll most didn’t think flooding was an “Act of God.”

Q: Agree or disagree: Recent flooding in the St. Louis region was an “Act of God.”

  • Strongly agree 0 [0%]
  • Agree 5 [14.71%]
  • Somewhat agree 2 [5.88%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 3 [8.82%]
  • Somewhat disagree 4 [11.76%]
  • Disagree 3 [8.82%]
  • Strongly disagree 16 [47.06%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 1 [2.94%]

Flooding throughout the region will continue until we take the necessary steps to undo the causes. This means we must remove considerable non-poutous paving, and un-develop flood plains. This line of thought led me to again watch Ellen Dunham-Jones’s 2010 TED Talk on Retrofitting Suburbia.

At the 16 minute mark she talks about regreening parts of Atlanta — pulling development back from waterways. The St. Louis region desperately needs to do this. I doubt anything like this will take place, regular flooding will continue.

— Steve Patterson

Learn From Embarrassing History, Don’t Brush It Under The Rug

May 8, 2017 Featured, History/Preservation, Parks, Popular Culture Comments Off on Learn From Embarrassing History, Don’t Brush It Under The Rug

Late last month New Orleans was in the news, causing me think about St. Louis’ own confederate statue. .

New Orleans has taken a first major step in fulfilling its 2015 promise to tear down four prominent Confederate statues, an attempt to scrub the city’s public spaces of what many see as white supremacist symbols.
City workers began removing the Battle of Liberty Place statue at 1:25 a.m. Monday in an effort to avoid disruption by protesters who want the monuments to stay, reported The Associated Press. Erected in 1891, the obelisk honors members of the Crescent City White League, a group of all-white Confederate veterans who killed members of the city’s post-Civil War integrated police force. (Huffington Post)

Someone at KMOX also thought about St. Louis:

While the city of New Orleans is removing its Confederate statues, a 32-foot tall monument to Confederate soldiers here in Forest Park still stands — two years after the Slay Administration began exploring how to remove it.

Now the point man on the project, Human Services Director Eddie Roth, is preparing to brief new Mayor Lyda Krewson on where the project stands.

“The most economical and preferred plan is one that would cost about $100,000,” Roth says. “It mainly involves burying the granite shaft in place in Forest Park where it will be preserved.”

Under the plan, the bronze face plate would be removed and stored someplace else. (KMOX)

Our confederate monument was placed in Forest Park in 1914 — a “gift” of the Daughters of the Confederacy.

The confederate memorial was dedicated in 1914, rededicated in 1964.

Our monument, like those in many other cities, was part of an effort to revise history.

The significance of the UDC lies not in its present-day clout, which is negligible, but in its lasting contributions to history— both for good and for ill. From its inception in 1894 up through the 1960s, the UDC was the South’s premier social and philanthropic organization, an exclusive social club where the wives, sisters, and daughters of the South’s ruling white elite gathered to “revere the memory of those heroes in gray and to honor that unswerving devotion to principle which has made the confederate soldier the most majestic in history,” as cofounder Caroline Meriwether Goodlett grandly put it. At first, the UDC provided financial assistance and housing to veterans and their widows, offering a vital public service at a time when for all practical purposes most local and state governments in the South were nonfunctional and/or broke. Later, as the veteran population aged, the UDC built homes that allowed indigent veterans and their widows to live out their days with some measure of dignity. Long before there was such a thing as the National Park Service, the UDC played a crucial role in preserving priceless historic sites, war cemeteries, and battlefields across the South. At the same time, it embarked on a spree of monument building: most of those confederate monuments you can still find in hundreds of courthouse squares in small towns across the South were put there by the local UDC chapter during the early 1900s. In its way, the UDC groomed a generation of Southern women for participation in the political process: presidents attended its national convocations, and its voice was heard in the corridors of the U.S. Capitol.

But the UDC’s most important and lasting contribution was in shaping the public perceptions of the war, an effort that was begun shortly after the war by a Confederate veterans’ group called the United Confederate Veterans (which later became the Sons of Confederate Veterans—also still around, and thirty thousand members strong). The central article of faith in this effort was that the South had not fought to preserve slavery, and that this false accusation was an effort to smear the reputation of the South’s gallant leaders. In the early years of the twentieth century the main spokesperson for this point of view was a formidable Athens, Georgia, school principal named Mildred Lewis Rutherford (or Miss Milly, as she is known to UDC members), who traveled the South speaking, organizing essay contests, and soliciting oral histories of the war from veterans, seeking the vindication of the lost cause “with a political fervor that would rival the ministry of propaganda in any 20th century dictatorship,” Blight writes. (Salon)

I loath the confederate flag, but I don’t see how revising history again will make things right in the future. Instead of spending $100k to bury the monument we should spend that money on a new exhibit around  it talking about the Civi War, St. Louis’ role, the 20th century revision movement, and the 21st century movement to eradicate pro-confederate symbolism. Something powerful like Wall Street’s “Fearless Girl statue. Tell the story of the 150+ years since the end of the Civil War — Jim Crow laws, deed restrictions/Shelley vs Kraemer, segregation, Jefferson Bank protests, Ferguson, etc.

Burying the monument would be brushing an embarrassing moment under the rug.  “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” — click here for variations on this quote.

— Steve Patterson

Sunday Poll: Was Recent Flooding An “Act of God”?

May 7, 2017 Featured, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Was Recent Flooding An “Act of God”?
Please vote below

Many in the St. Louis region have been affected by the recent flooding. People have died, lives disrupted, property damaged, etc.

Flooding, like tornados. are often called an “Act of God.”

“Acts of God,” for insurance purposes, are defined as events that occur through natural causes and could not be avoided through the use of caution and preventative measures. In essence, the phrase “Acts of God” refers to natural disasters.

The phrase generally brings to mind hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, hail, or floods. However, the lines can be fuzzier than most people realize. (CBS News)

This is the subject of today’s poll:

This poll will close at 8pm tonight.


— Steve Patterson

St. Louis Board of Aldermen: New Board Bills 5/5/2017 (#1, #9-#24)

May 5, 2017 Board of Aldermen, Featured Comments Off on St. Louis Board of Aldermen: New Board Bills 5/5/2017 (#1, #9-#24)
St. Louis City Hall

Today is the third meeting of the 2017-2018 session of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen.

Two Board Bills were introduced a week ago that weren’t listed on last week’s agenda posted the day before. Number 9 is on the agenda posted online, perhaps I missed it. However, #10 isn’t on any agenda:

  • BOARD BILL NO. 9 INTRODUCED BY ALDERMAN JOSEPH VACCARO, PRESIDENT LEWIS REED An ordinance requiring the corrections commissioner to post a quarterly report on the City’s Division of Corrections website regarding administrative segregation of inmates at city detention centers; and containing a severability and an emergency clause.
  • BOARD BILL NO. 10 INTRODUCED BY ALDERWOMAN SHARON TYUS An ordinance prohibiting the issuance of any package or drink liquor licenses for any currently unlicensed premises within the boundaries of the First Ward, for a period of three years from the effective date hereof; containing an exception allowing, during the moratorium period, for the transfer of existing licenses, under certain circumstances, and containing an emergency clause.

Since the agendas don’t indicate if they been updated after first being posted online it’s impossible to know if an official posted agenda is changed after being initially posted.  To keep track of bills & agendas I’ll be downloading the PDF as soon as it’s available — usually Wednesday afternoon. Bill pages with the actual bill text via PDF is usually posted Thursday afternoon.

Last week’s meeting can be viewed here (under 20 minutes). Mayor Krewson introduces four of her staff.

The following bills are listed on agenda #3 as of yesterday at 7am:

B.B.#1 – Pres. Reed/Conway – An ordinance making appropriation for payment of Interest, Expenses and Principal of the City’s Bonded Indebtedness, establishing City tax rates, and making appropriation for current year expenses of the City Government; for the Fiscal Year beginning July 1, 2017 and ending June 30, 2018, amounting in the aggregate to the sum of One Billion, Fifty? one Million, Three Hundred Ninety One Thousand, Six Hundred Sixty?Six Dollars ($1,051,391,666) which sum is hereby appropriated from Revenue and Special Funds named for the purposes hereinafter enumerated and containing an emergency clause.

B.B.#11 – Pres. Reed – An ordinance requiring that any proposed board bill that seeks a tax incentive for real estate development requires the potential developer to provide a Community Benefits Agreement.

B.B.#12 – Co6way/Pres. Reed – An Ordinance to provide for the borrowing of funds in anticipation of the collection of tax payments levied by The City, for deposit in its General Revenue Fund for the calendar year ending December 31, 2017, and remaining uncollected and other revenues remaining to be collected and deposited in the General Revenue Fund for fiscal year ending June 30, 2018, all such revenues for the General Revenue Fund in the Treasury, through the issuance by the City of its Tax and Revenue Anticipation Notes, and the acquiring of credit enhancement, if necessary, in order to lower the cost of such borrowing; prescribing the form and details of such Notes; authorizing and approving certain documents and other actions; and containing an emergency clause.

B.B.#13 – Howard – An Ordinance establishing a three?way stop site at the intersection of Neosho and Adkins by regulating all northwest? bound and southeast?bound traffic traveling on Neosho at Adkins and regulating all northeast?bound traffic traveling on Adkins at Neosho; and containing an emergency clause.

B.B.#14 – Cohn – An ordinance adopted to establish a Citizen Commission to be known as “The Citizen Commission on the Reduction and Reformation of the Board of Aldermen” which Commission’s purpose shall be to collect community input, gather information, conduct community outreach, study and provide advisory opinion/s to the Board of Aldermen on the implementation of Ordinance #69185, which measure was passed by the electorate of the City, and calls for a restructuring of the Board of Aldermen from a body of twenty? eight aldermen representing twenty?eight wards to a body of fourteen aldermen representing fourteen wards, and provides for a transition schedule to implement the restructuring.

B.B.#15 – Ogilvie – An Ordinance establishing a three?way stop site at the intersection of Hoffman and Clifton by regulating all northbound and southbound traffic traveling on Clifton at Hoffman and regulating all eastbound traffic traveling on Hoffman at Clifton, and containing an emergency clause.

B.B.#16 – Ogilvie – An Ordinance establishing a three?way stop site at the intersection of Berthold and Graham by regulating all southbound traffic traveling on Graham at Berthold and regulating all eastbound and westbound traffic traveling on Berthold at Graham, and containing an emergency clause.

B.B.#17 – Boyd – An ordinance authorizing and directing the Street Commissioner to take all necessary actions to honorarily designate the section of St. Louis Avenue between Semple and Arlington as Rev. Reginald D. Rogers, Sr. Avenue.

B.B.#18 – Roddy – An Ordinance recommended by the Board of Estimate and Apportionment authorizing and directing the issuance and delivery of not to exceed $19,400,000 plus issuance costs principal amount of tax increment revenue notes (City Foundry Saint Louis TIF) Series 20__? A/B, of The City; prescribing the form and details of such notes and the covenants and agreements made by the City to facilitate and protect the payment thereof; prescribing other matters relating thereto, and containing a severability clause.

B.B.#19 – Davis – An ordinance approving a Redevelopment Plan for 3827 Shaw.

B.B.#20 – Roddy – An ordinance approving a Redevelopment Plan for the 1301-03 S. Boyle.

B.B.#21 – Roddy – An ordinance approving a Redevelopment Plan for the 4427 Chouteau.

B.B.#22 – Roddy – An ordinance approving a Redevelopment Plan for the 4401 Gibson.

B.B.#23 – Roddy – An ordinance approving a Redevelopment Plan for the 4443 Oakland.

B.B.#24 – Flowers – An ordinance recommended by the Board of Public Service to vacate travel in 20 foot wide east/west and 15 foot wide north/south unimproved alleys in City Block 1228?E as bounded by Penrose, Broadway, Angelica and I?70 in the City.

Today’s meeting should be short since there are no bills out of committee for a 2nd reading and debate. The agenda indicates there are no committee meetings are scheduled for next week.

— Steve Patterson

Readers: Do Not Ease Future Emissions & Fuel Economy Regulations

May 3, 2017 Featured, Politics/Policy, Transportation Comments Off on Readers: Do Not Ease Future Emissions & Fuel Economy Regulations

Our vehicles are getting bigger, but they use less fuel than just a few years ago. How is this possible? Because of fuel economy regulations manufacturers are making cars lighter, engines more efficient.

Though cars shrank in the 70s & 80s, they’ve been growing again:

Technological progress in the automobile has come with certain tradeoffs, one being an increase in size. Perhaps cars have inflated in size to better fit their occupants. Anyone who’s ridden three across in the back seat of a 1990s compact knows what we’re talking about. Safety standards and packaging even more airbags into each car have also contributed to the growth of the modern automobile.

The EPA places cars into specific size classes from minicompact (less than 85 cubic feet) to large (120 or more cubic feet) based on the combination of passenger and cargo volume. In the interest of consistency, all volume figures quoted are from the EPA. (Motor Trend)

Our 2007 Honda Civic is a prime example. A new Civic has more interior volume yet has a higher fuel rating from the EPA:

In the last decade the Civic has grown from a subcompact to a midsize, yet the fuel economy has increased. Source: fuel

The even larger 2017 Honda Accord has a higher EPA rating than our 10 year-old Civic. The “small” 2017 Honda Fit has more interior volume that our Civic — also more than a 1992 Accord!  Better fuel economy too — 22 combined for the ’92 Accord but 36 for the new Fit. Worldwide regulations have pushed manufacturers to make cars better.


In March President Trump expressed an interest in slowing down coming regulations:

Originally, regulators mandated that automakers achieve an average 54.5 mpg by 2025, but they relaxed that target to between 50.8 mpg and 52.6 mpg last year. Now, automakers will have more time to fight the standards, as the review process could take about a year.

The review is not set to impact California’s right to impose fuel economy rules that are stricter than federal standards, a White House official told Reuters. However, the official wouldn’t rule out the possibility of that changing in the future. (Motor Trend)

A proposed budget would render any review mute — from last month:

The Trump administration would virtually eliminate federal funding for the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget for vehicle emissions and fuel economy testing but will seek to raise fees on industry to pay for some testing, a government document shows.

The cuts would slash by more than half the staff of the EPA department that conducts vehicle, engine, and fuel testing to verify emissions standards are met and mileage stickers are accurate. Its work helped lead to Volkswagen AG’s (VOWG_p.DE) 2015 admission that it violated vehicle emissions rules for years. (Reuters)


California isn’t backing down on emissions regulations to cut smog, from March:

California will move forward with vehicle pollution targets set forth by the Obama administration, despite a move by current President Donald Trump to put those targets on hold.

On Friday, the California Air Resources Board voted to uphold Obama’s stricter emissions rules for the state. It also established a target for 15 percent of new vehicles to be powered by battery, fuel cell, or plug-in hybrid powertrains by 2025, up from about 3 percent today. The rules are part of CARB’s larger plan to bring greenhouse gas emissions down to 1990 levels by 2030. (Motor Trend)

Don’t be surprised if the Trump administration tries to take away California’s right to set their own auto emissions standards.

Most of those who voted in the most recent non-scientific Sunday Poll agree regulations shouldn’t be eased:

Q: Agree or disagree: With falling gas prices & buyer preference for bigger vehicles, upcoming stricter emissions/fuel economy regs should be relaxed

  • Strongly agree 2 [5.56%]
  • Agree 3 [8.33%]
  • Somewhat agree 0 [0%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 0 [0%]
  • Somewhat disagree 1 [2.78%]
  • Disagree 4 [11.11%]
  • Strongly disagree 26 [72.22%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 0 [0%]