New Arch To Riverfront Ramps Are A Great Improvement

 

 When I first moved to St. Louis in August 1990 the grand staircase down to our riverfront wasn’t complete — it was grass with steps only on the North & South edges. At some point the center steps were completed.But even as a young (20s) able-bodied person the steps were …

Sunday Poll: Should St. Louis Consider Ranked-Choice Voting?

 

 When you have two candidates running for office it is easy to understand the winner — the person who receives more than 50% of the vote — even if by just one vote. I’m looking at the March 7th Democratic primary ballot with 7 choices for mayor and 6 choices …

St. Louis’ Easton & Franklin Avenues Became Dr. Martin Luther King Drive 45 Years Ago Today

 

 Last month, on the Martin Luther King holiday, I posted my 13th look at the street named after the slain civil rights leader — see Annual Look At Changes Along St. Louis’ Dr Martin Luther King Drive. From a STL250 Facebook post that has since been deleted: This Day in …

Opinion: Sales Taxes Outdated In 21st Century

 

 We order stuff online frequently because it’s convenient to do so, not because we want to save on taxes. Often we’ll order from target.com so we pay the same tax rate we do when we shop at Hampton Village location once per month.  Amazon is the bulk of our online …

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Opinion: One Hundred Should Do Better To Receive TIF Financing

December 21, 2016 Central West End, Featured, Planning & Design Comments Off on Opinion: One Hundred Should Do Better To Receive TIF Financing
 

Some are opposed to the proposed 36-story glass apartment building, called One Hundred, because it’s too tall and/or too modern. Sorry, neither are a valid reason to outright reject the project. Besides, there are many valid reasons to demand be changed.

The surface parking in the foreground is for the Chase. Across the alley is the site where the proposed One Hundred is to be built. May 2013 photo
The surface parking in the foreground is for the Chase. Across the alley is the site where the proposed One Hundred is to be built. May 2013 photo

First, the results of the non-scientific Sunday Poll:

Q: The proposed 36-story apartment building at Kingshighway & Pine, called One Hundred, should be approved without changes.

  • Strongly agree 17 [33.33%]
  • Agree 10 [19.61%]
  • Somewhat agree 3 [5.88%]
  • Neither agree or disagreeii 3 [5.88%]
  • Somewhat disagree 5 [9.8%]
  • Disagree 4 [7.84%]
  • Strongly disagree 8 [15.69%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 1 [1.96%]

Tax increment financing is a great tool to help pay for public infrastructure such as roads, utilities, sidewalks, traffic signals, etc. A TIF for rebuilding public infrastructure where the 22nd interchange is now, for example, makes sense. Millions on TIF financing for this privately-owned site in a high-end dense neighborhood makes zero sense. If development of this site impossible without a TIF? Unlikely.

A 5-story base with parking isn’t good for fostering pedestrian life. It’s boring to look at, and those are the floors where residents could keep an eye on the sidewalk for added safety. The one storefront is under 1,000 share feet. A tiny closet of a space. There should be thousands of square feet of retail space at this location. Parking shouldn’t be included in the rent, it should be unbundled so residents can see how expensive parking is. Enterprise CarShare has a vehicle nearby at the Argyle garage, but there should be one here that can be accessed by the public.

There should also be some affordable units — 10% for low-income people. That’s just 3 units. The area has a lot to offer, it shouldn’t be limited to the wealthy. Doesn’t surprise me that most would approve the project without change, but this attitude is why St. Louis will never recover.

 

— Steve Patterson

St. Louis Building Division Ignores 1968 Surface Parking Lot Regulation Meant To Ensure Proper Maintenance

December 19, 2016 Downtown, Featured, Parking, Planning & Design, Politics/Policy Comments Off on St. Louis Building Division Ignores 1968 Surface Parking Lot Regulation Meant To Ensure Proper Maintenance
 

After posting about the deteriorated condition of the surface parking lot next door at the end of August, see Generic Form Letters Mailed To Owners Of Poorly Maintained Surface Parking Lot Notifying Them Of Code Violations, the building department was very defensive about their complete lack of results. An inspector told me they couldn’t do anything about the poor condition of the for-profit parking lot — just send more letters.

Photo of 1601 Locust from April 29, 2016 -- a close up at one of the pothole ponds
Photo of 1601 Locust from April 29, 2016 — a close up at one of the pothole ponds

“You can’t block off access?”, I asked. “No, that would be illegal”, he replied. I decided to research the law myself.

Naturally, I started with the St. Louis, Missouri – Code of Ordinances and Chapter 8.70 — Parking Stations.

The 2nd subsection defines a parking station as a parking lot. the 3rd discusses a permit:

No person, firm or corporation shall operate, maintain or conduct a parking station in the City without first obtaining a parking station permit from the Building Commissioner. A permit must be obtained for each parking station and no permit shall be transferable from one person to another nor transferable from one lot to another. 

The Building Commissioner may order barricades for any or all parking stations not in full compliance within one hundred and eighty days from the date of original notification.

Here are three later sections:

8.70.070 – Permit—Suspension or revocation—Hearing.
The building commissioner may refer any permit heretofore issued to the board of public service with the recommendation that a hearing be held to determine whether the permit should be suspended or revoked. The board shall designate a day for the hearing, and after considering the evidence and arguments submitted, may suspend or revoke the permit and license heretofore issued, upon proof of any of the following: 

A. The operator has knowingly made any false or materially incorrect statement in his application; 

B. The operator has made any charge for parking in excess of the rate posted on the required sign; 

C. The operator fails to keep an attendant on duty during the times specified in his application; and 

D. The operator has knowingly violated or knowingly permitted or countenanced the violation of any provision of this chapter. 

(Ord. 55061 § 1 (part), 1968: 1960 C. § 388.150 (part).)

See also §§ 8.70.090, 8.70.110
8.70.080 – Permit—Suspension or revocation—Barricading lot.
 
Upon suspension or revocation by the board of public service the police department shall upon notice by the building commissioner barricade the parking lot until further notice. No lot barricaded as herein provided shall be used for the purposes of a parking station. 

(Ord. 55061 § 1 (part), 1968: 1960 C. § 388.150 (part).)
8.70.090 – Annual inspection fee.
 
The building commissioner shall make or cause to be made an inspection at least once a year of every parking station within the city to ascertain whether the station is operated within the provisions of this chapter. An annual inspection fee shall be payable on the first day of January each year in accordance with the capacity of the parking station as follows: 

A. Under ten cars, seven dollars;

B. Ten to fifty cars, fifteen dollars;

C. All over fifty cars, twenty dollars;

Except these fees shall not be deemed to apply or be applicable to parking lots or parking stations operated by a church solely and exclusively for church parking. 

All inspection fees shall be paid within thirty days of billing date after which time they shall become delinquent, which shall because for revocation of the parking station permit. 

(Ord. 55932 § 2, 1971: prior Ord. 55080 § 2, 1968: Ord. 55061 § 1 (part), 1968: 1960 C. § 388.040.)

So I did a Sunshine Request asking for a copy of the most recent permit. The response?  “We don’t do that anymore.” Really? Can a city department just decide not to follow city ordinances?

All the ordinances listed in the various subsections of 8.70 were enacted prior to them being online, 1963-1979. So I went to the 3rd floor of the central library and looked up each and every ordinance. Fascinating documents up there! Anyway, in 1968 the original 1963 section was repealed & replaced. After changes were minor, dealing with the amount of the permit fee. The first such change came months after being enacted.

In another sunshine request I asked who made the decision to ignore this law, and when. The city didn’t have an answer. I suspect it was in the 1980s, which would explain how the owner of the parking lot at 1101 Locust got away with using public right-of-way (PROW) for years.

The URL for this section includes the word PAST after the chapter number (https://www.municode.com/library/mo/st._louis/codes/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=TIT8BUTALIRE_CH8.70PAST), but it’s still listed. I wasn’t able to locate an ordinance repealing it. It looks like a valid regulation that has simply been ignored by the building division for years, possibly longer than anyone currently working there. Did a past administration direct the building division to ignore this ordinance to make St. Louis more friendly to parking lot businesses?

I just don’t know. What I do know is that my inquires finally got long-needed action next door. Again, on August 30th, I published the awful generic letters the city sent the out of town owners for the last couple of years.

Overview from April 2015, the center pavement was in poor condition. The disabled spaces were no longer marked.
Overview from April 2015, the center pavement was in poor condition. The disabled spaces were no longer marked.

 

Cars were able to park on the public sidewalk because nothing physically prevented it, from April 4, 2016
Cars were able to park on the public sidewalk because nothing physically prevented it, from April 4, 2016

Again, on August 30th I published the awful generic letters the city sent the out of town owners for the last couple of years. Right after that I had phone conversations & emails with a defensive building department. I began digging and submitting sunshine requests.

I took this pic on September 17th after curbs had finally been installed to prevent cars from parking on the sidewalk. The blue Mustang had been parked on the sidewalk for weeks, once it was moved a curb was placed there too
I took this pic on September 17th after curbs had finally been installed to prevent cars from parking on the sidewalk. The blue Mustang had been parked on the sidewalk for weeks, once it was moved a curb was placed there too
On Tuesday September 27th equipment was on site and the lot marked as closed
On Tuesday September 27th equipment was on site and the lot marked as closed
The smaller signs indicate the work will be done September 27th & 28th.
The smaller signs indicate the work will be done September 27th & 28th.

Meanwhile, I continued emailing with the building department because no permit was listed online. Permit isn’t required for maintenance, they say.  I email David Newburger, commissioner on the disabled, to make sure he’s reviewed the plan, disabled spaces, signs, etc. He has nothing to review.

The morning of the 28th the equipment is gone and the lot is full.
The morning of the 28th the equipment is gone and the lot is full.
Posted on September 28th
Posted on September 28th
The morning of Sunday October 1st I noticed they planned to work on the lot the next two days, October 3rd & 4th.
The morning of Sunday October 1st I noticed they planned to work on the lot the next two days, October 3rd & 4th.
Monday morning October 2nd they were adding a new layer of asphalt one the deteriorated center section
Monday morning October 2nd they were adding a new layer of asphalt one the deteriorated center section
The new layer over the old on the afternoon of October 3, 2016.
The new layer over the old on the afternoon of October 3, 2016.
By the afternoon of Wednesday October 5th the balance had receive a sealer.
By the afternoon of Wednesday October 5th the balance had receive a sealer.
By the afternoon of October 6th the stripping had been done and cars returned
By the afternoon of October 6th the stripping had been done and cars returned
One thing I'd pointed out to the city with the old lot was not al the spaces were long enough for a car.
One thing I’d pointed out to the city with the old lot was not al the spaces were long enough for a car.
From above we can see these were marked again as five spaces, you can see from the car at the bottom how short the spaces are. I complained to the building dept for not requiring spaces as defined by code.
From above we can see these were marked again as five spaces, you can see from the car at the bottom how short the spaces are. I complained to the building dept for not requiring spaces as defined by code.
On October 10th I replied to various building dept officials because required vertical signs still weren't in place at the three disabled spots.
On October 10th I replied to various building dept officials because required vertical signs still weren’t in place at the three disabled spots.
By October 18th I noticed the five too-short spaces had been blacked out.
By October 18th I noticed the five too-short spaces had been blacked out.
By October 28th the parking stops had been moved forward and the space s were back.
By October 28th the parking stops had been moved forward and the space s were back.
A vertical sign at one disabled spot had also ben installed, as required by code and the ADA
A vertical sign at one disabled spot had also ben installed, as required by code and the ADA
But the other two spaces didn't yet have the required signs three weeks after cars returned to the lot.
But the other two spaces didn’t yet have the required signs three weeks after cars returned to the lot.
By the afternoon of November 4th they'd finally been installed. Now if the pavement marking fades drivers will still know these require a disabled placard/plate
By the afternoon of November 4th they’d finally been installed. Now if the pavement marking fades drivers will still know these require a disabled placard/plate
Also on November 4th I noticed two czars parking in the short spaces, and sticking out into the drive.
Also on November 4th I noticed two czars parking in the short spaces, and sticking out into the drive.
So I went inside and got my tape measure. only 12 feet 2 inches.
So I went inside and got my tape measure. only 12 feet 2 inches.

I complained again and the short spaces were removed…again. The last few years trying to get this parking lot maintained has been eye opening. I naively thought reporting it to the Citizen’s Service Bureau a few years ago would get it resolved fairly quickly — boy was I wrong! I thought the main obstacle was the owner and/or operator. Turned out it was the Building Division,, who seem to defend the operators and fight tax paying property owners.

The city has many departments/divisions. I assume some are worse, most better. The next mayor needs to clean it up, fixing the existing culture. Unless repealed, the permit process for parking lots needs to be upheld.

— Steve Patterson

Sunday Poll: Should A Proposed 36-Story Apartment Building Be Approved Without Changes?

December 18, 2016 Central West End, Featured, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Should A Proposed 36-Story Apartment Building Be Approved Without Changes?
 
Please vote below
Please vote below

The surface parking lot at Kingshighway & Pine has been vacant since 1973, when the 7-story Buckingham Hotel was razed for surface parking for the St. Regis co-op, located across the alley.

One Hundred’s design has a 355-vehicle parking garage, including one level underground. In addition to parking, the building’s five-story base will have 882 square feet of shop space and 6,756 square feet of “amenity space.”

Eli Ungar, founder of Mac Properties, said about 40 percent of the apartments will have one bedroom. About 40 percent will have two bedrooms and the remainder will be divided equally between studio and three-bedroom units. Rents near $3 per square foot per month, high for St. Louis, are possible in a neighborhood as “exquisite” as the Central West End, he said. (Post-Dispatch)

The proposed building will have 305 apartments. It has caused a debate, so I want you to weigh in, here’s today’s poll:

The poll will close at 8pm tonight.

— Steve Patterson

St. Louis Board of Aldermen: New Board Bills 12/16/2016 (207-228)

December 16, 2016 Board of Aldermen, Featured Comments Off on St. Louis Board of Aldermen: New Board Bills 12/16/2016 (207-228)
 
St. Louis City Hall
St. Louis City Hall

The following twenty-two (22)Board Bills will be introduced at today’s meeting of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen  — their last meeting before winter break, Review today’s agenda here.

  • B.B.#207 – Roddy – An ordinance recommended by the Board of Public Service to vacate travel in Rutger from Grand westwardly to a point in the City.
  • B.B.#208 – Roddy – An ordinance recommended by the Board of Public Service to vacate travel in 1. The 15 foot wide alley in City Block 2181-N as bounded by LaSalle, Motard, Hickory and Spring 2. The remaining 30 foot section of Motard from Hickory to the northline of the alley in City Block 2181-N; 3. Hickory from Spring eastwardly to a point in the City.
  • B.B.#209 – Roddy – An ordinance recommended by the Board of Public Service to vacate travel in the 15 foot wide alley in City Block 2181-S as bounded by Hickory, Grand, Rutger and Spring.
  • B.B.#210 – Coatar – An ordinance recommended by the Board of Public Service to conditionally vacate travel in 15 foot wide east/west alley in City Block 441 as bounded by Papin, Tucker, Chouteau and 13th St. in the City.
  • B.B.#211 – Coatar – An ordinance recommended by the Board of Public Service to conditionally vacate travel in remaining 50.35 feet of the 15 foot wide north/south alley in City Block 74 as bounded by Lombard, 3rd, Chouteau and 4th in the City.
  • B.B.#212 – Vollmer – An ordinance recommended by the Board of Public Service to conditionally vacate travel in Kemper from Hereford westwardly 82.34 feet to a point previously vacated by Ordinance 69720 in the City.
  • B.B.#213 – Krewson – An ordinance recommended and approved by the Airport Commission, the Comptroller and the Board of Estimate and Apportionment, making certain findings with respect to the transfer of up to Thirteen Million Seven Hundred Twenty-Seven Thousand Seven Hundred Sixty-Nine Dollars of excess moneys that The City of St. Louis, intends to transfer from the Debt Service Stabilization Fund to the Airport Revenue Fund; authorizing a transfer in an amount not to exceed Thirteen Million Seven Hundred Twenty-Seven Thousand Seven Hundred Sixty-Nine Dollars from the DSSF into the Revenue Fund during the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2016; containing a severability clause; and containing an emergency clause.
  • B.B.#214 – Krewson – An Ordinance recommended and approved by the Board of Estimate and Apportionment authorizing and directing the Director of Airports and the Comptroller to enter into and execute the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport Cargo City Lease Agreement No. AL-030, between the City and Southwest Airlines Company; containing a severability clause; and containing an emergency clause.
  • B.B.#215 – Vollmer – An Ordinance recommended by the Planning Commission, to change the zoning of property as indicated on the District Map, from “J” Industrial District to the “D” Multiple- Family Dwelling District, in City Block 4085 (5006-30 Daggett), and containing an emergency clause.
  • B.B.#216 – Kennedy – An Ordinance recommended by the Planning Commission, to change the zoning of property as indicated on the District Map and in City Block 2513, from “C” Multiple- Family Dwelling District to the “G” Local Commercial and Office District, at 3869, 3871, 3873, 3881, 3883-85 & 3887 Bell Avenue and 3870, 3974, 3878-82, 3884, 3886 & 3888 Windsor Place; and containing an emergency clause.
  • B.B.#217 – Williamson – An Ordinance pertaining to applicants seeking employment with the City of St. Louis in positions in the civil service system; adding new provisions that establish a City resident hiring preference system; containing definitions; and scoring system.
  • B.B.#218 – Moore – An Ordinance recommended by the Planning Commission revising and amending the Greater Ville Special Use District created by Ordinance 68619 to prohibit motor fuel pumping stations and convenience stores and confectionaries within the boundaries of the district; and containing a severability clause and an emergency clause.
  • B.B.#219 – Williamson – An Ordinance requiring collective bargaining contracts signed by the City to include a clause in which the parties agree to support Affirmative Action efforts of the City by ensuring that employees and employers reflect the diversity of the City.
  • B.B.#220 – Williamson – An Ordinance to be known as the City of St. Louis Whistleblower Law, pertaining to reporting improper governmental action and providing protection from retaliatory action for reporting and cooperating in the investigation and/or prosecution of improper governmental action; containing definitions, procedures for reporting improper governmental action and retaliation, and penalties; and containing a severability clause.
  • B.B.#221 – Kennedy – An ordinance establishing the North Central Special Business District pursuant to Sections 71.790 through 71.808 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri, setting its boundaries, tax rate, initial rate of levy subject to the approval of the qualified voters, bonding authority, and uses to which tax revenue may be put; creating a board of commissioners; and containing severability, effectiveness, and emergency clauses.
  • B.B.#222 – Kennedy – An ordinance submitting to the qualified voters residing in the North Central Special Business District as designated in Ordinance No.____, approved the _____ day of ________, 2017, (Board Bill No. __) a proposal to establish the levy of a tax on the real property located in said district; submitting said proposal to the voters of said district at an Election on April 4, 2017; and containing an emergency clause.
  • B.B.#223 – Davis – An ordinance recommended by the Board of Public Service to conditionally vacate travel in irregular width “L” shaped alley City Block 1044 as bounded by Samuel
    Shepard Dr., Leonard, Washington and Josephine Baker Blvd. in the City.
  • B.B.#224 – Roddy – An ordinance recommended by the Board of Public Service to vacate travel in the eastern 25 foot wide section of Sublette from Wise southwardly to a point previously vacated by Ordinance 56551 in the City.
  • B.B.#225 – Williamson – An ordinance enacted pursuant to Section 56.540, Revised Statutes of Missouri to repeal Ordinance
    No. 70056 relating to the Office of the Circuit Attorney, allocating the positions established by Section 56.540, R.S.Mo. to classes with grades and a schedule setting minimum and maximum salaries for such grades by repealing Section Two and replacing said Section with provisions of this ordinance, providing that such salaries be paid bi-weekly; providing for payment of overtime wages on an hourly basis at the bi-weekly rate when such overtime is authorized as necessary by the Circuit Attorney and containing an emergency clause.
  • B.B.#226 – Ingrassia – An Ordinance relating to the proceeds from an increase of one half of one percent in the rate of the local use tax levied by the City pursuant to Ordinance No. 65609, which increase corresponds to a proposed one half of one percent local sales tax for economic development purposes; calling and providing for the holding of an election in the City on April 4, 2017, for the purpose of submitting to the qualified voters of the City a proposal to use the proceeds of such one half of one percent increase in the local use tax levied by the City for the purpose of providing funding for minority job training and business development programs and a multipurpose stadium for soccer, local amateur sports, concerts, and community events; containing a severability clause; and containing an emergency clause.
  • B.B.#227 – Ingrassia – An ordinance calling and providing for the holding of an election in the City on April 4, 2017, for the purpose of submitting to the qualified voters of the City a proposal to impose a one half of one percent sales tax on all retail sales made in the City which are subject to taxation under Chapter 144 RSMo. for economic development purposes, including (1) North/South Metrolink, (2) neighborhood development, (3) workforce development; (4) anti-crime infrastructure, including security cameras as well as a monitoring system, and (5) to upgrade the city’s infrastructure, with annual public audits.
  • B.B.#228 – Vollmer – An ordinance approving a Redevelopment Plan for 5006-5030 Daggett.

Today is likely the last day to introduce new bills this session, full meetings resume on January 6, 2017 but the last this session is February 10, 2017. The session is officially closed out on April 17, 2017 — after the general election.

The meeting begins at 10am, it can be watched online here.

Readers Like Amazon Prime

December 14, 2016 Featured, Retail Comments Off on Readers Like Amazon Prime
 
Papa Fabarre's restaurant was in the downtown Famous-Barr for decades, it closed in 2011 when Macy's downsized in a failed effort to remain viable. Macy's closed in 2013
Papa Fabarre’s restaurant was in the downtown Famous-Barr for decades, it closed in 2011 when Macy’s downsized in a failed effort to remain viable. Macy’s closed in 2013

We can’t draw any definitive conclusions from the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll, but it’s clear from other data that Amazon Prime is a hit. From July:

Amazon Prime members now make up more than half the online retailer’s customer base, according to a new study.

Consumer Intelligence Research Partners estimates that Amazon  counts 63 million Prime members among its shoppers—an increase of 19 million from last June. (Fortune)

As I posted Monday, retailing continues to change. A century ago the Sears catalog was a big deal, offering everything you could imagine — including house kits. The Sears mail order catalog began in 1888, Montgomery Ward was earlier: 1872. National & regional retail stores survived the mail order catalog revolution and all the many changes since.  Retailers that survive must adapt & change with the times. Can you imagine a retailer not accepting credit cards? Even ALDI had to change and accept more than just debit cards.

The recent poll results:

Q: Are you currently a paid member of any of the following (check all that apply):

  1. Amazon Prime 24 [36.92%]
  2. Sam’s Club 18 [27.69%]
  3. Costco 12 [18.46%]
  4. Not a member of any 11 [16.92%]
  5. Google Express 0 [0%]
  6. Walmart Shipping Pass 0 [0%]

I’ve been an Amazon Prime member for at least 5 years now. While it costs $99, it allows me to order things without concern for the shipping cost. We order often enough that it is a good value, we occasionally watch videos too. In July 2015 we joined Costco, shopping there once per month since. Last month we got a 16.6 cu ft upright freezer (yes, Energy Star rated) so we’ll be buying even more there.

While Costco is debating the best approach to e-commerce, its competitors are acting fast. Amazon continues to open dozens of warehouses a year to accelerate shipping times. Its Prime membership program may now be Costco’s closest competitor, as Prime offers a number of perks including free two-day shipping for a $99 annual fee. There is significant overlap between Prime and Costco members, but that could change if consumers find themselves shopping on Amazon more than Costco.

Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) has also been rapidly expanding its grocery pick-up program, with plans to have about 1,000 kiosks in store parking lots by the end of next year. Management has said the program has been very popular. The company also acquired Jet.com for $3.3 billion to advance its own e-commerce operations.

In addition, Kroger has implemented a similar click-and-collect grocery program that allows customers to order on their phones and pick up in groceries in a store parking lot. (USA Today)

Locally owned retailers will continue to need to stay relevant to survive & thrive.

— Steve Patterson

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