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I Biked, Walked and Scootered Yesterday

Heading from my new loft to the convention center 8 blocks west yesterday for the Missouri section of the American Planning Association conference I managed to make a trip on foot, one on bike and another on scooter.  The joys of multi-modal living choices!

The scootering, of course, was the easiest as it requires no effort and the weather was quite pleasant.

Walking was actually the second easiest.  It took less than 20 minutes at a comfortable pace.  I’m out of shape and substantially overweight so walking — and lots of it — is on my agenda.

Bicycling, on the other hand, was a chore.  The only one of my bicycles I have downtown now is my rather cool looking single speed bike, a bike that weighs in at 50lbs!  Add my weight and you can imagine the challenge of pedaling all that around.  Granted, it had been over two years since I had really bicycled anywhere so it felt good to be on the bike.  Plus those bike helmets are feather light compared to a motorcycle helmet.

Although the YMCA is across the street I’m really not a gym kinda person.  I prefer my exercise outdoors — more naturally.  Hence the walking and bicycling.   Well, time to hit the sidewalk and walk back down to the conference for the final day.


St. Louis’ Planning Director Speaks on Density

This morning Rollin Stanley, St. Louis’ Director of Planning & Urban Design, spoke at the opening plenary session of the Missouri American Planning Association Conference. Stanley took the place of Mayor Francis Slay.

Stanley alluded to spending another week in London coming up shortly — winning another award from an organization that doesn’t disclose the number of entries? Click here to read last year’s post. The topic this time? Who knows. I’m sure I’ll have to do another sunshine law request to get a copy of what is touted as a city-saving plan.

But Stanley’s talk this morning was really good. He is, in fact, a really great public speaker. This morning he talked about changing demographics and how we all need to watch out for it. He indicated that increasingly we will see more and more single person households and how the country will be quickly adding another 100 million people. This led to density — and specifically the need for increased density. Or densification as term goes in planning circles.

He is right, of course. Stanley talked about the need for tax revenues to help support city services. He showed the census tracts for the Central West End and how the population has dropped since the 1970s — some 30% if I am not mistaken. A dropping population cannot support local jobs and retail services.

Yet the city continues to build low-density, often single use, projects in highly urbanized areas. Downtown St. Louis has the urban character is does not through good planning but through the re-use of existing buildings. Buildings our current zoning codes wouldn’t likely allow to be built today.

Another speaker on the plenary this morning was the Chief of Staff to Chicago’s Mayor Daly, Lori Healey. Healey shared real projects that demonstrated, for example, Chicago’s commitment to becoming a green city. Stanley, however, could only illustrate what we are not doing — pointing to the attempt to build a high rise building at the NE corner of Lindell and Euclid — that was stopped due to neighbors. Stanley pointed out the location’s proximity to transit and other amenities and asked, “If we can’t build a high rise here, where can we build a high rise?”

Of course we all know that we can actually have good densification without having high rise buildings popping up on random corners. I’d personally much rather see dense corridors, with localized transit like frequent bus service or streetcars, occupied by 4-8 story buildings their length than the occasional high rise. This discussion of what we build, where we build it and how we fund it needs to happen quickly. As you might suspect, this is really about zoning.

Much of the city is zoning one or two family. Basically, we’ve zoned ourself into low density housing. Sure, there is nothing wrong with single family housing but not everywhere. Our major commercial streets needs to be denser — excellent locations for multi-family housing.

Stanley is a smart man, he understands zoning and urbanity. Unfortunately, he has no power and seemingly little influence without our ward based politics in this city. Hell, he can’t even get nice urban projects built blocks from his house, much less throughout the city. So while he talk on the need for densification was good I just have to wonder how far he will get in city hall. Good luck.


BPS Denies Larry Rice’s Request for a Conditional-Use Zoning Permit

IMG_4276.JPGThis afternoon St. Louis’ Board of Public Service met to hear numerous issues related to zoning. One of the items was an application from Larry Rice’s New Life Evangelistic Center to open an energy center in an old commercial building located in the middle of residential block in South city.
Numerous neighbors came out strong in opposition earlier this month. Ald. Kirner, who initially supported the project, changed her mind once her constituents began to speak out against the proposal.

Rice may appeal today’s decision to the Board of Adjustment.


Larry Rice’s Conditional-Use Zoning Request to be Decided by BPS Today

This afternoon staff of the Board of Public Service will give their recommendation to the Board of Public Service regarding the request by Larry Rice of the New Life Evangelistic Center for a conditional use permit to operate an Energy Center in an otherwise residential block.  Earlier this month a hearing was held where Rice and others spoke for or against the zoning request.  Today’s meeting is just that — a meeting.  No new testimony will be hear.  The staff will present their recommendation and a decision will be made.


Above, Rice held another fair on this past Saturday.  The public was invited to this event but at this time Rice had not secured necessary approvals to hold such events.  This image was taken in the morning as they were setting up.


Rice had reinstalled his sign, also not yet approved, for the Saturday fair.


The white “sculpture” was actually a left over from a prior owner.  But the signs leaning against them are part of Rice’s instructional materials.


Later in the day, as they were closing up, I went by again on my way home.  Numerous vehicles were parked on the grass in the area where he wants to put an 18-car parking lot (original drawings submitted by Rice showed 38 cars).


I suppose out in the boondocks, where Rice has other energy centers, parking on fields is commonplace.  But not so much in residential neighborhoods.
The meeting is to begin at 1:45pm this afternoon in room 208 of City Hall.  I suspect the staff will recommend denial of the request and the Board of Public Service will agree.  If so, Larry Rice can appeal the decision to the Board of Adjustment.  Conversely, if NLEC gets their conditional use permit an aggrieved citizen can appeal to the Board of Adjustment.  I’m sure the citizens in the area will appeal if Rice prevails today, the big question is what will Rice do if he loses?


A Potpourri of Upcoming Events Including Two for Tonight

October 25, 2007 Events/Meetings 2 Comments

Will He or Won’t He?
Will Paul McKee speak at today’s meeting of the MCU (Metropolitan Congregations United)? I suppose only Paul McKee knows for sure.  I have down 6:30pm at Holy Trinity in Hyde Park.  Some reports have him there, others say he won’t.  One way to find out…
A Different Type of Rails to Trails

Also today in North St. Louis is a public comment forum on the early stages of converting an old railroad trestle into an elevated bikeway.  From the P-D:

The Illinois Traction railroad, later called the Illinois Terminal system, built the trestle almost a century ago for its electric-powered commuter system, which carried passengers between the Metro East area and downtown until 1958. It winds through a 19th-century industrial district north of downtown, crossing Interstate 70 on a black-painted girder bridge and running alongside North Market Street at Produce Row.

The forum, sponsored by the Great Rivers Greenway District, will be held tonight at “Confluence Academy-Old North St. Louis Campus 3017 North 13th Street 63107” from 5:00 PM – 8:00 PM.  More information from the flyer and media release.

Fall is upon us

Both the North City and Tower Grove Farmers’ Markets will be having final events this coming Saturday morning.   14th & St. Louis Ave and the center of Tower Grove Park, respectively.
An auction to benefit the Landmark’s Association of St. Louis

Sunday is the annual auction (silent and live) to benefit the Landmark’s Association of St. Louis.  Like last year, the event will be held in the incredibly beautiful Coronado Ballroom.

“Landmarks 2nd Annual Auction “Shaping the Future: Saving the Past” will be held on Sunday, October 28, from 3:00-6:30 p.m. at The Coronado, 3701 Lindell Boulevard.  $50 per person includes a lavish hors d’oeuvres buffet, wine, beer and soft drinks.  The silent auction cornucopia opens at 3:00 p.m. with tables closing in sequence before Mark Howald of Ivey-Selkirk begins the live auction at 5:00 p.m.”

A few tickets are still remaining.  It is worth it simply for the food, beverage and view.   More information at Landmarks’ new website at www.landmarks-stl.org.

A Fall themed fundraiser
The South City Open Studio and Gallery (SCOSAG) is holding Harvest for Art 2007 on Friday November 10th as a fundraiser to support their beneficial programs.  The event will be held at the awesome Lucas School House.  See www.scosag.org for more information.
And yet another auction

ArtFix 07 promises to be a fund event on Saturday November 11, a fundraiser benefiting Rebuilding Together-St. Louis:

Rebuilding Together – St. Louis is an affiliate of a national volunteer organization. It revitalizes neighborhoods in partnership with the community by rehabilitating the houses of low-income homeowners, particularly the elderly and the disabled, so that they may continue to live independently in comfort and safety. Rebuilding Together – St. Louis also renews neighborhoods by rebuilding community centers, playgrounds and other community projects.

For more information on tickets, food, artists and other details visit ArtFix07.com.