Thursday, June 9, 2016

Independent experts agree: closing Jefferson is not in the public interest

How many more streets can we afford to lose?
On June 22, the ACHD Commissioners will take public comment on a straightforward—and strictly legal—point pursuant to Idaho Code Section 40-203:
"the ONLY justification to vacate Jefferson is if a majority of the commissioners find that keeping it open for use by the public is NOT in the public interest."

Given what independent experts have stated publicly about this issue, that finding sets a high bar; one that involves a legal, not political consideration. See a few examples from the public record:


ACHD 2013 Downtown Boise Redevelopment Plan 
ACHD's plan refers to Jefferson Street as a corridor that "...provides key east-west connectivity east of Broadway-Avenue B and west of 16th Street (which Bannock does not)."

Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission
Boise P&Z Commissioners recommended denial of St. Luke’s application “for the reason that it does not comply with substantial elements of the comprehensive plan.”

The final vote was six to deny and one to defer. (2/9/15 P&Z Transcript). Each Commissioner outlined specific reasons for denial; here are a few excerpts from their comments.
  • "I do think the case has been made by the public that an undue burden is placed on transportation…by the closure of Jefferson.” —Commissioner Demarest 
  • "We’re now trying to combat chronic diseases, obesity, diabetes, all of the things that you all are experts in. I believe that this exacerbates that problem."—Commissioner Danley 
  • “St. Luke's is an important part of our community but it is a part of the community. We’ve heard tonight from many people, we have legitimate concerns about closing Jefferson, and I have those same concerns. It’s a close call for me, but I think connectivity has to trump design issues in this case…”—Commissioner Just 
  • "...what is the real cost of closing Jefferson? That analysis has not been presented yet...Against that, I set the clear, public loss of an important street. So for that reason alone, I can’t support the plan." —Commissioner Gillespie 
Safety Concerns 
The so-called 'cycle track' can not and will not compensate for the loss of the existing contiguous east-west connection provided by Jefferson. Increased traffic congestion and hazards aside, routing bike and pedestrian traffic around the proposed superblock and megastructure presents numerous conflict points from patient, hospital staff and visitor traffic (cars, bikes, wheelchairs and pedestrians) crossing the proposed lane of travel of the 'cycle track.'
  • "…there is absolutely no way I could advocate for, or be in favor of shutting down Jefferson St. It really boils down to safety and connectivity, and the closing of Jefferson presents significant problems to both of these."* —Jimmy Halyburton, Boise Bicycle Project (League-Certified Bicycle Safety Instructor, Participant in St. Luke’s Cycle Discussion) 
^ Update 6/23/16: apparently, there was a way he could advocate for shutting down Jefferson; but nothing has changed re: safety or connectivity.

Walkable and connected street grid values
The 2013 Boise, Idaho Downtown Walkability Analysis commissioned by the Capital City Development Corporation (CCDC) found that:
  • "Downtown Boise benefits from a quite small block size—about 300 feet square—and almost none of these blocks have been consolidated into superblocks, which tend to decrease walkability by focusing traffic on fewer streets, causing them to become too wide. The logic of small blocks suggests that no further block consolidations should be allowed, such as the one currently considered at St. Luke’s, which will significantly undermine the effectiveness of the street grid in that location.” —Jeff Speck, AICP, CNU-A, LEED-AP, Honorary ASLA Principal; Author, 'Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time'
Health Care Architecture and Planning Perspective
In the absence of any independent analysis of the proposed expansion commissioned by local government, Ada County residents and taxpayers sought and secured the expertise of one of the country's foremost experts in the field of health care design to review and analyze the Master Plan and proposed street closure. The following is an excerpt from Professor Allison's testimony before City Council on 6/30/2015:
  • “Hospitals have this implied mission of ‘do no harm’…but by fundamentally creating a superblock in a choke point in your city, they (St. Luke’s) are in fact, harming the city.” 
  • "I think a cycle track is a great exercise amenity...it's not necessarily about connectivity and healthy community planning and design." —David Allison, FAIA, FACHA—Alumni Distinguished Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in Architecture + Health at Clemson University
"...as a regional medical center, St. Luke's needs to align its expansion with the needs of the greater Treasure Valley and southwest Idaho. Clearly the population center of the Treasure Valley has progressively shifted westward, a trend that will undoubtedly continue. St. Luke's Meridian campus is ideally situated to accommodate future growth; its ER is already the busiest on the state.
It's time that St. Luke's acknowledge that its flagship hospital will ultimately need to be in Meridian rather than hemmed in between a residential neighborhood and downtown Boise.
St. Luke's Boise provides an invaluable service to the community, however their growth has over the years had a negative impact on the surrounding neighborhoods. The time has come to draw the line at Jefferson St. and redirect St. Luke's future growth to the Meridian campus." —Peter Angleton, M.D.
Economic impacts
A common argument used by proponents of expanding in place involves the presumed economic impact for Boise. We sought out a professional with expertise in fiscal impact analysis, real estate development feasibility analysis and regional economics. As a bonus, we found someone with deep knowledge of the Treasure Valley, impact fee design and market research. Here's what he had to say after reviewing St Luke's Master Plan:
  • "There are many reasons to be for or against the hospital proposal, however, the economic arguments the hospital is promoting in its printed material are not valid."
  • "The hospital will bring the same economic benefit to the Boise region whether the hospital is fully in Boise or in several communities in the region. No jobs will be lost, no hospital services will be lost, and no difference in economic benefit will be discernible if select hospital services move just several miles away."
  • "This is not a new story in the evolution of cities. Hospitals are often built on the edge of a city and they outgrow their location as the city fills in around the facility and the hospital builds a modern campus in a nearby suburban community. The doctors remain in the region; the patients remain in the region; and the economic benefits remain in the region." —Adam Orens, Managing Director, BBC Research and Consulting in a letter to KBC.

Blueprint Boise
Goal DT-C 2:
Continue to develop a framework of streets, paths and open spaces that builds upon existing networks and strengthen connections to the Boise River and Downtown subdistricts.

DT-C 2.1: BLOCK PATTERN:
(a) Retain a high level of connectivity in Downtown by maintaining the traditional street grid and block pattern (260 feet by 300 feet).

(b) Where superblocks exist, work with property owners and developers when redevelopment is proposed to re-establish the street grid and create blocks that approximate the traditional block size…

(c) Avoid development of megastructures on superblocks that create either real or perceived barriers to connectivity.

ACHD represents all Ada County constituents; together we bear the responsibility for the transportation infrastructure needed to accommodate traffic congestion.

Let ACHD Commissioners know that keeping Jefferson intact as a functioning east-west corridor is in the public interest and serves the public good.

Complete the quick and easy survey here:
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/KeepJeffersonPublic

Or send them and email directly to tellus@achdidaho.org

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