Monday, May 25, 2015

A Superblock by Any Other Name / Walkability Analysis

The following is a verbatim excerpt from the report by Jeff Speck (pp.16, 17):
"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, CCDC 2013 Downtown Walkability Analysis*

Walkable = Connected = Livable

Cities everywhere—including Boise—are moving towards deconstructing superblocks—development that 'decreases walkability by focusing traffic onto fewer streets.' That's why It is profoundly confusing for many that we would even contemplate moving in the opposite direction. By allowing the closure of yet another public right-of-way—particularly with so many unanswered questions about the impacts—seems counterproductive from a long-range planning perspective.

The Knight Foundation's Carol Colleta in her keynote presentation to a packed house at the 2015 State of Downtown stressed the importance of a walkable city and neighborhoods, adding that potential homebuyers will pay more for a home with a higher walk score.

In the 'Supplemental Narrative,' St. Luke's attorneys argue that the hospital campus wouldn't constitute a superblock. An overwhelming number of independent urban planners disagree, along with the City of Boise's own Comprehensive Plan (aka Blueprint Boise):
DT-CCN 1.4: URBAN BUILDING FORMS (a) Establish design criteria that require developments built in the CBD to use urban building forms where typically buildings are placed at the sidewalk and create a street wall, street level space is activated with people-oriented uses, and building entrances and openings are oriented to public sidewalks rather than to parking lots. (b) Work with developers to use building massing in Downtown that responds to the traditional pattern of lots within blocks, and creates a collage of buildings in each block rather than full-block megabuildings or “superblocks”.

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. If it is not feasible to re-establish streets, obtain public pedestrian ways protected by easements in place of the street grid so development areas approximate the traditional block size. (c) Avoid development of megastructures on superblocks that create either real or perceived barriers to connectivity.

DT-C 2.2: COMPLETION OF STREET GRID Where gaps exist in the street grid, work with property owners and developers to establish missing street segments when property is proposed for development or redevelopment consistent with the Downtown Boise Mobility Study.
As is evident above, Blueprint Boise expresses our community's value for connectivity, and our aversion to development that creates 'real or perceived barriers to connectivity.'

We support Boise's new LIV Boise initiative, which is currently focusing on the Vista Neighborhood, with plans to extend the LIV values to Boise's Central Addition. In the 2014 State of the City speech, Mayor Bieter presented three of LIV Boise’s initiatives:

  • Redefine Downtown, a new way to look at downtown Boise;
  • Connect Our Community, efforts to make it easier to walk, bike and use transit across the city; and
  • Energize Our Neighborhoods, an effort to revitalize neighborhoods throughout the city. The Vista program is the first example of the Energize our Neighborhood initiative. 

Hopefully, the city intends to include all neighbors and neighborhoods in its LIV initiative. We are concerned that the St. Luke's Master plan as proposed seems to move in the opposite direction of the stated LIV principles. The City, CCDC and St. Luke's may be missing an opportunity to develop in a more suitable location already owned by St. Luke's, that is in need of redevelopment and that is near near the Connector. This would be the area off Americana Blvd. and River Street.

*Note. CCDC's 2013 Downtown Walkability Analysis appeared to be temporarily MIA from its original location on their site and invisible to searches; thankfully, it is now available under a different heading/url after a few inquiries. An archived original can also be viewed here (see pp. 16, 17 for reference to St. Luke's). 

When attempting to use the CCDC link above, viewers see the following:

Screen capture 5/27/15

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Traffic, Parking Impacts of Proposed Expansion

Some folks seem to be fixated on this notion of 'a few cyclists who would be inconvenienced if Jefferson Street were closed.' The vast majority of comments we receive from Boise residents living, commuting or working near St. Luke's report serious concerns about the river of traffic, and the related public health and safety threats of that traffic.

Closing a public right-of-way like Jefferson is like placing a dam across a a stretch of river, then opening the flood gates upstream.
The traffic volume of in the area of Warm Springs/Broadway and Avenue B is set to increase by 39% if the expansion occurs here. That barrier to connectivity is not an abstraction for people who live, commute or work in this part of Boise.

Broadway looking south towards Front Street at 12:44 pm. Southbound traffic hoping to turn right on Front was at a standstill through at least two light cycles.

The graphic below illustrates traffic impacts linked to the proposed expansion. Essentially, the results would mean the Warm Springs/Avenue B/Broadway and Fort/State/Reserve corridors would see the volume of traffic we currently associate with Boise's Town Square Mall. The difference is that mall traffic doesn't impact a historic residential neighborhood (or its desirability from a real estate perspective), and this likely would.
New daily trips attributable to expansion.

New vehicle trips per day attributed to hospital expansion.

St. Luke's currently has 2,853 parking spaces; hospital buildout will require 4,378. For comparative purposes, the Boise International Airport has a total of just under 3,000 parking spaces, with 2,070 of those covered spaces.

Never mind closure of a public right-of way that would force even more of this traffic onto already failing roadways and intersections. Imagine pedestrians and cyclists—of any age—trying to navigate Avenue B or any aspect of the surrounding roadways. And imagine the additional exhaust from all the stop-and-go traffic added by the expansion.

St. Luke's fixation on 'cycle tracks to nowhere' does nothing to address growing traffic threats, and it can never restore loss of direct connectivity for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. It diverts attention from the real permanent harm to Boise's livability, safety, health and integrity.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Schedule and Procedure for May 19th Council Work Session

To date, Boise leaders have heard formal presentations from St. Luke's; next Tuesday they will hear more formal presentations from St. Luke's. Regular citizens and taxpayers have an opportunity to submit limited questions via email or on cards (see below), but as yet have not been given the opportunity to offer a formal presentation of our position and findings.
But...(and it's a big one) you should know that St. Luke's is able to bring the kind of pressure that only an employer, wealthy client, major advertiser or funder can to those who receive money from this billion-dollar corporation. They hope to once again pack council chambers with their physicians, consultants and board members.
While this means anything but a level playing field for citizens and taxpayers, it's critical that neighborhood voices are heard. This is a chance to voice your opinion on both:
1. the process (i.e., putting St. Luke's in charge of developing a Master Plan without meaningful input from those most affected by the expansion, and without an independent analysis of the economic, social, and environmental impacts to residents); and
2. the alternatives analysis. This includes alternatives to the proposed Jefferson Street closure to the north. St. Luke's claims it evaluated and rejected the East, South and West alternatives, in some cases because it 'doesn't own the property.' It also doesn't own Jefferson. Two other alternatives to Jefferson Street closure have been offered by St. Luke's during public meetings and in their promotional materials: no expansion, or building its new tertiary facilities in Meridian. P&Z Commissioner Gillespie highlighted the lack of a legitimate alternatives analysis (which he called the 'heart of any plan') in the Master Plan before it was overwhelmingly denied by the P&Z Commission.
During the P&Z meeting where St. Luke's plan was denied, the East End Neighborhood Association was given 30 minutes to present a neighborhood perspective. That was the only time neighbors and residents have been given the opportunity to present more coherent and contextual than 3-minute individual comments.
This is a big decision for City Council. They need to hear from other stakeholders, including you.

From the City's release:
Contact: Mike Journee
384-4402 /
A second City Council workshop to gather information and perspective on a proposed update to St. Luke’s Boise Medical Center Campus Master Plan is scheduled for the council’s regular 6 p.m. meeting on May 19.
A previous workshop session was held on April 14, during which St. Luke’s described its process for arriving at the current proposed master plan update, including an alternatives analysis. Tuesday’s workshop will delve into details of the plan, including distribution of uses, zoning, parking, circulation, historic resources, design and similar topics.
The workshop format provides an opportunity for council members and the public to understand March 30 revisions to St. Luke’s original application, which was recommended for denial on Feb. 9 by the Boise City Planning and Zoning Commission. Council members want to ensure consideration of the St. Luke’s application includes the most up-to-date information about the potential project plans.
Representatives of the East End Neighborhood Association, the Downtown Boise Association, the Downtown Neighborhood Association and the North End Neighborhood Association will be included as full participants at the workshop table. Each of those representatives has full privileges to ask questions and provide commentary in the discussion.
In an effort to include as many perspectives as possible in the discussion of the proposal, Tuesday’s session will also include designated 30-minute blocks of time for audience members to pose questions of the applicant, city staff or council members about the proposal.
Residents interested in participating the Q&A sessions have two options for submitting questions prior to and during Tuesday’s meeting:
· Email questions to by 5 p.m., Monday May 18 with the subject line: St. Luke’s Question
· Writing questions on note cards provided at the meeting
City staff members will collect and sort all questions by topic and relevancy, and eliminate duplicates or topics that will be addressed at later sessions or hearings. The questions will be read aloud at the meeting and the appropriate participants will respond.
While the workshop will include Q&A opportunities and be part of the council’s regular open, public meeting, public testimony on the application will not be taken. Opportunities for public comment and testimony will be provided at public hearings to be held at a future date. For those unable to attend, Tuesday’s meeting will be streamed online at
Council members will not make a determination on the application during Tuesday’s workshop. Plans for continued public discussion of the application, including opportunities for public comment, will be discussed at the end of Tuesday’s meeting.
Here’s an overview of Tuesday’s proposed workshop agenda:
· Meeting called to order – 6 p.m.
· Review and summary of the April 14 workshop and description of the goals and procedures for Tuesday’s session – 5 minutes
· Table Participants Q&A – A brief opportunity for any participants at the table to ask questions of staff, the applicant or other table members – 10 minutes
· First Resident Q&A Session – Submitted resident questions related to the proposal’s review process and alternatives analysis, presented by St. Luke’s at the April 14 meeting, will be answered by appropriate team members.
· Break – 10 minutes
· Proposed Master Plan Overview – St. Luke’s team describes the various elements of their proposed master plan update, including distribution of uses, zoning, parking, circulation, historic resources, design and similar topics; followed by council and table participant questions and discussion – 1 hour
· Break – 10 minutes
· Transportation Mitigation – St. Luke’s team describes the various proposed mitigation measures related to traffic and bicycle/pedestrian facilities; followed by council and table participant questions and discussion – 1.5 hours
· Second Resident Q&A Session – Submitted resident questions related to transportation mitigation and other master plan elements will be answered by appropriate team members. – 30 minutes
· Next steps – Council members discuss needed next steps for proposed revision of St. Luke’s master plan."
· Adjournment – 10 p.m.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Boise Residents Not Alone in Facing Threats From Corporate Hospital Expansion

Some folks buy into a well-promoted myth that this is an issue involving a few dozen cyclists. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is about neighborhood and community integrity; it's about the suburbanization of a historic residential district; it's also about boundaries and values.

As the Keep Boise Connected network has grown, we're learning more about St. Luke's and the U.S. corporate health care industry than any of us ever wanted to know...mainly from St. Luke's employees, physicians and contractors. We're also learning that Boise is not alone; communities and historic residential neighborhoods across America have been or are being decimated and isolated by unchecked private hospital expansion.

Here are a few stories that seem eerily familiar:

Defend Urban Neighborhoods - Rochester, NY
"We are Rochester, New York city residents who believe urban neighborhoods thrive when residents, visitors, businesses, institutions and parks share space wisely. We are not anti-growth; rather, we urge government, businesses and institutions to consider the value of balance and scale to keep neighborhoods vital. Growth should be efficient, appropriate and intelligent – in other words, the opposite of sprawl. We urge all parties to practice thoughtful development and economic growth."

"We don't believe we are overreacting. Hospital expansion into urban neighborhoods is happening all over the country and this is the way it begins: the purchase of homes, rezoning to commercial and the demise of the neighborhood. 
Like other urban communities faced with this threat, we want the hospital to respect our boundaries. Like those communities that have been successful, we need an interested public and political will to support us."

Portland, Oregon — "Fifty years later, Legacy Emanuel Medical Center attempts to make amends for razing neighborhood"
"People who lived in the area were totally in the dark about what was going to happen," she said. 
The hospital submitted its plans. And the city, the Portland Development Commission and a Model Cities Citizens Planning Board approved them—all without hearing from residents. 
The council finally allowed residents to speak in a July 1970 meeting. But it approved the plans, with only one minor change, in the same meeting."

"Substantially increased traffic associated with the proposed expansion would make the existing congestion on Cherry Street and James Street (especially as it connects with Interstate 5) even worse. Four additional intersections in the neighborhood would operate at extreme congestion during peak hours.

The intensity of development proposed by Swedish and Sabey could translate into additional conversion of residential-zoned property into commercial uses.
Bottom line: The proposed expansion simply cannot be accommodated at Swedish’s Cherry Hill hospital without posing an existential threat to an established, lively and diverse Seattle neighborhood.

The proposal that Swedish and Sabey have presented ignores the city’s own Land Use Code. It should be rejected.

RIDGEWOOD — In a surprising and resounding defeat for The Valley Hospital, the Planning Board on Tuesday night voted against the hospital’s plan to nearly double in size.

“It’s a great decision for Ridgewood,” said Thomas McAndrews. “It would have strained our quality of life if it were allowed to go through.”The audience erupted in cheers after each vote against a master plan amendment that would have allowed the expansion. When the voting was done, the count was 5 to 2 against and residents who have opposed expansion for eight years were rejoicing in the auditorium of Benjamin Franklin Middle School, where the meeting was held.
Most of the board members who rejected the plan used the same word — “detrimental” — in explaining the impact of the proposed expansion on the village. 
“It’s Valley’s burden to show that change is warranted and I don’t believe Valley has met that burden,” said Mayor Paul Aronsohn, who is also on the Planning Board and cast a vote against the amendment. “I don’t think the proposal will serve the best interests of the community.” 
Kevin Reilly, another board member who voted against the plan, agreed. “The impacts from this amendment are detrimental to the community,” he said.

Friday, May 8, 2015

St. Luke's Logic

The May 7 Idaho Statesman featured a Letter to the Editor brilliant in its simplicity and clarity. I guess that about wraps it up.

St. Luke’sMay 7, 2015 At a hearing at the City Council on the proposal to close Jefferson, St. Luke’s Regional Medical Center once more presented its list of non-negotiable demands to the citizens of Boise. Close Jefferson Street. There is no other option. 
Jeff Hull, from St. Luke’s, is reported as having said that expanding St. Luke’s to the west is not an option because “the hospital doesn’t own all of the land it would need.” 
May I point out to Mr. Hull, and to the City Council, that the hospital doesn’t own Jefferson Street, either. Given that, by Mr. Hull’s own logic, expanding to the north isn’t an option either. 
Thank you, Mr. Hull, for resolving the question for us. So, I guess it’s back to the drawing board for St. Luke’s. Make whatever grandiose plans you want, just don’t make them on other people’s property. 
—John J. O’Hagan, Boise

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Downtown Boise: Speaker Stresses Walkability, Neighborhoods, Collaboration

Carol Coletta, VP/Community and National Initiatives for the Knight Foundation, was the featured speaker at the May 5 Down Town Boise State of Downtown Annual Meeting. Here are some excerpts from the Boise Weekly's take on her talk:

"Coletta also pointed to what she said was the importance of a city's "walk score." Walk Score, a Seattle-based company tracks the walkability of a metropolis. The company regularly assigns walk scores to thousands of companies and websites.

"People will pay a premium for a home with a higher walk score," said Coletta. "What those walk scores represent are the number of daily destinations within an easy walking distance from their home."

And with several high-profile mixed-use projects already underway in Boise's downtown core, which will presumably attract more residents to the downtown neighborhood, Coletta cautioned city planners not to "suburbanize" the urban experience.

"Don't make this an unpleasant environment by introducing bigger stores," she said. "You'll end up with too many blank walls that have nothing to do with the downtown experience."

Read the full article here