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Keep Boise Connected Statement 6/21/16

St. Luke's surface parking lot, which they use as an excuse not to expand to the south. Apparently, they feel this poorly thought out surface lot is worth preserving at all costs—but not an essential public right-of-way.

Jefferson Closure Not in Public Interest
Members of Keep Boise Connected, Inc. were invited to meet with the Statesman's Editorial Board recently, just as we were last June before City Council’s approval of St. Luke's Master Plan. In both cases we presented straightforward, compelling testimony from independent experts in medicine, health care, economics and transportation planning.

It's important to note that citizens can't use money or political pressure to influence the public, local nonprofits, media coverage or our representatives to endorse our position.

We showed data and planning documents clearly stating the public interest served by Jefferson, which ACHD's 2013 Downtown Boise Redevelopment Plan refers to as a corridor that "...provides key east-west connectivity east of Broadway-Avenue B and west of 16th Street (which Bannock does not)."

We pointed to the Boise P&Z Commission’s six-to-one denial of the Master Plan “for the reason that it does not comply with substantial elements of the comprehensive plan.” We shared testimony from David Allison, one of the country’s most respected architectural experts on design of urban hospitals who observed, “...by fundamentally creating a superblock in a choke point in your city, they [St. Luke’s] are in fact, harming the city.”

On behalf of thousands of taxpayers throughout Ada County, we questioned diverting ACHD resources from very real transportation problems elsewhere. Of the estimated 1,500 postcards and online survey forms opposing street closure and delivered to ACHD, approximately two-thirds were from Ada County zip codes outside the East End. Dismissing this as an East End issue ignores the facts.

We've approached this with integrity and faithfully presented information from the public record. We've never sought endorsements linked to money or coercion. We’ve all been active civic partners with local government and business for decades. We aren't anti growth, anti government or anti business; we are simply pro neighborhood and community.

None of us question St. Luke’s right to build land it currently owns—in the East End, on Americana or Fairview near the Connector—even in Meridian. As Professor Allison noted, if further street closures weren’t an option, we might finally see a 21st Century Plan B that meets regional health care needs and makes better use of existing infrastructure and access corridors, and that ‘does no harm’ to the community.

An urban hospital should respect the constraints of building within a city, not bring suburban sprawl where it doesn’t belong.

When government considers projects of this magnitude we expect them to seek out unbiased experts to help inform decisions. That didn’t happen here; in fact, we’ve heard from hospital and government employees fearful of expressing their concerns to leadership or in public. That’s not a recipe for informed decision-making or good government.

ACHD Commissioners are likely under tremendous political pressure to grant a street closure despite objective evidence to the contrary. This is meant to be a legal, not an emotional decision; it shouldn’t matter what’s convenient or cheaper for St. Luke’s.

Under state law Commissioners must find that closing a functional public right-of-way—currently in active use by the public—is in the public interest. But granting street closure in this case sets a precedent that could open Pandora’s box. The ripple effects of this decision will extend far into the future and throughout the Treasure Valley.

We still have no details about plans for a cycle track or any specific development; we're told to trust St. Luke's to do the right thing.

Ultimately, this is in the Commissioners hands; we hope evidence—not emotional P.R. or politic pressure—guides them.

June, 2015
KBC Grateful to Professor David Allison!

David Allison, FAIA, FACHA
KBC members and supporters were honored to welcome special guest Professor David Allison, FAIA, FACHA—the Alumni Distinguished Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in Architecture + Health at Clemson University.
Thanks to his interest in Boise's challenges after reviewing St. Luke's Master Plan, contributions from neighbors—and a little serendipity—we were happy to have one of America's most-respected educators and practitioners in the field of health care architecture.
We all want Boise to live up to Mayor Bieter's goal of 'America's Most Livable City,' so we thought, "why not bring in the architect voted 'one of the most influential people in healthcare design' in multiple yearly polls?" (source: Healthcare Design Magazine)
We took Professor Allison on a pedestrian tour of St. Luke's campus to give him an up-close sense of the current layout and proposed changes to compare with the current proposed master plan. In the spirit of cooperation and fairness, KBC even lined up time the morning of the City Council hearing for Professor Allison to meet with some of the key folks from St. Luke's design team.
He presented his thoughts on health district design in general, with a few observations of the proposed St. Luke's plan to City Council. See the attached press release for more details.

Public Engagement Is Critical to Preserve Public Trust
Boise has a reputation built on open, representative government and consistent planning to preserve connectivity and our quality of life; the St. Luke's Master Plan process has undermined that reputation. We want Boise to be America's most livable city. We want our city leadership to be successful in all our shared community goals. Our reputation is key to that future success and those shared goals.

We believe Boise residents deserve an opportunity to share a different perspective on this proposal to Council. Only through an honest and open conversation can we hope for a process and outcomes that are transparent, equitable and defensible. This is not a development application; it's a modification of Boise's Comprehensive Plan, which makes real public engagement critical.

After attending St. Luke's open houses and watching the last two Council meetings, one Boise business executive observed, "This isn't public engagement; it's a commercial for the applicant." In the absence of a formal public presentation by those most impacted by this expansion, local leadership—whatever their intentions—may be seen as deferring to corporate interests at the expense of voters, taxpayers and citizens.

This involves transfer of a public entitlement to a private corporation, with many unknown side effects. When all the facts are on the table, we believe policy makers and the larger community—including many St. Luke's supporters—will understand the wisdom of proceeding with caution.

Media Professionals and Community Partners

First, let's bust a common myth: this is not just about bikes. It's about livability, traffic, and public health and safety.

We realize we need to do a better job of getting our message to local media. And we understand today's journalists are multitasking more as news budgets shrink. All we ask is that journalists and others keep an open mind, check facts independently, explore various perspectives, and remain objective.

This sort of conflict could happen in any neighborhood. When rights and taxpayer interests are eroded in one neighborhood, they can be affected elsewhere. We also believe it's important for neighborhood associations to at least reach out to one another to share perspectives and fact-check rumors (i.e., somehow a rumor circulated to other neighborhood associations that the EENA board was 'split' on opposing street closure, when the vote was six opposed and two abstaining).

We encourage you to look around this site for some context, make your own decisions about whether the information seems fair, and shoot us an email:

info @ keepboiseconnected.com

We are

  • Long-time Boise residents and taxpayers, St. Luke's patients and neighbors. 
  • Active in neighborhood organizations, community planning initiatives and social/cultural/political events.
  • Contributors to Blueprint Boise and active participants in the Central Addition Master Planning discussions.
  • Working professionals in local and statewide land-use planning, transportation, community and economic development, housing policy, law and public participation
  • Supporters and coordinators of campaigns for many sitting elected officials at the City of Boise, Ada County, ACHD and the Idaho Legislature, as well as the Boise Foothills Levy and School Bond. 
  • Committed to thoughtful, honest and productive collaboration and dialogue 
  • Interested in telling the truth and backing our claims up with hard facts. 

Boise planning values have been hard won
For the past decade, Boise has made a real effort to support community planning processes that reflect inclusiveness and neighborhood engagement. Examples include Blueprint Boise, the BSU Master Plan, off-leash dog parks and trails, and more recently the Central Addition Master Plan, to name a few. Each of these featured broad and diverse stakeholder involvement, facilitated deliberation and consensus building to inform development decisions.

From the beginning, discussions around closing Jefferson Street have been limited to St. Luke's and its consultant, ACHD and City of Boise staff. Neighbors were simply told what was being proposed, not involved in exploring alternatives, impacts or costs.

They didn't ask if they could have our street; they told us they were taking it.

This is a significant departure from Boise's norm.

We are concerned with what we see as development that compromises Boise's strengths as a community: connectivity, complete street grids, livability, strong neighborhoods, accountability and vision. The decisions made in the coming weeks involve several considerations: 

Do we honor the work of the citizens and leaders that created our comprehensive plan?
Do we value the taxpayers and residents east of Avenue B and future generations of commuters, residents and their children?


Do we send a clear message to them..."even though you contribute to this city's well-being through civic engagement and volunteerism; even though your tax dollars support the infrastructure, public safety and services enjoyed by St Luke's; even though our planning documents emphasize connectivity; even though your district represents Boise's most progressive values; and even though little is known but much is at stake, you are expendable and secondary when compared to the interests of a private corporation?"

Many of us participated in Boise's most recent comprehensive planning process, or Blueprint Boise. After close review of the St. Luke's Master Plan, Blueprint Boise and ACHD policies, it is clear that there are significant conflicts. Boise Planning and Zoning Commissioners thought so, too when they voted six-to-one to deny St. Luke's Master Plan.

We believe citizens and neighbors should have a meaningful voice in shaping our city's future growth and development. Expansion that requires sacrificing neighborhoods and connectivity—anywhere in the city—is unacceptable, especially when options exist for compromise.

Despite St. Luke's last-minute media campaign following the Planning and Zoning denial of its application, we have found that:

  • The scale, orientation and impact of the St. Luke's expansion is often poorly understood by the general public and those affected; 
  • Local residents (with few exceptions) who do grasp the impacts of this proposed expansion have expressed concerns to local government and to St. Luke's consultants, staff and management. These concerns center on closure of Jefferson and loss of essential grid connectivity and public right-of-way (ROW); 
  • From the beginning of the widespread public process, closure of Jefferson has been presented as the only option St. Luke's is willing to consider (besides 'no build') 
  • St. Luke's is now threatening to 'migrate operations to Meridian' if it doesn't get its way. That isn't the sign of a healthy relationship. 
Why now?
EENA representatives first learned of the proposal to close Jefferson in late 2013. Neighbors questioned street closure early and were simply told that the North option had been selected 'for aesthetic reasons' and we couldn't change that outcome. Some neighbors were even told by a St. Luke's representative that the Spring 2014 Open House was 'only a formality, because decisions had already been made.'

EENA's Board voted to formally oppose street closure (again, six to oppose; two to abstain). Since concerns and direct communication from EENA's board to St. Luke's, and comments submitted during the public comment process didn't seem to have made an impression, neighbors found it necessary to organize in early 2015 and share concerns with other Boise residents.

After two 45-day public comment periods, a rejection by Planning and Zoning, and concerns expressed by ACHD Commissioners, St. Luke’s has rejected expansion options that preserve street grid connectivity and has failed to engage with neighbors in a meaningful way as originally recommended by city staff.

Uphill struggle
St. Luke's has a full-time team of paid professionals and consultants devoted to researching and promoting their position and message to the general public, local government leadership and staff, and their business and commercial partners. Their team of consultants has worked closely with city, county and ACHD staff for several months and, in some case, years, with the closure of Jefferson a presumptive entitlement among insiders.

Residents and taxpayers who object to street closures or who have concerns about the scale and impact of the planned expansion cannot hope to match the administrative capacity or advertising budget described above. We all have full-time jobs and must take time away from family or other obligations, and volunteer time to research these issues on behalf of our neighborhoods and neighbors.

While St. Luke's has easily spent in the hundreds of thousands of dollars in this last-minute media effort, the Keep Boise Connected team had spent all of about $300 on printing a few postcards and fliers as of early April, 2015. Every dime of it was raised in voluntary donations from other neighbors, with postcards hand delivered by volunteers.

We feel it's important to inform and engage others in a more robust conversation about community values. This conversation should include preserving our public transportation grid, connectivity among and between residential neighborhoods, commercial/retail/service centers, schools, community activities and events, recreation and of course, community health. This means encouraging others to read and understand St. Luke's Master Plan and local transportation planning and policy documents, for starters.

Support for St. Luke's
Members of this group—and many of our neighborhoods—support St. Luke's, appreciate their involvement in our community and, to varying degrees, would support some type of facilities expansion appropriate to the scale and character of the surrounding neighborhood. We have always tried to be good neighbors to St. Luke's and have in the past considered them good neighbors in many ways.

This doesn't mean we will accept further street closures in an already connectivity compromised section of Boise downtown transportation grid. We don't approach this lightly, and our opposition is based on sound planning policy, public health and safety, unambiguous data and existing precedent.

We feel we can support St, Luke's and set clear boundaries to preserve essential community features for current and future taxpayers and residents.

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