Why should you care?

Read this first

Anyone familiar with planning efforts in our community understands something fundamental about St. Luke's current Master Plan:
"On paper, this plan goes against what Boise says it stands for"
A comprehensive plan—such as Blueprint Boise—embodies the shared values and desires of a community. In Boise's case, we value stable and healthy neighborhoods connected to a vibrant downtown.

All those involved in this discussion appreciate what St. Luke's brings to our community and state. We have good friends who work at St. Luke's or whose livelihoods depend on the many entities and activities connected to St. Luke's. We believe it's possible—and important—to be both supportive of St. Luke's and still set boundaries that preserve our neighborhoods and connectivity. Equally important is to acknowledge the direct and indirect costs of expansion.

Before you take a new drug, you want to know what the side effects are. And before undergoing a major surgical procedure, you want a second opinion. That hasn't happened in this case.

The job of St. Luke's paid staff and contractors is to promote corporate interests; our job as volunteers and neighbors is to promote what many feel is essential to preserving neighborhood and community values for current and future residents.

Current traffic counts
Projected traffic counts

Don't be surprised
Despite—or in some cases thanks to—a massive PR campaign that has included mailings, media advertisements and several open houses all sponsored and managed by St. Luke's, important aspects of its proposed expansion are poorly understood. Most people in the Boise don't seem to be aware of some key facts:
  1. St. Luke's wants to close Jefferson between Avenue B and N. 1st, for starters. During a previous expansion, St. Luke's wanted to close Bannock between Avenue B and N 1st. EENA supported this for two reasons: Bannock was not a through street, since it was interrupted by the cemetery and Flume Street; and this gave St. Luke's two contiguous blocks and the chance to expand to the south, leaving Jefferson open. EENA also agreed to support the Life Flight service. Neighbors have tried to be good partners, but every relationship needs boundaries.
  2. According to Boise P&Z Commissioners, the expansion "...does not comply with substantial elements of the comprehensive plan.”
  3. Traffic impacts will affect surrounding neighborhoods forever. St. Luke's own traffic numbers show 13,626 vehicle trips per day attributable to the expansion. That would bring the traffic volume at the five-way intersection of Warm Springs and Broadway/Avenue B to over 52,000 vehicle trips per day—more than all but four intersections in Boise.
  4. The suburban form of the expansion and resulting superblock are incompatible with the surrounding neighborhood. St. Luke's has said during Open House presentations that they want to draw patients from a 300-mile, multi-state radius into Boise's East End. To those of us who live here or commute through this area, that seems like a really bad idea. More traffic from out-of-state patients, more helicopter traffic. Yes, the promise of more jobs seems exciting, but they would come at a cost to Boise taxpayers and adjacent residential neighborhoods. St. Luke's continued expansion requires cannibalizing historic residential neighborhoods and replacing them with an industrial-scale presence.
  5. St. Luke's wants to have it's main patient entrance facing the foothills. Most people we talk with have no idea that St. Luke's wants to effectively turn its back on Boise and face the foothills. This puts their main entrance at the already burdened intersection of N. 1st, State and Fort Streets. As they have done throughout Ada County, ACHD has plans to improve several intersections in the area over time, but these things will be done independently of any hospital expansion—and most, if not all, will paid for by Ada County taxpayers.
  6. St. Luke's will always have a community hospital in its current Boise location. Some folks have been led to believe that Boise would lose our current medical facilities if St. Luke's doesn't get to close Jefferson. St. Luke's is on record, stating that even if it's regional tertiary care facilities (the most highly specialized—and costly—procedures) are built elsewhere in Boise—or in Meridian as St. Luke's indicated in their 2015 P.R. campaign—we will still have an E.R., babies will still be delivered here, etc.
Taxpayers and voters should care
As a private tax-exempt corporation St. Luke's is among Boise's largest employers and has significant real estate and development holdings. Development and expansion are expensive, and those costs are passed along; as health care costs continue to climb, we all pay a higher price through fees for services and ever-increasing insurance premiums. But neighbors pay in other ways, too.

Property owners in the area impacted by this expansion contribute a significant amount in property taxes to city, county and highway district operations; St. Luke's doesn't. Nor will the patients (and their families) St. Luke's wants to draw from a 300-mile radius to this neighborhood. Those travelers use regional and ACHD roadways, which increases congestion, which in turn increases health and safety risks and impacts our local air shed and air quality.

This dynamic means that current property tax payers will continue to shoulder costs—not only of maintaining the transportation infrastructure that St. Luke's expansion impacts—but also city and county services (including EMS, law enforcement, etc.) and of course, other stuff. 

Everyone knows St. Luke's currently employs a large number folks in Idaho. Among these are three separate lobbyists at the state level, along with full-time government and public affairs professionals and contractors advocating for their positions to local government staff and administrators. Taxpayers don't typically hire lobbyists to protect our interests as homeowners, consumers and community members—we elect them.

We trust that city, county and ACHD staff and leadership will consider the interests of and economic impacts on all residents—and not just the biggest corporations—when making tough decisions about growth and development. It's all we can ask.

Parents should care
If you have a child enrolled in the Boise School District and you live in the North End, Foothills East, East End or Downtown Boise, chances are you and your child have to navigate the traffic congestion growing around the St. Luke’s campus on a daily basis, whether by bus, bike, car or on foot. It is critical that we maintain safe routes to schools that allow for travel between our homes and schools, and to the many after-school activities we enjoy at Fort Boise.

Motorists, cyclists and pedestrians should care
Contrary to what St. Luke's keeps saying, this is not just about cyclists.

New traffic sources: medical office buildings

New Trips Distribution

Whatever your mode of travel near the St. Luke's Campus, you know the increasingly long wait times, failed intersections, accidents, and challenges involving Fort, Avenue B, Broadway, Warm Springs, Main, and Idaho. In recent years we’ve watched St. Luke’s close Bannock, and then install hospital staff-controlled traffic signals at Main and Idaho, slowing traffic on three major East-West corridors (this isn't a bad thing for pedestrians!). Plans show cutting off Krall at Avenue B, and they have indicated a desire to close N. 1st as well. We wonder, how much is enough?

Jefferson Street is the main direct connection for residents of the East End and Foothills East to Boise’s vibrant downtown business district. This is the area we frequent for farmer’s markets, restaurants, retail and services. It is the most direct and the safest bike route to get to downtown Boise and through to Whitewater and West Boise. We cannot allow a single entity to take away a strategic public right of way, safe route to schools and major urban connector for its own convenience.

Residents of the East End, North End, Foothills East and Near North End should care

The City of Boise is investing resources and energy in enhanced connectivity, infrastructure, libraries, activity center and community services in several neighborhoods: Vista, 36th Street, the new Whitewater Park, Harris Ranch, Bown Crossing, and elsewhere. This is great, and no one begrudges the emphasis on improving these neighborhoods. At the same time, the East End appears to be a designated sacrifice zone bearing the full brunt of development driven by St. Luke's and Boise State. 

East End residents are among Boise's most active when it comes to elections, community involvement and volunteerism. We contribute a significant amount in taxes per capita, and a majority of us have been big supporters of current local leadership. We deserve as much consideration as any other neighborhood and our safety and connectivity must not be compromised at the whim of corporate developers.

Planners, community developers and preservationists should care
When comprehensive plans are changed at the expense of residents and commuters, there is a danger that regular citizens lose faith in the planning process and become more cynical about local government and the concept of fair play.

Urban planning. In 2013, Boise's Capital City Development Corporation (CCDC) worked with planning expert Jeff Speck to create a walkability study and report for Boise's amazing downtown. The following is a direct quote from the study:

"Downtown Boise benefits from a quite small block size—about 300 feet square—and almost none of these blocks have been consolidated intosuperblocks, 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."(emphasis KBC)

See the whole study here.

Preservation. Several years ago St. Luke's earned a rare Onion award, which recognizes:
  • Individuals or corporations who demolish historically significant buildings or sites; or
  • New construction that is insensitive or ignorant of the neighborhood’s history.
We hope St. Luke's will work with neighborhood representatives and preservation experts to reduce or eliminate loss of connectivity and historic assets as they move forward. Once historic homes, businesses or streets are lost—or taken out of their original context—we lose part of our legacy and character,

Mountain bikers, dog walkers, hikers and Parks and Recreation users should care
The St. Luke's campus is adjacent to Military Reserve and Fort Boise, gateway to one of the most popular and heavily used sections of the Boise Foothills. St. Luke's recently purchased the former Elks Rehab facility, and owns much of the property along Fort Street. Without limits on their development and growth, other uses could ultimately take a back seat to the increased traffic and presence of a suburban-scale regional medical center.

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