Thursday, May 31, 2012

Metro Nashville Public Schools does not control charter schools

Former East Nashville council member Jamie Hollin explains how local decisions about charter schools are ultimately controlled by people from outside of Nashville:

What seemingly few appreciate is that the denial of a locally submitted charter application is reviewable by the state BOE pursuant to the applicable statutory regime. In other words, the ultimate grant or denial of a charter school application lies, in this instance, not with your locally elected school board and administration, but by the following: B. Fielding Rolston (Kingsport), Mike Edwards (Knoxville—CEO of Knoxville Chamber of Commerce), Vernita B. Justice (Chattanooga), Lonnie Roberts (4th Congressional District), Carolyn Pearre (Nashville), Jean Anne Rogers (Murfreesboro), Jim Ayers (Nashville), Dr. Melvin Wright, Sr. (Jackson), Teresa Sloyan (Memphis), plus a student member and the Executive Director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission in an ex-officio capacity (non-voting). The foregoing list comprises the current members of our state BOE. Seven Tennesseans from some place other than Nashville (good folks, I am certain).

The net effect is that people who are not accountable to local voters will be deciding local education policy from this point forward ....

I have written before that my position on charters is evolving. My evolution on the subject is over .... 

Jump to read more about how Jamie's position has evolved. The gimmick of charters, touted by Mayor Karl Dean, does not guarantee quality public education. The fact that the gimmick is subject to influence from individuals with no local obligations is more troubling.

Another Mayor's budget, another time of calls to cut common people's health care

A blogging Nashville pastor reflects on the likely fallout from political attempts to remove Metro's modest health care safety net by cutting funding of Nashville General Hospital at Meharry and the Bordeaux Long-Term Care facility:

It was clear that the closing of the hospital would lead to people going untreated for their diseases — including treatable heart disease, cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. Likewise, skilled-care facilities like Bordeaux are even more unlikely to take on indigent patients, meaning that the families of the weakest and frailest among us would have few options for the care of their family members. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that there are people who would die sooner than they might otherwise if we did not provide the care that the Metro Hospital Authority provides.

Nashville General sits right square in North Nashville, and Bordeaux lies to the west of us across the Cumberland. So, these facilities provide important care for our local neighborhoods, especially for "the least of these". Politicians, especially conservative ones, are always targeting the weak and the poor by slashing and grabbing money from the programs that serve them. They do not seem to think twice about turning the frail out into the streets or letting them suffer and die from treatable diseases.

We should consider any threat to defund these institutions as a threat to our general welfare and common good in North Nashville.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Nashville Scene judges Belle Meade a better place than Centennial Park for kids, dogs, and families

Nashville Scene writers tend to mount the high horse when the subject of excluding certain groups of people in Belle Meade pops on to their radar. Yet, since May 17, they've said nothing about the fact that their parent company's Movies in the Park event has been removed from the gritty hydrangeas and the streetwise ducks of Centennial Park to the nerve-settling pastoral milieu of suburban Belle Meade's Percy Warner Park.

The "alternative" newsweekly's professional flack told local public radio that the rationale for the Belle Meade move is to keep "this a place where people feel comfortable bringing their kids and their dogs and their families". Reportedly, there was some gang activity at one of last year's events that included gun play (no injuries), and the intrepid newspaper blinked and it is fleeing to the exurbs with its films. Even so, the marketing director did not seem to grasp the sobering and breathtaking implications of what she was saying: predominantly white West Nashville is no longer as safe for kids, dogs, and families as 99% white Belle Meade.

Capt. Dobie woulda cleaned up Centennial Park's mean streets
because white flight was not an option
This should prick all kinds of historic issues for those of us in North Nashville. West Nashville is flooded with events and services at a level that we do not enjoy. Resources flow west and east in this city, and rarely north and south. So, if the Nashville Scene judges West Nashville unfit to hold events for kids, dogs, and families, how much more will they feel led to neglect the families in our diverse communities because of their own fears?

I don't necessarily blame Scene bloggers for promoting and not criticizing the move, because they have to think about their jobs in an uncertain journalism world. However, they've dropped a couple of perches from their moral high ground on the problems of prejudice in lordly Belle Meade. After all, country clubs in places like Belle Meade are by definition exclusionary. And where country club aristocracy was not built on institutionalized segregation, then it exists with the aid of economic inequities and hoarded resources that never even trickle down to working class and under-class folk. Criticizing the Belle Meade country club for leaving other wealthy people behind is inconsistent with stifling a critical voice against your own company retreating from every other strata of Nashvillian for Belle Meade without the aid of double standards. And starting off the new Belle Meade run with "The Help", a movie about white housewives and their black domestic workers seems at once a further twist and startlingly poetic.

Metro Parks did not respond when journos asked them about the move, which does not look good for them either. They do not seem exactly out in front of this story. What is worse, however, is the perception that they have no control over functions at their more urban public parks even in predominantly white West Nashville.

The move from white West End to the even whiter exurbs smacks of white flight. It also betrays a false sense of security that gangs are only an urban problem easily solved by a more suburbanized setting. As if youth gangs do not have cars. As if youth gangs have not been expanding in suburbia for the past 40 years. So, maybe Metro Parks hopes that the Belle Meade PD can be more effective at walling out gang activity than their own rangers and Metro Police have been securing parks. We also should not ignore the cynical possibility that this may be a strategy for the parks department to save money on security in a lean budget year.

Whatever the reason, it does not look good, and I wholeheartedly agree with those have observed on Twitter today that it may indicate tacit racism and classicism on the part of the newspaper and Metro government.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

12South leaders believe they can make positive contributions to TwelveSouth Flats

The last time I checked in with the 12South neighborhood about the controversial "TwelveSouth Flats" development in February, frustrations with the developers were running high. We are less than a week away from a community meeting (Monday, June 4, 6:30p-8:00p, 2415 12th Av S), sponsored by H.G. Hill Realty and Southeast Venture. According to developers, the meeting will "represent the official launch" of TwelveSouth Flats during which they will provide "the first public viewing of the project" and "answer questions" (no word on whether they will invite feedback).

Flats plan falling flat?
Even though the developers don't mention saying they welcome community feedback on their concept, several 12South residents expressed the wish that Southeast Venture and H.G. Hill Realty make even the most modest effort to consider a few changes. And a number of them wrote letters to the developers with the modest request.

Ken Winter, the head of "Save Our Urban 12TH", responded to developers' comments in the local daily in an early April email:

the developer met with us to explain what the project would be, not to explain its fit with precedent or to engage the community with ideas. Never did the developer acknowledge the neighborhood's history or prior developers' plans and intentions....

One hundred new residents with automobiles on an already congested 12th Avenue directly contradicts the 2008 community plan for mixed use (commercial) areas: "Discourage auto-oriented development and land uses near neighborhoods. Rather, encourage development and land uses that cater to the neighborhood, create a lively streetscape, and are located in buildings that are massed, scaled and oriented to create a pedestrian-friendly environment."

In sum, the developers are importing a one-size-fit-all, post-2007 real estate crash, inventory item (upscale residential rentals) from major, four lane "corridors" and "collector streets" (11th Av/Gulch, 1st Av/Rolling Mill Hill, Jefferson St/Germantown, 8th Av/Melrose, etc) and uncritically imposing it on a narrow, street-scaped, two-lane traffic-jammed "artery," which happens to be a neighborhood business district and commuter route to the county line. Seventy-seven units per acre is an aggressive imposition.

The 12South community leaders say that they do not object to the developers maximizing their profits. They simply wish that the latter would do so more collaboratively with the neighborhood. Concerns expressed included that TwelveSouth Flats represents more of a drift toward the scale of Green Hills or The Gulch and that it would not blend with the small-business atmosphere that has enhanced 12South's quality of life.

One person expressed the sense that it was mutually beneficial to have the neighborhood allied with developers rather than presenting something that puts them at odds with unconsidered growth. Another leader observed that some demolition had already started on the site in late April on a Sunday, which may have been a violation of Metro ordinances. She considered the demo crew's expressed indifference to her questions about it a metaphor for "for the mindset of H.G. Hill and Southeast".

Another concern expressed is traffic impact. In May a discussion started about overflow traffic from an existing restaurant called "Urban Grub" and recurring problems: residents unable to park on their own streets or blocked into their driveways by parked cars, parking in alleys and on sidewalks, valets who peel out of parking lots to get owners' cars back to them, and late-night bar patrons who absent-mindedly step out into high-volume traffic. Some residents worry that the restaurant planned for TwelveSouth Flats will make an already "unsustainable" traffic problem much worse unless developers listen to the community.

But if developers have refused to acknowledge the community's concerns in the past, should we expect anything more from next Monday's "community" meeting?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Update on problems Velocity homeowners are having with adjacent businesses

A couple of months ago I blogged on the problems that the Velocity Homeowners group was having with noise from Bar Louie Nashville construction and the potential for the first-floor establishment (whose late night hours run through 2am) to keep homeowners up because of the placement of music speakers. Bar Louie opened last week so I checked in with their online community to see how things have been going.

Despite assurances they received from Bar Louie brass, the construction noise reportedly continued to intrude on the quality of life of members of the Velocity community. A couple of owners reported that construction set off fire alarms for long periods of time during the day. One owner felt the need to pull the alarm in his condo out of the wall. Another owner reported that construction noise in late April repeatedly started at 6:40am, and she encouraged the group to call Bar Louie's Director of Communications, Chad Apap. There was also a report that Bar Louie's invitation-only "soft opening" resulted in noise coming through some condo floors and walls. However, the business did not generate the noise expected at its official "hard" opening on May 21. So, perhaps things are beginning to look up at Velocity.

Meanwhile, a separate business, Kocktails and Kouture [sic], violated Velocity rules by hanging a banner from the balcony of a resident living above it. The resident reported that crews secured the banner ropes to her property with rusted metal anchors, which have already defaced her balcony. While she admits she does not see the problem as huge, she also is concerned that the boutique's owners did not ask her permission. Moreover, she expressed opposition to the idea that businesses in the mixed-use development may be held to laxer standards than residents are held to. One member of the Velocity group replied to her concerns by suggesting that she charge Kocktails and Kouture 20 bucks a day to rent her property as advertising space. That is a stroke of genius.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Former council critic of populism now embracing it to help the Mayor?

Monday morning former council member and husband of one of Karl Dean's appointees sent out an email blast across Nashville encouraging a populist effort, even though in his last term as CM he criticized populism to aid a scuffling Dean project. Here is Mr. Cole's "Moving Nashville Forward" email:

This morning, you read in the Tennessean about the Mayor's plan to move Nashville forward with a budget that invests in our schools, our neighborhoods and our city. You also read about a few folks who say no to everything , without ever presenting a plan of their own.

Now, it's time to make your voice heard. Here’s how you can help:

1. EMAIL all Council members with the subject line : "Say YES to Moving Nashville Forward." You can email them at , or find members' individual addresses here.

2. VOLUNTEER to help us turn out calls and emails to Council members. Reply to this email with your contact info.

3. JOIN US Tuesday, June 5 at 6:30 p.m. at the Metro Council Public Hearing on the Budget. Come, wear a T-shirt and show your support!

Finally, please share this email by clicking the icons at the top of this message. Don't forget to Like Moving Nashville Forward on Facebook and follow @MoveNashForward on Twitter.

Thanks so much for helping out. Your support and hard work will pay off for Nashville!

All the best,

Erik Cole
Moving Nashville Forward

You may recall the WPLN interview late in 2009 where Mr. Cole insisted that he would be unbowed by the historic turnout against the Mayor's fairgrounds plan comparing his unpopular support of the Mayor to those who marched for civil rights and to those who fought Hitler. His criticism of supporters of the fairgrounds and community-based planning came across to me as condescending when I originally listen to it, especially when thousands wrote emails and eventually showed up for the public hearing in "Save the Fairgrounds" tees to speak against the Mayor's proposal.

Apparently, what was not good for the goose is now good for the gander. I'm not saying that the people who support a tax increase are wrong. However, Mr. Cole seems to have a double standard on the question of populism and its uses; he does not seem as quick to bludgeon populist support of his issues by comparing it to the slowness of Americans to support civil rights and to fight fascism. Nope. He looks comfortable mobilizing support for his cause absent a single reference to his own past "caveats" about the popular will.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Cohousing organizer gives Enclave the details on group's last meeting

Diane, one of the folks spearheading the cohousing group plans for a development at 5th and Taylor in Germantown, commented on a previous Enclave post on the project with more details, including good news regarding an old-growth Cottonwood:

There were 14 households represented in the site design workshop and we worked on Saturday brainstorming and discussing goals of the community. The group is interested in a multi-generational, multi-cultural community. The site was designed for some on street parking, a few garages and carports. Bike storage will be included. The community layout is designed in away that as people return to the community they walk past one another for social gatherings and contact on the common house patio. Sunday we worked with blocks and diagrams on the site to position how we wanted the housing, parking, bike storage, garden, play area, etc to be included. It was a lot of work but at the end everyone seemed really excited about it. For now the old Cottonwood tree is to remain and the children's play area under it will include a swing. The common house will have a wrap around porch partially under the tree.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Lookouts owner cannot afford ballpark, Chattanooga trying to buy

Even after leasing on land for $1 per year from a nonprofit, private ownership cannot afford to field minor league baseball and own the ballpark:

Mayor Ron Littlefield is seeking state legislation that would, if it becomes necessary, help the city's Sports Authority or possibly River City Co. purchase AT&T Field to ease the sale of the Chattanooga Lookouts to private buyers and keep the Class AA team playing downtown.

"We don't really want to be a player unless it's necessary to save the team for Chattanooga," Littlefield said in one of several interviews on Tuesday and Wednesday about the legislation ....

Most cities in Tennessee and across the nation build stadiums to attract or retain professional sports teams, Littlefield noted ....

The land beneath the stadium is owned by River City Co., a nonprofit that promotes downtown development through the creation of public spaces. With team owners footing the stadium's cost, River City leases the field -- prime city real estate with a commanding view of the city and Tennessee River -- for $1 a year ....

The land back in 1999 was valued at $1.2 million. Latest estimates are its worth $9 million, [River City President Kim] White said. At issue, she said, "is how do we keep that momentum [downtown] going and keep baseball."

Rep. Vince Dean, R-East Ridge, is sponsoring the bill that would allow the city use state sales taxes from Lookouts tickets and concessions sales for the bonds. The bill was in the House Budget Subcommittee on Wednesday.

Because of its cost to the state, estimated by analysts at $275,000 annually, and the fact that the costs of the late-moving legislation was not included in Gov. Bill Haslam's recent budget revisions, the bill ... is being held in the subcommittee as final manuevering [sic] takes place on the state's $30.2 billion annual spending plan. It may or may not make the cut.

When new stadiums are proposed it seems their branding mantra is that they will bring in more sales tax revenues for other services. Is Chattanooga's dilemma in the General Assembly showing that in order to retain a pro sport the mantra shifts to using stadiums' own sales tax revenues to pay for the sport itself?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Updates on cohousing and development

A couple of updates:

  • A friend who has been involved in the Germantown cohousing project told me today that the meeting last week produced several resolutions, including building of a "common house" where residents can gather for meals, meetings, or entertainment and a community garden for the homes in the project at the corner of 5th Av N and Taylor St. The square footage of the two dozen multi-family structures will vary from 750 to 1,700. Cohousing intentionally includes home owners in the planning and design of their mutual community.
  • Roy Dale, the engineer working with the developer of the project at 6th and Garfield, indicated to me by email 2 days ago that it may be 2 weeks before the high grass and brush can be cut at the rezoned property. Reportedly, it will be that long before developer Robin York can acquire the property and take responsibility for its upkeep. Dale also said he would ask York to make an attempt to convince the owner to mow and clean up the property. The current absentee owner is Ray C. Nathurst of Brentwood.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

5th and Garfield: past and present

If there is any testament to the progress Salemtown has made in the past dozen years, it is the dramatic change at the intersection of 5th and Garfield. Where once a dilapidating cinder block market rumored to host dog fights stood there is now the first of 5 8 attractive new homes going up. Compare and contrast:



From gang graffiti target to residential buildings partially influenced by the community at a host of meetings:



What was once an eyesore with a view of Downtown is becoming a corner of urban quality:



A paler shade of green

CLARIFICATION (May 21, 2012): Mike Kenner finally got back with me with a request that I take scrub the original post below off the blog. He insists that he never mentioned LEED to Salemtown reps in August last year and that his company never planned on this development being LEED-certified. Freddie O'Connell, who was the Salemtown officer mentioned below who reported to the association that Mr. Kenner told him he was planning on LEED, responded to the developer's request that, while he acknowledges that it was his own interpretation of the August discussion, he stands by his original report to the association.

So, we are left with two different interpretations of what was said about the original discussion about the rezoning and plans for the development at 5th and Coffee. The issue is not the development itself (as I point out below, there is absolutely nothing wrong with Energy Star). The question remains, "What was communicated?" and that question causes me to want to be more diligent about combing over the details of future requests for rezoning by Kenner McLean in Salemtown. There is nothing sinister about my decision to pay closer attention if the development company seeks mixed use rezoning should they purchase more property. Rezoning requests involve a public process, which includes community feedback. I am simply trying to relate my views on planning and zoning as I always have here. Granted, developers have not always appreciated my views because they do not always share my priorities.

But with this update, you the readers can make your own judgments about what was said. The developer says he never intended nor introduced LEED. The former SNNA president interpreted the developer to say he planned on LEED-certification. You can make up your own mind.

Townhouses being built at the corner of 5th and Coffee seem to have become less green than originally described when developers made their pitch to get community support for rezoning.

Last August, a Salemtown officer met Kenner McLean Development executive Mike Kenner to discuss their proposal and reported back to the association:

While his plans aren't ideal, I do think they overall bring what was equivalent to a vacant lot forward a bit in terms of progress .... project planned to be LEED-certified, reasonable price points, one unit already pre-sold, designed to be owner-occupied (not a guarantee, mind you).

Between August and February of this year, developers apparently backed away from projections of LEED certification, actually choosing "Energy Star-rated" structures instead.

The difference between LEED and Energy Star, according to

Energy Star was created by the EPA in 1992 and provides commercial building owners with strategic energy management plans designed to benefit both the environment and the owner's bottom line. Energy Star is designed to measure a building's performance, create practical operating (energy use) benchmarks/goals, help monitor performance and also reward energy efficiency ....
LEED operates through the U.S. Green Building Council and takes a much broader "triple bottom line" approach considering people, planet and profit, not just energy use. The triple bottom line factors in the economic, environmental and social issues present throughout the entire building process from concept, design, development and future operation.
LEED is a highly quantified and systematic approach to buildings of all types. Because it has accomplished so much and been so broadly accepted, LEED is becoming the standard by which many green buildings are measured. LEED quantifies a building's performance in the following major categories:
* sustainable sites
* water efficiency
* energy and atmosphere
* materials and resources
* indoor environmental quality
* innovation in design and operations

I emailed Mike Kenner, who lives in West Nashville, the day before yesterday asking for clarification of the LEED vs. Energy Star question, and I have not heard back from him. I also raised the question of LEED in email correspondence on several questions last January without getting a reply on certification.

Besides a winter meeting where we chatted about the possibility of me blogging on his development, Mr. Kenner and I have not had contact since we expressed a difference of opinion on what the North Nashville Community Plan says about developments in Salemtown. However, he did tell me in the past that his company has approached some elderly Salemtown residents along 5th Av N about buying up their properties in order to rezone them for mixed use to make Salemtown more like Germantown.

If they are successful in snagging the properties of long-time residents, and then they seek rezoning (which requires public feedback), I will not forget that the "triple bottom line" build projected in 2011 for 5th and Coffee did not materialize as such in 2012 (there is nothing wrong with Energy Star as an energy saver, but it falls well short of LEED's sustainability principle). Should Kenner McLean achieve future Salemtown acquisitions, will the mixed use they initially propose to motivate rezoning eventually materialize?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Whipped off a quick email to Erica Gilmore before the start of Metro Council

Metro Council begins in a matter of minutes, but I managed just now to get one last minute email away about pending legislation affecting Salemtown:

CM Gilmore: I know that you are going to pass BILL NO. BL2012-141 to rezone the corner of Garfield and 6th Ave N from R6 to RM20-A very easily at third reading tonight. You've done your due diligence by holding a community meeting alongside the two public hearings that this legislation had to go through.  
I continue to have concerns about the potential of the project given the current poor quality of the vacant lots being rezoned. I'm not convinced that the development team cares about our quality of life unless it hits them in the pocketbook. I have attached photos I took Sunday of the blighted lots, including one that clearly shows that other vacant lot owners at this intersection are responsible and keep their lots free of tall grass and brush.
I was wondering if you could do their concerned neighbors like me one more favor after the bill passes by turning to the development team and saying to them "Congratulations. Now go mow the grass."

Mike Byrd

UPDATE: CM Gilmore was absent from council tonight. CM Walter Hunt introduced it and CM Megan Barry introduced a substitute on behalf of CM Gilmore. The rezoning is a done deal. No word on when the overgrown scrub at 6th and Garfield will disappear.

Asphalt plant expansion opponents are mobilized

A couple of months ago CM Duane Dominy caused a community firestorm around Franklin Limestone Road by introducing a bill to expand asphalt production among the neighborhoods there. An opposition group was born and here is the latest from their Facebook page:

[May 9, in the wake of a Metro Council meeting that prompted a big community turnout] Don't get too comfortable y'all. There is another Metro Council meeting this month. We need to be ready to go to the Council meeting May 15 at 6pm. Since much wasn't done at the last meeting, I expect the next one to be longer. Get your black or dark blue shirts ready. I have some made up if anyone is interested.

[May 12] Ok as far as I know we are safe from a vote on the Asphalt plant til at least June or July. In the meantime, it would be great if you could talk to your neighbors about this issue. People need to realize that we very easily wind up with 3 asphalt plants within a mile of our homes. If they move to this new location, no one can stop another asphalt plant from going into their old location.

This community-based effort looks well-organized and red-hot. Part of the challenge of following up in the summer is that people go on vacation and get distracted by seasonal activities. Council meetings often fall off the radar. They should not let proponents of the rezoning legislation capitalize on the diversions that summer may bring.

Germantown Cohousing meeting

A few weeks ago I blogged on a cohousing project planned for Germantown. According to a previous newsletter, last week the group sponsoring this project were supposed to have held a meeting for interested parties:

Step by step, the Germantown community is becoming more of a reality. All of the details have been worked out in our contract on the land, and we are just waiting on all of the necessary signatures in order to have a contract ....

Currently, the Construction and Development Committee is interviewing contractors to find someone to do the required site work to make sure that the site will actually work. This happens in the first 60 days after the contract is finalized.

The resident list fluctuates as people try to determine whether the location and the timing are right for them to join this community. Those who are considering are urged to attend the Site Design Workshop, scheduled for May 5-8. The cost will be $1,250 and this cost will go towards equity in your home. 

As yet, I have not been able to track down any info on how the meeting went. Anyone heard anything?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Solid waste transfer facility in Cleveland Park

From the Cleveland Park Neighborhood Association to Cleveland Park residents via the Nashville Neighborhoods elist:

Waste Connections, a solid waste services company, is interested in purchasing the abandoned industrial facility on Apex St. between Cleveland Park and Ellington Parkway. They intend to renovate the building and convert it into a waste transfer facility. Councilman Scott Davis notified both Cleveland Park and Greenwood neighborhood associations because of their close proximity to the facility. Residents of Greenwood and Cleveland Park have met with the leadership of Waste Connections to get information and ask questions about the company's plans. Last Thursday, CPNA invited representatives from Waste Connections to be the main agenda item at our general meeting. CPNA’s leadership has been gathering as much information as possible
about the proposed site and the company, which included traveling to one of the company’s other transfer facilities in Memphis.

We would like to share this information with you at this link. We will continue the conversation at our next general meeting June 14th, location to be announced later (likely the East Precinct). All residents of D5 are welcome.

Salemtown developers allow nearly rezoned properties to blight

The rezoning request for Salemtown properties at 6th and Garfield, which generated sparks on the neighborhood elist a few weeks ago, breezed through a May 1 public hearing with no comment:

[CM Erica] Gilmore requested a hearing from the public on this bill which had been previously advertised. The President asked if anyone desired to be heard for or against the bill and no one came forward to be heard. The President declared the public hearing closed. Ms. Gilmore moved to pass the bill on second reading, which motion was seconded and adopted by a voice vote of the Council.

Without any further objections at the council's public hearing, passage on third reading is a done deal at this point. Even with the way cleared for Roy Dale and Robin York to realized their concept, the vacant property they will build on has deteriorated into an overgrown, vermin-infested, trash-catching, codes-violating mess. Here some photos I took of the southeast corner of 6th and Garfield yesterday:

I have listened to both developers and Salemtown's association president preach to neighbors that the way to clean up vacant lots is to give developers a free, unchecked hand to build. Well, these developers enjoyed objection-free public hearings both at the Planning Commission (which I attended) and the Metro Council (which I did not attend), and yet they still neglected their responsibilities to care for their property. It is now a health risk and quality-of-life nuisance for Salemtown.

Look at the photos and convince me that we are not supposed to question the quality of their product when it is eventually built. We're supposed to believe that they give a flying fling about Salemtown?

Monday, May 07, 2012

A Jane's Walk in Nashville

Some Salemtown leaders organized the first Jane's Walk in Nashville on May 5 in North Nashville. We joined groups in over 30 communities across America who marched to honor one of the more influential activists in community-organizing and urban-planning history. Because of the high chances of rain, short notice and some no-shows our group was of modest size, but we traveled from Morgan Park on 5th Avenue North to Bicentennial Mall State Park on Jefferson Street and 6th Avenue North, where we had a picnic and even managed to chat about Jane Jacobs' legacy for community-based planning and walkable neighborhoods. There was also a frank discussion about the vehicular impact of a Sulphur Dell ballpark on North End neighborhoods. Eventually, the focus became activities for the kids who made the trek too.

On the way home, we waited over 5 minutes to cross back over Jefferson Street, as traffic flew past us at dangerous speeds. And when some drivers did eventually allow us to enter the crosswalk other drivers did not immediately yield, but sped up to try to beat us through the crosswalk. One driver yelled at us to get out of the street. It was a glaring example of how automobile-oriented growth destroys accessibility and complete streets. It expressed Jane's lessons on the irony of building bigger roads that reduce options for other modes of travel and that merely attract even more dangerous car traffic. There is little on Jeff Street between Rosa Parks Boulevard and the Cumberland River that dampens speed or lowers the volume of cars. Sidewalks along that area are narrow and place pedestrians frighteningly close to speeding automobiles.

It was a modest effort, but from small things big things one day come. Hopefully, Jane's Walks in Nashville will grow in future years and bring more attention on the need for complete, welcoming and thoughtfully-planned streets.