St. Louis

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Anondson
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St. Louis

Postby Anondson » September 3rd, 2014, 9:26 pm

Thrust into the international news by rioting in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, the metro region of St. Louis has a very unique history of development. Radley Balko from the Washington Post visited the area after the rioting and wrote on the subject of these micro suburbs financing their governments through "poverty violations" and then harassing with further fines when residents can't pay.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the- ... m-poverty/

Thoroughly an infuriating read. And I'm trying to keep from wanting to burn it all to the ground. But reading through this with an urban lens it seems like a distillation of the suburban form has left areas with pocket-sized local governments that are incapable of funding themselves except through financial abuse and harassment of its citizens least capable of paying.

Kinda wish there was a more uplifting story to start a thread on the St. Louis metro... But there we go.

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Re: St. Louis

Postby EOst » September 3rd, 2014, 10:36 pm

St. Louis (like Detroit) is a textbook case of why urban boundaries should keep expanding in the face of metro growth. Indianapolis is far from perfect, but its city-county merger is one of the biggest things it does have going for it.

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Re: St. Louis

Postby twincitizen » September 4th, 2014, 7:55 am

Concur. A City-County merger won't solve everything, and might not solve anything, but it's hard to argue that it's a bad move. It certainly makes more sense than not doing it. The funny/ironic thing is that many cities like St. Louis and Baltimore seceded from their parent counties long ago (which were still rural at the time) out of desire for self governance of the city, not wanting to be hamstrung by political desires of farmers/rurals. I don't know of any cases where the central cities were forcibly removed from their counties. Now the consensus seems to be that these cities should re-join the county, but the urban-suburban divide (political, socio-economic, and racial) will likely prevent that from happening. I'm not even talking about a full City-County consolidation, a la Indianapolis or Nashville, but simply having St. Louis rejoin St. Louis County, instead of being an independent city. Long-term, yeah, the full city-county merger is the way to go. And that goes for most large cities across the country.

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Re: St. Louis

Postby mplsjaromir » September 4th, 2014, 8:12 am

Municipal amalgamation brings other benefits as well. Imagine our very own Rob Ford type figure.

Dare to dream.

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Re: St. Louis

Postby mattaudio » September 4th, 2014, 8:39 am

Hey, Rob Ford did announce a plan yesterday that would build tons of grade separated subways (in the suburbs, and subway to keep from blocking traffic) without raising taxes to cover the $9b cost. His motto for it? "Bore, bore, bore!"
http://www.thestar.com/news/city_hall/t ... rease.html

Maybe he's a miracle man...
Image

Side note: It's really weird that the mayoral candidates (election next month) have competing transit plans. And I thought our transit planning process was bad:

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Re: St. Louis

Postby mulad » September 4th, 2014, 9:38 am

One observation I had about the whole Ferguson situation is that the shooting of Michael Brown occurred in a strange edge area of the city -- the little blob that sticks out from the southeast of the city. The QuikTrip (QT) where protests were centered is/was at the corner of W Florissant Ave and Northwinds Estates Dr. The shooting happened a short distance southeast of there along Canfield Dr.

You can go south from there by half a mile and be in Jennings, or go north half a mile and be in Dellwood. Aiming northeast a bit, you quickly end up in unincorporated St. Louis County. The borders are far from obvious (I'm also not sure if Google's outline of the city is quite correct -- the lines could easily be off by about a block in any direction). Little wonder that the police response came from so many different departments (including the county).



It's not unusual to be confused about the location of city borders in the Twin Cities, but at least we tend to keep the development in incorporated areas and within the MUSA urban boundary. However, one of the things that always makes me worried about incorporating/annexing large areas is that there's always a desire to fill in the empty areas on the map. Just because an area has been incorporated as a city in the MSP region doesn't mean that you can develop on it, since the MUSA boundary is more restrictive -- but having incorporated areas outside of the MUSA boundary leads to political pressure to expand the boundary even further.

Anyway, I'd like to go at this from both directions -- allow central cities to annex suburbs and any developed yet unincorporated areas more easily, but unincorporate areas that are outside of urban boundaries. It should be hard to build in rural areas unless it's actually rural stuff.

I'm not overly concerned about political pressure from folks who actually live in rural landscapes, since there just aren't very many people in those areas, and I'd prefer to leave them alone from a land-use perspective. I might get worked up abound farm drainage or something, but in general I'd just rather let them have their land. (I suppose there's a problem of folks banking on outward expansion and hoping to sell out to the highest bidder, though...)

For political pressure, I'm more concerned about suburbanites, just because there are more of them.

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Re: St. Louis

Postby talindsay » September 4th, 2014, 2:03 pm

Funny you would bring up city/county amalgamation in the context of St. Louis; excepting Washington, DC and the odd way that the state of Virginia defines cities, St. Louis is the only significant-size city in the United States to be in no county at all. St. Louis City and St. Louis County are two mutually-exclusive governmental bodies, and they do not have any formal relationship with each other beyond the relationship that any two governmental bodies with a long border might have.

St. Louis divorced itself of its county in a vote in 1876, and since then the two are not related. This is one of the main reasons St. Louis is such a mess - whereas metropolitan areas with smarter leaders such as the Twin Cities were able to weather white flight fairly well due to policies that actively invested suburban funds back into the core, and less smart cities were at least able to keep the lights on due to shared policing, waste management, etc., the city of St. Louis had no layer of government above itself to help it survive the worst of the white flight era. The city and the county *do* actually work together to some extent now, because it's so obviously blindingly stupid to run a metro the way the St. Louis area is set up, but there's no legal obligation to do so and the two governments only share things after a lot of specific discussions and agreements. Both groups look suspiciously at the other. And that's not even bringing in the more usual metro issues similar to our county-county, county-metro, county-state and metro-state struggles, all of which are exacerbated in a place where the core itself is so utterly dyfunctional.

To get a quick sense of the very odd legal status of St. Louis City and St. Louis County, read some of these links:
http://news.stlpublicradio.org/post/st- ... at-divorce
http://www.slcl.org/content/1876-st-lou ... t-research
http://blogs.riverfronttimes.com/dailyr ... _split.php
http://www.stl250.org/crash-course-the- ... -city.aspx
http://www.stl250.org/crash-course-stru ... sance.aspx

Also, regarding Indianapolis, note that Indianapolis is *REALLY SMALL* - the entire metro is about 1.7 million. The city-county merger masks this fact and I suppose it's worked from a marketing perspective because people treat it now as though it belongs in the tier of cities that includes Minneapolis, Seattle, Denver, St. Louis, etc. but the truth is that it's half the size of any of those cities. In the case of St. Louis that's important because St. Louis is built like a big city - in its heyday the city proper contained 850,000 people - while Indianapolis is built like a small city. Things that can make a low-density new place look big and run efficiently aren't likely to work as well in a city with the crumbling infrastructure that once supported a dense city's population.

That's a general note that Minneapolitans should also keep in mind when talking about cities such as St. Louis, Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Detroit - while Minneapolis is bigger than three of those four and approaching the latter right now, we benefit from not really having much inherited infrastructure to maintain. All of those cities were built to handle a large, heavy infrastructure for dense urban places that are now losing density. That's a much harder thing to do.
Last edited by talindsay on September 4th, 2014, 2:22 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: St. Louis

Postby mulad » September 4th, 2014, 2:11 pm

Thanks for that -- I'd noticed St. Louis city was carved out from the county while looking at maps, but hadn't dug into it further.

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Re: St. Louis

Postby twincitizen » September 4th, 2014, 2:51 pm

talindsay wrote:Funny you would bring up city/county amalgamation in the context of St. Louis; excepting Washington, DC and the odd way that the state of Virginia defines cities, St. Louis is the only significant-size city in the United States to be in no county at all.
o/t:

Baltimore too, but otherwise you are correct. The Baltimore City vs. Baltimore County split also occurred in the mid-19th Century like St. Louis. As far as the two jurisdictions' relationship goes, I imagine it is less acrimonious than in StL, but I really have no idea. From a quick scan of Wikipedia, Maryland's strong (and also Democratic) state government seems to have fostered a greater regional emphasis, so the divide is probably much less so than StL. Both faced (and still face) similar big city problems like violent crime, white flight, disinvestment and urban blight. Where the comparison really drops off is population loss. St. Louis City has fallen from a high of 850k way down to 318k today, whereas Baltimore City "only" fell from 950k to 620k and is actually showing signs of stabilization/recovery. Today both are at the heart of metropolitan areas of roughly 2.7MM people, though with Baltimore it is increasingly hard to draw a line where DC ends and Baltimore begins (over 9MM in the combined DC-Baltimore region).

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Re: St. Louis

Postby talindsay » September 4th, 2014, 3:15 pm

twincitizen wrote:
talindsay wrote:Funny you would bring up city/county amalgamation in the context of St. Louis; excepting Washington, DC and the odd way that the state of Virginia defines cities, St. Louis is the only significant-size city in the United States to be in no county at all.
o/t:

Baltimore too, but otherwise you are correct. The Baltimore City vs. Baltimore County split also occurred in the mid-19th Century like St. Louis. As far as the two jurisdictions' relationship goes, I imagine it is less acrimonious than in StL, but I really have no idea. From a quick scan of Wikipedia, Maryland's strong (and also Democratic) state government seems to have fostered a greater regional emphasis, so the divide is probably much less so than StL. Both faced (and still face) similar big city problems like violent crime, white flight, disinvestment and urban blight. Where the comparison really drops off is population loss. St. Louis City has fallen from a high of 850k way down to 318k today, whereas Baltimore City "only" fell from 950k to 620k and is actually showing signs of stabilization/recovery. Today both are at the heart of metropolitan areas of roughly 2.7MM people, though with Baltimore it is increasingly hard to draw a line where DC ends and Baltimore begins (over 9MM in the combined DC-Baltimore region).
Funny, I was born in western Maryland and had thought Baltimore was the other city like St. Louis but a quick fact check before I posted didn't turn that up so I decided not to mention it.

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Re: St. Louis

Postby Anondson » September 4th, 2014, 7:33 pm

Immigrants from India have made St. Louis the largest concentration in the US.

http://www.citylab.com/housing/2014/09/ ... is/379619/

The southwest suburbs of the twin cities seem to be where they are concentrating here. EP Center always showing Bollywood movies, many parks are filled with impromptu cricket games...

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Re: St. Louis

Postby Anondson » September 4th, 2014, 7:55 pm

Slate channels Strongtowns and Radley Balko.

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_ ... ies.2.html

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Re: St. Louis

Postby EOst » September 4th, 2014, 7:56 pm

talindsay wrote:Also, regarding Indianapolis, note that Indianapolis is *REALLY SMALL* - the entire metro is about 1.7 million. The city-county merger masks this fact and I suppose it's worked from a marketing perspective because people treat it now as though it belongs in the tier of cities that includes Minneapolis, Seattle, Denver, St. Louis, etc. but the truth is that it's half the size of any of those cities. In the case of St. Louis that's important because St. Louis is built like a big city - in its heyday the city proper contained 850,000 people - while Indianapolis is built like a small city. Things that can make a low-density new place look big and run efficiently aren't likely to work as well in a city with the crumbling infrastructure that once supported a dense city's population.

That's a general note that Minneapolitans should also keep in mind when talking about cities such as St. Louis, Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Detroit - while Minneapolis is bigger than three of those four and approaching the latter right now, we benefit from not really having much inherited infrastructure to maintain. All of those cities were built to handle a large, heavy infrastructure for dense urban places that are now losing density. That's a much harder thing to do.
Your point about Indianapolis's relative size is well-taken, though a minor quibble--their metro is above 2 million now. Still, their metro density is actually higher than metro St. Louis's, though that should mostly just give you an idea of how insane the sprawl that St. Louis has suffered is.

I do take issue, though, with the implication that St. Louis's higher historic population and correspondingly higher infrastructure maintenance costs make amalgamation less useful; in fact, I'd argue it's the opposite. The St. Louis metro's wealth is disproportionately concentrated in a handful of wealthy suburban communities, many of which in fact border St. Louis proper (eg. Clayton), almost none of which goes to maintaining the legacy infrastructure because of that political fragmentation. If St. Louis were getting that money added to its pot (even bearing in mind the continuing needs of the absorbed suburbs) it would have a much easier time maintaining and improving that legacy infrastructure, and reversing the long-term population decline.

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Re: St. Louis

Postby talindsay » September 4th, 2014, 8:44 pm

Don't get me wrong: I grew up in St Louis and am a firm believer that St Louis needs to be part of the county. Saint Louis city and Saint Louis county desperately need to share each other's tax base and consolidate services.

My point was that people look at Indianapolis' parlor trick and think somehow city-county mergers are unmitigated good, and i think that beyond the obvious fact that nothing is without drawbacks, Indianapolis is an especially poor prototype for understanding this government approach because it's a small, young low density city with very little inherited infrastructure.

Canada has tried metro mergers all over, especially in lower Ontario. Some have been successful, most notably Toronto, while others have been more mixed and a couple have been outright disasters, most notably Montreal. But what they have all had in common was that they were forced on the communities against the popular opinion of the localpeople, and in the case of Saint Louis that can't be done - our legal system doesn't allow it. And Saint Louisans are no more likely than Quebecois to approve such a thing.

Given that, i think the best Saint Louis can hope for is to extend Saint Louis county to include Saint Louis city and hand county duties back to the county. Sadly, even that i think is very unlikely.

Side note, Saint Louis county - population under a million - has 89 municipalities in it currently.

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Re: St. Louis

Postby talindsay » October 4th, 2014, 5:04 am

So I had a business meeting in St. Louis last week and spent a few days commuting by MetroLink from Clayton, where my sister works, to the heart of Downtown St. Louis. I knew St. Louis really well twenty years ago but with lots of time apart I was struck by a few things that I haven't noticed in more social visits:
  • The Metrolink, while certainly busy enough, carries a lot fewer rides and operates a lot less efficiently than our lines despite having grade separation for almost its entire length between Clayton and downtown. The downtown subway section is a beautiful example of reuse of existing ROW, but standards in 1900 were such that the downtown stations in general - and the Convention Center station especially - feel dark, crowded, small, and at some times of the day, unsafe.
  • The heart of downtown has a really odd problem that I can't imagine how it happened - WAY too much structured parking. A lot of cities have too much surface parking, but somehow St. Louis has vastly overbuilt structured parking. I would expect economics would prevent that from happening, but essentially every building in the core has a corresponding adjacent massive ramp. The two big effects of this are that structured parking is super cheap, and there's *NOBODY* on the streets. Again, I'm only talking about the heart of downtown, the "skyscraper" district (which is about ten blocks at most), but it's eery how empty it is. At 8:00 on a Tuesday morning I passed a total of six people on a three-block walk from the subway station to my destination, not counting the handful who came out of the station with me.
  • There are a lot of sections along the line that are beautifully urban and walkable, but none are very close to the heart of downtown. The Grand and Union Station areas, and everything around Forest Park and Washington University, all look way better than when I was a kid and had a lot of pedestrians. Again, this is during the work week at rush hour times.
  • I work with public data as a major part of my job and so I know that while many single-city MSAs are identified by more than one city (Detroit is Detroit-Warren-Livonia, MI, for example), St. Louis is only identified as St.Louis, MO-IL. That said, anybody who spends any time going between St. Louis and Clayton (the St. Louis County seat) will come away with the idea that St. Louis is a twin city and that Clayton, while the much smaller twin, is the one that's growing. As opposed to St. Louis' CBD, the heart of the Clayton CBD has a lot of activity, lots of pedestrians, amenities, and a walkable feel. It strikes me as similar in size to the Fargo CBD so obviously it's extremely secondary to St. Louis, but it seems a much more desirable place for growth than the city's CBD. Of course, my observations indicate that most growth in the area is probably happening in St. Louis City outside the CBD, but still it's striking how much more pleasant Clayton's CBD is.
Anyway, that's my observations on this visit. I was reminded that St. Louis, despite its problems, does have a lot going for it. In the midwest it's the fourth largest economy, after Chicago, Minneapolis, and Detroit. It's obviously not going to catch any of those any time soon - there's a sizable gap between Minneapolis/Detroit and St. Louis. But it's easy to portray it as a decaying, broken provincial town with a massive race crisis, and while there are certainly elements of truth to that, the region is certainly seeing growth.

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Re: St. Louis

Postby mattaudio » November 26th, 2014, 2:32 pm

So, last night's protests around the country employed the technique of blocking freeways.
Three decades ago, similar protests involved shutting down transit.
http://www.nytimes.com/1987/12/22/nyreg ... -hour.html

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Re: St. Louis

Postby emcee squared » November 27th, 2014, 12:29 pm

I was driving through St. Louis on Monday evening. Thankfully, my interstate wasn't blocked off.

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Re: St. Louis

Postby bubzki2 » June 24th, 2019, 9:32 am

Just discovered that St. Louis of all places is getting a very architecturally interesting 36-story housing tower. Called "One Hundred." Looks amazing. Much envy. Looks like huge tax incentives, however.

https://www.stltoday.com/business/local ... 96d1c.html

https://nextstl.com/2018/05/six-things- ... -tells-us/


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