Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A New Unified Development Code Stands to Bring Revenue and Retail

Feico Kempff, Lani Duke, Susan Keith, Cynthia Keith, Kathryn Brandl, Maurice Loridans, and Loren Demerath discussed “smart growth,” the need for new zoning in Shreveport, and how to help make it happen with Dara Sanders, Planner for the Metropolitan Planning Commission, and Head of Master Plan Implementation.

Our discussion started with Lani asking Dara about the city’s policy of annexation, and whether it was growing too fast to support itself.  Dara said that Shreveport is slowly swallowing up the property within the Parish.  Her job is partly to inform the decision makers that the Master Plan is critical of our annexation practice, which causes us to grow beyond what our population can support.  Property owners petition for the city to annex, but then we end up taxing a water and sewage system that isn’t designed to support that residents at that location.  Lani asked if annexees can be asked to support it, noting that sprawl and annexation doesn’t pay for itself.  Dara said it’s true that the cost to the taxpayer is not zero; additional employees need to be hired and officed.  The cost of annexing is zero at this point in time, in terms of buying property, but is not zero in terms of services such as school bus travel, law enforcement travel cost, park costs, water and sewer service, etc.  Impact fees are now being computed in ways that can be defended in court.
A new code would help us get retailers we're missing out on

Maurice pointed out that it’s hard for politicians to turn away from the potential increase in the tax base.  He said they may know they shouldn’t annex, but it’s so hard to resist the temptation “to grab the cheese that’s sitting on the table right there in front of them.”  More expensive houses that would be appraised and taxed at a higher value mean more revenue for the city.  But the fact is that, in the long run, the revenue isn’t enough to pay for the services.

Dara hopes that creating an annexation policy will help to curb that annexation practice.  With more education over time, we’ll get there, where we’re not so tempted annex property.  The policy can discipline the decision-makers.  Once criteria are established and a policy is approved, the public can thereafter hold the city accountable to annexation and sprawl.  Right now there’s no such policy, and Dara hasn’t seen a decision yet NOT to annex.

As a result, we’re the largest city in the state square mile wise.  Our population growth has been stalled for 40 years, but in that time we’ve doubled in area.  It’s also why we have so many empty properties in the interior of the city.  Developers are allowed to move out.  “While the planners are away the developers will play,” Maurice noted.  

Dara said Shreveport has been just zoning enforcement, not planning.  Those codes came from the 50’s, and back then our current notion of optimal mixed-use zoning that creates density was an anathema to 50’s modernist planning. Loren (apologizing to the group for being a nerdy urban sociology professor who couldn’t help but take advantage of this conversation with a smart young planner) asked if those old codes weren’t based on Le Corbusier’s urban utopia of that compartmentalized city functions with the emphasis on city-wide efficiency.  Dara said, yes, that it was the “Euclidian” approach to zoning: the separation of uses.  She noted it had understandable origins: before zoning we saw factories go up next to houses and schools and that was offensive, so we had a knee jerk reaction to it by separating uses.  But the cars allowed us to sprawl and “let out the belt,” (in more ways than one, it was noted).  

Lani asked if the traditional town form and revillaging hasn’t been around for a long time.  Dara said it has, but not all cities and states have been equally progressive   Houston had an open annexation policy, for example.  Feico noted that Spokane went back and forth between the strong mayor and city management formats, and they’ve had a no-growth policy.

Dara noted that our Master Plan is focused on filling in the vacant and neglected areas within our boundaries, but we have no way of enforcing it.  

Dara said a huge step in that direction is the city’s hiring of a lead consultant to research the possibilities of creating a unified development code.  Creating such a code would be a huge step in Master Plan implementation.  Dara has estimated that 67% of the short term goals are dependent on the unified development code.  The consultant’s team will look at the 1950’s zoning and development regulations, see what we can keep and what we need to add.  For example, we may well want to add a tree ordinance, something to reduce the heat island effect of parking lots, to increase the use of bioswales and alternative water treatment techniques, to have bike racks be required for developers to install, to require private improvements to public infrastructure such as streets and sidewalks.  

Another new code benefit: drainage ditches to greenways 
Dara noted that in Fayetteville the bike lanes and paths that have been added there have not all been done by the city, but the city has required developers to assist.  For example, a developer might be required to widen the street where possible, or to make off-site improvements.  Fayetteville created a future alternative transportation plan that included bike lanes as well as trails, and based on that plan, which was adopted by the city council, then required private developers to adhere to that plan.  If the plan has been adopted through a public process, you can require developers to make those improvements.  Then you can require private investment to build the trail or bike lane.  

The cost of the unified development code will be about $450,000.  When asked about doing it in-house vs. via consultants, Dara noted that there is a value to having an outside, objective, equitable approach, and that their view will be valuable.  We have three bodies that need to approve it, and Dara alone wouldn’t have the power and punch to get it approved.  That said, Dara has done this kind of work in Fayetteville, including a huge overhaul of regulations and many other things the staff was trusted to do and for which it was given administrative approval.  But, it was noted that cities are different; Fayetteville is a university town, etc.

But Shreveport is overdue.  It was noted we’re the largest city in the state that doesn’t have a unified development code.  Such a code specifies uses and regulations; things like outdoor lighting, music, vendors, street and sidewalk improvements, drainage regulations, etc.  Importantly for developers, everything would be in one place.  Feico said, you know who’d like that would be stores like Macy’s.  The review process would be more predictable.  We don’t meet the numbers for Whole Foods, but neither did Detroit, and they got one and we see the effects of that; residences popping up around it, etc.  Strong retail services can work to be an anchor for downtown redevelopment, but they want predictable approval, not an unorganized, haphazard, arbitrary review process.

A new code would help new grocers, help downtown
Lani talked about how while she was in Vermont, IHOP tried to locate there but didn’t because of regulations.  Loren mentioned that there are low profile versions of other retailers there in Vermont, with small signs that meet the requirements, etc.  Dara said retailers are willing to stray from the prototype if they know the outcome.  In Fayetteville it’s very restrictive, with no billboards allowed to reduce the impact on the “view shed”.  It’s like a case where the planning commission is asked if they like the colors of the building and it gets turned down because one of the commissioners decides they don’t like that color; it has to be predictable.  The unified development code would make it predictable by creating the boxes for developers to check, and incorporating predictability into the process so developers and retailers know what’s expected of them.  Dara has met developers who’ve said they don’t care about stricter regulations, as long as they know they’ll be approved if they do X Y and Z.  

At the beginning of the meeting Dara and Loren had chatted about how contemporary urban planning is much more responsive to the character and desires of individual communities than the old top-down model.  Where previously an architect would deliver a plan that he’s constructed from his own vision, currently a planner develops a plan that reflects the character of the community she has met with and researched.  As a result, Dara noted that this new uinified code would respond directly to the neighborhoods that currently exist.  The planner looks at what’s there and assesses what’s different or appealing about each neighborhood.  The the planner works to preserve that character and allow for compatibility and consistency in the neighborhood.  For example, the planner can allow for things like accessory dwellings, like an over-the-garage apartment, or non-residential uses such as the corner grocery store in a neighborhood.  Right now we limit the number of accessory structures; only one now and only a certain square footage.  That’s unusual.  A lot of cities will limit the percentage of space, but not the raw number.  Sometimes our current codes are over-regulating and are limiting people more than they need to, and that’s one of the things that will be researched by the consultant team.

Dara gave some other examples of where our codes need revising, such as the fact that we allow for asbestos manufacturing in one area.  “Are you frigging kidding me?!” ...said one.

Susan Keith asked, “What’s the best way to get this done and approved?”  Dara said that for the past eight months she’s been meeting with neighborhood groups and government officials trying to educate people about what a unified code is, and why we need one.  The city will be paying for 75% of it, and the Parish for 25%.  Dara has been going through the applications for lead consultant and said we’ve received four that are very impressive.  The MPC staff will then help the consultant build the rest of their team from local professionals.  They’ll need engineers who know how to build with materials that are sensitive to the environment, arborists who understand our trees, landscape architects, etc.  One of the questions Dara often gets is why we can’t just adopt Lafayette’s or Baton Rouge’s unified development code, but because we’re different in our region, industries, etc., doing that wouldn’t be effective; each city needs a code that fits it.  

The code will need political support to be approved.  So far it’s got the mayor’s support.  Dara’s education campaign also helps.  And it will help the more people get involved in the code’s development, just like folks did during the Master Plan’s development.  Recently, Dara presented at a meeting just ahead of the head of the Shreveport Caddo Economic Development Authority (SCEDA) presenting.  That person said he was glad to hear Dara’s presentation because it will make economic development easier for SCEDA.

Loren asked about how Detroit got a Whole Foods, and Dara said it was through an incentive package.  She said, look at the car manufacturer we got, the steel industry we’ve gotten; they received  competitive packages to lure them here.  But, we have to get control over our sprawl and our vacant properties first.  If we can get a handle on our disinvenstment and sprawl, than we can have appeal.  

Feico mentioned that Centenary (where we are meeting) like many other Shreveport organizations, would be interested in creating a unified code of development.  As things stand now, it can’t change any of the land structures around it.  This is the motivation for smaller scale codes, where larger scale codes fail: if Centenary’s area were controlled like a village, there could be regulations crafted just for it.

The main action Item for ABS will be to publicize the need for this.  We’ll be inviting Dara to come on the radio show and talk about the new code, and about the need for Shreveport vote for it.  

So, BE READY TO PARTICIPATE IN THE PUBLIC PROCESS!  There will be lots of meetings, and anyone can participate in an as many of them as they like, not just in the ones in their neighborhood.  As with the Master Plan, this is a chance to lobby for the city we want!  Might as well, right?!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Thanks Sent to School of Landscape Architecture, and Thoughts of Racism on Martin Luther King Holiday

Thought I would share this note of thanks below that I just sent to Landscape Architecture Professor Bruce Sharky.  (I hope ABS Board Members don't feel I overstated things.)  

As I wrote the last lines on this MLK Holiday, I wondered, is the racial inequality and subconscious racism endemic in all us an obstacle to fully embracing greenways for a better Shreveport?  I'll talk about that on the radio show today on 91.3 at 5:00 p.m.  Feel free to text me at 840-9703 if you have any comments or questions I could mention on the air.

Dear Dr. Bruce Sharky,

As you know, I am the Executive Director of, a non-profit organization dedicated to discussing quality of life improvements for Shreveport.  I am writing to express my organization's deepest gratitude to you and the members of your graduate-level class in greenway design, for their work on proposals for Shreveport.  Those five students produced a remarkable quantity and quality of work that our organization is now using in our city to further the dialog for creating and implementing a plan of a network of greenways.

We have posted the proposals on our blog, and have also held a meeting dedicated to discussing them.  We plan on developing our home web page to include links to these proposals that will serve as more permanent homes for the projects.  We also plan to use the proposals as a basis for presentations to the City Council, the Parish Commission, and the Metropolitan Planning Commission with the goal of obtaining the support of those bodies for developing a greenway network plan.

My trip from Shreveport to Baton Rouge with fellow board member Ian Webb to view the proposal presentations was, we both agreed, well worth it.  We were inspired, and our awareness of the potential of greenways for our city was vividly enhanced.  I have reiterated to my organization in meetings, and to the wider community of our blog readers, your message of Shreveport's unique opportunity to transform itself.  When I tell them an internationally recognized expert in greenway design told me he has never seen any city with drainage canals as amenable to conversion into greenways as Shreveport, and how that will reduce the cost of the project by an order of magnitude, they are duly impressed!  And, as people are made aware of the benefits of greenways' nature trails and bicycle paths to health, recreation, economic development, and general quality of life, and they see how your own designs have already transformed places like Anchorage, Alaska, they tend to want to change Shreveport in the same way.

As part of our gratitude for the work you and your students have conducted, including your own 9 hour round-trip drive to Shreveport from Baton Rouge with the students, we promise we will do our best to leverage these proposals into generating support for a greenway network plan and its implementation, for the good of our city, our region, and our state.

Again, thank you so very much!

Dr. Loren Demerath
Executive Director

2911 Centenary Blvd.
Shreveport, LA 71104
office: (318) 869-5161
fax: (318) 869-5795

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Last Two Meetings Detailed, and Chance to Query MPC Planner Monday!

Remember that MPC Planner and Shreveport Master Plan Implementation Director Dara Sanders is speaking to ABS on Monday 21st, on MLK Holiday (see the post below this one for details).  What follows here are some overdue notes:

Back on January 7th, Maurice Loridans, Debora Allen Demaree, Loren Demerath, Cynthia Keith, Lani Duke, and Chris Chandler, discussed some of the topics the group might address this spring.


Loren is enthusiastic about potentially expanding the radio show to feature conversations with faculty about ideas they’ve been teaching or researching, partly as community outreach of Centenary, but also as a means of improving Shreveport quality of life by offering that kind of radio to the city.  The main purpose of it would be to share ideas with those outside the campus, or a given classroom, lab, or personal study!  There’s some cool stuff that faculty know about, are working on, and wouldn’t mind sharing.  Dr. Ed Ragan, is a Ph.D. in History who might be an optimal co-host for those kinds of shows.  The shows could also be preserved as a resource in the form of podcasts.


Debora has been a welcome addition to the group recently, and shared her knowledge of grant funding that might be available to a group like ABS.  The group discussed how money from the oil spill is being used by Shreveport organizations.  Also, Lani mentioned that USDA funds are available to help connect consumers with farms; so with through a food coop there may be a way to access USDA rural development. 


Kevin Kennedy is a former Ruston resident who has said Ruston’s market beats Shreveport’s by a mile.  The group mentioned what a great job Kip Holloway, and especially Noma Fowler-Sandlin have done with the market, but that it seems hampered by its location in the sense that festivals will always close it down for those weeks.  It was also questioned whether the market could remain open over Shreveport’s mild winter; there are other markets in Louisiana don’t close during that time. 

It might be that Shreveport’s market could be enhanced with funding that could help it establish a regular market up around Texas Avenue.  It was wondered if it might work where the Makers Fair is, but Maurice mentioned that company does use the parking lot M-F.  The Shreveport Commons group has the idea of moving them as well.  The moving force there is the arts going on in that area; a lot of which is David Nelson and Minicine and TACA; the Commons wants to put condos across from Minicine and next to the House for Hope.  SHRAC has asked us to help them in the sense of identifying what people like us would want to live down there, and a farmer’s market is a start.  Shreveport Organics is a form of a food coop, though you don’t get to pick.  There, you pay a monthly fee, and it was noted that it’s best to share your membership with a neighbor.

Liz Swain has said there’s a store coming in to downtown, and having Liz as a guest again at one of our meetings and/or on the radio is something we’ve been meaning to ask her about.  ABS sure supports the mission of the DDA, and thinks Liz has done an admirable job.


The next week, Maurice Loridans, Kathryn Brandl, Loren Demerath, Cynthia Keith, Lani Duke, and Feico Kempff discussed Mardi Gras’ “Cyclovias,” new local microbreweries and wine vinyards, a dog park spied inside a mall, misperceptions about Shreveport’s dog park funding, and what the city is doing about our need for new zoning codes.


It was noted that Mardi Gras is coming early this year: February 2nd and 9th will be the parade days.  Loren and Carolyn describe the “Cyclovia” on the radio show that day: how the blocked off parade routes make an ideal bicycling excursion, visiting with folks along the way, and just seeing the sites of ArkLaTexans out picnicking and getting ready for the parade.  Maurice and his wife Valerie have dressed for the occasion previous years, and the possibilities for bike decorations are endless!


We discussed local brewing excellence, and the unique tastes one can only get through micro/home brewing.  Kathryn’s award winning winter ale is but one example.  Word it there will be two mirco-breweries that will produce beers on site coming to Shreveport.  One of them believes they’ll be open in the summer.  Now word on where they’ll be yet.  They’re probably tight lipped on that until the paper work is done.  Maurice noted that Pensacola, Florida has more micro-breweries than we do, and they’re quite a bit smaller.  

That led to the comment that a number of cities have more amenities than us, like dog parks, which are common elsewhere.  Kathryn was in San Diego at a mathematics conference and happened to be walking in a mall.  There, lo and behold, she saw a dog park, right in the middle of the mall!

Cynthia noted we have a winery and vineyard coming on Greenwood Road.  There’s another one called “On Cloud Wine” on Bunkham Road.  They’ve planted a bunch of muscadine and are waiting for them to produce.  They’d been bringing in grapes in the meantime, but you have to producing a certain percentage of your own grapes to be a considered vineyard.  

Maurice noted that the wines that Arklatex locals tend to make are with muscadine grapes and tend to be sweet.  That said, Maurice has tried a friend’s blueberry wine that he reports was “quite dry and sophisticated.”  Kathryn’s grandmother used to make wine but not out of grapes: choke cherries, raspberries, plums, etc.  She said she didn’t know how to warn people about the type it was when they were offered it--that it isn’t wine like they’re used to thinking. That is, until her grandmother would say, “I like it with a little bit of 7-Up.”  Then they’d know! 


It was noted that The Watchdog section of The Times commented on recent tweets of the Mayor related to the dog park.  Someone tweeted there are things we need more.  Cynthia asked what they might be, and this person said, “gymnasium floors.”  Feico noted that that kind of thing is already covered by the bond election. Another person tweeted "education", and Cynthia noted that that’s something we’ll be busy with for a while, but has nothing to do with the money funded for the dog park.  People aren't understanding this money can only be used fpr riverfront recreation. 

It was noted that many people don't realize the funding includes more than just a dog park: it provides getting drinkable water there which makes it a more useful public gathering area for all people, dog owners or not.  Feico said he avoids calling it a "dog" park because it serves people.  Cynthia said Pam Atchison of SRAC visited her mother in Euless TX, where she is mayor; while there she showed Pam their dog park. Pam went on about it how great it was for pet owners to socialize, she focused more on the people than the dogs! She said she now gets it! Pam said she realizes now that the preliminary plan for pup park in the Shreveport Common may be too small.  They see now how it can be popular and a big draw for people, and a larger dog park can give the Common more bang for the buck.  Their current plan is to position it on the Texas Ave. side of the railroad tracks.  
Cynthia’s thinking has been, that if we can start building the one at Hamel Memorial Park, we could start on one at Princess Park.  

Unfortunately, the Mayor’s lack of action is holding up donors and volunteers.  If people give in to waiting out the last term of Mayor Glover, it could be four years--two years AFTER the next mayor takes office that the park gets constructed!  

Councilman Michael Corbin said all parties should sit down and revisit the dog park issue.  The Mayor hasn’t said explicitly what the greater priorities and needs are, and it may be hard for him to say since this is money that HAS to go to riverfront improvements.  People don’t understand that when they talk about roads, schools, and other parks being greater priorities--it can't go to those things--but the Mayor hasn’t corrected people on that misperception. 

It was noted that it seems odd that the Mayor accepted funding from the Red River Waterway Commission for Riverview Park, but has turned down funding for Hamel Memorial Park.  The Mayor got the half million dollar bathroom and half million dollar stage cover he requested.  But at Hamel’s there’s nothing, and the dog park funding is less than half the cost of either of the Riverview Park projects, and has been supplemented by thousands of volunteer hours, signatures, and dollars in private donations.

But, ABS is trying to stay optimistic something will be worked out.  We know Mayor Glover can be a creative problem solver, and we trust that he has the best interests of Shreveport at heart.

The group is looking forward to Dara Sanders serving as our guest-speaker at our meeting on Monday the 21st, on Martin Luther King Holiday.  We hope she’ll be able to shed light on what the city is planning on doing to address the need in revising our zoning codes, a need established in our approved Master Plan. 

There was an article in the paper recently, that, it was noted, wasn’t particularly informative.  That said, it appears they’re going to hire a consultant to do a study to make recommendations for zoning changes.  However, one the things that’s been noted by ABS (and TO ABS) is that there’s tendency in city government to use more expensive outside consultants than in-house people.  It’s been said that the pattern may be caused by self-interested motives, as it gives people bigger budgets to work with.  One person noted that the first thing the consultant will do is get a feel for what people want.  Another noted: “It’s consensus shoving again.”

Feico said he thought the use of consultants is due to a lack of staff.  They get squeezed down by taxes being cut that would otherwise fund more positions.  Loren speculated that this means the city is forced to go the expensive route for consultants because we’re not willing/able to pay for a full planning staff, a bit like how it’s always cheaper to own than rent, if you can afford it.  Feico noted that if our city government weren’t based on a strong mayor system, the MPC would develop a staff focused on planning, instead of doing just want the mayor wants.  Maurice said it’s a piecemeal approach, each zoning case responding to developers, religious leaders, etc., on alcohol sales (a bulk of their work).  It’s having a tenured MPC Board as opposed to two year terms appointed by the City Council or the Parish Commission.

Maurice noted that the other significant portion of MPC’s work is code enforcement issues is generated by complaints by neighbors.  Feico said they have special officers devoted to code compliance in middle-to-low income neighborhoods.  An example at the other end is how there’s been an argument over a commercial development on Ellerbe Road and local residents have been against it because of wanting keep the trees in the area.


Feico reminded people to pay their annual board dues of $40.  Loren received approval of the board members present to be reimbursed for the hotel room he paid for (though not meals and gas costs) when he was asked to go to Baton Rouge last month to observe the greenway design presentations

Friday, January 18, 2013

Dara Sanders, Urban Planner for the Metropolitan Planning Commission, and Head of Master Plan Implementation to Speak at ABS Monday

Dara Sanders, Urban Planner for the Metropolitan Planning Commission, and Head of Master Plan Implementation, is scheduled to speak at ABS Monday.  Dara will be updating us on where the city and parish stand in it's implementation of the Master Plan for Shreveport.  

Dara is a veteran planner who's previous work in Fayetteville, Arkansas helped raise quality of life through nature trails and bike paths, as well as rezoning to allow a better use of space for the city.  

Dara knows all about "smart growth."  In ABS' view, "smart growth" is the difference between letting a city grow into a sprawling, wasteful, and unfulfilling place to live, and controlling that growth, shaping it into a place where people come to live because of the quality of life such a place provides.

Come Monday to hear how we can all help Shreveport grow intelligently!

As always, we'll meet 6:00-7:00 in the Wright Math Building, across the street from Magale Library on Woodlawn, two blocks up from the Gold Dome on Centenary College's campus.  Join us!

Last two meetings move ABS forward

The last two meetings have moved ABS forward.

First, two weeks ago, Debora Allen Demaree offered to partner with Loren in applying for funding to further some of the projects ABS has been promoting, and with increasing ABS' capacity overall.

Then, at last week's meeting, members discussed ways the group could advance the Dog Park, and help publicize the home made "culture" of things such as a new microbrewery (two, even?), and a new winery.  

But that just scratches the surface.  Stay tuned to this space as Loren catches up fills in more of the details from his notes.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Greenway Proposals Discussed and Action Items Developed at Holiday Party - End of Year Meeting

ABS ended 2011 with a bang, holding a holiday party at our last meeting while reviewing the proposals for Shreveport greenways that had been developed by graduate students down in Baton Rouge at the School of Landscape Architecture in a class taught by Dr. Bruce Sharky, former director of the school (which, by the way, is the number one such school in the country!).

In attendance: Dara Sanders, Feico Kempff, Ian Webb, Jerome Nicholas, Matthew Linn, Lani Duke, Cynthia Keith, Loren Demerath, Susan Keith, Jack Waterman, Jon Soul, Brian Salvatore, Wendy Benscotter, Anna, Maurice Loridans, Carolyn Manning

A number of people said how impressed they were by the proposals.  (A few others mentioned they weren’t able to download such large files, so Loren will be working to post them and make them more accessible through the blog.) 

The following points were among those made as the group discussed the proposals:

Ian Webb noted that students had no preconceived notions of boundaries or budgets, and that they’re worth reading to get your mind going on what could be possible.  Making a network of paths that connect amenities would clearly increase our city’s value.  Jerome noted that the students were looking at “desire lines,” which allowed them to see the forest for the trees.

Matthew said we could put a pathway down Ellerbe Rd. if the physicians who’ve been hit on their bikes were organized.  The Parish would have to maintain an insurance policy in case someone fell on their land.

Dara said one could look into extending a path based on just slight modifications to utility easements, and we can find out from the utility companies where the easements are. Loren reminded the group of ABS’ meeting with Director of Operational Services Mike Strong some years ago (before his retirement), when he said it should perhaps be a policy for them to put a path over any easement they happen to have to dig up.  Dara noted it would be interesting to overlay some of these desired connections over our drainage ditches.


Loren recalled how when he and Ian visited Baton Rouge to see the students present their proposals, Dr. Sharky said that the draniage ditch width made our situation the best he’d ever seen in making for cost-effective conversions to greenways.  He also said folks here have no idea how it will change their city.  Loren and Ian had mentioned that that might be part of the problem, and Sharky responded that city officials should take to trip to Anchorage, Alaska to see how greenways can so significantly raise a city’s quality of life.  Ian noted that just that day there was a guy his shop who’d just come from Anchorage and was raving about the greenways there.

It was noted a letter we’ve received from State Senator Barrow Peacock, as well as previous contact we’ve had with Senator Landrieu’s office, indicate that both are our allies in increasing quality of life through nature trails and bike paths and making the city more walkable and bikeable.  Senator Peacock’s letter congratulated us on the money we’ve raised and asked for bike path to stay integrated into the dog park plan.

Ian noted James Mann et al.’s use of the railroad right of way; that’s an active line that goes through Festival Plaza, but active lines are commonly used as the basis for greenways; there is apparently sufficient width and space there; Kansas City Southern owns that track, as well as the bridge that goes across the river by Festival Plaza.


Dara noted that the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy specializes in this sort of thing.  Loren noted that Shreveport has several connections to Rails-to-Trails, including native daughter of Shreveport, Lindsay Martin, who now works high up in that organization in D.C.  (Loren has had contact with Lindsay, who has shared ABS contact info with a Jason Tudor, a person who works on the outreach team for AARP’s Livability Initiative in Louisiana and is interested in doing some bike/ped-related work in Shreveport.)   Dara also noted we can also see what legal approaches other places within Louisiana have taken.  Dara said she can see how a lot things need to be put together from her perspective as the Master Plan Administrator.

Matthew said the Parish is forging ahead.  It’s spent money on bicycle paths, and has some left over to go by two other parks.  It will be 36 miles to loop the parks.  Every so many years the Parish does street improvements, and when they do they’ve been doing it more cheaply and reserving the saved money with these kinds of improvements in mind.  The ultimate goal is go to the south side of parish where Cimp Haven is located.  There’s also hope for developing land acquisition with federal monies.

Dara noted that from the Master Plan standpoint establishing a greenway plan is important because it helps establish everything else.  We can construct connections with grant funding.  If our codes are written correctly, we can ask the private sector to help establish the network.  Dara said it’s like putting together a puzzle, and to help that, we could take some of desired connections and overlay them over the data that we have.


Brian asked about the Master Plan’s position on the I-49 connector.  Dara said it doesn’t really speak for, or against it.  The Plan talks about livability; but we don’t know if the connector is warranted; if it is, we’ll have to be sensitive in its design to not cut that neighborhood off. Jerome noted there are ways to mitigate that.  It was also noted that some cities are simply prohibiting interstates.

Speaking of the I-49 corridor, Brian said he was doubtful that NLCOG has given public health due consideration in its push to build the freeway through the heart of the city, and that this year the World Health Organization classified diesel soot as a definite carcinogen.

Matthew said there appear to some people supporting it for private gain.  (Loren labeled that as immoral if they’re aware it’s also against the public good.)  But Matthew said it doesn’t appear to pay off.  Buying the property needed for would be over 1 billion dollars.


As Loren asked about action items, it was noted that we should get together with the Parish and City Council and see if they’d support a greenway plan and see what their methodology would be; ABS has the ability to bring it to the public, through the blog, the facebook page, and the weekly radio show.  A question for city government officials is whether they would support MPC and the Parish taking it to public and working with the public to craft something it supports.  Perhaps ABS could ask to speak to the City Council, to the Parish Commission, and to the Metropolitan Planning Commission (who’s purpose is facilitate discussion between the city and parish governments).  ABS could then present some samples of Shreveport greenways from these proposals, and ask those officials to consider supporting the effort to develop some kind of greenway plan for the city.

It was noted that the public meetings for each of those bodies have a public comments section.  Even better, ABS could be sponsored by someone like Matthew or Jeff Everson for a particular spot.  We also might want to meet with Ken on the 8th floor, and work with the city through Rose McCullough, who’s excited about these things.  We could speak to the Master Plan Committee. 


Dara asked if ABA would be interested in helping the Community Foundation with collecting information the use of busses and bicycles.  The Foundation has been requested to get information and need to decide which 20 locations they should select for frequently used bus stops, etc.  Dara asked if we would feel comfortable providing feedback to the Foundation, and the group responded it would.  Next month ABS will begin thinking about key locations.  The Foundation is working with Dr. Hawkins at LSUS.


Tulane architecture student and Magnet High grad Jack Waterman mentioned that the “Dutch Dialogues” going on New Orleans is an interesting process of looking at the Dutch model for increasing quality of life while "living with water."  We wouldn't be the first to put our drainage ditches and levees to better use!