Is Boise Losing “Small Town” Flavor?

BOISE:  Megapolis or quaint Rocky Mountain city?

BOISE: Megapolis or quaint Rocky Mountain city?

With all the pressure Boise’s Team Dave is putting on the Ada County Highway District, Urban Renewal, Autitorium District, and Valley Transit, we growthophobes have to conclude their efforts are aimed at justifying a TROLLEY through urban growth.

While they try to make a case for trains, trolley, street car or circulator there seems to be a concerted effort to punish motorists in Boise and do little to improve a token bus system.

Recent plans call for returning one-way streets to two-way streets to “help make it easier to reach businesses.” Huh? At the same time it is estimated about 160 street side parking spots will be removed and one lane of traffic will be eliminated for bikeways and “create some congestion, but not too much.” We remember when the two-way streets were made one-way to relieve congestion and make it easier to reach downtown businesses.

No doubt this congestion will be impetus for a trolley. Which brings us to this note which came in “over the transom” today regarding development plans for the area across Capitol Blvd. from BSU off South 9th. It will probably be the next attempt by the CCDC Urban Renewal folks to divert taxes from the city, county, highway district and schools. Some would call it “visionary” and others would say its “developer driven” excess.

In regard to the changes to our viewshed and the Capitol building, take a look at the Lusk Street Master Plan, specifically page 11:
“The Ada County Highway District developed a preliminary design(figure 16) for the intersection of 9th/Royal/Capitol Boulevard that would create an additional full access point into the Lusk Street neighborhood. Initial modeling indicates that construction of the intersection would alleviate anywhere from 12-18% of the congestion at the Ann Morrison/University intersection. This would provide relief for current congestion, however the long-term effect would not alleviate traffic congestion for potential build out of the area.”

The proposed road segment will wipe out existing mature trees, be located about 70 feet from the Greenbelt and the John Booth Memorial, and will cut through “Land & Water Conservation Fund lands.” It also will include the installation of stop lights on both Capitol and 9th Street. So much for our historic Capitol Blvd. viewshed. Look closely at the proposed road and you’ll see that the bike lanes and pedestrian crossings are dysfunctional and dangerous. So why would the City encourage ACHD to build this road? And why did this road vault to the top of ACHD projects and is now scheduled for completion in the next year? The City’s own report shows that it will not relieve any congestion now or at the envisioned build-out of the Lusk Street neighborhood. Could it be that the Trolley to Nowhere lives on? As an FYI, rumor has it that ITD’s new bridge at Broadway is being overbuilt to accommodate trolley tracks.

PLANS are being made to fill in that remaining open space with another tall building.

PLANS are being made to fill in that remaining open space with another tall building.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. Transom… were you out on the SS Minnow?

    EDITOR NOTE– You obviously are a non-library type:
    “over the transom”: informally offered or sent without prior agreement; unsolicited: the editors receive about ten manuscripts a week over the transom.

    a window set above the transom of a door or larger window; a fanlight.

  2. Small town flavor pretty much gone thanks to dictator Dave Bieter.

  3. Grumpy ole guy
    Mar 17, 2014, 1:58 am

    Clang, clang, clang went the trolley . . . It was nice back in the day when Judy Garland sang it, now, not so much.

    Boise, City of Trees, except when they get in the way of something else someone wants more.

    Traffic, we have to ease its congestion above all else, except when we don’t.

    Master plans, the guide we follow, except when our hare=brains direct other-wise.

    Local enthusiasm for the latest always seems to outweigh the more somber and sober staid “tried and true”, doesn’t it.

    If a citizen cries in the wilderness, does any elected representative listen? And, no, that is not a rhetorical question.

  4. Craig Quintana
    Mar 17, 2014, 12:35 pm

    Reality check — the Guardian’s tipster got a number of things wrong, at least regarding ACHD. A list:

    1. The project is the Royal Boulevard Extension, from 9th to Capitol Boulevard. It comes out of a program started in 2013 that allows cities to request projects based on economic development goals.

    2. Boise City’s application said it wanted to relieve congestion at Capitol/University and improve pedestrian and cyclist access to Ann Morrison Park — things the project will undoubtedly do. The benefits for the Lusk area’s redevelopment were also played up.

    3. The project is currently a concept only, will be designed later this year and will be built in 2016 — all part of ACHD’s normal process, no vaulting.

    4. ACHD builds sidewalks and bike lanes that meet or exceed safety standards; the only dysfunction here is the tipster’s take on what’s real.

  5. I was a stranger in a lost land in July 2013 staying at the Idaho Heritage Inn. I grabbed a parking spot in the alley and walked to a restaurant. It’s a jungle out there and that new restaurant theater district off the freeway could be anywhere in suburban USA. No sense mourning the past, I guess. With the city in a valley air quality has to be a concern that we didn’t know in the 1960s. Dave Z., displaced Gem State resident.

  6. Cynic: Small town flavor pretty much gone thanks to dictator Dave Bieter.

    My take: Bieter has definitely taken that torch and run with it… but it was passed to him by Coles… who had it passed to him by Kempthorne.

    Kempthorne wasn’t a Boise resident – he came here from California by way of Moscow. He had no sense of “small town Boise,” and to me that seems to be the era in Boise history when we turned our backs on small-town. We got our big climate-controlled mall and Pavilion and flying wye, and 500 new national-chain stores and restaurants. Quality livin’!

    I s’pose somebody relocating to Boise from a Los Angeles or Seattle or Bay Area would still find it quaint and small-town-like… the same way I’d find Parma or Buhl quaint and small-town-like.

  7. Big city taxes and crime to follow. Dave had to do it… no other way to get the Obama money.

  8. Foothills Rider
    Mar 17, 2014, 4:22 pm

    As a California transplant, I cringe at the broad brushstroke used to supposedly describe “me.” I was born/raised in Pasadena, CA. Parts of BoDo very much remind me of Old Pasadena, and especially comparing historical/architectural context of what we have here and visualizing future potential. In Old Pasadena, it took planning and progressive thought to revitalize what had become a dump (‘70s)…then replete with drug dealers, bums, crime, boarded up/crumbling structures etc.

    That sort of discussion vision development needs to take place in Boise now, else we risk losing some of the soul remaining. The reason I don’t venture into Meridian much is just as many reference….no personality, block-after-block of non-descript stucco box stores and chain restaurants (what’s with all the fast food joints there?), traffic and poor road/circulation planning.

    Whether from CA or other state, the majority of “transplants” are not as you generalize….. most of us moved out for a reason and moved here for a reason…and that reason is not to sell you on traffic and big stucco boxes. Recognize that in Boise, change and growth are certain just as in most of the world. And that is a good thing. Would you prefer the alternative (Detroit?)? Rather than touting the “back in the good ol’ days” philosophy that any one of us can use to describe our earlier years, why not embrace and participate in positive change that allows for responsible growth (see Old Pasadena or Old Towne Orange, CA…or any number of similar towns in the US)? An opinion might be more valuable in the process of positive and well-thought change than it is as an anonymous voice of dissent on The Guardian.

    I agree with many of what is said regarding trolleys and huge road projects…building for the sake of building is backward, and building anything because there is some sort of partial government money is not resulting in a free-money windfall if we don’t need the project, it is not well thought, and we waste local funds to supplement to cost. The old adage “form follows function” needs to be revisited here as it seems in some projects, someone (developer) is defining form first, then trying to force it into a need/function after the fact (the political angle).

  9. ACHD has really gone off the deep end. What is it? Who is it? Is it Sara Baker? Is she the one behind the the idea to narrow Idaho and Main to 2 lanes? In case you all have forgotten, or in case some of you readers are new here she’s the one who demanded a 2 lane Curtis Road/Veterans Parkway connection which had to be widened just a year later at huge expense because of the bottleneck. Her whole argument was that a 4 lane Curtis Road extension would ruin the neighborhood. Look at that neighborhood now. It’s one of the nicest on The Bench. She’s also the one who made a big deal about her name not on the ACHD commissioner’s plaque on the East Parkcenter Bridge.

    Dear West Boiseans, I implore you to vote Sara Baker out of office the next time she comes up for election.

    Dear Mr. Quintana:

    Why did ACHD’s downtown reconfiguration open house take the tone of “We know what’s best”–? I’d like to remind you that it’s we the people who own the streets in this county.

    While I applaud your work on the Whitewater Parkway, you should have built that 40 years ago instead of focusing on the suburbs for 40 years. Now that you want to come back downtown, the best you can come up with is mucking up the grid? I don’t know, but I’m guessing there is good reason civil engineers in the past went with one way streets. Gridlock sucks.

    Better uses for that reconfiguration money:

    1) Many many sidewalks, curbs and gutters in the greater downtown area still need repair or have never been built even though taxes have been paid for 100 years in many areas.

    2) Put down more crosswalks like the one at 8th and Front. In fact put them at every downtown intersection.

    3) Find a new transit mall and move the buses off of Idaho and Main and give back the short term parking. Ban parking at rush hour in the diamond lanes and make those the bike lanes which may require some reconfiguration east of Capitol and west of 9th.

    4) You haven’t chip sealed west downtown streets in 12 years.

    5) Pave more alleys. Come on, even Harrison Boulevard, the best of the best of Boise has DIRT alleys. Some of the downtown alleys are disgusting. Fix them.

    6) Hook up with ITD and do something about the Front/Myrtle/Broadway nightmare.

    7) Add more commissioner spots. Greater downtown, home of at least 30,000 people is unrepresented. Not one commissioner lives in the greater downtown area.

  10. Zefareu Privatis
    Mar 18, 2014, 8:35 am

    Regarding one-way v. two-way streets: the “Boise, Idaho Downtown Walkability Analysis” produced in 2013 by Speck & Associated LLC indicates that:

    “Like many American cities, Boise in the 1970s (?) replaced its two-way grid downtown with a fairly comprehensive system of one-way pairs. This transformation, by eliminating left turns across traffic and by allowing for synchronized signals, helped to speed the motion of cars through downtown. Unfortunately, it did so at the expense of pedestrian comfort and business vitality. Drivers tend to speed on multiple-lane one-way streets, because there is less friction from opposing traffic, and due to the temptation to jockey from lane to lane. In contrast, when two-way traffic makes passing impossible, the driver is less likely to slip into the “road racer” frame of mind. One-ways also have a history of damaging downtown retail districts, principally because they distribute vitality unevenly, and often in unexpected ways. They have been known to harm stores consigned to the morning path to work, since people do most of their shopping on the evening path home. They can also intimidate out-of-towners, who are afraid of becoming lost, and they frustrate locals, who are annoyed by all the circular motions and additional traffic lights they must pass through to reach their destinations.”

  11. ZP,
    “less likely to slip into the road race frame of mind”

    If that were true we would see evidence of it on the existing 2 way roads. So we have to conclude it’s not true, right?

    Downtown businesses do better when someone can park near their front door, go in, buy and get on with their busy life. The Boise proposal gets rid of some street parking.

    A two- way is much more frustrating waiting for the person in front to make a left turn. THAT will clog up DT traffic and people will avoid it. Unfortunately the alternatives to DT is State St. and Front St.- both suck. So this proposal would complete the picture of terrible traffic. But as Foothills Rider can say, “the traffic wont’ be as bad as it is in California”.

    And why don’t Boiseans like Californians? hmmm.

    Boise Cynic, I doubt any one Commissioner is the problem. They are all the problem collectively.

    Rather my guess is there is someone in the planning department that is all about the dreams of the textbook planning instead of the reality of getting out there and observing the world.

    Are we losing the small-town flavor? Of course we are.
    That’s like asking if a teenager in today’s world has lost the innocence of youth.

  12. I believe the idea of a concentrated downtown has long since past. The reasons why city-states developed long-long ago have been invalid for 60 years. Evidence of this statement resides with the downtown’s inability to compete with the suburbs… and the need for all the funny-money and taxes to keep the lights on.

    BTW: Will someone ask the Fire Chief which of the downtown buildings he is willing to be inside of during a 6+ earthquake. Point is the old junk is unsafe and should be abandon not fixed-up.

    Mar 18, 2014, 12:31 pm

    Thanks for including a photo of the WORLDS UGLIEST BUILDING!

    Another product of our “progressive” mayor and the P&Z dept. So much for small town feel.


  14. To have a city with a soul you need leaders that have the same. We are rapidly loosing both.

  15. Dearest boise cynic. No, it was not I that wanted to narrow the lanes in downtown boise, that was done in collaboration with Boise City based on the Jeff Speck recommendations. And FYI, these are proposals, out for public comment. I suggest you do so on the record. I would encourage everyone to comment.

    And if it makes you feel better to blame me for ACHDs screw up on Curtis Rd, even though I was not on the ACHD commission then, have at it.

    Cynic, you seem to have great ideas. Why not run for the ACHD commission in this November’s election and put yourself out there.

  16. Editor: I believe one of the two images displayed in the story has be photoshopped?

  17. Errr? Nope, I’m told that there really is a Mormon spire atop the building. How many public dollars of tax breaks per foot of spire?

  18. Commissioner Baker, I like that you keep updated on the Guardian and you post here.

    I also liked it when you did a blog for the inside information on ACHD. ACHD is one of the organizations that affects us all.

  19. Dave.. a transom is also a pert of the structure of a boat.. I may not be the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree but I ain’t the dimmest

    EDITOR NOTE, Sorry. I guess I was too stern.

  20. lol… yup that’s where the transom is….the stern…lol

  21. People, you are being robbed by politicians:

  22. Ugly Building. – I’m guessing you are referring to the “butt” view of the Aspen Bldg. The developer of that ugly thing got away with duping city planners with a one- sided shiny thing. Destroyed an iconic city skyline vista for that? Fourtunately the Zion’s building redeems the view. Glad someone knows how to design a building that looks good from all directions.

  23. What makes downtown Boise cool is its mix of high density buildings and historic lower density buildings of character. In downtown Boise, modern urbanism such as the new Zions Bank building, merge with single story dive bars, craft breweries and independent retail stores and makes for an exciting mix and fun evening. Boise should continue to encourage high density development downtown on non-developed parcels. Doing so helps prevent urban sprawl and helps keep the rest of Boise to keep the small town feel. In short we can have both, a big town feel in downtown Boise, with the small town appeal outside the downtown.

  24. David in Eagle
    Mar 20, 2014, 9:17 am

    The horizontal bar or member of a cross or gallows!

    I think both apply to Boise Losing “Small Town” Flavor!

  25. Sara Barker: Good of you to listen and participate. I’d like to see you clean up most of your roadways. There’s lots of places where the brush and weeds are over growing the right-of-ways, trash has accumulated, gravel shoulders become muddy with a touch of rain, sign posts are crooked/missing etc. BTW: Chipseal causes vehicle tires to wear out faster and significantly diminished emergency handling/braking. We also know that chipseal is so dusty it’s contributing to are poor summertime air quality problems.

  26. Boise Cynic: Baker was not on the ACHD commission at the time of Curtis Road but she may have been on the Boise City Council at that time.

  27. Rebecca: Yes, I know Baker was on City Council at the time. She was on City Council when council rejected the project in 1992. I doubt she voted to approve it. Is everyone denying Baker, while at city council, was one of the driving forces to make the Curtis extension only 2 lanes? And, are you saying City Council has no sway with ACHD? Like that traffic circle on Whitewater Parkway that held up the project for another year or two?

    And Baker’s reply exemplifies her dismissive attitude– “Why not run for the ACHD commission in this November’s election and put yourself out there.” In other words, in politico-speak– “come at me, bro.”

    She doesn’t attempt to justify ACHD’s role in increasing congestion to placate a small minority of street users, bicyclists. She doesn’t attempt to justify Speck’s plan and we sure won’t hear about Robert Bruegmann’s rebuttals to Jeff Speck from an ACHD that has it already made up its mind.

    Dear ACHD and Boise City Council, why don’t you get Bruegmann to speak at the Egyptian? And who paid for Speck’s appearance here?

    Moving on, what’s the whole point of parking meters? To aid downtown business by preventing downtown workers from hogging parking, right? By that reasoning, how could removing parking and giving it to bike lanes NOT be counterproductive to downtown small businesses?

    Robert Bruegmann on Jeff Speck: (Note Bruegmann’s credentials are equal to or surpass Speck’s)

    The following quote puts it in perspective: Speck being the American Idol winner and Bruegmann being the untrained heathen.

    “When architects and social scientists debate a policy issue, any disagreement is among unequals. On one side is the American Idol winner; on the other is just some untrained heathen, no matter their credentials.”

    Source of that quote:

    This reminds me of Sara Baker’s attitude. She’s the elected commissioner and the rest of us are untrained heathens.

    One last thing, no one talks about how the Curtis Extension helped improve Orchard St. Anyone remember how bad the traffic was on Orchard before Curtis connected the Bench to the Valley? Look how Orchard has improved and the Curtis neighborhood has not gone south as some predicted.

  28. boisecynic, thank you for the links. interesting reading. I’d like to see more of what Robert Bruegmann has to say.
    as to changing vehicle lanes to bicycle lanes, I would not agree that ACHD has already made up its mind and I encourage you to submit your comments to ACHD on the proposals.

  29. I have lived in Boise for over 64 years. It lost it’s small town flavor a long time ago. I used to take my grade school children for a bike ride after work… we would ride down Capital Blvd and around town. Would never try that with today’s traffic and mentality. “if you think that this traffic is bad, you should see it where I came from” No! I did not move to where you came from, jerk!
    I have been waiting for over 40 years for Boise to be “bike friendly” (ever since I spent a few years in Eugene, Oregon) and finally realized that Boise is never going to be anything like Eugene. It’s just going to continue growing to be more of a car dependent California town in Idaho.
    sorry for getting off topic.

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