Walkable West Palm Beach


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Palm Beach MPO goal: Vision Zero for fatalities

The Palm Beach MPO is implementing a Complete Streets policy that marks a major shift in the projects that will be prioritized going forward. Excerpts from a recent Complete Streets MPO board presentation:

Complete Streets Policy Purpose

Accommodate the safety and convenience of all surface transportation system users into the planning, design, and construction of state and federally funded transportation projects programmed through the MPO’s TIP…

The Palm Beach MPO will seek to promote Complete Streets by prioritizing the funding of Complete Street infrastructure projects, providing educational opportunities, and encouraging local jurisdictions to adopt and implement local Complete Streets policies.

This could mark a significant shift in the types of projects that are prioritized because there is funding associated with this policy change. The Complete Streets policy suggests that if a project does not incorporate Complete Streets principles into its planning and design, it will not be funded. The default will be to design Complete Streets. Furthermore, the policy incorporates a Vision Zero goal for fatalities.

To evaluate the effective implementation of the policy, the MPO will monitor the number of pedestrian and bicyclist injuries and fatalities over time with the ultimate goal of zero fatalities. Vision Zero is the foundation for ending traffic deaths on our streets and roadways.

FDOT, the City of West Palm Beach, and numerous other local municipalities have adopted a Complete Streets policy. Given the funding at stake and the consensus for building complete streets, I would expect Palm Beach County to follow suit soon.

Let’s hope this policy allows for contextual design, rather than copy and paste road design that led to highway scaled roads in places where they don’t belong in the era of suburbanization. I’m all for Complete Streets, but applying rules without regard to context could lead to regrettable outcomes like those that resulted from misapplying highway design to urban streets. Thankfully, by all accounts the FDOT Complete Streets effort has an amazing champion in Billy Hattaway, and the guidance is going to be much more contextual than rules based, from my understanding. Our local cities and county could do well to follow a similar approach to their guidance.

 


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1996 Transportation Policy in West Palm Beach was revolutionary

I came across this memo posted on the U.S. Conference of Mayors website. It appears to have been written by the City Transportation Engineer at the time, Ian Lockwood. In the memo, he describes the philosophy behind the city transportation policy.

This is a fascinating piece of West Palm Beach history. There is no doubt this policy and the actions that ensued had a large part in the regeneration that happened in the the past several decades in the city. But the extent to which West Palm Beach was a leader in the arena of livable street design in 1996 only becomes apparent upon reading this document. There are elements of the policy that even now would be considered leading edge.

We need more engineers like this who will lead the change the citizens want to see, and less technicians who only know how to look up tables in a book and apply ‘copy and paste’ designs.

Here’s hoping West Palm Beach can see a second renaissance of this enlightened approach under Mayor Muoio’s administration.

CITY OF WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA
Mayor Graham

Meeting Community Objectives through Street Design and Adopting a Transportation Language Policy 

“Urban streets can be safe and friendly if and only if the streets are designed to physically and emotionally foster apt behavior by all their users. Conventional engineering theories be damned, the true test of success for urban streets is if a child pedestrian can independently get there from here safely and pleasantly. Unfortunately, most urban streets fail by design.”
-Mayor Graham

The City of West Palm Beach has adopted an innovative approach to transportation planning, with an emphasis on traffic calming. This has helped stabilize and revive the downtown and several older, challenged neighborhoods. The intent is to reestablish the quality of life and improve resident and visitor perception of the built environment, thereby reversing the negative trends associated with conventional transportation planning and automobile dominance.

The City of West Palm Beach’s Transportation Language Policy is intended to remove the biases inherent in the current transportation language. This change is consistent with the overall shift in the city’s planning and development philosophy as West Palm Beach works toward becoming a sustainable community. The policy creates a greater understanding of the stakeholders and true nature of projects, which allows for a more equitable and balanced prioritization of limited resources. Objective language is used for all correspondences, resolutions, ordinances, plans, meetings, and when updating past work.

Community Objectives through Street Design

When one hears the words “traffic calming,” three ideas typically spring to mind:

1) slowing down motor vehicles; 2) reducing collision rates and severity; and, in some cases, 3) reducing the volume of drivers cutting through sensitive areas. 

In West Palm Beach, traffic calming is much more than this, starting with the adopted definition: “the combination of mainly physical measures that reduce the negative effects of motor vehicle use, alter driver behavior, and improve conditions for non-motorized street users.”

This definition is based on the one recommended by the Institute of Transportation Engineers International Subcommittee. Therefore, traffic calming involves changing the design and the role of the streets to reduce the negative social and environmental effects of motor vehicles on individuals and on the community in general. 

Traffic Calming and Neighborhood Revitalization

Traffic calming is self-enforcing; it lowers motor vehicle speeds and reduces aggressive driving. It also increases motorists’ respect for non-motorized users of the streets through the physical features of the street design. Other goals of traffic calming in West Palm Beach include: 

  • promoting walking and cycling; 
  • increasing safety for both motorists and non-motorists; 
  • improving perceptions of safety; 
  • improving aesthetics; 
  • assisting in the revitalization of challenged areas; and 
  • increasing the overall quality of life along the street. 

The city’s approach to traffic calming is “area-wide.” Over time, the city will fulfill its goal of affecting its entire urban area with appropriate levels of traffic calming on all the various types of streets. The ultimate goal is to make West Palm Beach unique, liveable, sustainable, “walkable,’ and the model for cities throughout the country. By way of an example, before and after photographs are provided of Clematis Street in downtown West Palm Beach. This street spurred additional traffic calming efforts in the city and is an excellent success story. Clematis Street in downtown West Palm Beach was the city’s first traffic calming effort and proved to be a tremendous success.

The city has implemented several traffic calming projects since Clematis Street, resulting in revitalization, reduction in street-related crimes (such as speeding, prostitution, and illegal drugs), and rejuvenation of depressed commercial corridors and challenged neighborhoods. Initially, the projects altered driver behavior physically – leading to slower, more respectful motorists and diminished cut-through traffic. 

Then it was realized that reducing speeds and the perceived dangers of vehicles also leads to increased natural surveillance. This occurs through the presence of more pedestrians, cyclists, and other residents of the area, thereby improving the overall environment and inviting even more people back into the city. Today, the impetus for future traffic calming projects is primarily to rejuvenate declining neighborhoods and to invigorate business and entertainment districts.

Traffic Calming, Crime Prevention, and Property Values

Traffic calming can work in conjunction with other crime prevention programs such as Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED), but without requiring closures, diverters, semi-diverters, or one-way streets. Done well, traffic calming affects the quality of life, safety, and crime in commercial and residential areas. It also helps with the city’s historic preservation efforts and home ownership programs. In a nutshell, it is a powerful tool to help improve downtowns, revitalize challenged neighborhoods, create street and civic pride, beautify the public realm (often found only in the street), create the sense of safety, and provide the unique feeling of place and community. Lastly, traffic calming projects have attracted substantial private investment and have increased property values nearby.

Transportation Language Policy

The majority of the current transportation language was developed in the 1950s and 1960s. This was the golden age of automobiles, and accommodating them was a major priority in society. Times have changed, and creating a balanced, equitable, and sustainable transportation system is the new priority. The difficulty is that the transportation language has not evolved at the same pace as the changing priorities and still maintains a relatively pro-automobile bias. Continued use of the biased language does not promote nor support addressing transportation issues in an objective way. 

Removing Pro-Automobile Bias

Several biased words and phrases are identified, and the rationale for the changes is explained. The word improvements or upgrade is often used to refer to the addition of through lanes, turn lanes, channelization, or other means of increasing motor vehicle capacity and/or speeds. Though these changes may indeed be improvements from the perspective of motor vehicle users, they would not be considered such by other constituents of the city. 

For example, residents may not think that adding more lanes in front of their houses is an improvement. Parents may not think a channelized right turn lane is an improvement on their childÕs pedestrian route to school. Suggested objective language includes being descriptive, e.g., use through lanes, turn lanes, or using language such as modifications, changes, expansions, widenings. Like improved and improvement, there are similarly biased words such as enhance, enhancement, and deteriorate. Suggested objective language is changed, decreased, increased.

Level of service is a qualitative measure of describing the operational conditions of a facility or service from the perspective of a particular set of users (motor vehicle users, cyclists, pedestrians, etc.). If the set of users is not specified, then it is a mystery as to which set is being considered. The established bias enters the picture when it is assumed that unless otherwise specified, level of service implies for motor vehicle users. The objective way to use this term is to add the appropriate modifier after level of service, such as level of service for motor vehicle users. If level of service is used frequently for the same users in the same document, using the modifier is only required at the beginning of the document and periodically after that.

Traffic is often used synonymously with motor vehicle traffic. However, there are several types of traffic, i.e., pedestrian, cycle, and train traffic. To be objective, if you mean motor vehicle traffic, then use motor vehicle traffic. If you mean all types, then simply use traffic.

When considering development, one frequently discusses the concept of traffic demand, fluctuations in traffic demand, peak hour traffic demand, etc. However, the concept of traffic demand contains a bias. There is really no such thing as a demand for traffic, and traffic is not a commodity that most people desire. Demand is overly strong and implies a sense of urgency which does not necessarily exist. Objective language would be motor vehicle use or travel demand.

In addition, promoting alternative modes of transportation is generally considered a good thing. However, the word alternative begs the question, ÒAlternative to what?Ó The assumption is alternative to automobiles. Alternative also implies that these modes are nontraditional or unconventional, which is not the case with the pedestrian, cycle, nor transit modes. The direct and objective language is non-automobile modes of transportation.

Other Misnomers 

Further, accidents are events during which something harmful or unlucky happens unexpectedly or by chance. Accident implies no fault. It is well known that the vast majority of accidents are preventable and that fault can be assigned. The use of accident also reduces the degree of responsibility and severity associated with the situation and invokes an inherent degree of sympathy for the person responsible. Objective language includes collision and crash.

Protect means shielding from harm. However, when discussing protecting land for a right-of-way for a street, the intent is not to shield the land from harm, but to construct a street over it. Objective terms include designate and purchase.

The city strives to make the transportation systems operate as efficiently as possible. However, care must be taken when using efficient because it is often confused with the word faster. Do not assume that faster is necessarily more efficient. 

Language Influences Thought

It is important to keep in mind that language is one of the fundamental forms of communication. It is especially critical to ensure that there is a clear understanding of the terms, particularly those that are being used for communication. Until the inherent biases that have been created over the last few decades are removed, or at least acknowledged, it may be difficult to ensure that all stakeholders and constituents are given proper consideration during planning. Once the level of understanding is increased, the increased level of equity should follow. 

Contact: Ian Lockwood, City Transportation Planner, West Palm Beach, 561/659-8031.

Table of Contents

The United States Conference of Mayors

J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
1620 Eye Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006
Telephone (202) 293-7330, FAX (202) 293-2352

Copyright ©1996, U.S. Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.


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Twelve questions with Katherine Waldron, District 2 candidate

Walkable West Palm Beach candidate Questionnaire – Twelve questions with Katherine Waldron

Many thanks to Katherine for taking the time to answer the questionnaire.

 

  1. What is your approach to economic development? Do you favor ‘economic hunting’ or ‘economic gardening’, and which approach or combination of approaches would you pursue if elected to office? Would you consider certifying West Palm Beach as a Level II economic gardening program to support existing businesses and entrepreneurs?

As an owner and co-founder of a small business, I have a special passion for economic gardening. Through economic gardening, local entrepreneurs can create the companies that will bring new wealth and economic growth to our city, i.e. new jobs, increased revenues and a more vibrant local business community. The major engine for economic growth in our country has always been small businesses.   This will also be true for our city. Therefore, economic gardening will offer West Palm Beach larger rewards over the long-term.

We should also have an “economic hunting” approach. These projects bring businesses to our area and bring major job growth spurts as they tend to be bigger projects. A recent example of this is the Palm Beach Outlet Mall. The downside is when we offer subsidies, special treatment or government intervention to bring these projects to our area. We must be careful not to fall into the Digital Domain trap, where we were so mesmerized by what was promised, we were not paying attention to the reality.   In terms of having WPB being certified as a Level II Economic Gardening program, if an additional designation will be helpful, we should do it.

  1. How would you remove impediments and make it easier to build small projects, rather than the half or full city block development that is prevalent? 

We need to ensure that zoning, permitting and regulations are as business friendly as possible to enable small projects to take place and be sustainable. However, the overall development goals for our city should not be piecemeal. Development should be viewed comprehensively and should include both short-range and long-range strategies and should be balanced with our community development goals. We should focus particularly on new businesses with local ownership and roots.

  1. A City committee recently listed 17 action items that are ‘ready to go’ in the Jeff Speck study. Would you commit to implementing at least one of these ideas in your first 60 days in office, or do you believe more traffic studies are warranted before anything is implemented?

Several of the 17 action items are fairly easy to implement, not costly or disruptive and I would be in favor of implementing those immediately. However, in some cases, the city does not have control for these items. If the county controls these items, the changes may be more complex and take more time.

  1. Is transportation planning best in the engineering department, or under Planning? Which department leads in the vision for street design?

If properly organized and managed, the communication between the two departments would be such that it would not matter where they are housed but how the two departments are able to work together.

  1. In his downtown Walkability study, walkability expert Jeff Speck states that while palms can be beautiful, in an urban environment they do not provide the many benefits of street shade trees and therefore we should focus on street trees that provide shade in downtown. Do you agree with this assessment? How would you respond to the diseased palms on Clematis that were planted two years ago?

The trees that are planted downtown need to provide proper shade. In addition, the shade trees that are planted must be chosen so they do not cause undue damage to the sidewalks in the future because of their root structure.   If trees are diseased and dying they should be replaced.

  1. Street trees often suffer from maintenance neglect, despite the fact they are one of the highest returning investments a city can make in its urban infrastructure. It is common for city departments to ‘pass the buck’ in order to avoid responsibility. How would you correct the issues with maintenance neglect and ensure this valuable civic infrastructure is protected and nurtured? Who would be responsible?

We must ensure that the city budget is sufficient to provide for proper maintenance of all city landscaping.

  1. West Palm Beach has a strong track record of innovation in livable streets and walkability enhancements. A Transportation Concurrency Exception Area east of I-95 makes it easier to do livable street design without Level of Service obstacles. Would you consider assigning a Livable Streets Transportation Engineer, such as West Palm Beach had in the past, to manage these areas in order to insure we continue to make our city more livable and walkable?

Absolutely.

  1. Would you favor implementing a parking wayfinding signage program for downtown immediately? Or would you wait to create a master plan for the entire city before acting? How would such a program be funded?

I am in favor of implementing way finding signage now and in parallel with the creation of a master plan. In terms of funding, if we can find $2.9M to buy a piece of property we should be able to find the funds for a signage program.

  1. Where do you stand on the Broadway corridor and South Dixie Corridor efforts? Do you believe the priority for this right of way should be the convenience of drivers passing through it, or enhancing the potential of properties and neighborhoods located adjacent to it?

The two are not mutually exclusive. We need to work with all neighborhoods.

  1. In a 2012 “Face of the City” proposal, 10 new tree planters were planned on Clematis Street in order to accommodate new shade trees on the street. Doing so would have meant the loss of 7 on-street parking spots. How would you balance the important placemaking and economic benefits of street trees against the parking needs of downtown?

Again, these two are not mutually exclusive. Both parking and shade trees can be added to our city streets with proper planning.

  1. Okeechobee Boulevard is a real liability for the city.  To encourage non-motorized mobility across the boulevard, and then not strive to provide safe passage, is a serious problem. How would you work to make Okeechobee Boulevard east of I-95 a more inviting place for people on foot and on bike, and how would you propose to fund such plan? Would you consider a local match using City funds such as CRA TIF dollars if it would move the project ahead?

This is going to be a critical artery not only for residents but for tourists visiting our city and staying at the convention hotel. I have spoken with many leaders in our city about how to accomplish a safe passage across this boulevard. Perhaps an architecturally pleasing pedestrian bridge, financed with TDC dollars would be an option. We need to address this issue sooner rather than later as more and more pedestrians are using this crossing.

  1. The Northwest neighborhood is harmed as a result of being disconnected from the rest of the urban fabric. Banyan Boulevard, the FEC railway, and the Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard bridge serve as ‘border vacuums’ that blight adjacent properties and inhibit redevelopment. Would you make this removing these impediments a priority? Would you consider the creation of connector streets between Douglass and Division Avenue to tie into the greater downtown urban grid network? How would such improvements be funded?

 

Connector streets should be provided in as many locations as are needed and are feasible, to reconnect the Northwest neighborhood with the rest of our urban areas. These connector streets should be designed to carry moderate levels of traffic, provide for multiple paths to downtown destinations and incorporate a design to allow for low volumes of automobile traffic while encouraging bicyclists and pedestrians. Pocket parks should be encouraged wherever possible to provide for family friendly areas and improve the overall neighborhood feel of the community. Funding for this should be found by making this a priority.


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Twelve questions with Cory Neering, District 2 candidate

Walkable West Palm Beach candidate Questionnaire – Twelve questions with Cory Neering

Many thanks to Cory for taking the time to answer the questionnaire.

 

  1. What is your approach to economic development? Do you favor ‘economic hunting’ or ‘economic gardening’, and which approach or combination of approaches would you pursue if elected to office? Would you consider certifying West Palm Beach as a Level II economic gardening program to support existing businesses and entrepreneurs?

 

We must take a combination approach to economic development in the city. While it is imperative that we find ways to bring new businesses to WPB, we cannot forget the businesses that have already chosen our city. My initial approach would be to take the time to speak with informed and experienced people like Ike Robinson and Chris Roog. I appreciate Mr. Robinson’s many years of service to our city as a Commissioner and I know that he will be a valuable resource. Chris is in a great position as our city’s Economic Development Director to know both what is happening and what could be happening on our economic horizon. While I’m interested in knowing more about groups like GrowFL and the programs they offer, a lot of planning has already taken place. I want to know more about these details and the role the Commission plays on both a city and a CRA level to shape its economic future.

  1. How would you remove impediments and make it easier to build small projects, rather than the half or full city block development that is prevalent? 

 

I agree that we should find a way to overcome impediments to smaller projects. West Palm Beach has a wealth of older and historic buildings. Finding ways to utilize our current resources will only benefit our city and ensure a unique feel. It is also imperative that we take the most efficient route to accomplish these goals as we maintain the quality of life our downtown residents currently enjoy.

  1. A City committee recently listed 17 action items that are ‘ready to go’ in the Jeff Speck study. Would you commit to implementing at least one of these ideas in your first 60 days in office, or do you believe more traffic studies are warranted before anything is implemented?

 

There is already a process underway to get the items on this list accomplished. As a city commissioner, I know that my role will be to work with the other commissioners and the Mayor to achieve that short list of recommendations as soon as possible. That implementation will be the result of a group consensus and I am anxious to become a part of that process.

  1. Is transportation planning best in the engineering department, or under Planning? Which department leads in the vision for street design?

 

It seems logical that both departments should be involved in the vision for street design. Each department has specific understandings and insights that are necessary for a realistic vision. Street design is greatly influenced by laws on every level of government, by opinions of the residents, the visitors, the commissioners and of the Mayor, by the budgets that are available and by the recommendations of experts like Jeff Speck and his peers. As a commissioner, I want to make sure that good recommendations can be seriously considered for our streets without regard to where they came from.

  1. In his downtown Walkability study, walkability expert Jeff Speck states that while palms can be beautiful, in an urban environment they do not provide the many benefits of street shade trees and therefore we should focus on street trees that provide shade in downtown. Do you agree with this assessment? How would you respond to the diseased palms on Clematis that were planted two years ago?

 

There is absolutely a need for trees and shade cover in downtown. In sunny south Florida, this is even more important than in other cities. I believe these trees have been removed, so now we must work to find a type of tree that fits our needs. Tree-lined streets provide positive economic benefits to businesses and residents.

  1. Street trees often suffer from maintenance neglect, despite the fact they are one of the highest returning investments a city can make in its urban infrastructure. It is common for city departments to ‘pass the buck’ in order to avoid responsibility. How would you correct the issues with maintenance neglect and ensure this valuable civic infrastructure is protected and nurtured? Who would be responsible?

 

Tree-lined streets provide positive economic benefits to businesses and residents. The maintenance of Street trees is imperative. Creating a clear plan which details the specific tasks and who will be responsible for each will go a long way in solving this problem.

  1. West Palm Beach has a strong track record of innovation in livable streets and walkability enhancements. A Transportation Concurrency Exception Area east of I-95 makes it easier to do livable street design without Level of Service obstacles. Would you consider assigning a Livable Streets Transportation Engineer, such as West Palm Beach had in the past, to manage these areas in order to insure we continue to make our city more livable and walkable?

 

As commissioner, I don’t see myself assigning city employees to specific tasks. I would leave that to the Mayor and the Department Managers. I do see my role as working with the other commissioners to make our city more livable and walkable.

  1. Would you favor implementing a parking wayfinding signage program for downtown immediately? Or would you wait to create a master plan for the entire city before acting? How would such a program be funded?

 

I love the wayfinding signage recommendation. There is a perception that there is a parking shortage downtown which in turn has a negative effect on our businesses. This signage would alert people to where parking is available. This is a low-cost recommendation and would have a positive effect on downtown. The funding would be decided by the budget.

The wayfinding signage program, that included parking, has been started and stopped in Downtown West Palm Beach several times over the past 8 years. Different levels of funding have been available, but a consensus has not been achieved. I admit that I am amazed that this has not been accomplished … yet. I am very much in favor of finding a positive way to make this a reality.

  1. Where do you stand on the Broadway corridor and South Dixie Corridor efforts? Do you believe the priority for this right of way should be the convenience of drivers passing through it, or enhancing the potential of properties and neighborhoods located adjacent to it?

 

Enhancing both the Broadway and South Dixie corridors would improve and even expand the downtown area. Our plan for the entire city should be balancing the convenience of drivers while improving walkability. We have accomplished this in other parts of Downtown; I would look to see what worked and how we can implement that in these areas.

  1. In a 2012 “Face of the City” proposal, 10 new tree planters were planned on Clematis Street in order to accommodate new shade trees on the street. Doing so would have meant the loss of 7 on-street parking spots. How would you balance the important placemaking and economic benefits of street trees against the parking needs of downtown?

 

I believe that a city commissioner has the obligation to consider the frequently conflicting opinions of diverse groups that are entitled to opinions on issues that are determined by the commission. Trees on Clematis are a good example. My vote will be determined by what I feel is in the best interests of the City on that particular issue. I do not have a predetermined way to balance conflicting issues because the specifics are important. I can only give my best opinion.

  1. Okeechobee Boulevard is a real liability for the city.  To encourage non-motorized mobility across the boulevard, and then not strive to provide safe passage, is a serious problem. How would you work to make Okeechobee Boulevard east of I-95 a more inviting place for people on foot and on bike, and how would you propose to fund such plan? Would you consider a local match using City funds such as CRA TIF dollars if it would move the project ahead?

 

With All Aboard Florida on its way and the new hotel going up next to the convention center, making that area walkable is imperative and a priority! Increasing walkability will be beneficial to all parts of our Downtown. I would definitely want to explore the use of the downtown trolleys for visitors as well.

Since that section of road is under direct control of the State, we must work in collaboration. We need to get this done for many reasons. I would support any efforts the Mayor or the commission could initiate to make that happen.

  1. The Northwest neighborhood is harmed as a result of being disconnected from the rest of the urban fabric. Banyan Boulevard, the FEC railway, and the Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard bridge serve as ‘border vacuums’ that blight adjacent properties and inhibit redevelopment. Would you make this removing these impediments a priority? Would you consider the creation of connector streets between Douglass and Division Avenue to tie into the greater downtown urban grid network? How would such improvements be funded?

 

As I have previously stated, as a commissioner, I will evaluate the specifics of the issues that come before the commission and vote in favor of what I consider to be the best interests of the City. The Northwest neighborhood has certainly been harmed by some of its borders. I want to help it become a better place for the residents and the businesses. The specific answers will emerge from the detailed proposals that are made. A good proposal with the support of the commission and the Mayor has an excellent chance of finding the funding that will make it a reality. I look forward to being able to show the before and after results that such a project could bring to the Northwest neighborhood.


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Twelve questions with Keith James, District 4 Commissioner

Walkable West Palm Beach candidate Questionnaire – Twelve questions with Commissioner Keith James

Many thanks to Keith for taking the time to answer the questionnaire.

 

  1. What is your approach to economic development? Do you favor ‘economic hunting’ or ‘economic gardening’, and which approach or combination of approaches would you pursue if elected to office? Would you consider certifying West Palm Beach as a Level II economic gardening program to support existing businesses and entrepreneurs?

I would be in favor of both economic hunting (where we try to attract the “big game” companies to West Palm Beach), and economic gardening (where we target existing growth companies and help them thrive). I think a combination of both approaches would be advisable. Yes I would consider taking steps to have West Palm Beach certified as a Level II economic gardening program.

  1. How would you remove impediments and make it easier to build small projects, rather than the half or full city block development that is prevalent? 

Each real estate development project should be assessed on a case by case basis to ascertain its fit within our City. If a project fits within a permitted use for an area, chances are it would not even come before the Commission. I would certainly be in favor of more flexibility and creativity when it comes to “retro-fitting” some of our older buildings to make them more attractive to entrepreneurs.

  1. A City committee recently listed 17 action items that are ‘ready to go’ in the Jeff Speck study. Would you commit to implementing at least one of these ideas in your first 60 days in office, or do you believe more traffic studies are warranted before anything is implemented?

I would commit to implementing at least one of the action items within the first 60 days of my new term as a Commissioner.

  1. Is transportation planning best in the engineering department, or under Planning? Which department leads in the vision for street design?

Transportation “planning’ is best left in the Planning Department, but there must be collaboration between both departments. The ultimate vision will still have to flow from the top, i.e. the Mayor and Commission.

I would hope that the 2 departments would and could work together in implementing the vision that is established by the Mayor and the Commission.

  1. In his downtown Walkability study, walkability expert Jeff Speck states that while palms can be beautiful, in an urban environment they do not provide the many benefits of street shade trees and therefore we should focus on street trees that provide shade in downtown. Do you agree with this assessment? How would you respond to the diseased palms on Clematis that were planted two years ago?

 Yes I agree. Shade trees are more conducive to “walkability”. I would explore the feasibility of removing them and re-planting them elsewhere in the City. I would like to see them replaced with better shade trees if cost-feasible.

  1. Street trees often suffer from maintenance neglect, despite the fact they are one of the highest returning investments a city can make in its urban infrastructure. It is common for city departments to ‘pass the buck’ in order to avoid responsibility. How would you correct the issues with maintenance neglect and ensure this valuable civic infrastructure is protected and nurtured? Who would be responsible?

As part of the budget (and the strategic planning) processes, I would make sure funds were allocated for maintenance.

It is the Mayor’s call as to which department she wants to put that under. Whichever department is responsible, I would ensure that funds were allocated for the purpose.

  1. West Palm Beach has a strong track record of innovation in livable streets and walkability enhancements. A Transportation Concurrency Exception Area east of I-95 makes it easier to do livable street design without Level of Service obstacles. Would you consider assigning a Livable Streets Transportation Engineer, such as West Palm Beach had in the past, to manage these areas in order to insure we continue to make our city more livable and walkable?

Yes I would.

  1. Would you favor implementing a parking wayfinding signage program for downtown immediately? Or would you wait to create a master plan for the entire city before acting? How would such a program be funded?

I strongly believe that is something we can do immediately.

  1. Where do you stand on the Broadway corridor and South Dixie Corridor efforts? Do you believe the priority for this right of way should be the convenience of drivers passing through it, or enhancing the potential of properties and neighborhoods located adjacent to it?

I strongly believe that these corridors should be modified to enhance the potential of the businesses located on the roads, and the nearby neighborhoods. I am a strong advocate of putting more “feet on the streets” in these areas.

  1. In a 2012 “Face of the City” proposal, 10 new tree planters were planned on Clematis Street in order to accommodate new shade trees on the street. Doing so would have meant the loss of 7 on-street parking spots. How would you balance the important placemaking and economic benefits of street trees against the parking needs of downtown?

I believe there is sufficient parking downtown. It may not all be as convenient as some merchants would like (i.e. on the street directly in front of the establishment), but it is not such a bad thing if people have to walk a few blocks to their parking. That puts more feet on the street, and could enhance businesses throughout downtown. In short, I would favor the shade trees over the on-street parking.

  1. Okeechobee Boulevard is a real liability for the city.  To encourage non-motorized mobility across the boulevard, and then not strive to provide safe passage, is a serious problem. How would you work to make Okeechobee Boulevard east of I-95 a more inviting place for people on foot and on bike, and how would you propose to fund such plan? Would you consider a local match using City funds such as CRA TIF dollars if it would move the project ahead?

I would encourage bringing the County, State and City together to address this problem. All stakeholders should be prepared to identify potential funds for any proposed resolution.

I would consider a local match; I would favor investing City dollars in a proposed solution.

  1. The Northwest neighborhood is harmed as a result of being disconnected from the rest of the urban fabric. Banyan Boulevard, the FEC railway, and the Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard bridge serve as ‘border vacuums’ that blight adjacent properties and inhibit redevelopment. Would you make this removing these impediments a priority? Would you consider the creation of connector streets between Douglass and Division Avenue to tie into the greater downtown urban grid network? How would such improvements be funded?

I would like to see a RR crossing at 7th Street. I would also explore the feasibility of having 3rd Street opened up in that neighborhood.

Yes I would consider a plan for such connector streets.   How would such improvements be funded? I can’t answer this question until I get an accurate estimate of cost.


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Twelve questions with Mayor Jeri Muoio

Walkable West Palm Beach candidate Questionnaire – Twelve questions with Mayor Jeri Muoio

Many thanks to Mayor Muoio for taking the time to answer the questionnaire.

  1. What is your approach to economic development? Do you favor ‘economic hunting’ or ‘economic gardening’, and which approach or combination of approaches would you pursue if elected to office? Would you consider certifying West Palm Beach as a Level II economic gardening program to support existing businesses and entrepreneurs?

At a recent Chamber of Commerce meeting, Kelly Smallridge, Director of the BDB talked about the great work we have been doing in West Palm Beach in both attracting businesses and growing business. I am the first Mayor to have an Economic a Development Director and he has been working on both attracting and growing businesses. I have been an early supporter of Start up West Palm Beach and a great believer in the importance of incubating businesses here in our city. I would definitely consider certifying West Palm Beach as a level II economic gardening program.

  1. How would you remove impediments and make it easier to build small projects, rather than the half or full city block development that is prevalent? 

As we are revising our codes we should do so with this in mind. Small projects are important, but must also be economically viable for the developer. In addition, it is important to take a comprehensive look to determine where small projects might best be encouraged.

  1. A City committee recently listed 17 action items that are ‘ready to go’ in the Jeff Speck study. Would you commit to implementing at least one of these ideas in your first 60 days in office, or do you believe more traffic studies are warranted before anything is implemented?

I have already committed. Many of those action items are already in the works and should be under way in the next few weeks.

  1. Is transportation planning best in the engineering department, or under Planning? Which department leads in the vision for street design?

We have many cross disciplinary teams working together effectively in City Hall. It is important, that no matter where a department is on the organizational chart, it understands the overall vision and all work together to achieve that vision

  1. In his downtown Walkability study, walkability expert Jeff Speck states that while palms can be beautiful, in an urban environment they do not provide the many benefits of street shade trees and therefore we should focus on street trees that provide shade in downtown. Do you agree with this assessment? How would you respond to the diseased palms on Clematis that were planted two years ago?

 I have been a proponent of shade trees on Clematis and throughout our city. We brought forward a plan to bring more trees to Clematis but it was voted down by the City Commission at the urging of my opponent. The Palms had to be removed because they were diseased. They will be replaced with a species that is resistant to the particular disease. I am happy to say we have a new landscape planner who will help us to determine which shade tree will be the best replacement.

  1. Street trees often suffer from maintenance neglect, despite the fact they are one of the highest returning investments a city can make in its urban infrastructure. It is common for city departments to ‘pass the buck’ in order to avoid responsibility. How would you correct the issues with maintenance neglect and ensure this valuable civic infrastructure is protected and nurtured? Who would be responsible?

I must disagree with you on your statement that it is common for city departments to pass the buck. Recently I moved landscape maintenance to our public works department. You will see significant improvements.

  1. West Palm Beach has a strong track record of innovation in livable streets and walkability enhancements. A Transportation Concurrency Exception Area east of I-95 makes it easier to do livable street design without Level of Service obstacles. Would you consider assigning a Livable Streets Transportation Engineer, such as West Palm Beach had in the past, to manage these areas in order to insure we continue to make our city more livable and walkable?

I would be willing to consider it, if the budget allows

  1. Would you favor implementing a parking wayfinding signage program for downtown immediately? Or would you wait to create a master plan for the entire city before acting? How would such a program be funded?

We have a design and a quote and a budget and should see this moving forward in 90 days.

  1. Where do you stand on the Broadway corridor and South Dixie Corridor efforts? Do you believe the priority for this right of way should be the convenience of drivers passing through it, or enhancing the potential of properties and neighborhoods located adjacent to it?

The priority should be forth making them a walkable community asset.

  1. In a 2012 “Face of the City” proposal, 10 new tree planters were planned on Clematis Street in order to accommodate new shade trees on the street. Doing so would have meant the loss of 7 on-street parking spots. How would you balance the important placemaking and economic benefits of street trees against the parking needs of downtown?

I was a strong proponent for giving up the parking spaces and having more trees

  1. Okeechobee Boulevard is a real liability for the city.  To encourage non-motorized mobility across the boulevard, and then not strive to provide safe passage, is a serious problem. How would you work to make Okeechobee Boulevard east of I-95 a more inviting place for people on foot and on bike, and how would you propose to fund such plan? Would you consider a local match using City funds such as CRA TIF dollars if it would move the project ahead?

We are currently working with the County, the Convention Center, Related company and planners to explore alternatives for addressing the passage across Okeechobee. All parties are committed to solving this problem.

  1. The Northwest neighborhood is harmed as a result of being disconnected from the rest of the urban fabric. Banyan Boulevard, the FEC railway, and the Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard bridge serve as ‘border vacuums’ that blight adjacent properties and inhibit redevelopment. Would you make this removing these impediments a priority? Would you consider the creation of connector streets between Douglass and Division Avenue to tie into the greater downtown urban grid network? How would such improvements be funded?

Yes. Funding could include CRA funding as well as grants.


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Twelve questions with Kimberly Mitchell

Walkable West Palm Beach candidate Questionnaire – Twelve questions with Kimberly Mitchell

Many thanks to Kimberly for taking the time to answer the questionnaire.

 

 

  1. What is your approach to economic development? Do you favor ‘economic hunting’ or ‘economic gardening’, and which approach or combination of approaches would you pursue if elected to office? Would you consider certifying West Palm Beach as a Level II economic gardening program to support existing businesses and entrepreneurs?

 

We need to pursue all avenues of economic development. As you may be aware, the City of West Palm Beach relies upon the County’s Business Development Board to recruit companies to our City. I have never been satisfied with waiting for something to come to me or as often is the case, being part of a BDB “beauty contest” with competing cities like Boca Raton or Jupiter.

 How much assistance they receive (or what kind of assistance) is another story.  Certainly the city needs data on where it is today (demographics, metrics of differing sectors – development/small businesses/hospitality etc) so that decisions can be made about what is missing, what should be targeted, and what incentives if any should be considered.  Ideas like “the business district” etc. are fine so long as there are some analytics to back it up, not just banners and maps.

 It was almost three years ago that I introduced our Mayor to Ray Johnson from Jupiter. Ray is a serial entrepreneur in the biotech community. He was one of the founders of the successful Jupiter Fund model, which is a guarantee fund for start-up or early stage companies. Ray was willing to do the same for West Palm Beach. I again tried convincing the City when Chris Roog was made Economic Development director. Just the existence of the fund would have attracted the best and brightest to our City. Nothing came of it. Very disappointing.

 I didn’t stop there. When the opportunity came to entertain the prospect of recruiting UMHealth to West Palm, I was shocked to hear the Mayor canceled her drive down to Miami to meet with the Dean of the Medical School at University of Miami and, instead, sent our CRA director and city attorney. I quickly dropped what I was doing that morning and drove to Miami. I later found out the Mayor had other reasons for not wanting to attract one of the leading teaching hospitals into our City.

 And when Olympusat was about to leave West Palm Beach, I went to work to keep them here – connecting them to our CRA and economic development people. Eventually, we brought them into the downtown. Olympusat is described as the Viacom to Latin America. With 160 employees, most of whom work in their headquarters in WPB, they are now in temporary offices in City Place with plans to develop their own building in our downtown.

 And let me say this, a successful economic gardening program starts like any other successful garden. You have to have good soil. We have not yet created the infrastructure or soil to attract the truly game changing entrepreneurs to West Palm. One of the important missing components is great schools.

  1. How would you remove impediments and make it easier to build small projects, rather than the half or full city block development that is prevalent? 

 

There are techniques within the Land Development Regulations that can help the smaller property owner or developer (i.e. relief from parking requirements, allowing adaptive reuse or change of use without penalty or stiffer requirements, administrative approvals for certain types of projects, etc.). Some of these things already exist. Everyone, except developers, wants smaller projects and that is always a struggle. I have not seen any evidence that the city or commission is interested in promoting smaller projects. In fact, it appears to be the opposite (Related, chapel by the lake, etc.).

One thing I personally believe is that the most sophisticated cities, and ultimately the most desirable, are the ones that can show restraint when it comes to the acceptable scale of development. An honest public discussion needs to be had about what is the appropriate scale of development in town.

There are ways to promote smaller projects (which I for one would support) but the bigger question is, does the city want to? I do and I will lead that effort.

  1. A City committee recently listed 17 action items that are ‘ready to go’ in the Jeff Speck study. Would you commit to implementing at least one of these ideas in your first 60 days in office, or do you believe more traffic studies are warranted before anything is implemented?

 

Yes – I commit to getting some going without further delay!  I am sensing a “paralysis-by-analysis” syndrome within the city.  Of course some recommendations will require further analysis (like converting Dixie and Olive to two-way traffic – which has been a recommendation for decades), but certainly some recommendations can be implemented without plowing into more studies.  We have planners and engineers in the city that can make those things happen.

At the end of the day, how much “analysis” was conducted to convert Parker to 3-lanes?  We argued about it for decades but in the end, with a persistent push from me and Commissioner Bill Moss, the city (in working with the county) just made it happen.  There are little things that can have a big impact like two-waying Narcissus. We will identify the low-hanging fruit, identify the parties necessary to implement, and we can make it happen.  I know that some people may not have fully embraced Jeff Speck as a personality, but his message is sound.

  1. Is transportation planning best in the engineering department, or under Planning? Which department leads in the vision for street design?

 

Planning comes first. Transportation is part of a strategy. It should be policy driven. Right now, it is serving as an impediment. Transportation is designed to serve the people. In the hands of engineering, it becomes bogged down in rules and regulations. Quadrille, Broadway, S. Dixie, are all examples of engineering staff telling us what can’t be done. I have personally gone to the FDOT Secretary on more than one occasion to explain why these sections need to be exceptions and he agreed. When relayed back to the Mayor and staff, it comes back “we can’t do it.” With that attitude nothing will happen.

There has to be a culture of cooperation between these departments for things to really happen.  The culture has to be based in a belief that everyone is rowing in the same direction – if not, you are rowing in circles.

  1. In his downtown Walkability study, walkability expert Jeff Speck states that while palms can be beautiful, in an urban environment they do not provide the many benefits of street shade trees and therefore we should focus on street trees that provide shade in downtown. Do you agree with this assessment? How would you respond to the diseased palms on Clematis that were planted two years ago?

 

Shade, shade, shade!  That being said, Clematis gets enough attention – there are plenty of areas in the city that could use shade trees. Dixie Highway between Okeechobee and Belvedere along the cemetery is a perfect example (or north Quadrille – or better yet – Okeechobee west of I-95).

  1. Street trees often suffer from maintenance neglect, despite the fact they are one of the highest returning investments a city can make in its urban infrastructure. It is common for city departments to ‘pass the buck’ in order to avoid responsibility. How would you correct the issues with maintenance neglect and ensure this valuable civic infrastructure is protected and nurtured? Who would be responsible?

 

I am not comfortable with this comment/statement and I do not agree with it.  Lord knows I have had my issues periodically with city staff, but I do not at all feel that it is common for city departments to “pass the buck.”  Being a public servant is often a thankless task and most city employees are really trying to do the best for the city.  That said, clear lines of accountability and responsibility are important.  When it is unclear who is supposed to do what, everyone gets frustrated (especially staff).

Working closely with the DDA, I worked to ensure a higher level of attention gets paid to our downtown aesthetics. If elected, we will put in place a permanent, understandable and accountable structure.

  1. West Palm Beach has a strong track record of innovation in livable streets and walkability enhancements. A Transportation Concurrency Exception Area east of I-95 makes it easier to do livable street design without Level of Service obstacles. Would you consider assigning a Livable Streets Transportation Engineer, such as West Palm Beach had in the past, to manage these areas in order to insure we continue to make our city more livable and walkable?

 

See number 4 above.  I would definitely incorporate additional staff for this purpose.  I would also add the missing Historic Preservation planner position.  I find it baffling that there is one historic preservation planner who is responsible for all of the districts (including zoning responsibilities) in the city.  We can’t have it both ways – tout our historic presence and accolades and then not adequately nurture the assets.

  1. Would you favor implementing a parking wayfinding signage program for downtown immediately? Or would you wait to create a master plan for the entire city before acting? How would such a program be funded?

 

The Mayor has talked about this for four years. Before that, Lois talked about it. For whatever reason, it still has not been accomplished. For me, this is a low priority. Somehow people find parking. I am reminded of the old Yogi Berra quote, “Nobody goes downtown anymore. It’s too crowded.”

  1. Where do you stand on the Broadway corridor and South Dixie Corridor efforts? Do you believe the priority for this right of way should be the convenience of drivers passing through it, or enhancing the potential of properties and neighborhoods located adjacent to it?

 

Of course the priority should be the neighborhoods and rate-payers adjacent to the corridor versus those just passing through.  As you know, it is not that simple.  When I was elected 13 years ago Glatting-Jackson was just completing the South Dixie Corridor Study.  The situation hasn’t really changed that much except that it has gotten better with investment from the private sector (Antique Row, new developments along the corridor, etc.).

The city is undergoing a study right now with Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council to do a detailed analysis of South Dixie between Okeechobee and Ablemarle.  I had some issues with the evolution of that project but that is different than not supporting improvements on the corridor.

Broadway is a very different situation than South Dixie.  In fact, I believe we should consider the corridors in segments as the conditions change and should be analyzed as such.  As you know, in 1993 many of the Northwood roads connecting to Broadway were closed.  At the time, we theorized that the initial benefits to the neighborhoods would ultimately be outweighed by the long-term drawbacks of dis-connecting the positive and affluent areas of town from the impoverished and disenfranchised.  Crime issues did improve initially but we have been talking about what to do on Broadway for 20 + years.  You cannot improve Broadway without diving deeply into what is happening in the neighborhoods.  Ownership patterns and code violation patterns should be revealing.

That, in fact, was the impetus behind the Chronic Nuisance Abatement ordinance, along with the Landlord Training Program I found in Milwaukee, designed and got implemented.

  1. In a 2012 “Face of the City” proposal, 10 new tree planters were planned on Clematis Street in order to accommodate new shade trees on the street. Doing so would have meant the loss of 7 on-street parking spots. How would you balance the important placemaking and economic benefits of street trees against the parking needs of downtown?

 

This is a good question but again, I personally believe there are higher priorities than what trees to plant on Clematis Street.  As I stated several years ago, not all parking spaces are created equal.  You could remove 10 spaces from the Datura garage and no one would ever notice.  Remove 10 spaces from Clematis Street and you could put someone out of business.  I would guess that each parking space on Clematis Street represents $100,000 + annually in sales on the street.  I am personally reticent to support the removal of on-street spaces (for trees or parklets – as cool as they are) because that is one step closer to trying to “pedestrianize” Clematis Street.  I still hear mumblings on occasion about making Clematis pedestrian only which would be an utter disaster.  To me that is the bigger question, do you think Clematis is broken and if so, how would you fix it (ergo pedestrian mall)?  Personally, I don’t think it is broken.

  1. Okeechobee Boulevard is a real liability for the city.  To encourage non-motorized mobility across the boulevard, and then not strive to provide safe passage, is a serious problem. How would you work to make Okeechobee Boulevard east of I-95 a more inviting place for people on foot and on bike, and how would you propose to fund such plan? Would you consider a local match using City funds such as CRA TIF dollars if it would move the project ahead?

 

Okeechobee Boulevard is the elephant in the room. To me, this is our biggest issue downtown. We had 1,000 urbanists here for CNU 20 and they all LOVED West Palm Beach. They all HATED crossing Okeechobee Boulevard.  Frankly, I am surprised that the Hilton has not requested/demanded some plan of action for the road as it could be one of their patrons that gets hit walking to CityPlace.

Okeechobee is eight lanes with enormous, sweeping turning radii and is designed as a highway. There are things we could do today to balance the environment for non-motorized users that would not reduce capacity. Ultimately, I think we need to test a six lane section with on-street parking on the outside lanes to protect to pedestrians but that goes in the “greater study needed” category.

The issue with Okeechobee is motorist conduct – cars are traveling way too fast for where we are trying to go with our downtown and neighborhoods.

BTW – I am NOT a fan of a pedestrian bridge to mitigate the situation.  Pedestrian bridges work best when there is limited access across the roadway and there are few locations to cross.  That is not the case here.  Unless we propose a pedestrian bridge at Tamarind, Sapodilla, Rosemary, Quadrille, and Dixie, we are fooling ourselves to think we have addressed the problem.  Elevated (or God help us, below-grade) pedestrian crossings only tell motorists that they having nothing to worry about – “happy motoring in your auto-only zone.”

The skyways don’t do much for bicyclists either – and the bike numbers are growing. Also, the questions keep asking how you would pay for things (normally an important point).  We need to know where we are going before we figure out how to pay for it. I am not worried about the cost of some of the items discussed – I am mostly worried about making the wrong decisions.

  1. The Northwest neighborhood is harmed as a result of being disconnected from the rest of the urban fabric. Banyan Boulevard, the FEC railway, and the Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard bridge serve as ‘border vacuums’ that blight adjacent properties and inhibit redevelopment. Would you make this removing these impediments a priority? Would you consider the creation of connector streets between Douglass and Division Avenue to tie into the greater downtown urban grid network? How would such improvements be funded?

 

Re-connecting all parts of the city is vitally important, especially in areas of need.  There are a number of projects mentioned here and each one needs to be weighed and valued for importance and priority

One needs to understand how we got into the mess we’re in and couple that with an economic development strategy that causes connectivity to happen naturally. None of the items listed are impediments. I was vehemently opposed to placing City Hall on Clematis.

The plan that we had as Commission voted upon was for City Hall to be built on the “hill top” site. Why? We wanted to connect the very neighborhoods and the Tamarind corridor to the downtown. Not only did we miss an opportunity but we in turn created another problem by having the 400 block of clematis as a large dead zone instead of having more dining and retail open at night.

Recently, the City Commission had another opportunity to remove our water plant from the downtown, which the Mayor opposed. That would have been 27 acres along Tamarind that could be used to begin revitalizing Tamarind. It also could have been the opportunity to create an area along Australian by utilizing Clear Lake as an amenity for cafes and retail while watching non-motorized water craft such as sailboats, canoes and kayaks. Think Madison, Wisconsin.

Also, just months ago, the city had the opportunity to put an end to Tri-rail keeping its trains not being used behind the Marriott. Another missed opportunity. The “impediments” you identified are solved by recognizing the real impediments. 1. Connect the downtown north to Banyan; 2. Remove the water plant from our downtown; 3. Energize Clear Lake.

Create reasons for people to go places and you will have your real long term solutions.