Here’s what we know after yesterday’s visit to the neighborhood by Commissioner Steve Novick: the Foster Transportation and Streetscape Plan is still a go. Design and engineering is well underway; construction is expected to start in early 2017.
That’s the good news.
Here’s what else we know after yesterday’s meet and greet with neighborhood residents and a handful of business owners: there’s a small minority of business owners who hate the plan. And they went out of their way to harass, yell at, and badger the commissioner as he attempted to explain the city’s rationale for implementing the plan, as well as the multitude of benefits the changes will bring.
That was the bad news.
In a scene that was almost comical if not for the hostility on display, business owners from Mt. Scott Fuel, Euro Classic Furniture, the Gun Room and others, berated the commissioner for a plan they say they were never informed about, despite years upon years of outreach and neighborhood discussion. Our thoughts on that: if you were completely unaware of this project after residents, neighboring businesses, and city officials have been talking about it for years, we have to question your investment in the local community. In other words, if you’ve been so out of the know, never read the multiple mailings the city sent out, and ignored the Business Association’s attempts at engaging you over the years, perhaps you’ve alienated yourself a tad.
Here are some of our observations:
– One of the business owners who showed up (presumably from Mt. Scott Fuell) stated he feels like it should be up to the parents of the neighborhood to keep their kids from getting hit while crossing Foster. It’s a noble idea, and there’s some truth there, but he completely discounted the impulsivity and naivete of young children, not to mention the erratic and unsafe driving conditions that lead to dangerous conditions for even the most aware of pedestrians. Also, his biggest concern seemed to be about how and where the large delivery trucks at Mt. Scott Fuel would park and enter/exit the property, as well as the imposition a planned crosswalk at SE 70th Avenue will be.
– The owner of Buck’s Stove Palace was quite reasonable in a discussion we had with him. Despite his signs of protest, he acknowledged that a safe and nicer looking Foster will probably be good for his business. He also agreed that trading a few minutes of added commute time might be worth it to not have a freeway-like road cutting through our neighborhood.
– Others were not so reasonable. More than a few of those who showed up in protest routinely yelled at the commissioner, got in his face, postured at him, and made it extremely difficult for him to talk. It was quite an uncomfortable display, and none of the protesters seemed genuinely interested in hearing the city’s rationale for pushing the project forward, or why so many who live in the neighborhood are excited about it.
– Other protesters were less interested in engaging Commissioner Novick than they were in trying to get passing cars to honk at their sidewalk display of anti-Streetscape signs. They mostly succeeded. But as their chants were sometimes drowned out by others proclaiming their desire for a safer Foster, as well as the vague “Save Foster” signs, which could be interpreted in many ways, it’s quite possible the passing cars weren’t sure what they were honking at (other than a presumed circus in front of Euro Classic Furniture).
– There was a large group of people who showed up to support the plan. One of them, in response to complaints about the estimated three-minute addition to commute times (at peak rush hours only and for the entire length of the corridor), noted that he crosses Foster four times a day to bring his kids to school—both ways in the morning and in the afternoon. If he has to wait anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute in order to do so, he’s losing two-to-four minutes a day while trying to cross the street. And there’s still a safety concern while doing so. Perhaps it’s time pedestrians are not the ones having to make the sacrifice?
– The same business owner who engaged in the above dialogue basically said, “tough luck,” in regards to the father’s positing that he already has to spend more time on Foster than the extra three minutes that peak-hour commuters might have to endure. Yikes—totally uncivil!
There you have it, folks. Foster, the Streetscape Plan, and the neon sign brigade have made for an interesting display of us-versus-them protesting, counter-protesting, and a collision of old Foster and new. And event though we’re assured of our safer and more livable Foster, we can say with some certainty the circus isn’t going anywhere soon.