Thursday, July 12, 2007

Deconstructing Jennifer Kim

Jennifer Kim wrote a letter which appeared in yesterday's Statesman (available here) expressing her disappointment with the circumstances leading up to RG4N's lawsuit against the city. As I supposed should be expected, virtually the entirety of the letter is absurd on its face. Let's take a look:

I am deeply troubled by the outcome of the site plan approval for Northcross Mall. It's wrong and embarrassing when residents believe they must protect the community by suing the city.
It's more embarrassing when loud vocal groups don't respect the city's existing site plan approval process. Having dealt with it myself, I know it's not a simple process. Several, several people had a look at this. To say that they screwed up is to insult a fair number of city workers.

I have worked with Responsible Growth 4 Northcross to prevent this. Ideas ranged from a public-private partnership to build a community center or other public facility, to limiting the operating hours of a Wal-Mart Supercenter. However, we failed to gain the support of the City Council.
Translation: "We tried to tell a private property owner who met every aspect of the city codes as they were at the time that they couldn't do what they were legally allowed to do. And apparently four people on the City Council still respect the process." (Gasp!)

The area is full of pedestrian-oriented businesses and family-friendly neighborhoods.
I call foul on this statement. By this definition, pretty much any area anywhere could be described thus, since the Anderson/Burnet area is anything but pedestrian-oriented. (Or maybe I just imagined all the acres of parking on the north side of Anderson.) As for the neighborhoods, yes, they are there, but they are buffered from the Northcross site on all sides.

As for what a truly pedestrian-oriented area is, check this mixed-use project out. (Now, if Lincoln Property wanted to go that way, Northcross could be a really nice hangout. But, they own it, so until that changes, RG4N's arguments are useless.)

It's clear that a Wal-Mart would generate an unreasonable amount of traffic,
As opposed to, say, an actual filled-to-occupancy 300,000-sf mall? You gotta be kidding me. (No, you do not get to compare traffic with a run-down half-empty Northcross Mall, which has been the standard since the 90s.)

And anyway, wouldn't that mean that the Wal-Mart at Slaughter & I-35, which replaced an empty field, generated an unreasonable amount of traffic as well? Because it hasn't.

so I sought evidence that the city could use to reject the site plan. I asked city staff to rerun the traffic impact analysis submitted by Lincoln Properties using the higher traffic numbers listed in a 2006 ITE Journal article on "big-box" stores,
Translation: "I asked city staff to cook the numbers to get the results I wanted." Funny--when developers and engineers do that, they end up with problems. The traffic numbers used were the correct ones. Now, if Ms. Kim wants to get that changed for future stores, she's welcome to try.

but I was told the staff lacked the software. The city asked Lincoln Properties to run the numbers, but it did not respond.
Hello: it didn't have to respond! This was a blatant attempt by the city (and who exactly asked Lincoln this, anyway? Was it you, Ms. Kim?) to improve their bargaining position (currently: nonexistent). I can imagine that conversation: "Excuse me, would you mind terribly much using these new numbers to make your currently compliant project not comply?"
I applaud the efforts of Responsible Growth and local neighborhood associations, and I support their vision. I hope this wonderful community involvement we have seen will triumph in the end.

Jennifer Kim

Community involvement: generally a good thing. Attempting to manipulate existing property owners and code-compliant projects: generally not helpful for anyone.

UPDATE: If you've come to this entry since May 2008, you may be looking for information about this issue.