Time for another weekly roundup of news that we think is important to share with our readers!
While doing research for our videos, we read dozens of articles on a variety of different topics every week. We would like to hand back our curated list of some of this week's most interesting articles and ideas. These are great for binging over the weekend, and if you see something you like, be sure let us know!
By advocating for what we want to replicate in Louisville, hopefully we can find like-minded people to help support our message (Looking at you, elected officials)!
Parking Minimums (Finally!) Up for Discussion!
Louisville Metro Councilwoman Nicole George (D-21) is bringing up an issue that too many of us don't even register. Why the heck are our parking lots so massive?
According to our Land Development Code for Metro Louisville, there must be minimum amount of parking required for new construction in the city. This issue is following a trend that cities around the United States are also doing as rising rents and lack of affordable housing cause strain on lower income areas. Simply put, if parking lots can be parceled and developed it would help to solve the 3.5 billion housing gap that our citizens need.
Parking is expensive. The national average cost of parking garages--some of which are being funded by our tax money -- comes to an average of $18,000 per spot of parking. In order to break even on construction costs, rent is increased by an average of $225 a month. Compounding this issue is that most asphalt parking lots act as impervious surfaces when it rains, dumping motor oil and litter into our waterways.
Currently, Louisville requires a LOT of parking for new development.
For places of worship, we require at least 125 parking spots for a 6000 square foot building that is usually only at max capacity one day a week. For a scale of reference, check out the image below by transit advocate and architect Seth Goodman.
This helps to explain why Southeast Christian Church has literal acres that are paved in asphalt on some of the most valuable land in the city next to I-64 and Blankenbaker Parkway. Not only this, but churches don't need to pay property taxes either, leaving little incentive to change or redevelop this.
Not only is parking heavily subsidized by the city and businesses , but also it creates a narrative that if parking isn't cheap no one will want to go to the destination.
Scooters Are BUSY in Louisville
According to open data shared by the city, there have been 245,421 trips from August 8, 2018 to June 30th, 2019 (327 days). This averages out to a little more than 750 rides per day! For comparison, the most successful LouVelo bike share had 700 total rides for the entire month of June. By being dockless, the scooters can go to more areas. Most of the scooter trips were shorter than 2 miles in length, and occurred most often on the afternoons and weekends.
This is interesting, but it is also very tenuous. Scooters are absolutely a new form of transportation in the city but due to the scooters being privately owned, it is very difficult to base any kind of permanent transit planning around them. If a neighborhood becomes dependent on them and they leave, the community is no better than before. All forms of transportation need to be able to work together to make a city thrive.
Let's Hear It for the Trees!
Louisville's tree canopy is on track to be a little more protected in the future. After the 2015 Tree Canopy Study found that Louisville was losing more than 50,000 trees a year due to development, the Metro Planning Commission has unanimously passed a new series of tree ordinances and requirements for developers.
"The amendments included a number of changes, such as mandating that sites to be developed that currently contain 50% to 100% tree coverage must maintain at least 20% of the trees with any development. In addition, permits would have to be granted for tree removal on nonresidential and multifamily sites when a landscape plan is required.
Another amendment would be that development applications would not be permitted on sites where tree removal has occurred within the previous two years.
In addition, the amendments would mandate street trees in certain areas along with tree canopy coverage as high as 40% for residential areas, and 35% for multifamily and office, institutional and commercial developments. One minor change made by the commission was to lower the recommended requirements for industrial development to 25% from 30%." (Gibson, K. Insider Louisville ,2019)
Metro Council now needs to take a full vote for the changes to be official.
Creative Mornings : Scott Martin
Nature lovers unite! Scott Martin really delivers a great presentation on Creative Mornings. On of the most interesting tidbits was that in the next 50 years, the Ohio River and its tributaries (looking at you, Beargrass Creek) is going to have 30% more water.
With all the new development happening downtown (...in the floodplain…) as well as on the banks of Beargrass Creek, I really think we as a city need to have a conversation about how we are going to be able to continue to thrive here and work with the river to do it.
Certified Fresh Habitats
In creating our Backyard Biodiversity segments, we were amazed at how much difference flowers and other non-grass plants can have on the biodiversity in an area. Attracting pollinating insects like butterflies and native bees not only improve the chance that these species will be able to survive in our region for another year, but also brings more birds naturally to the area to eat the bugs. By mowing your lawn each week, suburban neighborhoods are essentially farming a monoculture (i.e. single crop) of grass every year.
By having neighborhoods with strict rules and regulations about lawn care, it essentially keeps citizens from having a choice in how to manage their property. Thousands of gallons of chemicals are sprayed each year to combat native "weeds" (e.g. anything not grass) in our city , which flows directly into the watersheds of Beargrass Creek of our city when it rains. It also limits the options that lawn care companies can give to their clients, some of whom may be willing to pay more for a “native care” treatment.
So What Can I Do?
Even with all the rules, local developers are starting to recognize the need for low-maintenance homes for seniors by offering luxury "garden homes". If you don't have $300k to drop on a house, one solution that is relatively cheap and easy are yards that are friendly to the native wildlife in your area.
Some US cities have taken this a step further, earning recognition from the National Wildlife Federation as a certified Community Wildlife Habitat. In order to be certified , you need to show that you have three types of food source, a water source, two types of shelter and two places for wildlife to raise young.
If you would like to certify your home as official wildlife habitat, it's pretty easy to do. Applicants can pick from several options under each category, and it is easier than it sounds. Plants with edible seeds count as food sources; a bird bath could fulfill the water requirement, while a birdhouse counts as shelter. Even dead branches can be considered turtle habitat! All proceeds go towards conservation efforts with the National Wildlife Foundation.
Support Local Nonprofits!
Beargrass Thunder knows that there are a ton of projects going on in Louisville and the Greater Metro region that need your help! Here is a spotlight on two of our favorites.
Our featured non-profit this week is the Louisville Association for Community Economics (LACE) , and their project the Louisville Food Cooperative. They are a team of food justice advocates wanting to create a community owned market for produce and food supplies in Louisville.
They need data and capital from potential stakeholders in the project, Louisville Community Grocery. Take the survey at https://loufoodcoop.com/get-involved/take-our-survey/
What is a Co-Op?
From their website:
"Cooperatives are businesses voluntarily owned and governed by the community they serve. Any business can have a cooperative model, from a supermarket to a bank to a media network. Usually, individuals become owners by making a one-time equitable investment."
We applaud the efforts to combat the food deserts in our city and neighborhoods, definitely check them out!
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Don't forget to register to vote in the 2019 governor election here!