Tuesday, November 18, 2008

North Park Planning Subcommittee Motions to Support Memorial Bike; Street Divisions Ignores Them & The Public Process

Nov. 6 marked a breakthrough for those who support the preservation of Atip’s Memorial Bike.

After jumping through a grip of bureaucratic loops, it was finally time to a do an in-person presentation where a decision about the future of Atip’s original Memorial Bike would be made.

With Kathy Keehan, Exec. Director of the SD Bike Coalition, sitting next to me, I explained the issue, the importance, and our aim, in a way similarly represented on this blog, before the 6-member North Park Planning Committee Subcommittee, who specializes in issues pertaining to Public Facilities, Transportation, Public Arts, & Parks. (I should mention that the North Park Planning Committee/Subcommittee is an advisory committee who has a lot of say, credibility, and leverage over the City in advising and planning the future of North Park).

I argued, as I’ve done here, that the Memorial Bike has a positive traffic calming effect, raises the level of awareness, safety, and improves the livability of the dangerous Park & University intersection. In doing so, the Memorial Bike also served as a form of public art, created by the community.

I showed them a few images of the bike and read a definition of public art the Subcommittee had sent me, via email.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Image and video hosting by TinyPic
(The above images were taken the day of the vigil. So the land usage of the memorial, in these pictures, is greater than it is today).

The following definition of public art was read back to the Subcommittee:
“By its presence alone public art can heighten our awareness, question our assumptions, transform a landscape, or express community values, and for these reasons it can have the power, over time to transform a city’s image. Public art helps define an entire community’s identity and reveal the unique character of a specific neighborhood. It is a unifying force.
Public art has the power to energize our public spaces, arouse our thinking, and transform the places where we live, work, and play into more welcoming and beautiful environments that invite interaction. Public art can make strangers talk, children ask questions, and calm a hurried life.”
It enhances the quality of life by encouraging a heightened sense of place…”

While reading this definition I emphasized the lines “heighten our awareness,” “transform a landscape,” “unifying force,” “calm a hurried life,” and “enhances the quality of life” and then argued that the Memorial Bike, did in fact, do all those things.

After a series of questions and concerns about dead flowers remaining out there too long, overall, the Subcommittee thought the Memorial Bike was important and a good idea! The Subcommittee motioned unanimously, 6-0-0, in support of the concept of the Memorial Bike and requested a 9 month grace period to allow the Memorial Bike to remain while we pursue a permanent solution!
The motion reads as follows:
Motion: To support the concept of a Bike Memorial at the northeast corner of University Avenue and Park Boulevard and request the City grant a nine-month grace period to allow the applicant adequate opportunity for planning and community support for a permanent display. Elliot/Wergeles 6-0-0.

One of the subcommittee members had the idea of having an elevated Bike Memorial/Sculpture above the ground, with flowers hanging down from it, so that neighbors wouldn’t complain about flowers/candles on the ground, and so that people in the intersection could still see the bike. I think this has the potential to be pretty awesome and veteran members of the bike community think so, too. This is, however, a long term solution that’s going to take a good amount of volunteer time to make happen.

So, I called back Street Divisions the next day (Friday, Nov. 7) and politely informed the Deputy Director that the Subcommittee unanimously supported the concept of the memorial bike and requested a nine-month grace period.
The Deputy Director said that 9 months was a pretty long time and he said he’d give me a final response via email.

Here’s where it gets shocking and extremely disappointing. Three full working days went by with no response. I called a few times and I was directed to his voicemail each time. I left a message and instead of a returning a phone call I received an email response on Thursday, Nov 13 which read as follows:
“The memorial will be posted for removal on November 21, 2008. Preferably, we would like the responsible party remove all items associated with this memorial prior November 21st.

The Deputy Director decided to completely ignore the North Park Planning Subcommittee’s unanimous motion of support and grace period request!
There was no explanation for his response whatsoever! That's all the email said.
I called the next day and finally got him on the phone. Yup, it was true he was planning to ignore the Subcommittee’s motion. Even though I remained polite he still refused the extension even after I had followed every bureaucratic process, and even though the North Park Planning Subcommittee, a body of planning experts and professionals, who specialize in Public Facilities, Transportation, Public Arts issues motioned to support the concept of the bike along w/ an extension.

It’s very sad, disappointing, irresponsible, and frustrating that the Deputy Director of Street Divisions would completely ignore the results of a public process put in place to ensure that public safety is being upheld.

If his interests aren’t with these important public processes, then where are they?
The Deputy Director told me that he received some complaints about the bike’s presence. We’re not sure how many.

Sadly, the Nov. 21 removal date for the Memorial Bike looks like it’s being upheld by Street Divisions. However, it doesn’t end there. The next step is to send in more emails and make more phone calls in support of the bike’s presence as soon as possible. If it’s about a quantity of support from the public, rather than quality of argument made my official committees and coalitions, then we can win that battle, too! Read the next blog “chapter” to find out the most effective way to do that.

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