Today is your last chance to vote in the 2015 municipal primary!

Yes, it’s election day! I tried to remind you to get out to early vote, but in case you didn’t get a chance, it’s not too late.

Here’s a table with the endorsements of several local groups. More background is available on my prior post. Indy Week Durham People’s Alliance Durham Committee Friends of Durham
Mayor Bill Bell Bill Bell Bill Bell Bill Bell Bill Bell
At Large Council Steve Schewel Steve Schewel Steve Schewel Steve Schewel Steve Schewel
At Large Council Philip Azar Jillian Johnson Jillian Johnson Ricky Hart Ricky Hart
At Large Council Charlie Reece Charlie Reece Charlie Reece Mike Shiflett Mike Shiflett

One Durham man really does not like ghost bikes

The city has a policy about citizen placed memorials within the right of way: you can put them up, but if there’s a complaint – a single complaint – they’ll be forcibly removed 45 days thereafter.

One Durham man has decided to use this process to eliminate every ghost bike from Durham (ghost bikes are bicycles painted white placed at the sites where cyclists were killed in traffic; they serve both as memorials and as reminders that some roads can be especially dangerous for cyclists).

Here’s a conversation this man had with a city official:

Good morning [redacted],
People have been asking me about the removal of this
ghost bikes through out the City. Are we suppose to email you the
location, contact Durham one call, or have your staff been educated
about the ordinance and will remove the ghost bikes?
I have been inform of two locations that the bikes
have been located there for a long time.
 1. Hillandale Ave before crossing the over pass for 85
 2. Chapel Hill and W. Chapel Hill meets.

These two locations mark the spots where Seth Vidal and Kent Winberry were killed, respectively.

I’m not going to name [redacted], but I think it’s important to highlight that any single person has the power to remove every right-of-way memorial in the city. I think that’s problematic, and so do the partners of the slain cyclists in question.

I don’t know if there’s an ideal fix for this policy. The irony is that (to my recollection) the policy was instated after the city’s removal of Jesus Huerta’s memorial, and it was intended to prevent the premature removal of such displays. I think the intent is sound, but the barrier for removal – one citizen’s email to the city – seems very low to me.

There appears to be an interesting loophole here: the person who placed the bikes can remove them before the time period expires. After that 45 days, they can place a different bike in the same spot, and it seems like this would be considered a new memorial. At that point [redacted] can make his complaint again, but there will be yet another another 45 days grace period within which the new memorial can survive.

EDIT: there’s now a petition at calling for the city to reevaluate this policy.

Joe’s Diner has closed

I only ate at Joe’s a few times, and now I really regret not going more often. The H-S has an article with more details.

Joe’s was an exciting addition when it opened on the corner of Angier and Driver five years ago, and it seemed like it could have been an anchor for revitalization in the little commercial district. In the intervening years the city completed an overhaul of the streetscape, a project which improved outward appearances greatly but apparently caused a drop in customers during construction.

The good news is that Joe himself is sticking around, and he’s expanding his commercial kitchen business into the diner space. According to the Herald, if things go well, maybe the diner will be back again some day.

Need a condo? Cause we’re getting more condos.

I guess it shouldn’t really be a surprise, but 92 more luxury condos (starting in the mid-$200,000s) are on the horizon near downtown. This project will sit directly north of Central Park on a .9 acre plot bordered by Foster, Corporation, and the vestigal Roney St. In addition, 10,000 square feet of Central Park itself are being sold to the developer for $41,788.

This location, you may notice, is directly across from the former site of the Liberty Warehouse, which was itself demolished… to make room for apartments. So if you want to live near Central Park, I guess you’ll have no problems finding a place.

The Indy griped about the approval process, which seemed to happen quickly and without much public input. I suppose they take issue with the fact that the initial discussions were held between the park’s governing body (the Durham Central Park board) and the developers. It doesn’t seem clear to me that this was actually any kind of problem, because the project still had to get approval of the council; something it did by a margin of 6-1. Moffit dissented, and it seemed like he mainly had concerns over whether the city should be handing over its land so readily.

I can’t personally muster much of an opinion about this project. There’s nothing especially wrong with it, but it doesn’t really excite me either. It does seem like a missed opportunity for some street level retail on Foster Street to kick things up a notch on that streetscape, or for something a bit more to be done with Roney (which will be improved and made a proper pedestrian through-way, but it feels like they could have put some shops or something back there too). The renderings (PDF) of the park-facing side of the structure look attractive enough.

These are going to be “luxury” condos, which always bring about concerns over affordable housing. Short version: there won’t be any. My own take: when the real estate bubble bursts due to all of these goddamn apartments and condos being built at once, all of these units will end up being affordable housing.

Max the steer has passed away

If you have a small child and live in Durham, at some point you’ve likely met Max the steer, who up until this weekend lived at the Museum of Life + Science.

Max has been at the museum since he was three months old, back in 2007. He passed away of unknown causes. My daughter is definitely going to miss him.

Note, and this is very important: Max was a steer, not a cow. Please be aware that milk does not come from steers. Try explaining this to a four year old, though; my daughter still attempts to “milk” the highly anatomically correct Major the Bull in disturbing ways.

Google Fiber is (still) coming

You may have heard that Google Fiber is beginning honest to god construction now.

What does that mean for you? Not a whole lot – yet. The first homes will probably start coming online within a year or so, but it will most likely take several years for the rollout to complete.

If you haven’t already, you can put your address into this web page (as if Google doesn’t already have your address somewhere…..) and they’ll let you know when you can buy this thing.

The Business 15-501 Road Diet has been approved

And it passed by a whopping 7-0 margin. Kevin’s got more details about the council meeting (which also included approval of the condos around Central Park; more on that later).

The opponents of the road diet did not present data to support their opposition, and their arguments mostly boiled down to the appeal to tradition fallacy or the Nirvana fallacy (or, in some cases, outright incorrect information).

My big takeaway from all of this is that there’s a lot of pent up demand for improving Durham’s streets. It’s easy to imagine a world where the concerns of a few business owners might have killed this entire project, but the sheer volume of community support was impossible to ignore. This was in no small part due to the efforts of Bike Durham, which organized the petition (which received over 1000 signatures), and as always thanks to the efforts of the BPAC.

Mayor Bell seemed a bit miffed by the outcome, and he grumped that “phase 2” (sidewalks and further upgrades) wouldn’t happen in his lifetime, but that didn’t stop him from voting yes anyway to make this unanimous. I suspect that this vote is an indicator that well considered streetscape improvements will be approved by the Council in the future.

Well, assuming that they’re free, of course. If the city has to actually pay for them, it’s a whole ‘nother ball game.