Recently, Washington University decided to substantially renovate ten buildings in Parkview Gardens, which is in Ward 2. In January 2015, they established a limited liability company, Eastgate LM, LLC, which, while directly connected to Washington University, placed these properties back on the tax rolls for the purpose of applying for Historic Tax Credits. If they receive these tax credits, they would be obligated to keep these properties on the tax rolls for five years, and the buildings would be improved. After 5 years, they will be free to remove them from the tax rolls. In order to qualify for these tax credits, the applicant must meet the zoning codes. Prior to the zoning amendments dealing with parking requirements, Washington University had a higher requirement for providing on-site parking.
In March, the Administration brought these sweeping amendments to the Plan Commission, among them a reduction in the parking requirements for developers. The zoning code changes for parking were passed on April 27, 2015. As a result of this change, it was now easier for Washington University to meet the parking requirements on these Eastgate properties, and on April 28, 2015 Washington University submitted a request to the Historic Preservation Commission for approval of their designs noting that they were in the process of applying for Historic Tax Credits.
What is the significance of this zoning change in parking requirements for Washington University? An email communication discussing the impact of the changes in parking on WU’s proposed renovation revealed that “the recently adopted changes to the University City zoning ordinance that pertain to parking requirements city wide helped Washington University meet the parking requirements for the Eastgate properties.” Further, had the Council not adopted the changes to the city’s parking requirements for multifamily properties, in the words of a WU representative, Washington University “would have been able to still provide the required number of parking spaces but it would have been more challenging.” (See email below) The zoning changes for on-site parking were obviously related to the WU project but, in recent articles in the St. Louis Post Dispatch and the West End Word, “ University City Director of Community Development Andrea Riganti said that neither the parking measure nor the multi-family bill was related to any particular development, including the proposed Delmar-Harvard school site project.”
Why would the City Administration say these changes were not related to any particular development when clearly Washington University was a beneficiary of the zoning code change in parking? If these changes are a benefit to University City, then why fail to mention the Washington University redevelopment plans that were winding their way through Community Development to the Plan Commission and Council, and why fail to discuss how these changes would affect that development?
Neither the Plan Commission nor the Council was informed of the Washington University project before voting on the zoning changes. It is unknown whether this information would have affected the approval, but the information was not provided. Further, the changes in parking and how that will affect this City should have been brought to the Traffic Commission - at least for informational purposes - but were not.
My concerns are focused on the City Administration and NOT Washingtion University. As it should, Washington University is acting in its own best interests, and should not be held responsible for addressing the best interests of the City. The job of watching out for the best interests of University City falls to the City Administration and the Council. The City Manager and his staff, and well as any members of Council who have pertinent information regarding proposed policy changes (especially sweeping zoning changes) are responsible for providing timely, complete and accurate information to decison makers. In the case of these zoning changes, they did not do so.
I could not support these zoning code changes because of the history of omission of information by this Administration. Behaviors have consequences. Trust in this Administration comes when you can trust that you are being provided with complete and accurate information. How can your Council make good decisions without good information?