Pending Decision

Item #3: Union Vision Plan

Case: PL-19-001
The Union Neighborhood Vision Plan was first heard by Planning Commission on September 25, 2019. Since that time, it has been an agenda item or general discussion item at more than a dozen Planning Commission public hearings. Many amendments have been proposed and discussed by the Commission over the past three years. At the July 13th meeting, the Commission determined to proceed with an up or down vote on the originally drafted plan presented in 2019.

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Online comments closed at 8:00 PM MDT 9/28/22.
(Part 2) The current version of the plan, while having some “aspirations” toward “economic development” still does not address the following: • • • Union corridor is one of the key • transportation arteries. It is frequently clogged and becomes impassable in severe weather conditions. Significant traffic delays are encountered each time a snow storm is upon the city. Due to poor planning thus far, the increased density on the streets parallel • to Union have now overloaded those streets as well, further compounding the issue. Thus, the planning department has failed to properly address the traffic conditions for the majority of travelers passing through in order to get to the rest of the city. • • • • Beacon 85 is a perfect example of • how to destroy commercial prospects while inserting the residents of such a building into an area without amenities such as parks, easily accessible everyday shopping, a place for children to play safely and no access to high-tech employment hub. • • • • Not to belabor the point, but while • Lakewood continues to destroy commercially zoned properties in a manner similar to Beacon 85, other cities are adding high-tech employment such as the 400 employee office for Amazon in Downtown Denver: • https://www.denverpost.com/2019/04/30/amazon-opening-new-office-in-downtown-denver-to-make-room-for-400-more-workers/ • • • Instead of capitalizing on the proximity • of the Federal Center and striking partnerships leveraging its presence, Lakewood is, again, destroying commercial property which could’ve been a great alternative for a company such as Amazon. • • • • Not only has this “vision” failed • to properly account for Union’s importance as a traffic artery, but thus far Lakewood has failed to properly invigorate and nurture places and spaces which could serve as a destination for those already living in Ward 4 and beyond. I.e. there are no amenities • such as Trader Joe’s, authentic coffee shops similar to Pablo’s Downtown, no collaborative spaces where people can meet and/or work. Union and Alameda Corridors are already unfriendly to bikers and pedestrians and further increasing traffic frequency will • only make them more so. • • • • Lakewood is not the only city to • fall to the latest craze of shoddily built apartments (again, with Beacon 85 being a prominent example): • https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2019-02-13/why-america-s-new-apartment-buildings-all-look-the-same • • • The claims of making the area more • walkable are based on completely false premises. Majority of those who live in Lakewood, drive to their place of work. And a significant number of those who work along Union, drive in. Even if there is a walk-able park or an area within the city, it has to • be driven to. Lakewood (and most Colorado cities and towns) are car-centric. Hence, densifying any particular area will only amplify the traffic issues and expose the bikers and pedestrians to increased danger. • • • • The city had failed to engage with • property owners, before some of the projects were built to secure a wider strip, parallel to Union on the West side, in order to build out a continuous bike/walk path (with a minimum width of 12 feet, with a strip to plant trees, between the existing road • and the future bike path). • • • • The current plan seems to have more • lenient guidance for the properties that are not commercially-oriented. For instance, the setback minimums are higher, the requirement for green space is higher. Why is that? Shouldn’t the residential, high-density units have much higher requirements for • walkable green space? Or will those residents then just drive to another area of Lakewood to visit a park? • As it stands, while claims are made that the public was “listened” to, having attended some of the presentations and having participated in efforts such as Lakewood 2025, and witnessing only the input amicable to the status quo being treated as worth listening to, the acceptance of the current Union Corridor Plan will only provide a farcical facade to the continued destruction of the true economic potential of the city and targeting Ward 4 citizens for bearing the brunt of poor planning practices, while gaining increased traffic delays and more stress on the already over-taxed green spaces and parks. I would urge you to vote the current version of the plan down and continue working on what would actually benefit the economic and environmental needs of the citizens. Thank you, Alex.
September 28, 2022, 7:11 PM
Alex Plotkin
5 / 7 Planning Commissioners have viewed this comment
(Part 1) Dear Members of the Planning Commission, While your time and work on the Union Corridor Plan is appreciated, the current version of the Union Corridor Plan leaves a lot to be desired as it, as most things development-related in Lakewood these days, appears to be nothing more than a segway to more high-density buildout-out without any meaningful emphasis on generating local, well-paying jobs, improved walkability, established localized green spaces, accessible by walking or to improve bikeability. In 2018, another commission wiped away any hope for over 1,000,000 of commercially-zoned space to materialize into employment and/educational opportunities in the Red Rocks Ranch. Instead, more traffic, pollution and no public transit will be on offer along 470 and Morrison Road. While that part of the Valley is not in Lakewood, Lakewood did attempt to convince the Lakewood citizens to annex the area, which would have become a financial liability to the city, instead of being a potential economic boon to the Lakewood citizens. And here we are, watching Union corridor economic potential be destroyed. What should have, long ago, become gleaming office buildings with thousands of professionals steaming in and out via train, bus and walking to and from condos which they could purchase is becoming a hodge-podge mess of eye-sore rentals and a transportation failure. Lakewood missed out on a nearly-decade long period of economic growth which other cities in Colorado not only embraced, but were well prepared to capitalize on due to well-diversified, technology and education oriented economies. Boulder, Fort Collins, even Denver and parts of Aurora have added thousands of high-tech jobs and other aspects of their economies followed. Lakewood got car washes, storage units, and a mall. While it's tempting to use COVID as an excuse, the “Available” signs were popping up along the corridor long before the pandemic. Unsurprising, given the lackluster performance of the Lakewood EDO for years. I had recently asked the Lakewood Economic Development Office as to how many local, well-paying, high-tech jobs have been brought into the city. The answer which was provided, while having a lot of claims and sources, left a lot to be desired. The claim was that “10,000 jobs have been brought into the city over the last 10 years.” Yet, it did not answer the question of “how many high-tech, localized jobs have been brought in?” Nor did they really provide a good justification as to why the city has failed to bring in world class companies and the revenue that goes with them, while the neighboring municipalities have been on a tear in the last ten years. I looked at Lakewood's 2021 budget, 2021r-2022-approved-budget_secured_1.pdf (available on Lakewood's website at: https://www.lakewood.org/Government/Departments/Finance) Page 33 lists Major Employers in Lakewood (2021). If you look at the same employers compared to 2014, Terumo BCT seems to have added about 700 jobs and HomeAdvisor, 200. Everything else on the list is not, exactly, "tech". Saint Anthony's stayed flat (compared to 2014). The Federal Center stayed flat. Jefferson County Schools seems to be up by a 1000. City of Lakewood added about 80. Even if one is being generous - that’s not “thousands” of high-tech jobs that are local to Lakewood being brought in over the last decade, nor have any new renowned companies' offices (such as Amazon, Arrow Electronics, Tesla, etc.) been brought to Lakewood to make sure that there is a healthy, localized and diversified employment base. One could also venture a guess that not every one of those jobs is filled by those who live in Lakewood, so thousands upon thousands of those who live in Lakewood have to drive elsewhere for work that pays well. In the meantime, the Union corridor is rapidly losing commercial square footage which could’ve been used to house job opportunities for those who live in the vicinity to be replaced by high-priced rentals, which also do not address the housing affordability issue. In 2014 I tried to engage Lakewood EDO to see if, for instance, Amazon could be engaged to build an office near the Federal Center. That obviously went nowhere, while there are now close to a 1000 Amazon jobs (and growing) in Denver, Aurora and other municipalities. A big miss by the Lakewood economic development and planning. In the meantime, Fort Collins, which is slightly larger than Lakewood by population size has been on the forefront on nourishing and bringing in high-tech employment, growing world-class educational opportunities and making real strides in bikeability and public transit (while Lakewood has actually slipped - a lot): https://cityratings.peopleforbikes.org/cities/fort-collins-co https://cityratings.peopleforbikes.org/cities/lakewood-co I’ve made presentations in front of Lakewood City Council, suggesting a mix of uses that could be incorporated in to any given development, but all we have so far is a shopping mall that went through a foreclosure, more and more high-priced rentals, and very few, if any, localized well-paying, high-tech job opportunities that have been added over the years. Thus far, not a whole lot seems to have been done to address the desire expressed by the city council, years ago, to raise the average wages of those who live in Lakewood and provide the ability for people living in the city to walk (or bike) to those opportunities?
September 28, 2022, 7:10 PM
Alex
5 / 7 Planning Commissioners have viewed this comment
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