Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I-515 Widening Project (and F Street Interchange)

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My name is Dahn Shaulis from the Stop the F Street Closure Coalition. Please ensure that these questions and concerns become part of the public record for the I-515 Widening Project. Some of my questions are specific to the F Street Interchange and its effect on the Westside neighborhood. However, I also have questions and concerns about the impact of this project for enabling unsustainable urban growth, urban sprawl, greater social inequality and greater environmental injustice. Having heard citizens at the 12/2/09 Public Information Meeting, it appears that some people have already been negatively impacted.

It is disturbing that members of the Southern Nevada Enterprise Community (SNEC), including State Senator Steven Horsford, were not briefed on the impacts on redevelopment in the area. At the 12/1/09 SNEC Board, Senator Horsford asked NDOT that the public comment period be extended. If the project is not planned for construction until 2026, it would seem prudent to gather more information through outreach to community members and public officials who may be impacted. Also, I saw no media representatives at the 12/2/09 Public Information Meeting.

As an ally to Westside residents, it appears that the F Street Interchange is meant to enrich the wealthy (i.e. Symphony Park and City Parkway) with little or no consideration of Westside residents.

1. What is NDOT’s role in ensuring planning equity for the F Street Interchange as it relates to environmental justice? Please be specific.

2. What will be the impact of the F Street Interchange be on transportation equity and environmental justice to Westside residents? Please be specific.

According to one NDOT official I spoke to, the Westside is an area of churches and few businesses and that the F Street closure was designed to help the people of the Westside maintain the current environment, away from the “hustle and bustle” of the city. But NDOT officials did little to ask the people of the Westside what they wanted. The plan to close F Street was made with no planning equity.

3. Given these statements from NDOT officials, does this mean that the I-515 Widening Project is designed to keep business traffic away from the F Street area (unless they are locally undesirable land uses—LULU’s—such as warehouses, homeless shelters, or a planned Immigration and Customs Enforcement Building)?

Having followed the progress of other NDOT/FHWA projects (I-15 to Apex, Project NEON), it appears to me that the agencies involved and their contractors are not adequately knowledgeable in environmental justice, planning equity, sustainability, and smart growth. The I-15 to Apex project disproportionately affected people of color and low-income populations, yet no Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was completed. Complicity among the FHWA, NDOT, and City of Las Vegas resulted in an expensive mistake, the closure of F Street, that will cost tens of millions of dollars and several years to remediate. With Project NEON, a survey of potentially impacted people was done to examine environmental justice. The survey resulted in a dismal 22% response rate from the 800-900 people who may be displaced.

I suggest you consult with experts such as Robert Bullard, Henry Holmes and Don Chen who can assist in planning in a more environmentally just fashion with a strategy of smart growth. The timeline that I will provide you illustrates how planners have systematically ignored the concerns of Westside residents, including the closing of F Street. The public meeting for the I-515 Widening indicates that NDOT still doesn't get it.

NDOT/FHWA should not consider this project or even a modification of this project unless the area deals with water issues, public education, public transportation infrastructure, infill, and economic diversification. There is nothing in this preliminary plan that explains how expanding a highway will improve quality of life. As Mr. Sam Wright noted, this project was designed on population projections. It was also designed with an unrealistic vision of gambling and entertainment as a single-industry economy.

Similar plans to widen highways in other cities (Los Angeles, Atlanta) have ultimately resulted in extreme cases of gridlock. As one NDOT employee admitted to me at the 12/2/09 meeting, “expanding highways is a short-sighted approach.” If your employees understand this, why do you propose to continue this project and its design? How will the I-515 Project enable unsustainable sprawl in the Valley?

4. This project is based on what degree of infill or sprawl? Please be specific.

5. What long-range plans by NDOT and other agencies (Including Federal, State, County and City organizations, and agencies in California) do you know of for the West Side and other communities in Las Vegas? In the past, NDOT has denied knowledge of such plans. Please be specific.  

6. Given that the casino industry has been resistant to mass transit, such as a dedicated corridor for light rail or buses, what inter-agency coordination is there between this project and public transportation planning, including buses and light rail?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

City of Las Vegas Grants Molasky Development No-Bid Contract for Immigration and Customs Building

On November 4, 2009, the City of Las Vegas granted a subsidiary of Molasky Development the right to plan and construct an Immigration and Customs (ICE) building at 301 West Mesquite. The building would be constructed south of West Bonanza Road near City Parkway (previously F Street). The Las Vegas City Council voted 7-0 to approve Agenda Item 37, which granted the Las Vegas company exclusive rights to construct a 60,000 square foot building. The contract was made under two limited liability entities (City Parkway IV-A for the City and PH-ICE LLC for Molasky).

The exclusive contract:

The agenda (Item 37)

Action Minutes (Vote was 7-0)

Color Site Map

Monday, October 26, 2009

Asking Important Questions to Authorities (Project NEON)

My name is Dahn Shaulis, from the Stop the F Street Closure Coalition. Please ensure that these questions and concerns become part of the public record for Project NEON. Most of the questions are specific to Project NEON and its effect on the Westside neighborhood, although I also have concerns about the impact of this project on enabling unsustainable urban sprawl.

For the record, I asked you several of these questions via email at least two weeks ago, and hope you have adequate responses. I also requested more information, a hard copy of the Draft EIS, a CD of the Architectural Inventory, and more information on the survey you conducted, but still have not received a response after my request more than two weeks ago.

In my opinion, it appears that NDOT and its contractors are not adequately knowledgeable in environmental justice, planning equity, sustainability, and smart growth, and I suggest you hire outside consultants such as Robert Bullard, Henry Holmes and Don Chen who can assist in planning in a more environmentally just fashion. The timeline that I will provide you illustrates how planners have systematically ignored the concerns of Westside residents, including the closing of F Street. In my opinion, the Draft EIS shows that the FHWA and NDOT still don't get it.

1. I am concerned about pedestrian safety on MLK from Charleston Boulevard northward.

A. What will the speed limit(s) be? Please be specific.
B. What controls will there be to control and enforce motor vehicle speed? Are these the state of the art strategies?
C. Where will pedestrians be able to cross MLK, and how will pedestrian traffic be controlled? Please be specific.
D. Has NDOT considered the types of pedestrians who will be crossing MLK, particularly children and elders? If so, how will the safety of these people be considered?

2. I am concerned about the people you are planning to displace in the Westside area.

A. How many people in the area be displaced and what are the addresses?
B. Have all the people who will be displaced been notified? If so, did the notifications result in responses? Are these responses documented and of public record?
C. Where will these displaced people go?
D. Who will be accountable for adequate and affordable housing for those people who are displaced?
E. How will this displacement be documented to guarantee that these people have safe, adequate and affordable housing that is close to work and services?
F. You did a survey of people who would be displaced, but only received a 22% return rate? Do you feel this was a satisfactory survey response rate?

3. I am also concerned about small streets that intersect with MLK. How safe will it be to get onto MLK from these streets, particularly streets such as McWilliams, Madison, Wyatt, Jimmy, Hart, Hassell, Lawry, Balzar, and Bartlett?

A. Will these streets continue to be accessible from MLK, or will they be closed?
B. If these small streets remain open to MLK, how will traffic be controlled?

4. I am concerned about future air pollution and noise levels near the Agassi School tennis courts and other facilities that may house children. What do you expect air pollution and noise levels to be if the MLK-Industrial connector becomes a street with gridlock?

5. If the MLK-Industrial becomes a major connector, what plans are there for public transportation on this street, including a cross-town bus?

A. If there is a cross-town bus, where will it stop?
B. Will public transportation be hampered while the connector is being constructed?
C. Will there by issues with people crossing MLK to get to bus stops?

6. How will construction affect access to on and off each one of the on- and off-ramps near the Westside? In the past, the closing of these ramps have severely restricted access to and from the neighborhood and have created undue hardship to the community. Please be specific for each and every on- and off- ramp.

7. How will Project NEON enable unsustainable sprawl in the Valley?

A. This project is based on what population projections?
B. This project is based on what degree of infill or sprawl? Please be specific.
C. What long-range plans by NDOT and other agencies (Including State, County and City organizations) do you know of for the West Side and other communities in Las Vegas? In the past, NDOT has denied knowledge of such plans. Please be specific.  

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


To: PBS&J/Project NEON

This is both a public statement and a request for materials.

Please send me a hard copy of the Draft EIS of Project NEON along with the CD for the Architectural Inventory that is supposed to go along with the document (address below). If there any other CDs please send them also and as soon as possible.

I hope you will have all these materials for people at the F Street meeting on October 26, and the Exhibits, along with large blow ups or a slide presentation of all applicable Exhibits and Tables (e.g. Table 1, Table 3-23).

I believe there could be many people asking similar questions about pedestrian safety (and potential pedestrian deaths of children and elders) along MLK, community cohesion, noise, the displacement of working-class people of color, and safety accessing MLK from small streets that intersect with MLK.

The history of highways in this valley and nationwide is a history of structural and systemic environmental and racial injustice in the US. If you examine the time line in Addendum 2, you'll notice that MLK served as a buffer area so Whites could be separated from Blacks. In my opinion, the failure to perform an EIS for the "I-15 Improvements, US 95 to Apex" (EA published May 2007) shows that the FHWA and NDOT still don't get it.

Please also send me as much information as possible on the EA Survey of potential residential displacements (mentioned on pg 3-14, with a 22% return rate) so that I may examine it for validity and respond adequately before the public response period is completed.

Thank you in advance for your assistance

Dahn Shaulis

Monday, October 12, 2009

Project NEON in a Social-Historical Perspective

To: Nevada Department of Transportation and PBS&J

Please acknowledge receipt of this mail and the two previous emails regarding Project NEON. Please also ensure that all of the materials I send you are part of the public statements for the project. I am cc'ing this statement, as I have with others, for possible future litigation. Given NDOT's recent debacle with closing "F" Street, PBS&J's profitable, lengthy, and taxpayer costly contract to reopen it, and the social-historical patterns I will present, I hope planners will take time to listen.

As I have previously mentioned, I am particularly concerned with the impact area on and near Martin Luther King Blvd. beginning at Charleston Blvd. heading northward. My specific concerns include, but are not limited to, issues of planning equity, regional equity, pedestrian safety, displacement of working-class people (disproportionately people of color), access to small streets, and noise and air pollution in this specific impact area. More generally, I have concerns that the project continues to enable unsustainable sprawl in the valley. I have explained my concerns in more detail in the two previous email statements.

It appears to me, from the Draft EIS, that NDOT and other agencies and corporations involved in this project are not adequately trained or educated in environmental justice and smart planning. I have suggested that these parties hire outside consultants such as Robert Bullard, Henry Holmes and Don Chen who can assist in planning this connector in a more environmental just fashion.

Attached is a timeline that relates to previous planning in this area. Please ensure that all of this is included in the public statement. Note that several of these events indicate a pattern of structural racism and classism and environmental injustice. The timeline is only partial listing of events related to transportation and economic development on Las Vegas’ historic Westside.

(Note: an up-to-date timeline is provided above, in this blog)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Additional Concerns about Project NEON

I have additional concerns about Project NEON. Please add this to my previous public statement. I am cc'ing this email to others for future litigation purposes.

(1) I have a concern about pedestrian safety on Martin Luther King Blvd. from Charleston northward. What will the speed limit be on MLK? Where will pedestrians be able to safely cross MLK, and how far apart will the crosswalks be?

(2) What will be the effect of the expansion of MLK on the air quality and noise at the Agassi School?

(3) What will access be like for people who live on small streets that currently connect to MLK? Will you close these streets to MLK? If not, how safe will it be to get onto MLK from these streets, particularly streets such as McWilliams, Madison, Wyatt, Jimmy, Hart,Hassell, Lawry, Balzar, Bartlett,Blankenship, Miller, Pontiac, June, Windsor, Rev Wilson, and Brooks?

(4) It looks to me that the project will remove low cost housing and perhaps several churches. How EXACTLY will displaced people be moved to housing that is affordable and close to work and services? How EXACTLY will this displacement be documented?

Vegas Quixote

Saturday, October 10, 2009

NDOT Continues with Unsustainable Growth Plan in "Project NEON"

Signs of the dysfunctional growth plan in Summerlin (Clark County), Nevada.

A fellow F Street member tells me that the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) is continuing with its plans for Project NEON--in its much larger plan for unsustainable growth and continued speculation. I wonder if someday the project will be part of the Great Ruins of Las Vegas tour*, along with the Fontainbleu and Echelon on the Strip. Here's my letter to PBS&J, the contractors for the NDOT project. It is notable that this firm has had several documented ethical slips (Google PBS&J and lawsuits or corruption).

Dear PBS&J,

I have taken a cursory look at the Draft EIS and it looks woefully inadequate and poorly thought out. There seems to be only a superficial awareness of environmental justice or sustainability, just enough to claim you did your job. Please consider the implications of this statement and ensure you consider these comments/questions in your reports. I have saved this record for future litigation purposes.

Please acknowledge receipt.

(1) Has the Environmental Assessment (EA) already been completed? If so, what were the public comments so far? It appears that the public comments so far have been limited--I believe this is due to inadequate notice and education about the impacts, including the negative impacts.

(2) What does NDOT know about ALL future planning in the area and where people of color and working-class people fit into the plan? Is this project based on a particular population and population demographics? If so, are people aware of these numbers and the implications they have on quality of life and sustainability?

I noticed that you had a survey of the impact area but only 20% responded. Can you call this a representative sample?

(3) We also need to know about all the long-term and short-term consequences of the project. Who specifically are the businesses that will be adversely affected by road closures and how will they be compensated? How will construction affect public transportation? Public transportation is already inadequate and plans to improve public transit appear naive.

(4) The FHWA, NDOT, and all other parties need to be fully aware--as part of their Environmental Impact Statement, about the detailed history of the area and how people have color have been previously displaced and impacted by similar projects. This should be part of the Environmental Impact Statement.

(5) I was particularly concerned that low-income housing would be demolished. Displacement happened in 1956 as the I-15 was first planned. In 1957, 200 families were displaced with the promise that new housing would replace it. The housing was not completed until 1960 and it was inadequate for the number of people. So what will happen to any displaced people? And will there be adequate compensation?

(6) Air Quality/Safety: How will this project truly affect air quality in the impact area? Should we trust the calculations or do we need outside sources to look at the public health consequences? Also, does this increase the chance of a hazardous waste spill?

(7) Truthfully, given the costly "F" Street debacle, I think the FHWA, NDOT, RTC, and City of Las Vegas also need to pay outside consultants who can help us with Environmental Justice issues such as Robert Bullard, Henry Holmes, and Don Chen. I have the idea that none of these agencies (or their representatives) are adequately educated in environmental justice, smart growth, transportation equity, planning equity, etc. If there is anyone in this area who is involved in Environmental Justice they should also be considered for consultation.

Dahn Shaulis

*"K" came up with the idea of the Ruins of Las Vegas and thought it would make a great sci-fi novel about the downfall of gambling and unsustainable growth in the Valley. There is, in fact, an online tour of the Great Ruins of Detroit. K's idea came after I told her about Las Vegas as "the last Detroit (a concept UNLV historian Hal Rothman coined)." At the time, the concept pertained to the possibility of a working class community to attain material comfort.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Bus Riders Face More Fare (Less Fair) Adjustments

Dear Mr. Jacob Snow and RTC Board Members,

I have six major points to make about the proposed plan to double the 24-hour pass and comments on related RTC policies. Please ensure that this is entered as a public statement.

First, I would propose that the RTC post, on-line, future and previous comments on the fare increases and on the poor service of the RTC bus system. In 2008, between 200 and 300 people bothered to express their issues and concerns about these bus fare increases and those comments have ostensibly been ignored.

Second, the RTC already has planned future bus fares increases. With the hikes in 2010, there will have been a 117% increase in 30-day bus fares from 2005 to 2010 and a 225% increase from 1999 to 2010.

According to the Las Vegas Sun, the RTC changed its transportation philosophy in 1999 asserting that the captive bus ridership shoulder a greater burden for bus transportation. The is a case of transportation inequity, and I would argue, transportation racism (see point 5). For background information, I encourage you to read books edited by Robert D. Bullard, including "Just Transportation" and "Highway Robbery".

Third, the RTC's periodic threats to increase bus fares or face route reductions explains no other options. Working-class people who take the bus will be required to pay even more--for service that is not significantly better. It appears you have not even considered programs that I have mentioned, such as The Rider Relief Program that has been used in Los Angeles.

Fourth, I attempted to obtain information on the demographics of RTC bus riders. Unfortunately, the Regional Transportation Commission refused to provide the data on at least two occasions. However, the City of Las Vegas City Planning and the US Census quickly provided me with current data from 2007 and 2008 respectively.

Fifth, The 2007-2008 Census data confirms my hypothesis that the RTC bus is predominantly used by working-class people who have few options. These people are disproportionately people of color: Latino, African-American, and Asian. It seems unjust that these people have seen increased fares with no significant improvement in service.

I cannot expect people of your social location or most members of the current RTC board to have empathy for these working-class people, particularly people of color, but I can let you know that I try to raise consciousness on issues such as transportation dependency transportation equity and environmental justice.

Sixth, the reality is that many people who live in Clark County perceive the bus as a worst option or last option; it seems unlikely to me that cool buses that look like trains will make a significant difference if Journey to Work time is not improved. I know that your hands are tied, in a way, because you didn't design the unsustainable sprawl or the White and middle-class flight from Las Vegas, but I hope you have some power and goodwill to question attempts at more unsustainable sprawl.

Dahn Shaulis