North End neighborhood streets

area around 13th & Eastman in Hyde Park
Boise, ID

Submitted by: Cherie Cole

This much-loved neighborhood close to downtown Boise is not what's shameful - but rather the local government, lack of common sense, and the corruption of fair processes.

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Why It Doesn't Work

The North End of Boise is one of the oldest intact parts of town, an open-grid traditional neighborhood with character and charm, covering a one-by-two mile area between the river and the foothills, adjacent to downtown. The neighborhood is not what should be in the Hall of Shame, it is the local government and lack of common sense that deserve this recognition. The "shame" for the North End is the incredible volume of destruction and loss of a unique area.

Residents have been fighting traffic intrusion and blight without success for more than 20 years, resulting in countless articles in local papers. Highway district, city, and regional planners, including the mayor and council, have decided that 8,500, 10,625, 15,500, and 18,000 trips per day are appropriate for these old residential and school streets, ignoring the safety issues for the high volume of pedestrians and cyclists, as well as dirt and noise intrusion problems.

Some homes are less than 20 feet from traffic, which moves on average at 42 to 44 mph, according to Boise police. Neighborhood trees are full of scars from traffic, as are porches, fences, and our parked cars. Officials insist that the streets with elementary schools suffer the worst traffic impacts and degradation, going against the Boise Comprehensive Plan and neighborhood plans. Thousands of arterial trips have been shifted to hit the school zones. Current recommendations are for 18,000 trips per day for a core street that impacts 4 of the 5 neighborhood schools, although there are 23 other streets to choose from.

Residents are giving up and disinvesting, with obvious signs of blight and growing hopelessness that are most intense around the schools. Boise has a 46% growth rate and overcrowded schools everywhere, and yet some are only half full as parents pack up their children to move to neighborhoods where kids donít have to go through a death trap to get to and from school.

Our community planning process doesnít seem to be based on what is good for the long-term health of the community. Itís made a huge mess of what was a remarkable city.

What Puts North End neighborhood streets in the Hall of Shame?

Poorly located arterial traffic flow, and unrealistic, unhealthy traffic capacities for residential and elementary school streets. Highway district mandates moving pedestrian crossings that have existed for a hundred years; posted traffic speeds are too high and thereís little enforcement and poor engineering. Lack of social and cultural issues incorporated into planning process, no direct notification to stakeholders, no public information available.

Vehicles dominate. "For Sale" signs are everywhere, giving the neighborhood the appearance of multiplying grave markers. There is depression, stress-induced illnesses, suicide, petrol stench, broken windows, increasing crime (mostly unreported because of recent police shortages and police shootings), 300% increase in child enticement, and gang activity. People fear walking in their own neighborhood after dark, and there have been sprees where vehicle and house windows are broken out.

The traffic is like a vicious animal prowling the neighborhood day and night. Parents teach their children to use alleys to get to and from school because of drivers chasing people and crashing onto sidewalks, into homes, trees, fences, and parked cars. Usually bounded by high fences, alleys are ideal places for children walking to school in the dark. Pretty much defeats community policing. We used to hear children laughing and talking on their way to school; now itís a type of silent spring. Many homes along the school routes have sat vacant for up to a year, attracting homeless people and transients. This is the worst environment possible for elementary school children, yet our officials just say that people should move if they don't like it.

People used to come from states and cities all around to visit the North End. We still get visitors, but the neighborhood no longer smells, functions, or looks like it did. It's not family-friendly anymore. We haven't invited houseguests for several years because traffic noise is too loud to sleep well, or sit on the porch or in the back garden. We've gone from being proud of our place to feeling ashamed. We've cancelled family weddings and other events here because of intrusive noise, which is so bad that neighbors donít linger to talk anymore. Typical meetings usually occur because of another car crash or mangled pet on the street. The population is beaten down. Elderly have stopped walking because it is a death trap here. We miss learning local history from them; those few who remain talk about missing walking, gardening, and sitting on their porches talking passersby. Boise does not value its elderly or the children, which impoverishes us all.

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