4th Warder

News and Notes for Residents of South Euclid's Ward 4 from Councilwoman Jane Goodman.

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Location: South Euclid, Ohio

Monday, July 27, 2009

Cedar Center - More than just a few new stores

Tonight at Council meeting we will, I hope, pass a measure giving Mayor Welo the go-ahead to sign the development agreement with Coral Co., finally setting in motion the redevelopment phase of the project. That will start the clock on getting preliminary site plans for where buildings and sewers and power and water and such will go. Then come the design plans, and the planning commission review period and architectural review board and public hearings (which require advance notification times) and in the meantime the site gets decontaminated and readied for building.

It's really exciting, not just because we'll have neat new restaurants and retail, greenspace and such, but because of what this development will do to make the whole southeast corner of our city a magnet for new residents looking to be part of a revitalized neighborhood and city, and a reason for longtime residents to stay.

We usually think of economic development as only having to do with commercial projects or office space, and the actual CC property will lead with those elements.

But the financial investment and incentives being directed toward green building and sustainable housing and energy projects like the ones we're gearing up to bring to the neighborhoods north and east of CC provide a fantastic opportunity to make updating our housing stock and our neighborhoods a new economic driver.

People want roomier, more convenient homes than what we have in "bungalowville." We can make those houses not only more user-friendly but also greener, more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly, all of which make them more marketable.

So when I say I want to improve our neighborhoods, this is one of the ways I mean to do it – green updates and community gardens and elbow room to spread out a little. I think we could make this area the place to go to see all the new green technologies and materials and designs. And as the work gets done, contractors learn and train workers in green jobs, putting up solar cells and installing geothermal heating/cooling systems and rooftop windcatchers.

The timing couldn't be more perfect, now that CC is gaining speed just as the demand for sustainable housing is starting to take off.

I know, it seems like we've been at this Cedar Center project a while. We have been. Previous Councils and administrations have been, too. There was a lot of groundwork to be done to get us just to this point. It also seems like you can't take one step forward without first passing some seemingly-disconnected legislation that the state or county or federal government requires us to have in place that gives us the legal right to take that step. In other words, a lot of the legislation couldn't be passed until we first passed other legislation – designations, declarations, it's mind-boggling.

And, of course, if you want to use OPM (other people's money) for basic infrastructure improvements, and we do, there are more forms and layers of legislation that have to be on our books before we can go to this funder or that agency for money to pay for things like removing asbestos or cleaning up contaminated soil where a dry cleaner's use to be. Buying the properties, negotiating with dozens of owners, took years. Waiting for tenants to find new space took more. Careful demolition, environmental cleanup and site prep, going on now, takes more. But you can see, it's happening.

The new Cedar Center might not be as grand as our grandest wishes for it were a few years ago, when the market and the economy were robust. And it won't all happen at once, as it might have done back then. Under the current economic circumstances, it will come in phases, first restaurants and retail, and residences will come last. It will give us time to work on the neighborhood revival. Time is on our side.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Catching Up

Here I am, apologizing again for letting so much time go by between blog posts. It's been a busy year. Some of you know that in my "day job" I'm communications director for the Cuyahoga River Community Planning Organization. We're the folks who coordinate the restoration plan and all the folks working on cleaning up the river. If you've been reading the Plain Dealer this year, you'll know that this is the 40th Anniversary of the fire that, most would agree, kick-started the clean-water movement in this country. And we had big news.

My two jobs, the river and the City Council position, work very well together. With my river hat on, I spend a lot of my time talking and working with local officials, planning people and engineers from many many communities throughout our Area of Concern (which includes the dozens of cities, villages and townships in four counties of the Cuyahoga's watershed, plus Euclid Creek's ten communities) and our neighboring watersheds. Chagrin and the Rocky River, for example. That gives me insight into how other communities handle issues we might share, lets me "borrow" good ideas and share our own.

When we changed the South Euclid codes to allow rainbarrels and raingardens and pervious paving, and when we were the first to pass anti-idling legislation, other communities' councils wanted to follow our lead and asked for help. When we totally reshaped the Langerdale retention basin behind the Friendship Circle on Green, and created the first urban wetland of its kind in Ohio, folks from all around the state came to see what we'd done. We really have become "the greenest city," as Mary Jane Skala, Sun News editor calls us.

We're not done. As we work toward adding a greenspace plan to our master plan, and toward redesigning parts of our "bungalow village" areas with green retrofits and floorplan expansions, and greenspace and community gardens, I'm already collaborating with others in the region who are ahead of us on these conversions.

I'm convinced that my active, day-to-day involvement with many layers of local, county, state and federal government, and collaborations with hundreds of organizations at work to revive the metro Cleveland area, is a valuable asset that I bring to City Council.

So it's time to run again. I need to be re-elected in November in order to finish many of the projects I've inherited (like Cedar Center) or started (like the green neighborhoods and new block watches.) I hope to see you on the sidewalks!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Rain Barrels and other stuff

Sorry, I've been missing in action on the blog for a while. Things get pretty busy, and if it's a question of how to spend my time, I'd rather spend it answering constituent phone calls (which can take a while.)

If you saw the Sun Messenger article or the Channel 3 News story about the pending legislation to allow residents to attach rainbarrels to their home downspouts, I'd like to add some info that might not have been included in the stories:

1. SMALL GARAGE? IT'S ALREADY ALLOWED. The South Euclid housing code as it stands today doesn't require that downspouts be connected to the storm sewer on detached garages smaller than 500 square feet, as long as the water coming off the roof doesn't create a nuisance for a neighbor. SO, until we change the code to allow downspouts on houses to feed into a rain barrel, you can still install one (or more) on the garage if it's within the size limitation.

2. OVERFLOW TO STORM SEWER? ALREADY ALLOWED? All rainbarrels can (and probably should), in any case, include an overflow outlet near the top of the barrel that sends extra water into the storm drain once the barrel is full. It seems to me that if you install a rainbarrel with the downspout coming into the top of the barrel and the overflow going out through a continuation of the downspout into the drain, you ought to be legal already, since the code just says "connected to a public storm sewer."

3. SO WHY CHANGE THE CODE? My purpose for introducing the revision to the code is to make the language clearer about allowing people to install rainbarrels to downspouts on homes and larger garages, and also giving them the option to forego the overflow into the storm drain if they would rather direct the overflow to a garden, rain garden or pond, as long as it doesn't pose a flooding problem for the neighbors.

4. WHAT'S THE GOAL HERE? The big thing that rainbarrels, or other means of diverting storm water from storm sewers, do is reduce streambank erosion and stream sedimentation. When large amounts of rain rush into storm drains, the volume and speed of the water can overwhelm the sewer system and, more damaging, when the extra flow runs through streams can erode the banks and put sediment into the water and the lake. That's bad for aquatic life. In some cases, where sewers still have combinded sewer overflows (CSO) the storm water can mix with the sanitary sewer flow (from toilets) and put bacterial and other nasty stuff into the stream and lake...that's why we have so many "no swimming" days at nearby Lake Erie beaches.

The other benefits of catching and storing rainwater include:
- Feeding garden and house plants with rainwater is better than giving them stuff with chlorine and flouride and other chemicals they use to treat tap water;
- You can save a bit of money...tap water isn't free, although people keep saying it is (don't they get a water bill? I do.)
- Rainwater is softer than tap water and great to wash your hair with.

5. WHAT ABOUT MOSQUITOS? They bite. But they can only breed and go through their life cycle in open, standing (and usually shallow, but not always) water...so as long as the barrel is covered, they can't lay eggs. You can also use safe pesticides (or goldfish) to control the larvae. If the overflow goes to a pond, you're already, I assume, doing something to keep the pests under control.

FYI, here's how the South Euclid housing code reads now:


All roofs of every structure shall be maintained weathertight and shall be equipped with gutters and downspouts connected to a public storm sewer. However, this requirement shall be waived for existing appurtenant structures if, in the opinion of the Building Commissioner, the drainage does not cause excessive erosion or water damage or does not create a nuisance on public or private property.


(a) All secondary or appurtenant structures such as sheds, barns, garages, etc. shall either be maintained in good repair and free from health, accident and fire hazards or shall be removed from the premises.

(b) All roofs of every secondary or appurtenant structure shall be equipped with gutters and downspouts connected to a public storm sewer. However, if the roof area served by a specific downspout does not exceed 500 square feet, measured horizontally, and the drainage does not, in the opinion of the Building Commissioner cause excessive erosion or water damage or does not create a nuisance on public or private property, this requirement shall be waived.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Point-of-Sale Inspections etc.

Dear Friends,
I’m writing to ask for your input on a few issues before council. I’m also asking that you make your opinion known, preferably by coming to council committee meetings on the issue, or general council meetings, where the public can make comments. A schedule of upcoming meetings is at the end of this post.

The first issue is Point of Sale Inspections. There’s been a lot of incorrect information out there about our proposed legislation, and most of the reactions (including those expressed in the recent Sun Messenger editorial) are based on bad information or misunderstandings.

We are proposing that before the sale of a home can be completed the owner would pay (about $175, which would fund the additional personpower and paperwork) for an exterior-only inspection of the house. These inspections would be the same type of exterior inspections we already require, no more and no less. Any objections about inspectors entering homes are baseless, nor is there anything in the legislation about repairs inside the home. We will continue to do regular door-to-door inspections, starting the cycle again in 2008 and continuing whether point-of-sale is in place or not, and our inspectors will continue to respond to neighbors' complaints and cite high grass and weeds.

Our primary reasons for requiring an inspection at point of sale are:
• For homeowners without the funds to make repairs while they live in the house, the time when money is being transferred may be the only time when such funds are available. This addresses the objection that low-income owners or elderly residents can’t afford repairs. At sale time, the buyer can assume the responsibility for the repairs, or the seller can use the equity that comes out of the sale to make repairs.
• Too often people sell their home a year or more after the scheduled regular inspection, and in the interim there are new violations that haven’t been addressed. The buyer or seller may hire a private inspector and find out about possible violations, but there is no official city inspection that comes with a requirement to repair them. Other times the buyer pays for a house not knowing that there are violations, then at the next regular inspection he or she learns that repairs are necessary, and the funds may no longer be available.
• The current trend toward low- or no-money-down sales allows buyers to purchase homes without the funds to fix the house if violations are found later. These homes often get resold quickly, again without repairs being made. What’s left is a rundown property that pulls down the values of the properties around it.

If violations are found at point of sale, there are various ways that the repairs can be made and paid for:
• the seller can pay to make the repairs and include the repair cost in the price of the house, or
• the buyer or seller, or both, can put funds for repairs in escrow as part of the transfer, and as repairs are made the funds are paid from escrow, or
• the buyer can assume responsibility and deduct the cost of repairs from the purchase price.

CABOR (Cleveland Area Board of Realtors) has said they have no objection to this exterior-only program, since it’s something we already have in place.

There is no comparison to be made with programs in Cleveland Heights or Shaker, since theirs are both exterior and interior inspections.

The majority of council, and the mayor, see point-of-sale as an effective tool to raise the level of home maintenance and the quality of life in our neighborhoods. The message it will send is: “You can’t let your property fall into disrepair and lower the property value of your neighbors’ homes.”

The next issue is also about keeping up the quality of our housing stock. We are working on legislation that says you can’t use sheets or newspaper as window coverings. It may seem a small thing, but it’s important that we set and keep standards. It’s a shame that we have residents who care so little about the community, and that we have to address the problem with legislation, but that’s the way things are.

The third piece of legislation is about public health. I’ve proposed anti-idling legislation that would make it a violation for diesel trucks and buses to idle their engines for long periods of time. The fine particles in diesel exhaust contribute to asthma and other respiratory problems.

The law would not apply to gasoline vehicles, or emergency or service vehicles that need to run their engines to power service equipment like refrigeration units. It would not apply when the outside temperature is below 32 or above 80 degrees, and there are other exceptions to provide for the health and safety of drivers and passengers.

My hope is that we can eventually follow the lead of the city of Cleveland, which has a policy that none of its city vehicles, gas or diesel, police cars included, may let their engines idle. They’re saving a fortune in gas money and keeping the air clean.

SO...here is the schedule of upcoming meetings. I hope you’ll either attend or write to me with your input.

2/26/07 – 6:30pm WINDOW COVERINGS


WARD 4 MEETING - MARCH 28, at 7:00pm at the Community Center.

FYI, Council meets the second Monday each month, no meetings in August.

Thanks for your time!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Winter, finally

Hi, all. Happy New Year.

With the first snows of 2007, I want to remind everyone of South Euclid's snowplowing system. Crews started last night, even before the first flakes fell, salting intersections so that the stuff wouldn't stick where we're most likely to slide. Then, as the snow builds, they do the main drags, roadways where there are higher speed limits and more traffic lights, since those are the most dangerous areas. They leave a base layer of an inch or two of snow, which, they say, gives more traction than clearing down to the pavement and then having the surface freeze. Then they tackle the side streets, where people are supposed to drive SLOWLY anyway.

So if your street hasn't been plowed as quickly as you'd like it, all I can say is drive carefully, and know that the trucks are out there and they'll get to your street as soon as they can. Remember, our motto is "safety first, convenience next."

If you have a complaint, I encourage you to call the service department at 216-381-0402. If you get the machine, leave a message with your phone number.

Speaking of safety, 'tis the season to be alert and aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. If you haven't had your furnace checked in a while, do so. It'll keep you safe and save you money on gas if your furnace is burning clean and efficiently.

Make sure your fire alarm is working, too. Space heaters can be a major cause of house fires. Make sure you keep yours away from curtains and be sure it's not going to tip over.
Don't overload your electrical system, either, 'cause that can start its own problems.
If you use your fireplace, make sure the chimney's been cleaned so that old creosote stuck to the walls doesn't ignite.
And, finally, make sure you have enough of the right kinds of fire extinguishers in the right places. The code on the extinguisher tells you which kind of fire it puts out: "A" with a green triangle is for paper, fabric, garbage, wood, etc.; "B" with a red square is for flammable liquids like gas, kerosene, liquid fuels; "C" with a blue circle is for electrical fires. So you want an "A" that's accessible by the fireplace, a "B" near the kerosene heater and the kitchen, and a "C" in the office or wherever you've got all those wires tangled together. Some extinguishers are multi-purpose. Just be sure the ones you have are big enough. Fire grows fast, and the little weenie ones can leave you standing in front of a growing disaster with an empty extinguisher.

Also, remember that it's the homeowner's responsibility to clear the sidewalk in front of the house. So be safe, and stay warm, and if you can, help a neighbor shovel his or her driveway and front walk.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Missing posts

If it seems as if I've been missing in action, I'm sorry. Some of my posts seem to have been lost in the ether as soon as they're posted. Try, try again.

I've been getting lots of questions about Cedar Center, especially since the newspaper stories about the developer from California pulling out of the deal. I want you to know that your city government is still committed to making the new Cedar Center a reality. It's going to happen. There are other developers who are interested in doing the project, and doing it well. That location is hot. That's why Whole Foods chose it, and the retailers at University Square, too. It's the last buildable corner in the middle of what the demographics folks see as the center of a dense population with money to spend. This is a bump in the road, but we're still moving forward.

Tonight at council meeting we said goodbye (actually "see you later") to police chief Matt Capadona. Matt's retiring and taking on the job as head of security at Notre Dame, so he's not even leaving town. I wish him well. Now we'll have to find someone else who knows how to work that temperamental grille at the community center.

I hope you'll come to the Ward 4 meeting at 8pm on October 25 at the community center. We'll be announcing the winners of the Gorgeous Gardens Awards. At 7pm, please come to an energy forum, to learn about alternative energy, energy conservation, and ways to cut your winter heating bills.

Be well,

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

My vote on Stoneridge

City Council voted on two new developments on Monday night.

Cutter's Creek will have different styles of attached townhomes, including ranches, in the woods at Anderson and Green. I voted for that one without unmanageable regret. I wish the homes didn't have to be so close to the creek. I hope the trees grow back quickly. The diocese owned the property, insisted on selling, and at least it went to a developer who pays attention.

Stoneridge is the one that's been getting all the attention lately. It's to be sixteen detached cluster homes tucked in behind houses on Monticello, Trebisky, Ammon and Azalea, where it's now wooded, shrubbed and wetland. The neighbors were either angry about losing their wooded backdrop or eager to sell their backland to the developer.

I voted no on that one. Not because of the angry neighbors but because of the design...it's going to be a clump of little houses amid a sea of grass, which is the worst possible way to use the land. I wouldn't have objected if the design was about leaving the woods and offering wooded lots around the new houses. But grass is as bad as paving, possibly worse since all the fertilizer, pesticides and weed killers they'll use to keep the grass green will rush across the surface and into a big pipe at the bottom of a funnel and run headlong into the creek. That's poisoning the waterway. Period.

I also believe, based on lots of data, that taking out the forest will not just lower the property values of the homes on large lots that surround this project, it will have many adverse impacts on the air quality and flooding issues of the whole neighborhood.

The language in our building code for Planned Unit Residential Developments says this:
"The Planning Commission shall review all proposed planned unit residential developments, giving particular consideration to the design and layout of the development to ensure that:
(1)Buildings and uses within the proposed development are located so as to reduce any adverse impacts on and to protect the residential character of areas adjacent to the development.

They'll be leaving a whopping 30 or 40 feet of trees around the edge of the development. That's the depth of my house, hardly enough buffer to block the view. Big deal.

As I said at the meeting, something's going to be built there. Whoever owns the property has the right to build. But those particular woods are not just big weeds, they're community assets. In that particular place, where this is the last remnant of woods, and wildlife habitat, taking them out so completely will have serious adverse impacts on the whole surrounding area – unlike Cutter's Creek, which will still be surrounded with woods.

A lot of the council vote had to do with the fear of getting sued if we put too many restrictions on the plan. Mayfield Heights got sued and lost big time when the guy who built the Costco wanted them to change the zoning from residential to commercial and the city didn't have a good plan to back up their refusal. That case didn't involve a PURD, it was land adjacent to other commercial buildings, and it's not the same situation we were facing. But fear of litigation held sway.

My vote may have been merely symbolic, but symbols can be important. I just thought you'd want to know why I voted the way I did.

Good Neighbors...and block watchers wanted

I keep saying "If you want a good neighborhood, you have to be a good neighbor." People tend to nod, and agree, and then way too often they follow up with ten reasons why they can't, won't or just don't reach out to the folks who live nearby.

I admit I find myself avoiding the folks in one of the houses across the street. Their kid gets picked up in the morning by a woman in an SUV who honks the horn. Loudly and repeatedly. The grownups there have completely killed what was, just a couple of years ago (before they bought the house) a gorgeous garden and luscious lawn with a beautiful japanese maple. The tree is dead, the lawn is completely weeds in mud, the picket fence is trashed and the garden is scary.

Since it's been hard for me to catch these folks at home, I haven't done my neighborly duty. Yet.

And now that I'm ready to admit that I have limitations (stop laughing...I heard that) I'm begging you - YES, YOU! - to step forward and say you'll br captain of your block watch. All you have to do is contact me. We'll set up a time for a block meeting, I'll reserve a meeting room and make flyers, we'll distribute them to your neighbors, and get a Block Watch working.