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Friday, January 25, 2019

Residential Neighborhood Street as Greenway Extenders in Nashville?

Residential Neighborhood Street as Greenway Extenders?

Nashville neighborhood roads could be repurposed as Greenway Extenders.  This is my neighborhood which truly looks like a Greenway at any given moment. 

Note the inexpensive road design - just a plate of asphalt.  No curb, no gutter, no sidewalks.  This is typical of most neighborhood road in Nashville. 

If Nashville shifted gears and adjusted our culture to be pedestrian forward by reducing speed limits to 20mph on local residential streets & embracing the law of yielding to pedestrians, we could quickly have many more 'Greenways' for recreation and health. 


Monday, January 21, 2019

New Sidewalk Footprint Tying in With the Old (nicely!) on Hobbs!

I'm terribly excited by these new sidewalks that are establishing a new (better!) sidewalk foot print at 2202 Hobbs. 

Hobbs houses Julia Green Elementary and Harpeth Hall and is within walking distance to the Green Hills business district. 

The existing sidewalk, on only one side of this fast paced road - the south side being devoid of sidewalk - is laid directly against the road on Hobbs.  It does not have a safe feel and yet is fairly well utilized likely due to its proximity to so many destinations. 

These new sidewalk tie in nicely to what exists and they are the first step to creating a much better pedestrian experience.

Fingers crossed this buffer zone will house shade trees!  Imagine it.  Note, no overhead utility wires so the trees could be tall and produce a lot of cool shadow.


Saturday, January 19, 2019

2 stories of children either being struck by car or almost struck by car while trying to get to school bus this past week in Nashville

2 stories of children either being struck by car or almost struck by car while trying to get to school bus this past week in Nashville

Nashvillians are not known for their pedestrian culture.  We don't seem to know what to do when we encounter a walker in the roadway.   Despite there being a 3' passing rule, the same as for bicycles, I can attest that this is not often being followed.

Pedestrians are to walk against traffic (walker should be 'face to face' with the driver).  This facilitates being seen.  It is also the law. 

It is also the law to yield to pedestrians (even if they are in the wrong ie) jaywalking). 

When a school bus is stopped, drivers are supposed to stop.  There were 2 stories in the news this week, one of a 12 year old who was struck trying to get to her school bus and another of a boy nearly hit while doing the same.

This should be an eye opener for all of us.  SLOW DOWN for PEDESTRIANS.  YIELD TO PEDESTRIANS. 

Even if walkers are moving slow, they have the right of way!

Woodmont story

12 year old struck by bus

Weight of a car vs an average person


20 is plenty when pedestrians are about

Monday, January 14, 2019

Sidewalk Variance #2018-694 - a SUCCESS STORY (sort of - as if often the case with sidewalks in Nashville)!

Sidewalk variance - a conversation between 14 neighbors leading to a successful outcome! 
As is often the case with sidewalks, there is more to the story.  The variance may also have been revoked due to an overlay issue.  So, final outcome TBD.

But, the story is REALLY interesting.  I particular enjoyed learning that this sidewalk in question on Richland, the one without any green buffer strip, was erroneously laid in the 1970s.  As such, it is an oddity in the neighborhood.  The neighbors took quick action and the footprint was adjusted for the other 3 faces of the block. 

Sidewalk variance (on Nextdoor):

-Does anyone know the specifics on the request sidewalk variance on the corner of Bowling and Richland Ave that the Ford Construction requested?

-Could you snap a picture of the variance request signage?  It is not on the Board of Zoning (BZA) docket or the BZA tracker yet ( 

If it is sidewalk related, especially on Bowling, where I have been advocating for a new sidewalk to run from West End to Woodmont so that we could all walk to the Elmington Park, the Greenway, bus stop, businesses, churches/synagogues and West End Middle School, I'd love to know more...this neighborhood cannot afford to have someone NOT build their piece of sidewalk in this location.  Every piece counts.

-Will do.

- Stacy, I found it. Case # 2018-694

-I just emailed Council person Katherine Murphy. I will keep all posted

-I just read the variance request & I just have to say, ‘Oh, please’! If a developer’s margins are so slim they cannot afford to build the sidewalk, he/she is the wrong business. This is greed, pure & simple. He/she is only trying to increase their profit margin. How dare they ask for a variance AND to not pay the sidewalk in-lieu fee!!!!! Outrageous! Literally stealing from this lovely & very walkable neighborhood...

-You can also let the Board of Zoning know your thoughts at: regarding 2018-694 at 3546 Richland

-There are already sidewalks on both sides of the build, I'm confused how/why they'd be required. Do they have to pay into the fund if sidewalks are already in place?

-There may be a change or improvement required to meet design standards. Or, they may be asking for something else like to change the setbacks or add a driveway? I’m not sure - I looked & there are sidewalks currently.

-I wrote to the BZA and asked for the specifics. The request is available on the BZA tracker, too. The existing sidewalk is across 5 properties & they are requesting to tear it out and replace it with some changes BUT NOT to current recommended standards. The importance of this is once a sidewalk foot print is in place, it is VERY DIFFICULT to change. This COULD be the FIRST STEP to IMPROVING the sidewalk design to known best practices for pedestrians (ie a grass buffer, where shade trees can be planted, and allow pedestrians to be away from the roadway - much safer and more pleasant design). So, if this is approved, expect this arrangement to be in place forever essentially. If this is denied, then the sidewalk network starts to move towards the ideal. 

I'll try to summarize the variance request:
- the properties have an existing sidewalk on the Richland side and the Bowling side that do NOT meet current requirements: they are not the proper width, do not have the grass strip and do not have curbing.
- the Richland side: supposed to have a 4' grass strip buffer and a 5' sidewalk, with a 6" curb. Currently, it has no curb and 7' 6' sidewalk without grass strip. This does match the rest of the street. BUT since this is 5 properties long, if a grass strip does not get started here - it probably will never be implemented
- the Bowling side: supposed to have 4' grass strip buffer and 5' sidewalk with 6" curb. Currently has 7' 6" sidewalk only. They would like to match the remainder of Bowling despite it not being the recommended dimensions. They want to put in a 2'6" grass strip buffer and 5' sidewalk with curb -> please read my email and consider writing one too. I think they need to hear all the opinions of those who will be effected by this decision. Dear BZA, I’m asking, as someone who has been advocating for a sidewalk on Bowling Av from West End to Woodmont for 5 full years, that you deny this request and have Mike Ford Builders of Franklin build the sidewalks to their recommended specifications. 
 Here is my reasoning:
- The existing sidewalk is across 5 properties
- Once a sidewalk foot print is in place, it is VERY DIFFICULT to change. This COULD be the FIRST STEP to IMPROVING the sidewalk design to known best practices for pedestrians (ie a grass buffer, where shade trees can be planted, and allow pedestrians to be away from the roadway - much safer and more pleasant design).
- This is also a corner lot and so could change the dimensions for 2 important roads, both Richland and Bowling.
- If this is approved, expect this arrangement to be in place forever essentially. If this is denied, then the sidewalk network starts to move towards the ideal. 
  - The green strip buffer, of the proper dimension for the road, is a huge benefit in providing comfort, safety and shade. 

 I would argue that these properties should be the START of BETTER PEDESTRIAN INFRASTRUCUTRE rather than a continuation of what is.

Best, Stacy Dorris

-Well written. Also he new that these sidewalks existed before he even made an offer on the property. He should of worked the expense into the selling price of the house.

-I believe the developer is requesting that the current sidewalk on the portion of the 3500 block he’s building on remains as is, without a curb, and right next to the street, rather than the usual setback sidewalk with a curb and green section next to the street.

-Interesting - I just tried to email the developer, Andrew Ford (, of Mike Ford Builders (of Franklin) and received this response: I will be out of town until Sunday 5/27 (typo? as 5/27 is a Monday???) with limited access to phone and email. If you have any questions regarding Richland Hall, lots 6, 7, 15, 17 or 11, please contact David West at or at (615) 815-4486. If you have any questions regarding Richland Hall, lots 12, 13, 14, 16, or 105-108, please contact Justin Hill at or at (615) 290-6253. Andrew Ford Looks like this developers has numerous projects in the area. Again, if a developer cannot afford to do the sidewalk correctly, it is either being greedy - an attempt to increase profit margins - or they need to find another line of work.

-Amazing. So they’re going to find a work around in a HISTORIC neighborhood to appeal the standards for their new homes that don’t comply with the Historical standards of the Richland HISTORIC district. Maybe the rain is making me a crab. But my 102 year old grandma is also pretty historic, built our house and she’s sick of the construction AND the violation of codes SHE has adhered to for DECADES. Yep... THAT is why I’m crabby. Thank you to all of the neighborhood who has provided contacts above. I’ll be spending my evening sending much more diplomatic emails expressing my concerns. Thanks nabe, for allowing me to feel about this a little before I compose myself and spend my evening on email. It’s surrounding our home at all angles and as someone who’s been here my entire life with her, it’s a bit of a gut punch to us.

-I actually think that they are trying to match the existing sidewalks that are in the majority of the neighborhood. Not sure what a state of the art sidewalk looks like, but I like the existing sidewalks in the neighborhood. That is what they did in the 3700 block of Richland and it fits in well.

-Strangely the existing sidewalks only on the 3500 block of Richland are these strange ones we’re talking about without green patch by the street. This is purportedly why Ford wants to leave them as they are there. Ask Carter Baker about that—he’s got a story about being on vacation when the city started resurfacing the sidewalks in the 70s or 80s, and they’d already done the 3500 block when the Bakers got home, started protesting that they do them properly. The 3500 block sidewalks never got redone to this day. They have put in nice sidewalks in front of the houses on the 3600 and 3700 blocks that are in keeping with those of the remainder of the neighborhood, with grass strip and good sized trees, which of course, is fitting with these 2 million dollar homes they’re building.

-The variance was not to specific that is why I originally inquired. It would have been nice if the communication was more complete.

-I think you do need to argue strongly for the green strip. Seems like a small thing but as noted, once the sidewalk foot print goes in, change can be DECADES in the making. The city has proposed standards for sidewalks. During major redevelopment is the time these standards are supposed to go in. Miss this opportunity and none of us will likely see improvement in our lifetime.

-I requested the BZA variance paperwork. The developers want to replace the sidewalk with the exact foot print: no grass strip on Richland & the smaller than recommended strip (2’6” instead of 4’) on Bowling. If done to standards (if variance is not granted) it would set a precedence for the 4’ grass buffer strip recommended by experts on both Richland & Bowling. Future building would need to match it. This is the major point- setting the new standards in place now during major development. The rest should then follow on that block face. I’ve seen the new standards around town in place and it seems to look ok (see photo) & to tie in well.

-One more thing, the BZA paperwork from this developer includes a letter from Melissa Baldock, Historic Preservationist is support of these 5 properties (3546, 3542, 3538, 3534, 3530 Richland) keeping the same dimensions for the sidewalk. This highlights the BIG issue & I cannot make it strong enough - this variance request, for 3546 Richland, sets the precedent for ALL 5 PROPERTIES. If approved, the entire block does not get the grass strip buffer for the foreseeable future. During major development is when a change can occur. So, I am just saying, 5 properties is a lot - it is now or never to fight for shade trees and a grass strip buffer that matches the remainder of the neighborhood and improves QOL for pedestrians.

- Hi Melissa, Some of us saw your letter in the BZA variance request for the property at Richland & Bowling (2018-694 at 3546 Richland Av). I feel the need to tell you that many of us are very much against this variance request and have contacted the BZA, the builders and our council person, Kathleen Murphy. The sidewalk requirements are needed so that we make progress towards an ideal sidewalk network. Right now, Nashville has a kind of crazy quilt patchwork of sidewalks on the few roads that have them (essentially 20% of roadways). If we are to improve our sidewalk situation, the regulations must be upheld and the proper dimensions must be installed. There has been a lot of discussion of the variance requested and we have come to the conclusion that, when the property was purchased, the builder was aware of Sidewalk Bill 493. Please do the right thing and revoke your letter of support for the 5 properties on Richland. We are asking that the develops build the sidewalk to standards with the green buffer and proper dimensions.

-I would expect that the house will get a boost in value with a sidewalk that meets standards (to include green space between it and the road.) Housing values rise when they are near to a Greenway (as in I-440 Greenway) and the same thing probably holds true for pleasant, wide sidewalks with a green space buffer

-Does anyone know why the developers would ask for the variance? They are asking to tear out the existing sidewalk & replace with the exact same dimensions. I’ve written to them via email but have not heard back.

-I am sending several photos of the corners and sidewalks at the corner of Richland and Bowling. The 1st photo is on the 3500 block of Central/Richland looking up from Bowling my back to Central facing Richland. Notice the green strip between sidewalk and the road and how it ends after the alley in the 2nd photo in a second post.

-Interesting pictures. It looks like some sidewalks in the area have no grass strip, some have a 2ft grass strip and some have the standard detail 4ft grass strip.

-When the original 1905 sidewalks on Richland were replaced in the 1970s, the 3500 block was first. Public Works had planned to replace the walks on all four blocks of Richland the way 3500 is. Fortunately, we were able to get that changed thanks to the cooperation of the contractor, Walton Construction Co.

-The city went through a lot of effort to come up with ideal standards. I don't know why so many want to build something else. Sidewalk production is intimately tied to development so if the ideal does not go in, we better be patient to wait another 50 years. On this type of road, the grass strip, is supposed to be 4 feet with a 5 foot sidewalk. As a parent and big walker, the grass strip provides some safety and comfort - you are not walking so close to the cars and ie) if a child falls off their bike, they are not close enough to the road to worry. I think this is one to fight for.

-I sent a message to BZA opposing this variance request for the reasons Stacy and others have outlined. Copies were sent to the builder, Kathleen Murphy, Melissa Blalock, and neighborhood leaders. Thanks for the heads up.

- This is such helpful information. The Historic Zoning administrator wrote back to me today - I've included the emails here: Hi Robin & all, This may add some weight to your discussion: When the original 1905 sidewalks on Richland were replaced in the 1970s, the 3500 block was first. Public Works had planned to replace the walks on all four blocks of Richland the way 3500 is. Fortunately, we were able to get that changed thanks to the cooperation of the contractor, Walton Construction Co. The sidewalk dimensions on Richland were an error. The remainder of the block was corrected. Sidewalk construction is so intimately tied to development. If not corrected now, this sidewalk’s dimensions will likely be in place for an additional 50 years. Now is the time to correct this. Please reconsider and revoke your support. This new information should allow you the possibility to change your approval. It would set a precedent.

Best, Stacy Dorris

From: Zeigler, Robin (Historical Commission) <> Sent: Monday, December 31, 2018 12:34 PM Thank you for your comments. The overall development of the former Welch campus was approved by Planning in 2015, which included the existing sidewalk configuration, prior to the establishment of the current sidewalk regulations. We recognize the importance of wider and safer sidewalks or the establishment of sidewalks where they do not exist and will certainly consider the new regulations for any future large developments. Thank you for taking the time to keep us informed.

-In the 4th picture (looking down Richland) note there is no curb. In the past (when the college gym was located here) it was often the case that cars were parked ON this section of the sidewalk - and not just a bit - but as though it were a full fledged parking spot, making it necessary to walk in the grass to get around them. The sidewalks in our neighborhood are a cherished feature!! Thanks for bringing this zoning issue to our attention and for the helpful info and pictures posted here.

-I can see one huge reason why the developers would want to not adhere to the patch of green in between the road and sidewalk - this reduces the front yard size of the property. A rough guess 40 yd sidewalk length on both roads would be 320 sq. yds of the lot's total acreage lost. A smaller front yard would perhaps detract from the property's curb appeal and value. Also, from Mark's photos, it looks like adding in the grass buffer would require cutting down the row of 6 or so trees. Personally, I'm torn between desiring the sidewalk buffer at the expense of our neighborhood losing another half a dozen of mature tree to our neighborhood's rampant new development. Just some food for thought :)

-The mature trees you see along the 3500 block are on the lots where the five new ‘bungalows’ are being built, not on the sidewalk section. No mature trees would have to go whichever way the sidewalk ends up.

-Board of Zoning / Variance request meeting is at 1p on Jan 17th at the Howard Office Building 700 Second Avenue South Sonny West Conference Center Nashville, TN 37210 Hoping some will be able to make it...

-The Sidewalk Variance requests in the 3500 block of Richland Ave. have been withdrawn. Ford Builders confirmed in conversation today that they would like to re-establish the grass strip when they rebuild the curb in front of the homes they are constructing in the 3500 block of Richland Ave. Stay tuned for an update on the approval process from Metro. In this case, the builder and the neighbors are on the same page.

-Wow! I am truly amazed! That is wonderful news!!! Could not be more pleased. Thank you to everyone who was interested in this topic and who spent time considering it. As I mentioned above, these changes will last for decades and are, therefore, critical to the neighborhood.