Mission officials, residents look to alternative designs for planters on Hodges Drive

Hodges Drive
The planter at Hodges Drive and West 62nd Street in Mission.

Mission city leaders and residents have developed an initial plan for the large planters blocking the ends of three streets on Hodges Drive.

City leaders last night considered a plan developed by a working group of residents. The design alternative sketched out by a working group of residents and GBA, the architect on the job, will first be tested out at the intersection of Hodges, Juniper and 61st Terrace. It involves installing essentially an “island” in the intersection with a design that also includes pavers and a gate.

Public safety vehicles would have a key to the gate for better accessibility in exiting the area.

The design alternative was part of a compromise between the residents’ desires to keep dead end-style streets and the city’s intent to comply with federal standards while also creating accessibility for emergency responders and public works vehicles.

Hodges Drive working group representatives Sara Newell (left) and Ron Monson agreed with the council’s decision to get more resident feedback.

City councilmembers have agreed with the working group’s design alternative, which will cost about $12,000 to $15,000. Initial plans are to replace one of the planters — the one at 61st Terrace that broke during a police pursuit in spring 2018 — with this new design alternative. Installing the design alternative at all three intersections would cost $36,000 to $45,0000.

Councilmembers also expressed wishes to install gates at the other two intersections, but they’ve tasked staff with asking the group about neighbors’ wishes. They also deliberated on more expensive design options. Councilmember Kristin Inman said she wanted to bounce ideas off the working group.

“I would really want to look at the work group that came together and put a lot of time and effort into trying to come up with a solution,” Inman said. “I would hate to just completely start over after all their hard effort.”

Councilmember Nick Schlossmacher said he wanted the council to consider cost-sharing for design alternatives that would be more aesthetically appealing but cost more money.

“At one point, if we’re talking about more expensive options and ongoing maintenance, maybe some of that responsibility falls on the people that live in that area,” he said. “We’re going to incur higher cost options to maintain some of those aesthetics; Should there be some assessment on people that live on those streets? I think it’s worth that conversation.”

Nick Schlossmacher
Mission Councilmember Nick Schlossmacher

The planters block three streets connecting to Hodges Drive: West 62nd Terrace, West 62nd Street and Juniper Drive/West 61st Terrace (those two roads merge at the intersection). They don’t meet federal highway standards as proper barricades for a number of reasons, including that they create a hazard for motorists, but the neighbors have said they enjoy the planters because they turn their streets into dead ends that keep traffic local.

The three streets feeding into Hodges Drive were originally dead end streets, and neighbors have consistently shared their wishes to keep the streets blocked after Hodge Drive was built. The issue once again came to the city’s attention after the police pursuit last spring that resulted in a vehicle crashing into one of the planters.

City Administrator Laura Smith noted that the city’s main concerns are ensuring accessibility for emergency responder vehicles as well as snow plows, trash trucks and public works vehicles.

Residents have said they want to keep the planters or some kind of barrier to foster a better sense of community among their neighborhood and safe walking spaces with the reduced traffic. They also cited lower crime rates and higher home values for properties on dead end streets.

Residents who participated in the working group said they want a “hard” barrier such as a gate, wall or planter to be at each of the three intersections.

Smith said there is no law or regulation that requires immediate removal of the planters.