Hey Hyattsville! I want to reassure you that I an still alive, though I spent the second half of last week recovering from a fever. Unfortunately, my self imposed quarantine meant that I missed a much anticipated city meeting which reviewed the results of the University Hills sidewalk survey.
While I couldn't report on the he-said-she-said aspects of the meeting, city officials did make the survey response data public. From that data, a portion of which gauged the neighborhood's receptiveness to sidewalks on a street by street level, we can plot on a map the areas of University Hills where sidewalk opposition is stronger and weaker.
That's exactly what I did above. The greener the area means a dominant percentage of survey respondents on those streets want sidewalks while red areas have higher percentage of survey respondents opposed to sidewalks.
Looking at the neighborhood as a whole, opinion on the matter is practically split down the middle. But when you break down the responses street by street, corridors of strong support for sidewalks are revealed
As the map shows, Wells Blvd. and Gumwood Drive residents are among the most supportive of sidewalks in all of University Hills, according to survey data.
Opposition to sidewalks was highest among survey respondents who lived in the southern section of University Hills, bound by Gumwood Drive to the north and Calverton Drive to the south. This neighborhood is home to some of the most expensive homes in the city, according to 2012 real estate sales data.
Here's the background for the uninitiated:
As seems to be the case anytime the city of Hyattsville proposes new sidewalks and pedestrian routes through neighborhoods, a clattering of activists awake, ready to defend the street side public right of way which lines their property from the curbed concrete menace.
The city has a seven-year-old sidewalk policy which mandates that handicap-accessible pedestrian facilities be installed on all city streets where feasible. Residents can petition against the installation of sidewalks on their street, but a majority of the city council needs to approve the petition to be enforced.
Most recently, as the city has moved forward on design work for an overhaul of the University Hills streetscape, the protests of these anti-sidewalk activists, many of them long-time, elderly neighborhood residents, have dominated public meetings held to discuss the proposals.
In December, Mayor Marc Tartaro and the city of Hyattsville sent out 345 detailed surveys asking for University Hills residents' opinion of the proposals.
The move was overtly designed to test Tartaro's belief that those opposed to the sidewalks were a vocal minority.
"I believe that we have only heard from about 15 percent of neighborhood homeowners. I need to know if those who have spoken thus far represent the majority view of the community," read a letter from Tartaro included in each survey.
Now, with survey results in, the city has more than doubled the number of neighborhood residents who have added their two cents to the sidewalk debate. The survey had a 39 percent response rate, with 136 surveys returned.
When presented with three options for Wells Blvd.,–installing a six foot sidewalk on both sides of the street, installing a sidewalk along with stormwater management improvements, or installing a bike path along both sides of the street–most respondents chose the combined sidewalk and stormwater management proposal.
As I wind back into my work schedule this week, look for another article examining the next steps the city is taking with the University Hills streetscape project.