Westport Sidewalk Privatization Still Alive


An ordinance to privatize the sidewalks of Westport is moving forward, sponsored by Councilwoman Katheryn Shields. Once again, I submitted a letter of opposition -- this time to the Planning, Zoning, and Economic Development Committee.

My last opposition letter (on behalf of BikeWalkKC) got some attention from local muckraker Tony's KC.

Here's my most recent letter:

Dear Members of KCMO City Council:

I am writing to you again to express my opposition to the proposed vacation of Westport Sidewalks (ordinance #17083) on behalf of my organization, BikeWalkKC, and as a nearby homeowner and resident of Westport.

BikeWalkKC opposes the privatization of critical public spaces — it is simply inconsistent with our mission to redefine our streets as places for people to build a culture of active living. We believe this to be the case for three primary reasons: 1) Westport Rd. and Pennsylvania St. are important pedestrian connectors and privatization would compromise the neighborhood’s already disjointed street grid; 2) even with a tight MOU, the privatization makes it easier for the sidewalks to be closed for public use further degrading pedestrian connectivity — hundreds of residents live in the vicinity of Westport and rely on open sidewalks to get to the neighborhood’s many amenities; 3) the civil liberties of our citizens cannot be guaranteed on private property which, in this case is the sidewalk, the very place people are most likely to be profiled and hassled.

My family personally opposes this measure out of fear for what effect it may have on adjacent neighborhoods. A quick scan of Star articles on the violent crime in the Westport area seems to indicate that nearly all of the shootings over the last year have occurred outside of the proposed vacation. The most recent example hit particularly close to home. A young man was murdered on a Sunday evening near 40th and Main — a figurative stone’s throw from our home and our children’s daycare. The murder was neither within the boundary or the timeframe of WRBL’s proposed security checkpoints yet this incident and others like it are frequently cited as necessitating the privitazation.

Our primary concern is that as security gets tighter in Westport will this drive violent crime further into the surrounding neighborhoods?

Further, we chose to move to Midtown from Denver seven years ago for it’s easy walking access to Westport and all of its neighborhood amenities. We then chose to lay down roots by purchasing a home at 3601 Wyandotte where we are now raising a family. In that time we have observed a marked shift in Westport from the inviting neighborhood center we were initially drawn to into a regional entertainment hub. We welcome visitors from around the region to enjoy our neighborhood, but it is clear that the shift toward a 3AM bar district is becoming incompatible with the charming urban neighborhood we thought it to be.

Privitaization of Westport’s primary sidewalks for the sole purpose of supporting this new, raccaus version of Westport is not only short-sighted but further entrenches the culture of debauchery and violence.

Let it be known that I 100% support the existence of taverns and night life in my neighborhood, but the concentration of 3AM bars in Westport has become extreme.

I encourage you to find solutions to the cause of the problem not harm the many for the benefit of the few.

Thank you,
— Eric Bunch