Final Votes on Skyway and Code Change Wednesday
Last Chance to Weigh In
This is it; the final votes — two agenda items on an atrocious skyway proposed by the university along with the code change that makes the campus project possible — will be held Wednesday, August 12 during the Reno City Council meeting.
What: Reno Council Meeting, Agenda Item C.4 and F.7
Where: Teleconference Meeting at www.Reno.gov
When: Starting at 10 a.m. Wednesday, August 12
Please send a comment card for each item, C.4 and F.7, to the Reno City Council letting them know you are opposed. Click here.
UNR’s Planning Process
The University of Nevada is cramming the proposed skyway through an undisturbed green belt on the south end of campus along Ninth Street that includes 100-year-old trees and is part of the state Arboretum. It would end near the front of historic Morrill Hall and the iconic stone stairway that has been there for a century.
UNR is thrusting this on the community because of poor planning. Apparently, no one noticed the 30-foot elevation change when it was decided to expand south of Ninth Street, where the current campus ends. Moving down the hill included the grade change that requires ADA access for any building projects there.
Although the plan to push south has been in place since 2014, it didn’t include a skyway and it wasn’t until last year that someone noticed the problem the elevation change creates. And that triggered this thoughtless, rushed project patched together to solve the ADA compliance problems.
City Creates Exemption for UNR
Meanwhile, the skyway – a pedestrian bridge over a public road – needs a Special Use Permit from the city, item C.4. The Reno Planning Commission recommended denial of the proposed skyway recently. Wednesday will be the council’s first review of the project.
One of the supposed code requirements to gain approval of a skyway is a review by a panel of design experts. UNR wants to skip that scrutiny to meet its fall construction start date and perhaps any inconvenient recommendations that might follow.
Conveniently, City Council Member Neoma Jardon initiated the code change to eliminate the design panel review for UNR and meet the university’s construction timetable. That’s up for a final vote Wednesday, item F.7. In the previous two preliminary votes, council voted 4-3 to approve, with Mayor Hillary Schieve and Councilmembers Jennie Brekhus and Naomi Duerr opposed.
UNR and ADA Compliance
UNR’s southern expansion, called the Gateway District, includes a proposed seven-story parking garage at Lake and Ninth Streets. UNR plans to build a 245-foot long skyway that would start on the fourth floor of the garage, cross Ninth Street, extend through a scenic and undisturbed greenbelt known as Ninth Street Hill, and terminate near the front of historic Morrill Hall, the 138-year-old building listed on the National Register of Historic places.
UNR President Marc Johnson is slated to appear at Wednesday’s hearing to tout UNR’s award-winning building projects, architects and engineers as well as plead for the code change, he’ll say, will ultimately benefit the disabled.
However, UNR doesn’t have a good track record when it comes to ADA compliance. A 2018 headline from the online version of the Reno Gazette Journal said, “UNR will spend $2 million to fix ADA mistakes from its Mackay Stadium renovation.” The article says campus officials relied on its architect and the Nevada Department of Public Works, which approved a redesign of the stadium.
Join the Discussion
We’re opposed to the code change that carves out an exception for UNR because there is no public benefit. The panel of independent landscape designers and architects the city is helping UNR to avoid, could find a better way to satisfy ADA rules, if allowed to do their job. The change is meant to satisfy one entity which is bad policy, bad planning and an example of bad governing by the city council.
As for the proposed skyway, we think building it over the historic and original entrance to campus that has stood for over 100 years is a tragic loss to the community. The modern utilitarian boxcar look of the skyway doesn’t fit with the surrounding features including Morrill Hall, the stone staircase and 100-year-old trees in the green belt on Ninth Street Hill.
Please join us in opposing the code change and the proposed skyway. Contact city hall before Wednesday by emailing a comment card or leave a voicemail at (775) 393-4499.