Reno Skyways Back on City Council Agenda
What: Reno City Council Meeting, Agenda Item E.2
Where: Teleconference Meeting Online
When: Starting at 10 a.m. Wednesday, July 22, 2020
Some required reviews by a citizen-led, professional panel may be nixed by the Reno City Council July 22 when it considers a text amendment meant to accelerate approvals for a proposed skyway project that would ruin the historic and scenic ambiance of the original entrance of the university at Ninth Street near Morrill Hall.
Skyways – pedestrian bridges over public streets – are supposed to be examined by the Design Review Committee (DRC), according to city code. City staff had recommended the DRC be eliminated to accommodate University of Nevada’s construction deadlines for its proposed seven-story parking garage and skyway on Ninth Street.
When that didn’t fly, a proposed compromise to keep the DRC in code but carve out an exception for UNR’s proposed skyway project was agreed to by the council in a 4-3 vote last month. As proposed, going forward, wide skyways would need a DRC recommendation and narrower ones, like the UNR project, would not.
If approved Wednesday, applicants can skip the DRC if their proposed skyway project is 12 feet wide by 15 feet high, not located downtown and span no more than two travel lanes. UNR’s project is 10 feet wide and meets the other requirements.
The Reno Planning Commission opposed the first attempt to shorten approvals which would have eliminated the DRC from city code all together. And Wednesday’s compromise, item E.2, was not sent back for its recommendation.
Scenic Nevada is opposed to permanent code changes for the benefit of one project. We think the DRC is essential to ensuring that any skyway throughout the city is appropriately sited and designed while still being respectful of balancing the community’s needs, historical preservation and aesthetic requirements. The DRC would be composed of a panel of experts that includes landscape and building architects as well as planning commission and community members.
UNR plans to build a 245-foot long pedestrian bridge that would cross Ninth Street from the proposed parking garage at Center Street in the new Gateway District, 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 said it needs the skyway to meet ADA compliance because the Gateway District is 30 feet below grade of the main campus.
The code change means the UNR project and all future skyway projects that fit the exemption could be approved without benefit of expert guidance from the DRC. All skyways would continue to be reviewed by the Planning Commission and City Council.
The text amendment requires two city council votes. If approved July 22, the second one could happen in two weeks, paving the way to approve UNR’s skyway project.
Tell council members to deny this text amendment and instead take the time to form the DRC. All skyways should be reviewed to provide the thoughtful, measured expert opinions necessary to make sure each, no matter the size, is appropriately situated and designed.