City eyes sidewalk obstacles downtown

Assembly also considers changes to crossing guard program

Posted: Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Juneau Assembly members, in an effort to reduce downtown congestion, are considering a ban on some vending machines, giant stuffed animals and other objects that block the movement of pedestrians on sidewalks.

They also are trying to make the city's crossing guard program more effective.

The Assembly's Planning and Policy Committee reviewed a draft ordinance Tuesday that would ban obstructions on public sidewalks that have the potential for impeding traffic. The changes will get more discussion at a work session March 3, Deputy Mayor Ken Koelsch said.

For the Assembly, the main focus of attention is South Franklin Street downtown. The street's sidewalks are packed with cruise-ship passengers and other shoppers during the summer.

Koelsch said people end up walking in the street because large stuffed animals and vending machines block their path.

"It's one of the biggest bottlenecks," he said of the human-sized stuffed animals that are popular with camera-toting tourists.

Assembly member Jeannie Johnson said the sidewalk obstacles cause congestion and are a safety issue.

The city has strict regulations for people who sell food or lattes on the sidewalk, but zoning inspector Dan Garcia said city code doesn't specifically mention automated vending machines that sell pop or water. The proposed ordinance only deals with items on public sidewalks, he said.

"This is designed to not overly police the downtown, but if there are areas where officers see a safety hazard ... they now have a tool to deal with it," he said. "It's a lot more clear and direct and we can provide a copy of the code to businesses."

Violating the sidewalk code would be an infraction, similar to a traffic ticket. A first-time violation would bring a $25 fine.

Assembly member Stan Ridgeway urged his colleagues to be careful with sidewalk rules. People line up on the sidewalk to see movies and the city doesn't want to stop people from window-shopping, he said.

"I hate to blindside ourselves with an ordinance that says you can't stop on the sidewalk," he said.

Assembly members also are discussing how to make the downtown crossing guard program more effective. The two-year-old program has had trouble recruiting people to fill six summer positions, Juneau Police Chief Richard Gummow said.

Gummow suggested the city increase wages and hours, double the number of positions and hire a supervisor to oversee scheduling. Some Assembly members suggested the city could find a private company to run the program.

Assembly member Dale Anderson said the city also might want to consider installing a rope barrier along the South Franklin Street to keep people on the sidewalk. Such a setup has been effective in downtown Ketchikan, he said.

Joanna Markell can be reached at

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