(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)

My Turn: Suggestions for Juneau’s future as the Planning Commission seeks public input

Note: This story has been updated to correct the amount of the head tax, and clarify references to the bus electric conversion project and proposed development of Telephone Hill.

I recently submitted these comments to our hard-working Planning Commission members, who are currently accepting public feedback on CBJ’s Blueprint Downtown:

Thank you for your commitment to the public process. This is much appreciated. I offer brief input addressing mostly two of the eight stated goals, namely “more housing of all types” and “diverse, well-managed tourism.”

We don’t need more housing “of all types.” We need workforce housing and senior-friendly housing. Seniors are the fastest growing segment of Juneau’s population — and we are really having a hard time attracting young workers in all fields (medical, childcare, government, food service — there are vacancies everywhere). These two goals are mutually compatible. Many seniors want to downsize into smaller, one-level homes. Younger families are more likely to stay in homes that have been designed for aging (reinforcement for grab bars, single-level, etc). If seniors have ways to downsize, their larger less mobility-friendly homes can be sold to younger families — no need to build more sprawling family homes with any public inducements.

“Well-managed tourism” is not evident. The summer crowds are out of control. Many locals avoid downtown or, if they can afford it, leave. Those who leave in the summer are more likely to leave permanently at some point. These are the wealthier citizens who obviously take their spending power with them when they leave. CBJ receives a good amount of money from head taxes however the lion’s share of your budget is from local property taxes. Juneau is a valuable destination. Head tax should be in the $75-$100 range. Thirteen dollars is ridiculous. Ships are getting bigger and nobody is fooled by the “five-ship daily limit.” Some days more tourists are dumped in downtown Juneau than the entire population of CBJ. It is imperative to prioritize the quality of life for us locals — not just because it’s the right thing to do — but because it makes economic sense: Out of control tourism is going to drive wealthier segments of our population to other permanent destinations and the environmental degradations will make Juneau less and less attractive to everyone eventually.

Smaller thoughts:

• Consider making Front Street pedestrian only.

• Complete the Seawalk. Is Merchant’s Wharf really going to get torn down? Fine with me — I just hope the business owners will be given plenty of notice to relocate. That would be a good site for an attractive, multi-purpose City Hall with a senior activity center.

• Consider creating indoor multi-stacked, hydroponic community gardens (run like the one out by the gun range) except inside, for year-round gardening and reducing food insecurity.

• More public restrooms, please.

• Light rail from DT Transit station to airport. Then to Vintage Park and then to Auke Bay.

• Electric shore power to all docks. Mandatory if a new dock. I’m against another dock.

• Bus fleets move to all electric.

• On Telephone Hill, creating a model high density, senior friendly, workforce housing complex, nicely landscaped 15-minute city there.

Thank you for your attention.

• Emily Kane is an advocate for senior and other issues who has practiced family medicine in Juneau since 1993. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.

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