Category Archives: cleveland

Introducing Marillac – A way to find food pantries in Cuyahoga County

As a food pantry manager, I occasionally get asked: where else can I get food?

Conversations would go like this:

If they asked in person,

I or a pantry volunteer would hand them a paper list (that they couldn’t take to keep) that were sorted by zip code with listings that contained the name of the organization, the address, zip, type of assistance they gave (a hot meal or a pantry where people can receive parishable and non-parishable groceries), and if there were any geographic restriction (1).

If I was helping a client on the telephone,

I would type their address into google maps, get their zip code, and try to figure out which locations sounded they would be close to them. Look at a private web page hosted by the Greater Cleveland Food Bank that lists agencies sorted by zip code, name some of the locations, ask if they sound close or familiar to the client and then give them the information.

There had to be a better way to getting this information to people. Drawing from my experience of a year of managing a pantry and my mapping background,
I’m making a map/web app that allows other pantry managers who are asked this question to answer this question more informatively and quicker by making Marillac, a web map that has allow the user to:

– input the person’s address
– the map will automatically zoom to the address on the map and display pantries and hot meals near the person’s home;
– find additional details about the pantry/hot meal by clicking on the icon;

Use it at:

This is the first usable version and I’m sharing it with fellow agencies and the local food bank (the Greater Cleveland Food Bank) to see if they find it useful and what can be done to make it more useful for my fellow pantry managers. I used it for the first time earlier this week with a person who called me and it worked :)

If you’re interested in seeing the source code, you can view it on
(If you’re javascript proficient, any tips or suggestions on my code too would be appreciated!)

Technical details (for the opendata geeks and the curious):
As I dove into this, there was a lot of work to be done; my data sources were a PDF and
or a web page (only available to agencies) that organized the locations by zip. I first scraped the PDF using Tabula, did some formatting with regex, and turned it into a csv file and then a geojson file (mapbox’s csv2geojson). Then, I needed to find a geocoder for addresses that are inputted. I finally found one: SmartyStreets, with a great price (free!) for non-profits.
I’m a big fan and user of mapbox; so I used mapbox’s mapping library. I was still a little rusty on some of my javascript, so some mapbox’s excellent examples for mapbox.js, like filtering markers, were also useful.

(1) Most pantries restrict access based on a person’s zip code although they will usually serve a person for the first time. Zip codes aren’t always an effective way geographic boundary. What may be close for one resident in a zip isn’t close at all. (See this gis.stackexchange discussion for a more technical explanation)

Mapping Cleveland’s Proposed Ward Boundaries of 2014

Monday March 25, 2013

Cleveland City Council President Martin Sweeney released the proposed ward boundaries for 2014. This is just one day before he presents them to be voted on in City Council.

City of cleveland issues this map. A JPEG. Not even georeferenced.
– it has no street names, all features (including rivers and railroads) are all styled the same. Nothing more.

This has sadly been characteristic of the City of Cleveland’s approach to open data, particularly spatial data…

Cleveland’s approach to open data, particularly in this instance, isn’t acceptable. Nor does it help foster a culture where civic hacking flourishes.

Great maps and other visualizations including this great slippy map of new Districts of NYC by WNYC (led by jkeefe) that inspired me to do this, shouldn’t be exclusive to the tech cultures that we usually hear (NYC, SF, CHI, Austin, SEA, PDX, on and on) or wherever Code for America stops in for the year.

Later that afternoon, Current Ward 14 Councilman Brian Cummins, had received PDF maps of most of the proposed ward and posted them on his blog.
A step above from what I had before. A Shapefile would be too much to ask.

(At least Kudos to him and my current councilman, Joe cimperman, for having twitter accounts and responding to their constituents on there. )

So I began by opening up a blank layer in JOSM, loaded in the Cleveland boundary from OpenStreetMap (less things to draw that way) and began simply tracing out the boundaries over Openstreetmap tiles. I was switching windows every couple minutes, looking at the JPEG boundary, then drawing the same lines in JOSM, repeat.

Had to be a better way, was going to take a couple hours (and it did).

(Side Question: What You use to draw geometries that you’ll later process in your maps/visualizations/analysis ? )

Behold: The georeferencing tool in qgis, which would let you load an image as a layer. This, I thought would be a shortcut. I could create the polygons of the wards by tracing right over the boundaries in the image, without hauving to switch windows.

The biggest problem was that I didn’t know the projection of the JPEG.
Unfortunately, these tutorials assume that your image is georeferenced.

To georeference in qgis, you should know what the projection of your original image is in before you start. If you don’t know, you’ll have to do some guessing and trial and error. I made a few guesses of the most popular projections (4326, 3857) and then tried several ohio ones. An hour or 2 later, none of the projections worked out.

So, I scrapped that idea, I began to draw the ways again in josm.
From there, I did my usual workflow which with I’m most comfortable into tilemill;

use osm2pgsql to convert my .osm file of boundaries (which were in the form of relations, specifically multipolygons) to load into a postgis enabled database.

(I’ve been meaning to become more comfortable with geoJSON and I would have tried to save my file in josm as json but I read there’s a bug in the json export of josm that doesn’t export relations correcty, I didn’t bother to verify this yet)

Next, I used Mapbox’s (which consists of data from OpenStreetmap) technique to create a custom map that I can use as my reference base layer.

Style my layer of proposed ward boundaries in Tilemill….

Then in mapbox.js, I simply put the two layers together. voila, as shown in my map at:

Still more to do with this:

– finish up the documentation

– Tweak the colors
– Add in the census tracts so when a user hovers over an area, they can see the population of a particular place.
– add the existing boundaries too would be nice (as a separate layer for the online map)
– convert the 2014 ward boundaries (currently as a .osm) to a shapefile so others can use it.
Right now, it is available as an .osm in my github repo…

Follow this along in its github repo.

Cleveland City Planning Commission notes 2012.02.17 – No, you May not park there !

Quote of the Meeting: “I didn’t fall off the turnip truck last night” – Coyne.

(My comments in Italics)

In attendance: Special K, Pinkney, Coyne, Bowen, Lumpkin, Cleveland, Brown.

Surprisingly, the meeting started on time.

This Week’s agenda:

Here’s a couple of the highlights:

  • Dow’s rezoning plan:

Councilman Dow was sponsoring because he had recently made a comprehensive rezoning plan for the neighborhood(s) of Ward 7, (that map, courtesy of Cleveland GIS, the official GIS site of the City of Cleveland).. He wasn’t there to present it (and I forgot who did on his behalf, something I should have noted, so I’ll refer to them as ‘the rep’ here), it was supported by the city of Cleveland planning staff.

The rezoning’s Purpose was “to prevent nuisance-type retail from popping up”; the rep also said the few retail outlets that were there are ‘bad neighbors’ and ‘nuisances’ to the neighborhood.

One resident in attendance spoke up against the rezoning changes as the change to multi-family rezoning would encourage ‘riff-raff’ to the neighborhood.

Councilman Dow works with the Famicos Foundation and the St. Clair CDC in his Ward 7. (Here’s a map of Ward 7, courtesy of Cleveland GIS, the official GIS site of the City of Cleveland). Neither organization had made any statement of their position of the zoning changes to the CPC.

(My hunch is that there’s someone or something else that is supporting this.)(Why else did Dow come up with a comprehensive rezoning-plan for the neighborhood if the city already has a master zoning plan ?! He doesn’t have anywhere else to spend his time ? Was it driven by constituents ? I wonder when the city’s zoning plan was last updated)

Decision: Approval, on the condition that the CPC receives letters of support from Famicos and St. Clair CDC; and 603-11 specifically was approved on the that none of the changes conflicts with the master zoning plan. (typing from my notes, I don’t understand why only 603-11 was singled out that these zoning changes could conflict with master zoning plan).

  • New parking garage, on the southeast corner of Ontario and Carnegie. Built for Tri-C… Across from Progressive Field, the existing surface parking lot was a huge money maker for Tri-C. With the New Innerbelt taking out some of the land of the existing surface lot, they decided to make a multi-level parking garage. On the northwest Corner, the archetect interesting included a small concrete pedestrian ‘gathering space’ at street-level.(scalpers now have a new prime location ! )(I generally prefer downtown land to be use in ways besides parking. On the positive, this is a parking garage rather than a surface lot, so it will decrease the amount of additional parking needed. It increases supply of parking spaces available, giving less incentive to land owners to use land as parking lots)

Decision: Passed by City Planning Commission


  • The proposed Parking Garage in the May Company Building

Once the bastion of downtown Cleveland department store shopping, the May Company Building on Euclid (on the south side, between East 4th and Ontario) has sat dormant to the public eye for as long as I can remember.

Days before the meeting, the proposal to turn it into a parking garage received attention by local news- ( and nationally at the Atlantic Cities blog.

One historical building demolished less than a year a go for parking, would another one bite the dust ?

In a nutshell, not anytime soon.

The CPC gave the strongest criticism of any project that I’ve seen covering their meetings for the past 13 months. Commission head Tony Coyne led the criticism, noted that the owner, in Florida and locally represented by Robert Zarzycki, ZM Architects, commented that the owner gave very little consideration of this building and its use and charged it as a ‘bottom-feeder approach.’ (Where was this criticism during the Columbia Building demolition?!)

Zarzycki tried to save face by noting that parking was only proposed on floors 2-5 of the 8 floors and although the building’s windows facing Euclid would be removed, the garage’s lighting would be minimally visible from the street. (Fortunately), Coyne and ‘Special K’ Norm Krumholz, weren’t buying it; Coyne replied that ‘he wasn’t born last night.’  and Norm noted it was ‘an incredibly bad land use.’ – No traffic study had been done and the archetect hastily mentioned that apartments wouldn’t work in the building because, who wants an apartment without windows (this building has 2 other buildings on its west and east sides) ?  – Coyne astutely mentioned that a light box could be added which also was done in other downtown conversions (the Bingham, National Terminal).

Decision : Rejected

Although it was rejected, the use of parking in the May Company in the future is still possible. As of now, the building is only occupied on the 6th Floor, as a ‘tech center’ (don’t know specifically what that is) and a portion of the 1st floor to a couple restaurants and bars. The architect noted that the other floors are sparse: most of its materials have been stripped and would require a bit of reinvestment before they could be used for anything.

Planning Director Brown said he wasn’t against it, although he said he wasn’t sure if the Planning Commission even has jurisdiction of over the use of the building (Me: If this is true, The fact that the CPC doesn’t have this power strikes me with only resigned surprise….), but jurisdiction over the windows and a traffic study that would need to be performed… Special K disagreed with him.

Chairman Coyne noted that if housing were a substantial part of the building in the future, he could see a floor or 2 being devoted to parking….

Downtown Cleveland Parking Map

Upon hearing about the (ill-fated) proposed parking garage for the May Company building a couple weeks ago, I wanted to highlight the existing amount of parking that already exists downtown.

So, here’s a map of Downtown Cleveland’s parking,
here’s a map of Downtown Cleveland parking broken down by garage, underground, and surface, hosted by mapbox. The map design is based on osm-bright and the source is available on my github page.

(Update: There are still a handful of lots that are exclusively for some downtown apartment complexes – particularly on West 9th, that are unmapped at the moment).

Cleveland Planning commission Meeting Roundup – Dec. 16, 2011

The shortest Planning Commission meeting that I’ve been to [out of the dozen or so] Ended by 10:30am.

Attendance: Krumholz, Coyne [Chair], Pickney, Cleveland [9:20a], Bowens [9:50]

Very minor ; here’s a very quick recap, and I’ll flesh it out later today or tomorrow.

– CWRU’s Planning Director said that they’re considering renovating a portion of the Temple on E. 105th for a performing arts center…

– Pending demolition for 2 buildings on Broadway. One of the buildings, former Goodman’s Furniture, has some nice architectural elements on the outside. Its owner, the city of Cleveland, is going to find out how much it will cost to salvage those elements (and find someone to take them, because they claim not to have the storage space for them). One hasty quote [for removing them] that the city received was $10k; But they’re going to get firmer quotes, and this will come back [as far as I remember] to the Commish in at the next meeting.
My guess is that if it’s anything over $10k or if they don’t have anyone interested in the elements, they’ll demolish it. The overall time frame on this building is relatively fast, city hopes to have this demo’d in 6-8 weeks. [address is somewhere in my notes, these buildings are right next to Holy Family Church, near the intersection of Harvard and Broadway].

– The zoning changes along Hough Avenue on the agenda were tabled [at the last minute] at the request of whoever initiated the zoning changes. They will be brought again before the commish in January.

The Paris Art Theater Demolished

Another day, another building demolished in Cleveland.

This time it was the Paris Art Theatre, 3151 West 25th Street,
Cleveland, OH 44109.
I noticed it demo’d on Monday, Nov. 7th.
You can find more information on the property by entering the Parcel #: 008-10-010 in Cuyahoga County’s property database.

(Credits to otterphoto for some pictures here and Cinematreasures has some notes on it as well. Originally named the Southern Theatre, it turned to a porn theater in the late 60s or 70s, showing classics like Deep Throat .

I haven’t seen the building operable in the past 10 years. It’s a shame. Granted, I have no idea what should be done with the building.
$14,000 in property taxes owed. The owner of the building since 2000: the Clark Metro Development Corporation. I haven’t heard much about them since I moved back to Cleveland in 2009 and as I understand, is dissolved. Regardless, they should be responsible for the cost of demolishing the Paris Art Theatre. Was the building salvageable ? Why did Clark Metro sit on it for so long [since 2000] ? If they’re dissolved, why didn’t Tremont West or Detroit Shoreway, the 2 CDCs who have been active in the neighborhood recently take ownership ?

There’s more commentary on this at realneo

Also, just a few buildings down is the Aragon Ballroom, a boarded-up Concert Hall, also currently shuttered and I was preparing a blog post months ago on this building and remember reading that Live had a concert there in ’92 but I can’t find the link right now.

As often is the case, I’m left with more questions than answers about the demolition and there’s more to the story…

…All the pieces matter. – Freemon.

(note: All links are ‘safe for work’ and do not display any pornography).

Cleveland Neighborhood Map

The Cleveland Neighborhood Map was updated last week, check it out. I added Brooklyn Centre and Lake Erie is now included on the map.

Updates to Cleveland’s off-street parking requirements

April 15th’s city planning commission meeting was relatively eventful. Standing room only !

Proposed changes to laws requiring off-street parking for bars, restaurants, taverns, and night clubs in the City of Cleveland were approved by the City Planning Commission on April 15th.

Off-street Parking Space Requirements for bars, taverns, restaurants, and cafeterias:

One space for each employee +
one space for each 100 square feet of floor area devoted to patron use or one for each four seats based on maximum seating capacity, whichever is greater, including floor area and seating located on outdoor dining patios on private property.

Sidewalks are considered public property, thus, any patios on sidewalks are not included in the parking requirement space requirements.

For Nightclubs:

One space for each employee +

(parking area equal to three times the gross floor area) or
one parking space for each 4 seats based on maximum seating capacity, whichever is greater (including floor area and seating located on outdoor patios on private property.

These recommendations will be sent to City Council where it will be later deliberated. It’s still early in the process,
as Tony Coyne (City Planning Commission chair) eloquently put it: “it’s the start of the sausage making process”

Current requirements for nightclubs (which were classified as ‘dance halls’ under the code] does not specify any parking for employees. Current requirements for bars and restaurants do not include any additional parking for outdoor patios on private property

My initial reaction[s]:

I haven’t decided whether to be in favor of it but I’m learning towards no. There is still a minimum amount of land that will need to be taken up by parking. This mandated parking decreases the density of buildings and businesses that makes public transportation, walking, and bicycling as more viable options. The existing off-street parking requirements can be found on Findlaw, Section 4.

Existing code and the revised code include one spot for each employee although there will be very few situations when every employee will be working at the same time.

Fortunately, the location for the mandated parking isn’t specified. This allows the parking to be behind the buildings or in a parking garage, instead of in front of the buildings which would separate the buildings from the sidewalk and the street.

I’d love to hear transportation planners weigh in with their insights.

Cleveland Neighborhood Update v4.0

I’ve released another update to the Cleveland neighborhood map earlier today. I’ve learned quite a bit in the last 4 months working on this update. I plan to release future updates on a much more timely basis.

I’ve also become more involved in editing openstreetmap, which is like google maps, but with a wikipedia philosophy.

Troubleshooting my Cleveland neighborhood map – Part one

As I noted a couple weeks ago, I was unable to render the image for the Cleveland neighborhood map. After a couple weeks of troubleshooting [all noted , I finally fixed the problem. Hoping to have the version2.0 release in a couple days !

Below is a log of the troubleshooting that I’ve done over the past couple weeks.

A couple notes [also see the diagram in my previous blog post for reference
.osm file – contains geographic data, like the location of streets, cities, trees, and other features, within a specific space (noted by longitude and latitude).

The rules file (.XML) (known as osm-map-features .xml in the diagram) – the rules file defines properties of the map: colors, size of objects [like streets, railroads] for the entire area that is in the data in the .OSM

Then you run a program that takes the .osm file and the specified rules file into an SVG [this process is called rendering].

The problem in detail:

I downloaded another .osm file of the city of Cleveland that included the collinwood area (I named this data file version 2.0).

I also modified the rules file because I wanted to increase the size of the Cleveland’s administrative borders. I dubbed this modified rules file as ‘rules2.0’

I went through the same rendering workflow as I previously did, using xsltproc to create the SVG. I rendered twice to create 2 SVG
files, version2-draft1 and version2-draft2.svg [draft 2, because I edited the rules map to also include a scale]
Eye of gnome [the default image viewer for ubuntu] and the gimp didn’t show the administrative borders for these SVGs.
At first, I thought maybe I damaged something in the 2.0 rules file. Nope. I decided to try render a small part of Collinwood.
That SVG displayed fine, with the larger administrative borders in the gimp and eye of gnome….

At this point, it was round Nov. 18th, I was still unsure why the borders weren’t showing.
Meanwhile, xsltproc was taking 6 hours each time to render the version2.0 data. I talked to the friendly people in OSM [OpenStreetmap]’s IRC channel and after troubleshooting with a couple members, mostly with petschnge, I decided to comment nearly everything out of the rules, so that the borders and little else would be rendered in the SVG (I named this rules file, 3.0). I had hoped by commenting most things out of the rules file, except for the borders, the rendering would go much faster and then go from there.

Unfortunately, the rendering was not any faster – still 6 hours, and the borders still had not shown in the gimp or eog.

I mentioned this to petschnge, and I sent him/her my rules and data files. petschnge had rendered version 1.x data and the version 2.0 data using the 3.0 rules file.
He noted that borders did appear in his rendered SVGs ! I was excited, then I found out the borders for both SVGs were appearing – in inkscape.
Additionally, he had rendered them through a perl script, known as Osmarender/perl or or/p which produced SVGs much smaller in disk size, only 4 or 5mb each, compared to 10+mb ones that were created through xsltproc

As I downloaded them from him and opened the SVG made according to the 1.x data [with the 3.0rules], the borders appeared in the eye of gnome and the gimp. As I opened the ones made with the 2.0 data, no borders appeared in the gimp or eye of gnome.

The problem all along had been the gimp and the eye of gnome [both programs are probably using the same library to display the SVG, I imagine] being unable to display the borders in very large SVGs, [in terms of the image’s width]. I’ll file a bug about this in gnome’s bugzilla soon.

Yet, the story is not over yet. Will post part 2 of it very soon.