2018-07-19

Twin City Bike Parking #34

[Hastings.] 

 [River Road, Minneapolis.]

 [Southeast, Minneapolis.]

[Downtown, Saint Paul.] 

 [Saint Paul.]

 [Downtown, Saint Paul.]

 [Downtown, Minneapolis.]

[Duluth.]

2018-07-17

Shopping Carts are Worse than Scooters



[Worse than scooters.]
In just a one-mile walk down Snelling Avenue the other day, I found four different shopping carts on the sidewalk.

How are these different from scooters?

They both are owned and "operated" by private for-profit businesses.

They both serve a functional transportation purpose for people.

They both clutter the right-of-way.

The big difference is that the Bird scooter company comes and picks up their scooters every night. Meanwhile, Cub, Target, Walmart, and a dozen other negligent shopping cart suppliers just let these mechanical dockless for-profit devices onto the streets and hardly ever clean them up.

On the scale of "posing a menace to sidewalks", I'd rank scooters somewhere below shopping carts and "men working" construction signs, and just above plastic newspaper boxes and slightly-too-large sidewalk cafes.




2018-07-16

What I Said about the Snelling / Marshall Starbucks back in 2015

[One of my photos visiting and observing the Starbucks in 2017.]
The Snelling / Marshall Starbucks is up for review at the Planning Commission after two years of being in operation. At the time it was first approved, I remembered being upset about the inclusion of the drive-thru and I remember voting against it.

But I don't really remember how adamantly or reluctantly I spoke about the plans for the drive-thru and building. In my memory, I predicted traffic and safety problems, and expressed concerns about the proposal.

But was that really true? What was really said about this coffee shop design back in 2015, when all anyone had to work from were some basic diagrams and renderings?

Because Planning Commission meetings are recorded, there is evidence! I requested the audio of the discussion at the September 18th, 2015 Planning Commission meeting where the group approved the Starbucks. At the time, I was not on the Zoning Committee, which is where the more fine-grained vetting of site plan proposals and zoning variances take place. (I am now on that committee...) So the full Commission meeting was my only chance to speak up about the proposal.

Here's a rough transcript of the conversation, with the full audio embedded afterward for the curious:
Chair Wencl [after Commissioner Nelson’s report on the Zoning Committee application]: Open for discussion. Commissioner Lindeke?

Me (Commissioner Lindeke): I’m curious about two things. One is, I received mixed messages about whether or not there were traffic studies done or traffic concerns from Ramsey County or MnDOT. I’m just recalling all the times that trying to do anything to improve pedestrian safety on Snelling Avenue, and MnDOT or someone will say “oh well that can’t be done.” And here there is a case where there are, I think, legitimate concerns about this kind of use, and and how it could affect traffic flow. And at one point it says Ramsey county and MnDOT have looked at this and its fine and at another point is says that there’s a lot of traffic here already and therefore no traffic study is required, and you just told me that they’re going o look at it later. That’s a mixed message and I don’t understand what’s going on. 
The other question is that the developer said that other uses would not fit here and that seems like something that I don’t know any developer might say, so I’m curious what what other uses were predicted or projected by the community or the basic general questions is about how drive-thrus increase any property's value, if you have retail and add a drive-thru you’ll make a lot more money because its kind of easier, but we kind of discourage them in certain specific areas for a lot of reasons and so I just think we should have a more through conversation about it. 
[referring to Commissioner Nelson] I don’t know if that’s for you or who…

Commissioner Nelson: [gives an answer about the traffic studies from the engineering firm hired by Starbucks, basically described the study numbers with counts, about how the Snelling Avenue bridge was closed at the time, and that the studies did not have an accurate baseline. Said he cannot predict what the nearby the Vintage apartment and grocery store project would do to affect traffic. Added that other developments were looked at and the developer was looking to find a use for the site and talked to a mattress store and a cell phone store. Said that the traffic in and out of the site for curb cuts would have been the same location.] 
Commissioner Nelson [continuing]: The site, the way its set up, the curb cuts are as far from the intersection as they possibly can get. There are some things you can see that the site plan that’s been drawn indicates Marshall avenue and a bike lane. There were some modifications to the site plan as this has gone through development. For example, there is an island that has bene added at the exit to marshal avenue, what one of the people speaking referred to as a pork chop…  
Me [interrupting]: That’s one of my favorite terms
Commissioner Nelson: ... that and sideburns right? ... the island which channelizes the traffic into a right turn onto Marshall so that traffic own’t be coming out of the parcel and go over to snelling. By turning right on Marshall… there is one more street you can go back into a frontage road and hop back onto 94, so there have been some traffic mitigation measures put into place w/r/t the site plan. 
Traffic and bicycle safety were definitely items that were brought up, and one suggestion from one of the Commissioners was that the bike lane be looked at very carefully along that area in order to help separate bikes and traffic along the Marshall street frontage on the south side of the road.

[referring to a city planner] Mr Williams would you like to add something to that?

Josh Williams: I guess if the questions of Comm. Lindeke have been answered to his satisfaction I don’t feel like I need to add anything else, but I’m happy to. 
Me: I still think it’s kind of a lazy development and the idea that most of the space is going to just be, anyone who’s ever driven to work knows that stopping to get coffee is something that a lot of people want to do. 
I just feel like its’ going to be a parking lot filled with idling cars that are not... it’s not going to be an asset to the neighborhood. There’s a Starbucks two blocks down and I feel like we should respect the vision of the zoning that was put in in the first place, and w/r/t traffic, this question, you can imagine what’s going to happen. Normally I don’t really concern myself too much about commuting, but I don’t think it’s an asset, so I’m going to vote against it. 
[Commission has an extended discussion about Floor Area Ratios (FAR) and the nature of variances, involving Commissioner Perrus, Commissioner Shively, Commissioner Noecker, Commissioner That, and Commissioner Edgerton.] 
Chair Wencl [introducing the final vote and her stance against the proposal]: Because along with that the traffic problems that would only be additional to what is already happening on Snelling Avenue, I’ve got a particular concern about the bike lane and the turning right on Marshall Avenue as well.



The Commission passed the Conditional Use Permit for a drive-thru and a variance for minimum Floor Area Ratio on a vote of 12-5. with Comms. Wang, Wencl, Lindeke, Merrigan, and Noecker voting no.

In retrospect, there was a lot of discussion about the FAR variance but not that much about the CUP for the drive-thru.

Appended are some more documents and public comment about the drive-thru:






2018-07-13

LIMITED SPACE AVAILABLE - Obscure Museums Tour #3: Somali Museum of Minnesota to House of Balls on July 21st

It's all coming together for another visit to some obscure museums, these located in Minneapolis, Minn.

(I might have some Obscure Museums of Saint Paul coming up soon.)

You might recall some previous obscure museums visited:
  • the Flem museum
  • the Stephen Frenz ten-years-ago Minneapolis influencers portrait gallery
  • the Cycling Museum of Minnesota
  • the (lost) site of the Minnesota Raquetball Hall of Fame
  • the Minnesota Streetcar Museum
  • the Hennepin History Museum
  • and more!

Well on July 21st, we will visit three more. They are each delightfully arranged within a five (5) mile bicycle ride in South Minneapolis.

We'll be going to the Somali Museum of Minnesota, the Vintage Music 78 record collection, and the famous House of Balls.

The date is Saturday July 21st, from noon to about 3pm. Bring a bicycle.


The ticket price includes admission to the Somali Museum of Minnesota, a worthy endeavor is ever there was...


As always, Patreon patrons get a discounted price, so sign up there if you'd like to get advance notice of tours and events, and discounted price for ticketed tours.

There is limited space available, so get your ticket today if you'd like this private tour of the Somali Museum and two other obscure spots of Minneapolis lore.


I hope to see you there.




2018-07-11

VERY LIMITED SPACE for Saint Paul Hummus and Alley Tour this Saturday

Last minute opportunity!

Did you know that, in under a mile of sidewalk, you can find five (5) different unique hummus establishments in Saint Paul?

Similarly did you know that these same areas of town boast some strange alleys and quasi-alleys worth exploring?

For years I have fantasized about having a tour where people walk around an interesting Snelling Avenue-proximate area of Saint Paul and explore some of the hummuses hummi (?), weird nooks, an quasi-alleys that exist in the middle of the city. My sister and brother-in-law are coming to town this weekend and it seems like a great time to get this going.

On the tour, there will hummus or baba ganoush purveyors from Jordan, Palestine, Turkey, Greece, and the United States, along with strange alleys, short blabs about Middle Eastern urban design practices and Saint Paul history, and some miscellaneous local history highlights.

*** NOTE: This is a ticketed event and there is limited space available! *** 


What: This will be a guided walking tour just over a mile in length, featuring four humus and alley stops.
When: The eating and walking tour is this Saturday at 12:30pm.
Where: The walk is about one mile. There will be snacks. Ticket price includes hummuses.
Why: Because it's there.