Reading the Highland Villager #125

[Basically the problem is that the best source of Saint Paul streets & sidewalks news is the Highland Villager, a very fine and historical newspaper. This wouldn't be a problem, except that its not available online. You basically have to live in or frequent Saint Paul to read it. That's why I'm reading the Highland Villager. Until this newspaper goes online, sidewalk information must be set free.]  
Headline: Union Park at odds with city over use of cell tower funds; whereabouts of unspent lease payments still up in the air
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Money from leasing agreements with a cell tower was supposed to go to improvements to two parks, but the city can’t account for the money, which is some think like $40K. it seems like Parks and Recreation is claiming that the money was spent on the parks in question, but they don’t have good documentation of spending the funds there. [Typical Saint Paul.] Article includes history of the cell tower construction fight. [Involving the Planning Commission, thankfully before my time. I find it difficult to have strong feelings about cell towers, either way, but agree that they are an eyesore.]

Headline: Design standards for new home construction stall; creating rules exclusive to Ward 3 is questioned 
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Neighbors in Highland and Mac-Grove would really like to see new design and setback standards for “teardowns” but … Article quotes two members of the Planning Commission expressing some skepticism that the process is simple, citing the problems with negotiating setbacks and having arbitrary borders around certain neighborhoods, rather than the entire city. [I don’t have strong opinions about this personally.] The city is working on a study on the new design standards, but it is being delayed due to these kinds of complexities. Article includes background on the 1721 Princeton Avenue teardown situation. [Update: the Macalaster College High Winds foundation has purchased the home.]

Headline: Commission OKs plan for Grand apartments 
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A four-story apartment building will be built on Grand Avenue. Neighbors worry about “parking congestion.” Article includes the quote: “The car elevator is new for Saint Paul.” [A new day is dawning, friend.] The developer is upset about having restrictions about how many on-street parking permits he is allowed to purchase. [On-street parking permits is a whole topic that neighbors in areas like this should think way more about. For one thing, they should be more expensive! Correct me if I'm wrong, but I heard they’re like $10 a year or something right now. Pricing is the only way to ensure there are more spaces available. It’s pretty simple really. You can have free parking or you can convenient parking. Unless you live in Flint Michigan or the Twin cities suburbs, it's impossible to have both.]

Headline: Proposed bike loop divides downtown business community
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Overview of the plans for the downtown bike loop and the dispute between two business groups about whether to support the loop or retaining on-street parking on certain streets downtown. Article cites Mayoral aide Anne Hunt: “The only part of the downtown loop and spur system we’ll be building this year is Jackson Street.” [I like how she calls it a ‘spur’ system as well, as connecting downtown to the neighborhood bike lanes in all directions will be *the key* to its success.] Article also mentions the downtown parking study [which is in the works and is really what everyone should be focusing on].

Headline: University Avenue, 7th Street bikeways added to city bike plan
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Article on the Planning Commission’s Transportation Committee unanimously passing the proposed bike plan while make a few changes, including adding 7th Street and a short stretch of University Avenue to the map. [This article is about the Committee that I chair, so I’m not going to say much about it. You can read the city’s memo on the matter, which does a good job of summarizing everything, here: link to a .pdf packet, scroll to the end.]

Headline: Neighbors divided over widening of Randolph-Lexington; Will it ease congestion or attract more traffic, that is the question [How Shakespearean! But that's actually not the question. The question should be, "what is best for everyone living in Saint Paul? If the answer to the question is 'easing congestion', which is almost always a lost cause in a growing city, than the question is messed up to begin with.]
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Ramsey County and Saint Paul’s public works departments are trying to figure out what to do about reconstructing an intersection by a grocery store and a freeway. There is a proposal to widen the intersection [though the exact details are unclear] to “improve traffic flow and eliminate the long backups that have irritated motorists.” Article cites neighborhood group people that are upset because it would impact safety and would “simply attract more traffic.” Article includes some safety statistics. There are “eight scenarios” for the intersection which would “involve taking some of the boulevard”, removing retaining walls or trees. [I have heard they might condemn some of the existing homes or apartments on the corner, though this is not mentioned in the article. Bulldozing existing tax-paying homes in order to widen roads for often-suburban commuters is a thing that cities used to do a lot back in the old days. I had thought we’d learned our lesson. Also, there are some public process issues with this project, as it did not go through usual public approval.] Article also states that “several people asked that pedestrian bridges be built over the streets.” [What lunacy! Has anyone ever been on a pedestrian bridge before? I have examples I can show you.]

Headline: Urban Organics wants to bring plants, fish to Schmidt warehouse; facility would be second in city to use aquaponics 
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: An [almost science-fiction-like] scenario fish poop in an old building grows vegetables that filter water for fish (that then poop again) in an abandoned brewery. “Others were skeptical about potential odors.” This is already happening over on the East Side.

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