Reading the Highland Villager #155

[Villagers in bags on Selby Avenue.]
[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. Until this newspaper goes online, sidewalk information must be set free. See also: Three Reasons Why I Re-Blog the Highland Villager.]  

Headline: Cleveland bike lane putting a squeeze on permit parking in Merriam Park; Council opens one permit district to two-hour parking
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A main north-south street is being striped with bike lanes instead of parking. The area around it is lined with “permit parking” districts which only allow residents to park in them. Because businesses want to have parking, CM Stark is suggesting giving business-oriented 2-hour parking access to the parking districts. The parking districts have arcane rules, like only being in effect from 8am to 8pm M-F or having one-hour parking. Quote from an area resident with a disability: “It’s already difficult to find parking on the street.” Permit parking is very difficult to enforce.  Some Tommies have fake permits. CM Prince would have liked more process. [Well, in this case the process is broken. I heard a report from the St Paul administrator in charge of permit parking this week and it was mind-boggling. Prices for permits haven’t gone up since they were started in 1980, and are still $10. Depending on the district, each house can have up to six car permits, but this varies quite a bit in a mind-boggling manner. A fair market value for one of them might be ten times that amount, and even keeping up with inflation they’d be about $30 per year. Some permit parking areas have very obscure rules, like the ones around Cretin Derham Hall, which are in force during only certain months and hours depending on what side of the street you are on. Because of these crazy rules and the fact that there are only 14 parking enforcement officers, they have a basically impossible job. There’s no way the city can enforce this, especially with 2-hour parking areas involved, without it being extremely expensive. The only cost-effective way to enforce parking rules is to have a blanket permit zone OR parking meters. Everything else is simply parking theatrics, and amounts to a joke. Meanwhile, actual businesses in the area are going to struggle to provide expensive off-street lots and to find places for their employees to park, etc. The whole thing is a mess and the “hidden costs” include huge amounts of  administrative time, especially around all the public meetings, enforcement costs, and the opportunity costs of the fact that some of these districts don’t support nearby commercial neighborhoods and that I’d wager the parking in many of the districts is underused. And once again, it’s all the fault of wayward Tommies...? Or people who are too attached to having easy parking in front of their house 24/7/365. OK, that’s my rant. The city is doing a study of this and it’ll come up quite a bit over the next year. I think at the very least, the cost of the permit parking permits should pay for their own administration and enforcement. That’s the only fiscally responsible approach. The ideal solution for businesses is to let business owners purchase a few of them for employees, and to install parking meters in areas with a lot of demand. Like Grand Avenue maybe.]

Headline: County gives its blessing to bike lanes
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The county is striping bike lanes on a street in an uncontroversial vote. [Only CC Rettman, who was also against the Front Avenue bike lanes and the Dale Street 4-3 conversion, voted against it.] The county did not approve reducing the speed limit to 25 mph. The county PW director claims it might “divert traffic.”Article quotes CC Carter saying the lanes are an “important first step” and “create a critical north-south corridor.” The county would have paid for the costs if they had been done last year. [Instead, the city is picking up the tab.]

Headline: Condemned Grand Ave. buildings are leveled
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Two old buidlings that were falling apart were torn down. They dated to the 1880s. [They have been bought by a developer, as in this recent news story.]

Headline: Little Free Libraries turn a page with first fest
Author: James McKenzie

Short short version: People put books in little boxes along the sidewalk and anyone can take them. [See also this fun quiz!]

Headline: Neighbors push for tighter restrictions on new home designs
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: People keep buying smaller houses, tearing them down, and building larger houses where the smaller houses used to be. A while ago the city tried to reign in the practice with new “design standards” but it keeps happening. The Board of Zoning Appeals keeps granting variances. Article quotes BZA chair as saying the new regulations are “guidelines.” [As opposed to hard and fast rules I suppose.] CM Tolbert responds saying “They’re not guidelines, they’re an ordinance and it needs to be followed.” Article quotes BZA chair: “to make people do a sidewall articulation on the second floor, for example, doesn’t always seem to make sense.” [Well I can’t make sense of it, that’s for sure.] More houses have been torn down. Quote from a neighbor: “I wouldn’t spend $700,000 to look down from my towering windows at smaller quainter homes where generations of families have lived.” [The main thing the city can do, IMO, is to reign in the noise and nuisance violations by contractors. As for the design rules, no matter what rules they come up with, developers will work around them. I foresee a lot of unintended consequences.]

Headline: City allows four-story apartment building next to Nova Academy
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The City Council voted unanimously to allow a four-story apartment building to be constructed in a new mixed-use neighborhood. The building is next to a school. CM Noecker is concerned about pedestrian safety. Neighbors and school parents are concerned about traffic, safety, but not necessarily parking. [Apparently there’s a lot of speeding here, which is quite irresponsible of people and should be stopped using infrastructure.] Quote from school administrator: “our neighborhood doesn’t have to be an example of how not to do things.” He commends having more of a grid pattern in the street. [That would be nice. Development planners are way too enamored of curving parallel streets. Can’t beat the grid.] Building designs have been tweaked to try and accommodate concerns from the school. Article includes brief history of the site, which was an industrial “tank farm.” [I like to think about tank farms, like planting a tiny Matchbox tank and watering it until you get a full-grown Sherman.]

Headline: BZA approves new variances for redesigned Grand Avenue condo
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A 8-unit condo building that was planned but then rejected has been re-planned and now approved for a now-vacant lot site on Grand Avenue. [This apartment is less dense, and with more off-street parking, than its two historic neighbors. Also worth noting that CM Thune was the CM during the rejection, and CM Noecker is the CM of this area for this approval.] Neighbors are concerned about traffic and parking. Article includes a lot of design details. [This is classic “missing middle” type infill. Read more about that in my recent article.] Article quotes upset neighbor: “This building is out of scale with the rest of the neighborhood. It’s going to stick out like a sore thumb.” [It’s almost exactly the scale of its two neighbors. I’ll stick out like a middle finger with two fingers on either side. Hold out your hand and you’ll see what I mean.]  Quote from BZA member: “If there’s any place for a building of this size, it’s here.”

Headline: County OKs restoration for evening parking along University Avenue
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: People can park on certain parts of University Avenue now during the evenings. But there won’t be a bicycle lane striped along the choke point by the railroad bridge by the Menards. Article quotes CM Stark: “That is an accommodation that our Public Works engineers thought would be feasible.” Reply from the County Public Works director: “Share the road arrows aren’t something we would implement with that volume of traffic.” [I can see both sides of the debate, though having the two public works’ departments in opposition with each other is a bit troubling. Sharrows are nobody’s idea of a good time. The vast majority of bicyclists will take the cantilevered sidewalk.]

Headline: Apartments, townhomes proposed for city-owned lot on Chestnut St.
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A parking lot behind West 7th by the Xcel Center might become 175 unites of housing. There will be parking.

Headline: Sale is expected soon for Summit’s historic St. Paul’s Church on the Hill
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A 100-year-old church is for sale. It costs $1.7M. Article includes architectural and historic details. There are interested buyers. It might be “re-purposed” as an arts or performance space.

Headline: Neighbors suggest where to locate facilities as part of UST master plan
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: St. Thomas is planning its campus and neighbors are giving advice. Neighbors are concerned about parking, and Tommies living off campus. Article quotes neighbor: “part of it is developing a culture where more students want to live on campus.” Some people suggested that the school should offer discount transit passes. [The new bike lanes will surely help this problem, also.]


The Highland Villager operatic accompaniment for this fortnight was Verdi's Il Trovatore (the troubador), which features "the anvil chorus."


PT said...

Tear down issue is complicated
Exhibit A: 2132 Jefferson

Save our Neighborhood has post up with usual strum und drang. Former owner chimes in with "This was my old house. I lived here 25+ years. Worked 2 jobs as a single parent to live in this house. It was falling apart from the inside out.....very costly. The best thing for this property was to be sold and a new structure built. This helped my situation because I couldn't afford the repairs needed. I would hope that the neighbors will be respectful of the people who will be purchasing this property. This is a wonderful neighborhood I have lived in this area for 44 years. Houses get old and sometimes this is the best situation to fix the problem. By the way the new place looks nice." An important perspective.

Exhibit B: 1909 Jefferson

Older lady dies in house. Less than nothing had been done in decades. Yard mowed in Olympic Years only (Summer Olympics). House lists for $179K (Zestimate $304K). Bidding war ensues. House goes for $211K. The house was listed thusly "This property is a category 2 Vacant building. The city code compliance has been ordered but not yet received. Cash terms only. The house needs considerable renovation or possible demolition." I've never seen a listing that advertised demolition. Went inside house when they had estate sale. Needs to get torn down.

Exhibit C: old neighborhood let's say 1885 Chelton (corner of Chelton and Howell). House gets for closed and sold for $34K gets new roof and not torn down despite desperately needing it (foundation is screwed, whole house is gross).

I'm really not a fan of most of the new houses that are getting built but sometimes houses need to get torn down and neighbors are lucky to live in neighborhoods that people want to live in (ask me again if they tear down my next door neighbor's house)

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