Reading the Highland Villager #186

[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: St. Paul reviews plan to organize trash collection; Fifteen private haulers agree to divvy up city
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: After a long time negotiating, like 11 months, there is finally a basic agreement / deal between the city and a group of garbage companies. [This is important because of the road wear and other nuisance factors that come from having tons and tons … literally … of different trucks picking up trash instead of one. See also my story on it from a while ago.] City Council gets to vote on it soon. Article quotes garbage businessmen saying that they don’t like the government. Article quotes mayors’ office people saying that organizing is a good idea and lists lots of reasons. The “trash carts” will be city owned and come in three sizes. Fees are still being negotiated. You can throw out one Christmas tree per year. [Or burn them with CM Brendmoen in the park!] Some people want to share a cart, but that’s not possible right now. There was an “ad hoc” campaign [with a fancy website!] to stop the organization process. [It failed because the basic organization idea is a no-brainer for a city like Saint Paul.] City staff person wants the system to be “self-sustaining” and not subsidized by the city. There were also issues about whether workers could be unionized or not, and wage standards are being put in the deal. [Sounds messy! Glad they got it done, sort of almost.]

Headline: Public hearing on Ford site elicits 400 comments
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city Planning Commission had a [2.5 hour] public hearing to accept testimony about city’s plans for zoning the old Ford factory in Highland. Lots of people talked and also wrote notes. Article briefly describes the plan, and the “two groups who were out in force” at the hearing, the neighbors groups for and against the proposal. [I think there were also lots of people representing other organizations, like the National Parks Service, Transit for Livable Communities, Friends of the Mississippi River, Fresh Energy, the Friends of St Paul Parks (or something) group, etc., as well as lots of people speaking simply as themselves and not as part of one of these groups who had a wide range of opinions. Point is that it’s easy to reduce this to a “two sides” situation but in reality there are many people with many opinions with some nuance. In articles defense, it does list these groups.] Article quotes director of Fresh Anergy saying nice things, as well as some others. Also mentions  the kids who want to save the ballfields. [The ballfield is on railroad land (see above), so good luck to them with that! See also railroad mentioned in the last article here.] Article quotes plan opponent: “with radical density comes radical gridlock.” [Funny coincidence, but “Radical Gridlock” is the name of my prog rock band.] 

Headline: Planning committee recommends high-density redevelopment at Ford
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A committee of the Planning Commission met recently to vote on the plan mentioned above. It supported the city’s proposal unanimously. Article mentions controversy over density, and describes various zoning proposals for the different “districts” in the plan. There was a debate over whether to keep the railroad land included in the plan as “private recreation” or to identify ownership of the property. The group wanted to support the realignment of the River Boulevard but not have it in the plan quite yet. One Commissioner wanted to add more density in the “river residential” luxury townhouse part of the plan, and got support for that.

Headline: Policy Committee approves six transit options for Riverview Corridor
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The Policy Advisory Committee [which makes all the decisions] voted to move forward six options for routes for the Riverview transit line. They are bur rapid transit or streetcars either to or not to the Ford Site and either on or not on the CP Spur. Article quotes CM Noecker voting against the proposal because she wanted to eliminate the CP Spur from the assembled choices. [Shrug. I reached out to CM Noecker on this and she told me it hurts ridership because it’s farther away from big parts of the West End neighborhood, which is true. Also that the County still has not purchased the land, which is also true. I think that the County should and will purchase the land either way, but they are likely waiting to see if the cost can be embedded as part of the budget for this project. I have heard that the money for purchasing the land is not a problem, and that the railroad is a willing seller, but it’s more about logistics at this point.] Neighbors are concerned about traffic and parking. Quote from guy on the committee who runs an Italian restaurant: “I can’t vote for modern streetcars until all of the questions are answered.” [I wonder what the questions are.]

Headline: St. Paul warns of big property tax hike in ’18; With reduced assessments for street maintenance, city portion of tax bill may jump 24%
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city is no longer assessing property owners, including non-profits, for street maintenance and so taxes will have to go up. [Street maintenance is really expensive, folks!] There was a meeting and the mayor was there. Quote from a woman in Highland: “we’re sick of subsidizing the rest of the city.” Article includes lots of numbers about housing values and tax bills. Article includes references to Randy Kelly, who started the fee in the first place. Best part of the article is the end: “Coleman asked the audience if anyone had any other ideas… When one person suggested installing more parking meters, Coleman recalled his unsuccessful attempt to place parking meters on Grand Avenue two years ago. ‘I leaned into the pitch, and it hit me in the head,’ he said.” [It’s depressing to me that the Mayor / whoever else at City Hall has seemingly given up on this obvious solution to generating revenue while simultaneously adopting incentives that support important policy goals. Parking policy is one of the easiest, simplest, most effective tools in the city’s toolbox, and apparently because of one flubbed proposal and subsequent bad meeting, it’s off the table for … how long? The next mayor will probably balk too, thanks to this narrative. That’s a big mistake for Saint Paul, which needs all of its effective tools if it’s going to thrive in the 21st century.]

Headline: City may ask nonprofits to pitch in with payments
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A task force is going to figure out ways that the city can beg non-profits for money. Article quotes the guy in charge of brainstorming this: “Cities that use PILOT programs don’t get a lot of money.” [Sounds like a great plan, then!] Another quote from a guy on the task force: “there’s voluntary and there’s voluntary.” There is some debate about whether the city has 1/3 of its land in non-profit parcels or only 5% of its land in non—profit parcels. Quote is this: According to Todd Hurley, director of the city’s Office of Financial Services… STP has 80,244 taxable parcels and 96.2% pay property taxes... Taxable properties have a valuation of $21.6 billion and tax-exempt properties have a valuation of $6.9 billion, or 24.1%.” [Well that sorts it out, yes? No. One issue might be the parking lot problem that I mention. Also, sometimes a large institution probably counts as only one “parcel”, I am guessing. Still, it’s good to see numbers on this.] Another quote: “of the 50 highest-valued properties in St. Paul, 38 pay no property taxes.” [I am skeptical about this program and wish there was a way to actually assess for street costs.]

Headline: Work on Highway 110 slightly behind schedule
Author: Kevin Driscoll

Short short version: A freeway is taking longer to repair. There will be a $2.75m tunnel under the freeway. [This is near where I grew up. The tunnel is kind of wasteful, but also probably the most pedestrian-friendly part of the city, which is hard to believe, but yes that’s how low that bar is.] Quote from a MNDOT guy: “we found some unsuitable materials that needed to be addressed in the field.” There’s also some debate about a bike path and where precisely it will be located.

Headline: Local projects make short list for 2018-2019 CIB funding 
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There’s some money to do a few thing, including fixing a sculpture park, fixing up homes, fixing a bridge. Article includes confusing list.

Headline: Report shows major shift in calls received by St. Paul Fire Dept.
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: 90% of the time, fire trucks aren’t going to fires, but to medical emergencies. [The trucks are huge.] There is a debate about how to deal with this, involving staffing stations with medics and ambulances instead.

Headline: City begins work on Dickerman Park
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A park that looks like people’s yards is getting fixed up. In 1909 someone donated the land to the city. [This park is dumb to me, even though it has an interesting history. I very much doubt anyone will use it, no matter what they do here. Who knows, maybe I’m wrong?]

Headline: Discussion continues over use of south reservoir in Highland
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A water reservoir is going to be demolished and nobody knows what to do with the site. Options include soccer and basketball space, ice rinks and/or parking lots. [Parking lots! Who could have seen that coming! It reminds me of the time that folks at the Highland library approved replacing a youth ballfield with more parking spaces.] 

Headline: St. Paul to opt out of allowing backyard health care homes
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: People cannot any longer put “temporary dwellings” in their yards for sick family members to live in. Article does not really explain why.

Headline: New Spyhouse Coffee moves full steam ahead on Snelling
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: An old antique shop will become a hip coffee shop. Best quote: “the business has no off-street parking, but is not required to provide any.”

Headline: Permit delay pushes back opening of Bull’s Horn in S. Mpls; Burger bar now set to be finished in october at site of former Sunrise Inn
Author: Bull Wagner

Short short version: An old dive bar is being remodeled but it’s taking longer than the people wanted because of permit problems. The delay “means that the parking lot will remain unpaved when the restaurant opens this fall.” Quote from contractor: “The city has introduced a new electronic system.” Dogs will be allowed on the patio if they are well-behaved. [Farewell Sunrise.]

Headline: Former Riverside School site to be used for senior housing
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: An abandoned school will have housing in it now for seniors. Neighbors are concerned about traffic, pedestrian safety, and access. The city didn’t want the building.

Headline: Police chief cites progress despite increase in gun violence
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Gun shots are up. Crime is up. 911 calls are up. A lot of it is gang related. There are also more cops now than ever before.

Headline: Attempt is underway to extend Midtown Greenway to St. Paul
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There was a meeting recently about the possibility of extending the greenway from Minneapolis over to Saint Paul. There is a bridge but it is owned by the railroad. This has been tried before but the railroad fought the city. Everyone seems to like the idea. [I was on the panel there. I have heard a committee is being formed to work on this. It would be awesome to have theGreenway connect over the river, of course. A real gamechanger for bicycling in Saint Paul and between the two cities. See also my story on this meeting.]


The Everday Surrealism of Automobile Violence

Over the eleven years since I've been writing about street design and every day life in the Twin Cities I have heard lots of crazy things. Some are simply bizarre acts of structural malice, like the ways that cars slam into buildings  almost like clockwork, people driving cars into old buildings, new buildings, stop lights, other cars, light rail trains, and people. Every day this is happening all around us.

Others stories are tragic, particular, and unforgettable. Take for example the old Asian-American couple who immigrated to Saint Paul, and walked together each morning down the same street by their house. One morning, just days after they had visited with the Dalai Lama, a driver slammed into one of them while they were in their crosswalk.

"My wife, my wife," cried her husband, looking backwards, but she was already dead.

There was the young French girl who arrived at college for her year-long exchange program. One her first day in Saint Paul, she was killed by a driver turning through the crosswalk. She had seen the walk sign, and didn’t yet know how little it meant in this country.

There was the story once told to me by a favorite bartender at my old neighborhood bar, a place that has since burned down. A couple had reserved a table for their wedding night, and were getting something out of their trunk when a police chase flew down the street. The fleeing driver slammed into the row of cars parked on Front Avenue and the crash instantly severed the groom's leg from the rest of his body.

[Kenneth J. Foster.]
There are a dozen stories like this that I have heard since I started paying attention. Each of them makes me sick, but the latest one is the worst.

Last week on Dale Street, a driver fleeing from a crash reached 70 miles per hour on a bike boulevard, drove through an intersection onto a median, and launched his car straight through the #65 bus. At the time, it had had six passengers on it, including Kenneth J. Foster and Markus Anthony Dashawn Jackson, two men just trying to get around Frogtown.

The car went in the left side of the bus, killing Foster and critically injuring Jackson, and flew out the other side, leaving a cartoonish hole. The car then demolished a lamppost on Dale Street.

Check out the accounts of the crash:
Bjelland was driving a white sedan about 7:30 p.m. in St. Paul's Frogtown neighborhood, fleeing the scene of a minor crash, according to police. The car ran a stop sign, hit a median and went airborne, slamming into a northbound bus at up to 70 miles per hour, witnesses said.

The force of the crash sliced open the bus, which was carrying six to eight people, according to police. Foster was thrown from the bus and later died at the scene.

Or this:
Mercedes Berry, 17, of St. Paul, was walking to the nearby Speedy Dale convenience store to buy cheese popcorn when she saw and heard the car racing eastbound on Charles.

“It came zooming past,” she said. “It hit the median, flew into the air and hit the bus. It went through the bus — right through the bus — and flipped.”

Berry said she felt bad for the bus passenger who died.

“He was going home and was going to see his family and stuff, and now he won’t see his family no more,” she said.
Or this:

"I heard it all the way inside the house, it was unbelievable," neighborhood resident Brannon Drees said. "I was trying to piece it all together.”

Drees lives right near the intersection where the crash happened, and he says many of his neighbors came outside near the scene to try and help.

"The entire (car) frame was all like an accordion, crushed back and the flames were shooting out of it," Drees said as he described what he saw.

The weird thing about this story is how surreal it is, how horrible the actual details are to look at. The pictures alone are vaguely nauseating to me, kind of like the 9/11 images the first time I saw them. Only this is no act of international terrorism, this is everyday life in a car-dominated American city. This is simply the most extreme case of a basic reality: we have planned our lives around a dangerous machine.

Unlike many deadly crashes, this one wasn't an engineering problem. It's safe to say that designing a walkable city to prevent 70 mph suicidal driving is pretty much impossible. In this case, the tragedy is particularly ironic! The driver launched his car off a pedestrian safety median, one of the very few pedestrian and bicycling safety improvements that have ever been installed in Saint Paul.

(Q: If the median were more substantial, had higher curbs with harder angles, would the car still have flown through the air, and gone through the bus? Probably.)
The only real conclusion here is that the embedded violence of the automobile is something we take for granted. Cars are deadly, and we’ve surrounded ourselves with them. At the flick of a foot, any drugged-up maniac can kill just anyone at any time, even someone minding his own business riding the city bus down Dale Street at seven miles per hour. Designing a society around the automobile is not only wasteful of our energy and collective resources, not only alienates us from each other and feeds our most misanthropic feelings, but it must result in senseless death. This is the only outcome when our cities practically require everyone to wield a weapon every day.

So often, the things that are closest to us are the least visible. We rarely notice the scratches on our glasses or the smudges on our windows. The everyday violence of cars, crashing around us, occasionally startles, but we will ourselves to forget.

We ignore reminders — the hubcab sitting on a sidewalk, the police siren in the distance, the small shards of fender plastic scattered in an intersection — all just another part of our everyday lives, something to forget while we speed along on our lives.

Even the deadly crashes glance off our attention spans, another headline in the paper or story on the evening news. All of us have seen a thousand of these by now, and it seems like nothing can change.

It’ll take me a while to forget this one.

[A day on Dale Street.]


Six Hot Tips for Biking in the Unending Damnable Summertime Heat

[Makes you want to bike right into the river.]
Biking in the heat kind of sucks. No matter where you go, there you are sweating on the asphalt, the sun beating down on your puny body, your poor skin pinking and your hair stuck to your eyebrows. Then you arrive at your destination looking like a homeless muskrat and it takes a full fifteen minutes before you can recompose into something resembling a normal drives-in-the-air-conditioned-car human being like everyone else seems to be. Biking in the summer:it’s not the heat, its the humility.

That said, there are a few things you can do to make it better. When it gets really hot out and stays that way, I find myself riding in a slightly different manner. So here are my hot-take pro tips for biking through the summertime heat.

1. Take it easy and chill out

The first thing is that I tend to slow down a bit in the summer. (Unless you’re on a workout ride, in which case go ahead and sweat as much as you want.) Actually biking to get somewhere, I find myself coasting more and being a bit lazier.

Basically, you want to be going fast enough to keep a breeze going — about 10 miles per hour. The reason people sweat is because condensation is a cooling process. Maintaining a consistent steady pace in the summer heat, and avoiding stopping at stoplights, is a great way to keep just a bit cooler.

2. Find the shade

[Stark shade lines.]
If you do have to stop at a stoplight, though, see if you can find a patch of shade. I find myself doing that on some streets, stopping a bit short to stay behind a building or under a leafy canopy. Or sometimes I might take a more shady side street instead of the more exposed main drag. Shade makes a huge difference when the sun is beating down on you, and if you look for it, you can find some.

See also this post about street trees and finding the shade.

3. Panniers are your friend

Nothing’s worse than riding in the heat with a bag on your back, then peeling it off like an unshelled turtle to reveal the soggy swamp that is your shirt underneath.

So ride a bike with a rack, if you have one, and put all your stuff in a pannier.

4. A/C stops are easy!

If you’re going a longer distance, take a break in the middle at a library or cafĂ©. Nothing makes you appreciate air conditioning as much as a hot summer bike ride!

5. Water is good

Keep drinking it. Put it in a bottle and drink it form the bottle. Drink it when you arrive, before you leave, just whenever. Bonus points if you find one of those old-fashioned Minneapolis water pump fountains and just put your head in there.

6. Bring extra clothes

Always have another shirt on hand in case you need it. You’ll probably need it. Soon it will be sweaty too, but at least you'll feel better about yourself.

That’s it! Good luck to you. When winter comes, you’ll look back on these hot days with envy and regret that you didn’t ride your bike more. There should be a long German word for that… maybe Fahrradsommerbedauern?

[It's only going to get worse.]


Notable Quotes #9: Yi-Fu Tuan on a Martian Invasion of Minneapolis

[The Prospect Park watertower.]
From Space and Place, a 1977 human geography book by geographer Yi-Fu Tuan, who taught at the time at the University of Minnesota. The book is an overview of how human beings cultivate a "sense of place" with their everyday lives and narratives:
In the Mycenaean period Greek cities owed their sacred status to their divine residents. Athena and Helen were Mycenaean goddesses who presided over Athens and Sparta respectively. In these prehistoric times of kingly rule, shrines had an importance they would later lose during the republican period. A Helladic city, however straitened by its enemies, remained viable so long as the shrines housing the divine images were intact. This belief, says John Dunne, "is reflected to some extent in the tradition of the Trojan War according to which is was necessary to steal the Palladium, the image of the city-goddess, from Troy before the city could be taken." Removal of the image, or destruction of the shrine that housed it, would have deprived a city of its legitimacy since the rules, rites, and institutions under which a people lived all required divine sanction. We cannot know prehistoric sentiments: they are at best matters for conjecture. From the historic period of the ancient Mediterranean world we can find many expressions of love for place. One of the most eloquent was attributed to a citizen of Carthage. When the Romans were about to destroy Carthage at the end of the third Punic War, a citizen pleaded with them thus:

"We beseech you, in behalf of our ancient city founded by the command of the gods, in behalf of a glory that has become great and a name that has pervaded the whole world, in behalf of the man temples it contains and of its gods who have done you no wrong. Do not deprive them of their nightly festivals, their processions, and their solemnities. Deprive not the tombs of the dead, who harm you no more, of their offerings. If you have pity for us ... spare the city's hearth, spare our forum, spare the goddess who presides over our council, and all else that is dear and precious to the living.... We propose an alternative more desirable for us and more glorious for you. Spare the city which has done you no harm, but, if you please, kill us, whom you have ordered to move away. In this way you will seem to vent your wrath upon men, not upon temples, gods,  tombs, and an innocent city."

It is true that this plea was written in the second century A.D. several hundred years after the event. How the besieged Carthaginians really felt we have no way of knowing. But the plea at least made good sense to Roman readers, for whom it was written, whereas to us it verges on the incredible. Suppose that Martians have invaded America and are at the gates of Minneapolis. It is hard to believe that our city councilors will plead with the Martians to kill us but save Nicollet Mall, which has done them no harm.

[From Yi-Fu Tuan, Space and Place, Chapter 11, "Attachment to Homeland."]


Signs of the Times #126


[Board. Minnehaha Park, Minneapolis.]


[Tire. Rondo, Saint Paul.]

And they can
Them the holy people,
the redeemed from teh curse of the
"sought out"
A City not Forsaken

[Pole. Location forgotten. One of the downtowns?]


[Metal thing. University Avenue, Saint Paul.]


[Board. Minnehaha Park, Minneapolis.]
NO. 4

[Pole. Minnehaha Park, Minneapolis.]


[Pole. Summit-University, Saint Paul.]


[Paper on a windshield. Seward, Minneapolis.]


Twin City Bike Parking #28

[Como, Saint Paul.]

[Cathedral Hill, Saint Paul.]

 [Snelby, Saint Paul.]

[Mac-Grove, Saint Paul.]

[Powderhorn, Minneapolis.]

[Highland, Saint Paul.]

[Seward, Minneapolis.]


Reading the Highland Villager #185

[A Villager stuck in a fence.]
[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: Light rail scratched as transit option for Riverview line
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The technical advisory committee [which I am on, but missed this meeting] voted to narrow the options on the Riverview transit corridor, which could connect downtown Saint Paul to the airport in a few different ways. They have eliminated a “light rail” option from the set of choices, and now the only rail option is a “streetcar.” [The difference is largely semantic, but does involve some likely distinctions involving how the right-of-way looks, how many barriers there are, sizes of vehicles, etc. The big difference is of course the smaller section of dedicated right-of-way, but the planning team says, though I find it hard to believe, that the time difference will not be that significant between the smaller section of dedicated ROW -- and note that I said "smaller section" because there will be dedicated ROW on much of the route regardless, and that's something important to keep in mind -- and some of the other choices.] Article lists the six choices, which are bus or rail, Ford site or Highway 5 bridge, and CP Spur or West 7th only.  Article includes maps showing ridership for Ford and not-Ford, the latter of which is slightly higher. The CP Spur will cost $40 million to purchase from CP [estimated, using worst-case scenario guesses]. The Ford Site option is more expensive and takes longer. Article quotes former CM Thune: “Most businesses could live with some form of bus rapid transit or modern streetcar. There’s interest in streetcars because they would provide West Seventh with a unique form of transportation, and it might be an attraction for some people.” [Encouraging quote from him, which means a lot given the long legacy of neighborhood opposition to transit improvements here.] Quote from neighborhood business guy disagrees: “There are a lot of unknowns about what a modern streetcar means and whether or not we would be losing on-street parking.” [SPOILER yes you would but not all of it.]

Headline: Council seeks compromise at St. Clair-Snelling
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The City council voted to not vote on whether to rezone a property that might become an apartment building with a small coffee shop in it and also lots of parking. The developer is in court for some reason [involving a title dispute]. The Planning Commission had voted to approve the rezoning, to T3 zoning. The buildings are currently a largely abandoned strip mall. [Though there was apparently a “for lease” sign outside the old coney bun bakery now, which suggests that the owners are now not so interested in developing the property, does it not? If so that is really really unfortunate for Saint Paul, and optimists like myself should take note of it, I suppose. Though given the state of the property I doubt it will lease anytime soon.] The Planning Commission voted against the site plan [though, as I stated at the time, for reasons that had more to do with its pedestrian-unfriendly design and excess of parking, not its height]. There is a study going on right now that would recommend rezoning the property to a mix of T2 and T3. [The differences are minimal here, for the most part, in my opinion. Whether half the site or all the site is T3 is hardly something that will change the world, but might make a difference for a developer I suppose. As I said at the Commission, I want this site developed and am hopeful that it will happen.] CM Tolbert is quoted saying “We all want quality redevelopment at that site.” Article explains some of the rezoning plans, including difference in height between T2 and T3, which is about 20 fee without a conditional use permit [those permits, which by the way, are based on conditions that are clearly stated in the zoning code]. Neighbors are concerned about aesthetics, density, “towering”, traffic, and parking. Quote from the developer on the legal matter: “Settlement discussions are underway; we regret having to halt our efforts to improve this blighted property.” [That quote makes me still optimistic that some good development proposal will appear for this great property.]

Headline: Council OKs purchase of Schmidt Brewery office building
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: An cool building that was part of the old brewery and was potentially controlled by the neighborhood group can be sold now to a developer. The developer is going to build a restaurant and offices. There will be a “market” nearby with many kinds of food and beverages for sale. The building comes with $1.2M in TIF funds. There is a gigantic old safe inside also. [Are the TIF funds inside the safe?] The developer will restore it and including lots of cool things. [This is good. The neighborhood group was never going to really do anything with this building, it did not seem to me.]

Headline: TIF shift to aid in Midway project
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The now-under-construction soccer stadium at Snelling and University is getting a bit more money for environmental cleanup, shifted around from a few other industrial sites. There is going to be a meeting about it.

Headline: Mini-storage could affect Ayd Mill in big way
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: An old [city-owned, unnecessary, and super expensive-to-fix] freeway might not get “connected” to I-94 like some people had planned years ago because a self-storage facility is going to build a new building where the “freeway” might be. Article quotes PW Head Lantry: “The city doesn’t have any plans in the works that would impact the proposed building.” [“Fixing” Ayd Mill Road involves not connecting it, and reducing the number of lanes, and adding neighborhood amenities and also traffic calming further the way that it runs into Selby Avenue. A more bold option would be simply removing the road altogether, which is something I’d like to see put on the table and kept there and stared at until the aroma of the flavors become irresistible and you finally eat what’s in front of you like a good little girl or boy. Funny to me that the great decision in front of us here in Saint Paul is a choice between an intentionally empty building full of people’s stuff and an old expensive falling apart wasteful and environmentally destructive freeway that nobody really needs. These are the days of our lives.] The last time an Ayd Mill Road connection as studied was 2005. [That’s a long time ago. See also more history about this. SPOILER the connection will not be included in the upcoming Comprehensive Plan changes, not if I can help it anyway. Also SPOILER, any potential connection would be hugely expensive, like many tens of millions of dollars expensive, and the city would be on the hook for it and would not likely get a grant to pay for it, and the vast majority of the "benefits" of the project would go to people driving through Saint Paul from the Dakota county suburbs rather than people who live in the city and pay taxes here, in fact, the project would decrease livability and property values for people in the city because nobody wants to live next to a freeway, you see.]  Article quotes head of neighborhood group: “There’s been a push from the community to see what can be done to resolve the traffic issues.” [You could resolve then really quickly with a few cheap concrete barriers.] Interesting bit at the end: “MnDOT cautioned that because AMR is a city street and not a state highway, there are limits on what his department can do… the connection is not on the table at this time.”  [AMR is a “city street” in much the same way that Donald Trump is a “President of the United States.” Technically true…]

Headline: Marshall gets jitters from Starbucks drive-thru traffic; Idling customers block bike lane and sidewalk [Villager Headline Pun Award Winner!]
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A new Starbucks with a drive-thru is causing people who want coffee without getting out of their car to act like jerks and screw up lots of street-type things like turn lanes and bike lanes and U-turns. The city has installed a “camera.” [This should be a live stream. I would watch it!] The neighborhood wants the drive-thru closed until someone figures out what to do. There have been meetings about it but Starbucks “has not commented.” Quote from head of neighborhood group: “City staff made it clear that the obstruction of the right-of-way is violating the conditions of the coffee shop’s site plan and drive-through permit.” [Little bit of history: When this Starbucks was approved at the Planning Commission, I made a short but determined speech against the drive-thru portion of the plan. I also voted against it, but got out-voted. It’s unnecessary, will screw up traffic, and should not be part of a walkable neighborhood like this one, I said. We don’t need to build any more drive-thrus in Saint Paul, I said, or something like this. I asked around and the main reason Starbucks wanted a drive-thru is because it increased their store profit by something like 25%, I was told. "It's an awkward site to redevelop," I was told. Also note that they had had a Starbucks two blocks away without a drive-thru and everything was fine. Now apparently it’s crazy. One of these days I’m going to go down there and document some of the craziness. I am curious about how crazy it is. No more drive-thrus please. Get out of your car or go home.] Article includes some of the details about the drive-thru including how it has a “right turn only” exit. [People ignore this all the time. All the time.] People also apparently enter through the exit lane and exit through the enter lane, and also drive through the lane in reverse, according to the article. [The obvious solution is to configure the Ayd Mill Road connection to link straight into the Starbucks Drive-Thru and then have it loop around back into the outbound Ayd Mill Road lane, sending people back to Dakota County where they came from, but with fresh and delicious Saint Paul coffee.]

Headline: Pelham to get city’s first 2-way separated bikeway
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A new protected bike lane is being installed between the river and the Raymond Avenue area. It is part of the “Grand round.” [This is a good plan and an obvious link that is easy to construct, relatively, because the street is so wide. Really, the street is really wide.] Neighbors are concerned about parking and safety. One neighbor would also like his street repaved. [It is currently unsmooth concrete. The only think I worry about is that people will take the turns too wide and quickly here and maybe kill someone on a bike coming down the hill. I hope the city makes the bollards very obvious and traffic calm-y.]

Headline: Five-story apartments planned for students at Marshall-Moore
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A guy wants to build a ten-unit apartment building. Also, some college students are “rowdy.” There will be an 18-space parking garage with a “car elevator.” [The parking minimums say 17. In general, I would like minimums lowered in walkalble, transit-friendly areas.] Quote from the developer, re: the students: “I know you’re concerned about students, but students are already in the neighborhood. It’s like chickens. You’d rather have them in a coop than running around your yard.”  [This is the best thing that’s ever been said about the Great Tommie Problem.] Neighbors are concerned about parking and aesthetics.

Headline:  Building manager continues push for earlier skyway closing
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A woman who owns a few buildings in historic Lowertown will continue to lock her doors to the skyway through her building even though city ordinances state they must stay open until 2AM. [She sounds like a real peach. Maybe a similar situation to the Surdyk’s snafu? Like take away her liquor licenses or something. See also everything I’ve ever written about skyways.] Quote from CM Bostrom: “The number of miscreants … cause trouble." Quote from CM Prince: “We’ve marketed downtown as a residential community and this is an amenity that makes it work.”  There is a committee studying changes to the city ordinance. [Just take them down. Problem solved, and public space and architecture improved at the same time.] Quote from downtown neighborhood group guy: “The purpose of this request is so the building owner doesn’t have to pay for security.” The last line is the kicker: “Brooks [the building owner] has estimated that it would cost $50-100K per year to provide extra skyway security.” [Maybe just hire a guard? How hard is that? Why are we talking about this? Real headline should be "rich person too cheap to hire a guard, craps all over city instead."]


Sidewalk Dogs #15

 [Snelling Avenue, Saint Paul.]

[New Orleans, LA.]

[West Saint Paul.]

[New Orleans, LA.]

[Powderhorn, Minneapolis?]

[Lake Harriet, Minneapolis.]

 [Highland, Saint Paul.]

[Highland, Saint Paul.]