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.]

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