Reading the Highland Villager #188

[A pair of soggy Villagers.]
 [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: Ramsey County eyes 4.3% hike in tax levy; With levy increases likely from city and school district as well, board fears an uproar at tax hearing
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Property taxes are going up.

Headline: Transit-rich Hiawatha balks at Riverview extension [transit rich? A-line and Blue Line are there, I suppose. Is ridership / mode share in the area very high? If you’re going to have a really transit-connected area, why not go “all in”? Downtown Minneapolis is "transit rich" but we have to make it better, for example. Are people like, "oh that's enough transit for me thanks. I'm 'transit rich.'" Maybe "transit rich" in the generally-transit-poor Twin Cities is kind of like like being "hillbilly rich", or something.]
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: People in Minneapolis are concerned about a potential streetcar that might go near people's homes. Article includes recap of Riverview project planning so far. Quote from Minneapolis guy: “You’re destroying a cohesive single-family neighborhood.” [Hm. Actually is he talking about terrible 46th Street? That street is truly terrible. The bike/ped connection to the bridge is a menace to society.] Article quotes CM A. Johnson: “Travel times and costs are more favorable if West 7th Street and Highway 5 are used.” [Strange that the article does not discuss any actual issues with the project other than the “destroying the neighborhood” line. Like how does a streetcar get over / across Hiawatha? There was talk of tunnels and/or property taking. PS if anything “destroyed” the neighborhood, it’s that uncrossable misguided freeway plan from the 1950s.]

Headline: St. Paul increases permit fee, penalties for false alarms
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: if you have an alarm system it’ll cost you an extra $10, and if it goes off and the cops come you’ll have to pay something like $100, depending on how often it happens. Apparently it’s a problem that alarms keep going off and cops keep having to waste time responding. [This seems to make sense.] The escalating $100 fine is the same in Minneapolis.

Headline: City enlists public’s help in redesigning Summit Ave. bridge
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The Summit Avenue bridge over [half-assed freeway] Ayd Mill Road  need to be replaced. There was a meeting to chat about it. Preliminary plans call for wider bike lanes with a painted buffer. The bridge is from 1962. [Great example of how all our 50+ year old infrastructure, when we were building tons and tons of road infrastructure, needs to replaced now because its design life is up.] The new bridge will cost $7.25 million. [Think of how many 60-year-old bridges there are in a city like Saint Paul. Roads are super expensive.] In the fall a neighborhood group will help decide what design is best. There are some preservation concerns, for example, that the “stone abutments have been identified as a contributing element.” [Are they from 1962?] There will probably still be a median on the bridge. [Summit Avenue bike lanes should be twice as wide, west of Lexington. No reason not to. The single through lane for cars is something like 16’ wide.]

Headline: St. Paul continues expansion of its parking meter program
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Places where a lot of people want to park will now have meters, only two though: by Seven Corners and on another part of downtown by the Central Station. Article mentions that meters generate money for the city.

Headline: Controversy continues over St. Paul police review board
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There are new members on the police review board. CM Bostrom, a former cop, does not like it.

Headline: BZA approves duplexes on vacant Merriam Park corner
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A guy can build duplexes on a vacant lot.

Headline: Reuse of CP Rail spur will be discussed at Aug. 29 meeting
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version:    There used to be a train that went to the former Ford factory. The tracks are still there. The County is asking people what they would like to do with them. [Greenway-style trail!]

Headline: Temporary health car homes will not be allowed in St. Paul
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The City Council voted to not let people park trailers in their yards for sick people.

Headline: Junior Achievement property allowed to encroach on park
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A building that has tiny parts of it that are on public “park” land can stay that way. The park is the [weird] “park” that is in the front yards of buildings along University Avenue.

Headline: Commission to study possible Tangletown conservation area
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Some people that live in Mac-Groveland would like to have a “conservation district,” which will limit development and tear downs in particular ways. [See also the conservation district articles at streets.mn.] The Planning Commission is going to study this. [Didn’t we do Ward 3 design standards already? How much staff time are we going to use to try and halt the basic forces of capitalism, real-estate, and private property? Oh well.]

Headline: Downtown businesses are dubious of city’s plan for bike lanes on St. Peter St.
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A part of the Capital City Bikeway is planned for St. Peter street. Business and building owners are concerned about traffic and parking. [I heard that the lady who runs the never-open “Original Coney Island” testified against it! That’s kind of amazing actually.] Quote from owner of Pazzaluna: “downtown St. Paul in gridlock at every single hockey game. There’s not enough bike traffic to justify bike lanes.” [Gridlock in downtown Saint Paul is very rare. I am serious! There is very little traffic in downtown Saint Paul outside of a half hour or so each morning and afternoon and maybe during an event for twenty minutes. Half the time people crossing the street pay no attention to traffic signals whatsoever, because there are so few cars. St Peter street, in particular, has very low traffic counts. Less then 10K cars per day, IIRC, which is  less than the street in front of my house. And we're talking about the heart of downtown here.] Some other people seem to like the idea. “Loading areas” for delivery trucks are particularly important, it seems. [Let’s get the Jackson Street project complete! Once it’s connected on both ends people might actually use it and folks might notice how much nicer the street is. IN THE MEANTIME HERE IS MY GRIM VISION OF THE FUTURE: Nice Ride pulls out of Saint Paul because the city does nothing to complete the Capital City Bikeway which would have finally linked up downtown with the surrounding neighborhoods. Instead the "downtown dead zone" remains and downtown grows increasingly isolated. The forward-thinking bike share system, much like any sort of economic growth involving younger people, becomes a Minneapolis-only phenomenon, as they are the only place in the Twin Cities that actually invests in bike infrastructure. Tourist brochures and sustainability initiatives become 90% focused on Minneapolis sights and attractions. Minneapolis becomes the #1 bicycling city in the country but Saint Paul, right next door, has nothing other than former-Twins manager Paul Molitor biking around. All the visiting convention goers and business types stay in Minneapolis and occasionally laugh at Saint Paul’s backward ways, where the downtown leaders remain mired in a previous generation’s mentality and petty squabbles over electricity bills, parking ramps, or who will pay for a security guard. People come over from Minneapolis to visit Saint Paul on three-hour tours, kind of like they visit Fort Snelling, and Downtown Saint Paul becomes a historical re-enactment of what life was like in 1985, a time capsule of car culture.]

Headline: St. Paul discontinues longstanding tradition of co-naming city streets
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city won’t put up those [kind of dumb-but-harmless] white signs with alternate street names any more. Some people wanted to name a street after former CM Thune, [but CM Noecker was like “um, this kind of thing is confusing and we should stop doing it.” She didn’t actually say this I am paraphrasing.] Quote from [30-something] CM Tolbert: “If you haven’t lived here for 50 years, you get lost.” [That explains why he is sometimes absent from City Council meetings? Also people have smart phones now.]

Headline: New apartment projects are on tap in Mendota Heights
Author: Kevin Driscoll

Short short version: They are building apartments in Mendota Heights by Highway 110. There will be granite countertops. [When I was a kid this whole area was but a McDonalds and a 7-Eleven. It’s still barely walkable BTW, but for Mendota Heights, it's the best they got!]

Headline: Commission grants permit, variance for apartments near Nova
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: After a year of delay they are finally allowed to build a building next to the school based on ancient Roman culture. [Unlike last time this was proposed] nobody seems particularly concerned. [Kudos to CM Noecker, I am assuming, for working out a compromise whereby dozens of upset mothers-of-classically-inclined-children did not attend the Zoning Committee meeting and angrily testify!] Article includes brief history of the Victoria Park area, [which is interesting and somewhat tragic].

Headline: HPC rejects plans to redevelop historic University Ave. storefront
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The Heritage Preservation Commission voted down plans that a developer has to redevelop a one-story building by University and Raymond. Something about brass decorative trim. The building was originally a GM Truck something or other and dates to 1928. [¯\_(ツ)_/¯.]

Headline: Local projects successfully reach for Neighborhood STAR funds
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city gave out grants to some groups for things like park improvements or mentoring. Breweries did not get anything this time. [The golden age of city grants for breweries seems to be over now. Which is good. If you want a new brewery, you’ll have to get some serious investors.]

Headline: Making strides; St. Paul adopts plan to help more kids safely walk or bike to school
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The City Council approved a “Safe Routes to School” plan. [As long as none of the safety improvements call for any changes to existing traffic and parking situations? For example, the rejected Stillwater bike lanes were next to a school and would have added a new crosswalk to the park.] The plan is both specific and vague, and like the Federal program, underfunded. CM Tolbert quote: "in many areas it’s not safe for kids to get across busy streets.” [True! Also this makes me really wish we made safety an actual priority, but for example at the aforementioned Nova school where there is a situation where because nobody can walk, everyone drives their kids there, and there’s huge traffic and speeding and safety issues and so nobody walks. &c repeat forever. Anyway point is that there’s always trade-offs and if we want to really actually create “safe routes to school” we need to do things like get ride of a traffic lane on Rice Street, or stripe a bike lane on Stillwater when we’re repaving it, or exchange parking spaces for bumpouts and stuff like that you see? Also during the presentation on this, the city’s ped advocate said that something like 90% of Saint Paul is technically a “school zone.” The whole city should be safe for walking. I guess I’m in a bad mood today.]

1 comment:

Clark Parker said...

Very, very funny commentary about St. Paul and NiceRide. As someone who lived in Minneapolis for two years, visiting St. Paul for "3-hour tours" sounds about right.this email.