Reading the Highland Villager #190

[A couple Villagers lurking in the periodicals.]
[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: Council is poised to rezone Snelling for higher density; Change raises concern about congestion, pedestrian safety [Pedestrian safety?]
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There was a study to change the zoning of properties along Snelling Avenue from 70s-era single-use zoning to mixed-use TN zoning [which is much better at improving pedestrian safety, by the way]. More density would be permitted. There was a hearing at the City Council. Neighbors are concerned about traffic and pedestrian safety. There is a aBRT transit line along Snelling now. There would be a mix of densities allowed. Neighborhood groups and the Planning Commission support the plan. Some people think Saint Paul needs more housing. Others thing that TN zoning will “lead to increased traffic congestion … greater hazards for pedestrians and non-motorized vehicles and the loss of the neighborhoods’ character.” [More density is good for pedestrian safety. Dangerous places are ones that are completely auto-oriented and encourage speeding.] One man said he wanted it all to be TN3 [the highest density zoning]. A woman in a wheelchair liked the plan also. One man is worried that Snelling has no medians. [This is fairly true! Also it has little to do with the zoning.] One man is worried about speeding on side streets. [Lots of solutions for that! Note: it passed on a 6-1 vote with CM Thao voting against, for some reason.]

Headline: Controversy over Ford site plan coming to a head
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The City Council will finally take up the Ford site zoning and public realm plan. There will be testimony at Council Chambers. There was a meeting at a church, and there were both red and green signs.  CM Tolbert got an amendment passed to reduce some heights, probably. Neighbors are concerned about traffic. One man quoted saying: “I don’t know how many of you pay rent, but it keeps going up.” [This is true.] Others are happy with the planned-for parks, or would like even more parks, depending. Quote from one woman against the plan: “It’s like frosting a cake before you bake it.” [Cake metaphor! Only cake metaphors from here on out, please. "Cake eaters." "Let them eat cake." "If I knew you were coming I'd have baked a cake."  "Three-layer cakes." "Can't make a cake without breaking a few eggs." "That's a-spicy cake-ball!" "There is no 'I' in C-A-K-E." &c.]

Headline: Bike-pedestrian trail plan progresses; New trails would provide a safe link to parks and trails in West End and Highland Park
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: An unused railroad spur could become a bike/ped trail. There will be drawings. More study is happening. There might be transit on the corridor also. The trail corridor is sometimes wide but sometimes not as wide.

Headline: BZA denies variances for 19th unit at Sannah’s apartments on Grand
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The Board of Zoning Appeals said that a guy who owns an apartment, and who used to play soccer, can have a parking variance but cannot add one more unit to it because he could not “prove practical difficulties.” [What about impractical difficulties?] If the property had TN zoning, it would be another story. [This is an example of why the Snelling rezoning seems wise.]

Headline: Council looks at midnight closing, other changes for city’s skyways
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The City Council is debating whether or not to let skyways closer to the public earlier. There was a public hearing. There is a list of new rules about what you cannot do in the skyways, which includes a lot of things that were probably already against the rules. Quotes CM Noecker: “We really need to raise the bar in our skyways.” People with disabilities are upset. People who own buildings are also upset but for different reasons. Quote from one owner: “The absurdity of the plan is breathtaking. It won’t work.” He would like more police in the skyways instead of security guards. One owner is locking their doors even though they are not supposed to. Young people hang out by the train station. There is a debate about whether “leaning”, “lounging”, or “kneeling” should be against the rules, or whether only "laying on the floor" should. [Oof da. These property owner quotes are not good. This is a truly depressing situation. Do the building owners simply want to privatize the skyways like in Minneapolis? Probably they do. That seems wrong given the public funding. I still would prefer having the skyways systematically and gradually removed. I would like this whole issue to go away and be replaced by one that had centered on the improving of actual public spaces. The new rules passed 5-2, IIRC.]

Headline: St. Paul seeks to restrict menthol tobacco sales
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city might ban sales of flavored and menthol smokes like they just did in Minneapolis. Guy who owns a Frogtown gas station is upset. There is a coalition of convenience stores and gas stations that is upset also. [This is right up there with the all-powerful plastic bag lobby, except they are not all-powerful. When I was on Hennepin Avenue earlier this summer I saw this same group handing out fliers at the gas station with city council phone numbers listed on it. It had no effect.]

Headline: Selby-Victoria, Selby-Milton mixed-use projects gain support
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A group is going to try and build buildings on the long-vacant lots on Selby now. Neighbors are concerned about parking. Two restaurants opened up recently near there that are popular. The new building has a parking variance but whether it is needed depends on whether the building develops as “live/work” or not.

Headline: Committee discusses options for revitalizing Selby’s streetscape
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There is some money for trying to improve the street along Selby between Dale and Lexington.There will be renderings. Ideas include lighting, murals, rain gardens, hanging baskets, spaces for the jazz fest. [Seems good. But meanwhile a few blocks away neighbors are concerned about parking.]

Headline: Planning begins for new play areas at Expo, Obama schools
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Two schools will get some new playgrounds.

Headline: Work finally set to begin this fall on Snelling Ave. medians
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Snelling will get medians between Randolph and Ford Parkway. [See also, crossing the street on Snelling Avenue.] They will be 8’ wide, and be done by spring. A funeral home will get a turn lane / curb cut. [I bet the guy who runs the other funeral home that did NOT get a curb cut by the Charles Avenue bikeway median is pissed.]

Headline: UPDC requests zoning study of Marshall west of Snelling
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A neighborhood group wants to look at zoning on Marshall because they are worried about “the loss of historic homes and the development of taller infill buildings.” [Personally, I am not aware of much / any Marshall development except for right along the river? And those buildings seem great.] Some people want a development moratorium. CM Stark has to make the request.

Headline: Council approves license for Alchemy health, fitness club
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A person can open a health club on Cleveland Avenue now. Neighbors are concerned about parking, noise and vibrations. [Like people grunting really loudly?]

Headline: City strives to renovate its rental stock by offering no-interest loans
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city is going to create a loan fund for fixing up rental properties, from single-family to four-plex. Many small rental properties are run down. The program comes with a commitment from the landlord that they will keep the buildings affordable for the next ten years. [This is a good example of the paradox around affordable rental housing. Fixing up buildings is simultaneously bad because it leads to rent increases and good because it is obviously better. This seems like a program that gets around that dilemma.] 

Headline: Cinema’s on a roll; Renovated Trylon foresees growing interest in Hollywood movies of old
Author: Bob Gilbert

Short short version: Trylon is expanding and will re-open in any day now! [I remember with such fondness the old days of art cinema in Minneapolis, watching movies at Oak Street for example. Trylon is doing exactly that. They are great. Go there and watch movies you’ve never heard of. Now with comfy seats!]

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