2018-07-19

Twin City Bike Parking #34

[Hastings.] 

 [River Road, Minneapolis.]

 [Southeast, Minneapolis.]

[Downtown, Saint Paul.] 

 [Saint Paul.]

 [Downtown, Saint Paul.]

 [Downtown, Minneapolis.]

[Duluth.]

2018-07-17

Shopping Carts are Worse than Scooters



[Worse than scooters.]
In just a one-mile walk down Snelling Avenue the other day, I found four different shopping carts on the sidewalk.

How are these different from scooters?

They both are owned and "operated" by private for-profit businesses.

They both serve a functional transportation purpose for people.

They both clutter the right-of-way.

The big difference is that the Bird scooter company comes and picks up their scooters every night. Meanwhile, Cub, Target, Walmart, and a dozen other negligent shopping cart suppliers just let these mechanical dockless for-profit devices onto the streets and hardly ever clean them up.

On the scale of "posing a menace to sidewalks", I'd rank scooters somewhere below shopping carts and "men working" construction signs, and just above plastic newspaper boxes and slightly-too-large sidewalk cafes.




2018-07-16

What I Said about the Snelling / Marshall Starbucks back in 2015

[One of my photos visiting and observing the Starbucks in 2017.]
The Snelling / Marshall Starbucks is up for review at the Planning Commission after two years of being in operation. At the time it was first approved, I remembered being upset about the inclusion of the drive-thru and I remember voting against it.

But I don't really remember how adamantly or reluctantly I spoke about the plans for the drive-thru and building. In my memory, I predicted traffic and safety problems, and expressed concerns about the proposal.

But was that really true? What was really said about this coffee shop design back in 2015, when all anyone had to work from were some basic diagrams and renderings?

Because Planning Commission meetings are recorded, there is evidence! I requested the audio of the discussion at the September 18th, 2015 Planning Commission meeting where the group approved the Starbucks. At the time, I was not on the Zoning Committee, which is where the more fine-grained vetting of site plan proposals and zoning variances take place. (I am now on that committee...) So the full Commission meeting was my only chance to speak up about the proposal.

Here's a rough transcript of the conversation, with the full audio embedded afterward for the curious:
Chair Wencl [after Commissioner Nelson’s report on the Zoning Committee application]: Open for discussion. Commissioner Lindeke?

Me (Commissioner Lindeke): I’m curious about two things. One is, I received mixed messages about whether or not there were traffic studies done or traffic concerns from Ramsey County or MnDOT. I’m just recalling all the times that trying to do anything to improve pedestrian safety on Snelling Avenue, and MnDOT or someone will say “oh well that can’t be done.” And here there is a case where there are, I think, legitimate concerns about this kind of use, and and how it could affect traffic flow. And at one point it says Ramsey county and MnDOT have looked at this and its fine and at another point is says that there’s a lot of traffic here already and therefore no traffic study is required, and you just told me that they’re going o look at it later. That’s a mixed message and I don’t understand what’s going on. 
The other question is that the developer said that other uses would not fit here and that seems like something that I don’t know any developer might say, so I’m curious what what other uses were predicted or projected by the community or the basic general questions is about how drive-thrus increase any property's value, if you have retail and add a drive-thru you’ll make a lot more money because its kind of easier, but we kind of discourage them in certain specific areas for a lot of reasons and so I just think we should have a more through conversation about it. 
[referring to Commissioner Nelson] I don’t know if that’s for you or who…

Commissioner Nelson: [gives an answer about the traffic studies from the engineering firm hired by Starbucks, basically described the study numbers with counts, about how the Snelling Avenue bridge was closed at the time, and that the studies did not have an accurate baseline. Said he cannot predict what the nearby the Vintage apartment and grocery store project would do to affect traffic. Added that other developments were looked at and the developer was looking to find a use for the site and talked to a mattress store and a cell phone store. Said that the traffic in and out of the site for curb cuts would have been the same location.] 
Commissioner Nelson [continuing]: The site, the way its set up, the curb cuts are as far from the intersection as they possibly can get. There are some things you can see that the site plan that’s been drawn indicates Marshall avenue and a bike lane. There were some modifications to the site plan as this has gone through development. For example, there is an island that has bene added at the exit to marshal avenue, what one of the people speaking referred to as a pork chop…  
Me [interrupting]: That’s one of my favorite terms
Commissioner Nelson: ... that and sideburns right? ... the island which channelizes the traffic into a right turn onto Marshall so that traffic own’t be coming out of the parcel and go over to snelling. By turning right on Marshall… there is one more street you can go back into a frontage road and hop back onto 94, so there have been some traffic mitigation measures put into place w/r/t the site plan. 
Traffic and bicycle safety were definitely items that were brought up, and one suggestion from one of the Commissioners was that the bike lane be looked at very carefully along that area in order to help separate bikes and traffic along the Marshall street frontage on the south side of the road.

[referring to a city planner] Mr Williams would you like to add something to that?

Josh Williams: I guess if the questions of Comm. Lindeke have been answered to his satisfaction I don’t feel like I need to add anything else, but I’m happy to. 
Me: I still think it’s kind of a lazy development and the idea that most of the space is going to just be, anyone who’s ever driven to work knows that stopping to get coffee is something that a lot of people want to do. 
I just feel like its’ going to be a parking lot filled with idling cars that are not... it’s not going to be an asset to the neighborhood. There’s a Starbucks two blocks down and I feel like we should respect the vision of the zoning that was put in in the first place, and w/r/t traffic, this question, you can imagine what’s going to happen. Normally I don’t really concern myself too much about commuting, but I don’t think it’s an asset, so I’m going to vote against it. 
[Commission has an extended discussion about Floor Area Ratios (FAR) and the nature of variances, involving Commissioner Perrus, Commissioner Shively, Commissioner Noecker, Commissioner That, and Commissioner Edgerton.] 
Chair Wencl [introducing the final vote and her stance against the proposal]: Because along with that the traffic problems that would only be additional to what is already happening on Snelling Avenue, I’ve got a particular concern about the bike lane and the turning right on Marshall Avenue as well.



The Commission passed the Conditional Use Permit for a drive-thru and a variance for minimum Floor Area Ratio on a vote of 12-5. with Comms. Wang, Wencl, Lindeke, Merrigan, and Noecker voting no.

In retrospect, there was a lot of discussion about the FAR variance but not that much about the CUP for the drive-thru.

Appended are some more documents and public comment about the drive-thru:






2018-07-13

LIMITED SPACE AVAILABLE - Obscure Museums Tour #3: Somali Museum of Minnesota to House of Balls on July 21st

It's all coming together for another visit to some obscure museums, these located in Minneapolis, Minn.

(I might have some Obscure Museums of Saint Paul coming up soon.)

You might recall some previous obscure museums visited:
  • the Flem museum
  • the Stephen Frenz ten-years-ago Minneapolis influencers portrait gallery
  • the Cycling Museum of Minnesota
  • the (lost) site of the Minnesota Raquetball Hall of Fame
  • the Minnesota Streetcar Museum
  • the Hennepin History Museum
  • and more!

Well on July 21st, we will visit three more. They are each delightfully arranged within a five (5) mile bicycle ride in South Minneapolis.

We'll be going to the Somali Museum of Minnesota, the Vintage Music 78 record collection, and the famous House of Balls.

The date is Saturday July 21st, from noon to about 3pm. Bring a bicycle.


The ticket price includes admission to the Somali Museum of Minnesota, a worthy endeavor is ever there was...


As always, Patreon patrons get a discounted price, so sign up there if you'd like to get advance notice of tours and events, and discounted price for ticketed tours.

There is limited space available, so get your ticket today if you'd like this private tour of the Somali Museum and two other obscure spots of Minneapolis lore.


I hope to see you there.




2018-07-11

VERY LIMITED SPACE for Saint Paul Hummus and Alley Tour this Saturday

Last minute opportunity!

Did you know that, in under a mile of sidewalk, you can find five (5) different unique hummus establishments in Saint Paul?

Similarly did you know that these same areas of town boast some strange alleys and quasi-alleys worth exploring?

For years I have fantasized about having a tour where people walk around an interesting Snelling Avenue-proximate area of Saint Paul and explore some of the hummuses hummi (?), weird nooks, an quasi-alleys that exist in the middle of the city. My sister and brother-in-law are coming to town this weekend and it seems like a great time to get this going.

On the tour, there will hummus or baba ganoush purveyors from Jordan, Palestine, Turkey, Greece, and the United States, along with strange alleys, short blabs about Middle Eastern urban design practices and Saint Paul history, and some miscellaneous local history highlights.

*** NOTE: This is a ticketed event and there is limited space available! *** 


What: This will be a guided walking tour just over a mile in length, featuring four humus and alley stops.
When: The eating and walking tour is this Saturday at 12:30pm.
Where: The walk is about one mile. There will be snacks. Ticket price includes hummuses.
Why: Because it's there.


2018-07-09

Reading the Highland Villager #212


[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: Ryan Cox. Revs up for redevelopment of old Ford Plant
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A developer was chosen by Ford Mo. Co. to redevelop the site of the old factory. They are the same people that developed other buildings in the area. Article includes details about zoning and planning for the site. Article includes quotes from CM Tolbert and Mayor Carter. [Having a developer with local experience seems like a good thing.]


Headline: Candidates for Ward 4 lay out priorities
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Different people are running for the City Council seat vacated by Russ Stark. Article has some quotes from them. [Stay tuned for more on this race on this blog.]


Headline: Rezoning recommended for 5-story Selby-Snelling project
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The Planning Commission approved rezoning the O’Gara’s building and parking lot to TN3 zoning. The owner of the building wants to build a five-story building there instead of the two-story bar and one-story parking lot. [Charles Shultz’s Schulz's dad’s barber shop was located in this building. There are car doors on the walls now. The community big band used to play here in a small room.] Neighbors are concerned about traffic, parking, and privacy. Some of the apartments would be affordable at an unknown percentage of area median income.


Headline: Wellington planning mixed-use building at Snelling and Shields
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: 175 apartments might be built where a one-story drive through bank is located. It would be mixed use and keep room fo rate bank. The developer is are concerned about drive thrus and parking.


Headline: Council denies appeal of 6-story building at St. Clair-Snelling
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The City Council rejected an appeal of a Planning Commission by concerned neighbors about a new apartment building where a one-story dumpy strip mall is located. CM Tolbert is quoted. CM Prince was the lone vote in opposition to the building approval. Neighbors are concerned about privacy.


Headline: County Board OKs plan for new Riverview corridor streetcar line
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The plans for a streetcar were approved in a vote. It would be almost two billion dollars and might be done by 2028. The county is now going to seek federal funds.


Headline: Discussion continues on rerouting Lexington through Riverside site
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There was a meeting about the plan to re-route a street at a dangerous intersection. Neighbors are concerned about getting in and out of their neighborhood with a new traffic signal.


Headline: After 96 years in business, it’s lights out for Brinkman Service [pun alert!]
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A lampshade and lamp restoration business closed.


Headline: Celebration set for opening of Rondo Commemorative Plaza
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: July 14th, they will have an event for the plaza.


Headline: St. Paul imposes license cap to restrict new tobacco shops
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The total number of smoke shops in the city will be 242.


Headline: Centennial Showboat to get new home at Winona museum
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The big empty boat on the river will go downstream.


Headline: Discussion set on space plans for Snelling, Westgate stations
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The Planning Commission will look at changes to some LRT station area plans to add some green spaces and plazas for some big projects.


Headline: Permit, variance approved for Morning Star Church project
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A one-story church and parking lot is going to be replaced with a three-story 95-unit mixed-use apartment building.


Headline: After nine years and a ton of pizzas, DiNoko’s says goodbye
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A pizza place in Minneapolis closed.


Headline: Comments sought on study of future use of Mpls. locks
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The lock and dam by the Ford site might be changed someday. They are expensive to operate but not needed for transportation purposes.


Headline: Blending into the neighborhood; award honors new construction with historic appeal
Author: Roger Barr

Short short version: The Mac-Grove neighborhood is going to have an award for new houses that don’t look new. This was done previously in Minneapolis. Article mentions the debate over having a conservation district in the area as well. [This is nice but will not likely do much to solve the problems people have with tear downs.]


Headline: MnDOT will pay for the replanting of I-94 berm
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The utility company cut down and bulldozed $10K worth of vegetation that was planted along the freeway, but MnDOT is going to replant it after they had approved the clearance permit. Xcel thinks the bushes were too close to the power lines but neighbors do not think so.


Headline: Council upholds variances for Laurel-Dale row house project
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The City Council will let a company build six-units of a row house after neighbors appealed. Neighbors are concerned about traffic and parking.

2018-06-27

Sidewalk Closed Signs #12

 [Somewhere in Minneapolis.]

 [Seattle or Vancouver.]

 [Cedar-Riverside, Minneapolis.]

 [Downtown, Saint Paul.]

 [Seward, Minneapolis.]

 [Location forgotten.]

 [Downtown, Saint Paul.]

[Seattle, WA.]

2018-06-26

Signs of the Times #140

 LOST PHONE!

Friday March 23 I lost my phone here at Scott's Liquor. 
My phone case had my Id and other important
cards in it. If you have any information about
my missing things Please leave me a message
or bring the phone, ID etc. back to this store.
Thanks you!
Sara

[Window. Mac-Groveland, Saint Paul.]


DO NOT LEAVE DONATIONS
OUTSIDE OF STORE

[Somerville, MA.]

 NO
MUSLIM
BAN
EVER

[Window. Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis.]

 FOOD YOU CAN
AFFORD

[Window. Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis.]

 WORK
SAFELY

[Wooden sign. NE Hennepin, Minneapolis.]

 WORK 
WITH
YOUR
 QUIRK

[Location forgotten.]

 FINALLY

[Sandwich board. Grand Avenue, Saint Paul.]

Record Store
DAY
Line Starts Here

[Window. Downtown, Saint Paul.]

2018-06-25

Reading the Highland Villager #211

[Don't put all your old Villagers in one basket.]
[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: Historic Fort Snelling revitalization proceeds; Historical Society makes do with $15M of the $30M it sought in state bonding
Author: Dave Page

Short short version: The state gave some money to the old fort to fix up the visitor center.


Headline: City begins test of pedestrian improvements on West Seventh
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: [After decades and decades of ignoring this deadly street] The city has installed temporary bumpouts and crosswalk improvements along West 7th street. [I saw these in action the other day. People crossed the street and cars stopped for them. It was amazing! Much more of this please.] 


Headline: Bonding bill jump-starts renovation of Fort Snelling's Upper Post
Author: Dave Page

Short short version: The state gave some affordable housing money to the old fort to fix up long-abandoned historic buildings. [See also this scathing take on this funding allotment.]


Headline: Bicyclists push for safety improvements on Summit Ave.' Among suggestions are protected bike lanes on curb side of parking lane
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: After another person was killed bicycling on Summit Avenue, there was a meeting about safety improvement ideas. Many ideas were floated, including protected bike lanes of different types. Article explains what bollards are. Quote from bicyclist: "biking down Summit in the winter? It's a contact sport."


Headline: City grants to variances for 73-unit apartment building; five-story structure may be the first high-density project to break ground since Snelling's rezoning
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A 73-unit apartment building may soon be built on Snelling Avenue by 04. It needed two variances for height and balcony setbacks. Neighbors are concerned about traffic and parking.


Headline: Wellington plans five-story building near soccer stadium
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A one-story bank, parking lot, and drive-thru may become a five-story mixed-use apartment building with 175 units. [This would be the first market-rate University Avenue-area housing project of over four units built anywhere east of Cleveland Avenue in over 50 years. Perhaps a sign of more to come.]


Headline: Moeller Jeweler buys its long-time home at Ford & Cleveland
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A jewelry company bought the building it is in. [Moeller was an early Villager advertiser even back in the 1950s.]


Headline: Midway Pro Bowl owners seek relocation expenses from city
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The bowling alley that was displaced for the soccer stadium wants some money for its move. [See also my coverage of the alley's closure.] Because it is not a city-purchase, they are not legally owed anything.


Headline: Commissions favor historic designation for former Fire Station 10 on Randolph
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC) and Planning Commission voted to approve historic designation for an old fire station from 1885.


Headline: St. Paul suspends its effort to revise parts of city's historic preservation regulations
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city wanted to change some HPC processes, including adding a fee, but will delay any decision pending more process.


Headline: Fundraiser on tap to save Goodrich home
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: And old [very small] house from 1856 might be knocked down, but not if people can rase some money. The fundraiser [took place] on June 21st.


Headline: St. Paul seeks to shape future through 2040 Comprehensive Plan
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The required comp plan update is happening right now. There are new language and changes in the plan. There were lots of meetings with neighborhood groups. It's 210 pages long. The plan focuses on building more housing, especially mid-scale, and trying to keep housing affordable in the city. It also focuses on disparities in parks.


Headline: Draft plan lists dozens of neighborhood nodes, opportunity sites
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: In the plan there are small circles placed on the zoning map to denote where opportunity sites, called "neighborhood nodes", exist. [No offense, but these seem a bit arbitrary to me.] Quote from planner: "We heard loud and clear that people want to be able to walk to places in their neighborhoods." [Good call!] Neighbors are concerned about change happening at Grand and Victoria.


Headline: Cretin stretch among 'urban districts' eyed for lower speeds
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city is asking the state for permission to lower the speed on a few dangerous streets. [It's stupid that the city has to go through this process to lower speeds to less dangerous levels!] Cretin, Wabasha, Mississippi, Fillmore, and Chavez streets are all on the list of places that should have slower speed limits. MnDOT has to say yes to the request. Quote from CM Henningson: "obviously we have work to do on all of our streets." 


Headline: Committee focuses on increase in requests to age in place
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: More older adults are seeking variances on city requirements in order to make their homes work better for them, things like adding a bedroom or garage. [Making streets more walkable would be a good start.]


Headline: BZA grants variances for Laurel-Dale apartment building
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A six-unit building can be built on Lake Street with a slightly smaller setback than required by code. Neighbors are concerned about parking. [This is the kind of "middle scale" development that everyone is always talking about.]

2018-06-21

Doorways #38

 [Seattle, WA.]

 [Seattle, WA..]

[Seattle, WA.]
 [Seattle, WA.]

 [Seattle, WA.]

 [Seattle, WA.]

 [North Minneapolis.]
[Northeast Minneapolis.]

2018-06-20

The Cat Training / Driver Training Metaphor

[Eighth in the highly unpopular "metaphor series." See also: New OrleansBicycling/DancingVikings stadium/Star Wars, bikes/guns, gas/pop, NIMBY/Amtrak, and soup/housing.]

[The guilty party.]
The other day, my cat peed in my sandal again. This happens about once every six months and each time I curse loudly and then begin cleaning up. I scrub the sandal with baking soda and soap and leave it out in the sun to dry. 

The one thing I don’t do is yell at my cat. 

(I think I did it once, years ago, when catching her in the act. She ran away of course, but she kept peeing.)

Yelling at the cat is pretty much the most useless possible reaction to the situation. It accomplishes nothing because cats do not speak english, nor do they comprehend human communication. Talking to your cat is a meaningless gesture*.

Instead, the only effective response to a cat peeing in the house is environmental. Re-double your efforts to keep the cat box clean and tidy. Keep things off the floor. Scrub and desensitize the affected areas of the house, using special anti-cat smell compounds available at any pet or hardware store. The only thing that works is to change and control the environment.

Here's the metaphor: this situation is exactly the same with car drivers. 

Yes, cats are just like car drivers.

For the most part, enforcement efforts (e.g. “stop for me”), safety campaigns on billboards, or televised PSAs are about as effective as yelling at your cat. When confronted with bad behavior, the vast majority of the problem — something like 90% — is environmental. Car drivers, just like cats, overwhelmingly respond to  behavioral cues rather than anything psychological or cognitive. 

This isn't to say you can't achieve anything with enforcement or public safety awareness campaigns. It’s possible to slightly tweak collective behavior at the very margins for a small percentage of drivers. There are some people who will put a “I STOP 4 PEDS” magnet on their car, or pay attention to a police enforcement effort.






[Like herding cats.]
In much the same way, it’s possible — though extremely difficult — to train cats.  

I know this because I’ve attended performances by The Amazing Acro-Cats of Chicago, Illinois on two different occasions. The Amazing Acro-Cats are the #1 trained cat circus in the United States, if not the world, and thanks to the tireless efforts of head trainer Samantha Martin, they perform somewhat amazing tricks like jumping on pedestals, pushing a small cylinder across a stage, and “playing" musical instruments. 

It's amazing, but more because of the efforts made by the trainer than the cats. The cats do these all of these tasks in response to a constant stimulus of positive feedback, the trainers using a “click stick" and cat treats.

(One warning at both shows: “Please do not be alarmed if the cats run off the stage and into the theater. They are cats after all.” Of course this happened; they are cats, after all.)

Training cats is like training drivers, pretty much impossible and only done with extreme dedication and continual attention. In both cases, the vast majority of the time, it’s not worth doing.

Instead, when there’s an accident [sic], the correct response is to change the environment. That’s the only thing that works. 

If the cat pees on your shoes, clean up the house and keep your shoes off the floor. If there’s a fatal crash at an intersection, remove a lane, install a bumpout, add green paint, or tighten the corners. 

Without changing the environment, nothing is accomplished. Yelling at drivers is like yelling at cats. “Training” drivers for a week or a month is next to useless. You might as well post a list of “house rules" in front of your cat’s food bowl. Just as with cats, the environment trumps everything else.


Note: this does not keep people from talking to their cats. Though I try to avoid talking to my cat, in principle, sometimes my psychological need to anthropomorphize a furry animal with the brain the size of a walnut wins out. This says more about the owner than the cat.