Reading the Highland Villager #206

[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: Rondo reconnected: Summit-University pursues the dream of bridging two sides of old neighborhood
Author: Kevin Driscoll

Short short version: There is a plan and group to consider having a land bridge over I-94 between Rice and Lexington, roughly. Article has some background of the project, including the groups that are leading the effort to raise money for the project. Good quotes by Mr. Marvin Anderson, who helped start Rondo Days many years ago. Description of the recent ULI panel report that offered steps for feasibility for the land bridge project.

Headline: Merriam Park debates need for historic protections: City Council to consider nine-month moratorium on development April 11

Short short version: There was a neighborhood meeting to decide whether to stop any development of a number of old houses in an old neighborhood. People that own an old home want to tear it down and built duplexes. Neighbors are concerned about the loss of ofd buildings and "developers". [The house belongs to one of Joe Mauer's grandparents, so this is the ultimate Saint Paul story. Expect old cranks from dive bars to appear out of nowhere to complain about Mauer for no reason.] There are 46 homes that might be protected, depending on the results of the study and the decisions of the community and City Council. CM Henningson is quoted saying she is "not a preservationist." [Hey, some of my best friends are preservationists.]  There is a petition. Quote from a neighbor: "look at the beauty of the neighborhood." Quote from the owner of the potentially tearing-down old home: "Please don't do this to my aging parents." [Sorry folks, I am officially largely agnostic about teardowns in nice neighborhoods, and tend toward wanting to preserve old homes if possible. For me, though, it always depends on what is being proposed as a replacement. At least this isn't an historic district...]

Headline: Protected bike lanes debated for new Summit Ave. bridge

Short short version: A bridge is being replaced on Summit Avenue.  Some people would like protected bike lanes on Summit. [The lanes there are SUPER wide and a protected bike lane west of this point would be easy and should be a no-brainer. See this compelling case for them.] There will be a meeting. The bridge is in the historic district [I just warned you about these!] and so is regulated by preservationists. Article has some stats about the bridge traffic and dimensions. Article describes the historic preservation concerns thus: "The curbs or bollards that are used to separate bike and motor-vehicle traffic run counter to Summit Avenue's historic design standards." [Praytell! How about we have speed limits reduced to 1890s levels? How about limiting allowed horsepower on Summit to 40, that of a 1915 Ford Model T? I'm OK with preservationists having purview over old homes on Summit Avenue, but when it comes to street design and safety issues, historic aesthetics should absolutely not have weight in how a city makes decisions. I don't see people wanting to return to 1910's medical procedures like lobotomies or leeching or un-anesthetized amputation. We shouldn't be keeping our streets at early 20th century danger levels either.] Quote from a public works' engineer: "we recognize that people want protected bike lanes, and that discussion may need to be a citywide discussion." [Well that's good I suppose. Lately people who like bike safety have been effective in having citywide discussions, as opposed to just giving Summit Avenue residents veto power over any changes.] Quote from bike advocate: "In St. Paul we seem to find reasons not to do protected bike lanes." [Amen.] 

Headline: A new design on Snelling and St. Clair; Developer unveils plan for six-story, 118-unit apartment building at Mac-Groveland corner

Short short version: The abandoned strip mall might become a mixed-use apartment building. There was a previous effort to build a mixed-use building here but it failed for a number of reasons. [I voted against it at the Zoning Committee because of the lack of street level retail.] This is different and has a new developer. Neighbors are concerned about traffic and parking. 

Headline: Even more applicants are wishing on Neighborhood STAR; Local projects among those vying for piece of nearly $2M in funds

Short short version: There is a pot of money for neighborhood improvement projects and different groups are trying to get it. [The pot is small, sort of.] There are a lot of businesses trying to get the money now. Article is basically a big list, which includes a pimento factory, a cheese bar, a brewery, and an "art farm" [???]

Headline: STAR grant sought to help create new 'destination playground' at Expo

Short short version: A group of people want city money to make a nice playground by a school. There was an old playground apparently. Kids want to see a pirate ship and a tree fort. [OK well then.]

Headline: Parking ban for Lexington bikeway plan still unsettled

Short short version: There is a bike lane planned for Lexington Parkway and people cannot decide which of the sides of the street should have the parking removed. Few people use the parking. [Flip a coin?] Neighbors are concerned about speeding cars. Quote from neighbor: "what can we do to make it saver and slow traffic?" [Narrow the lanes? Tighten the curbs?]  85% of drivers travel between 36 and 39 mph on the street. 

Headline: St. Paul on path to create citywide plan that supports safe walking

Short short version: The city is making a plan. Cars are very dangerous and people who walk around are scared of them for good reason. There are lots of parts of the city without sidewalks. 

Headline: Research shows annual Stop for Me campaign has more work to do

Short short version: A researcher at the U of MN has been systematically testing how bad St. Paul drivers really are at stopping for people to cross the street. The results are in. They are very bad. Stay tuned for more on this. [I am planning a podcast about this.] Article has stats on how people continue to get hurt and/or die while trying to cross the street.

Headline: Woodland, Jefferson, Mt. Curve repaving planned for 2018-10;City project is one of first largely financed with dedicated bonds

Short short version: Some streets will be repaved this year. It costs a lot.

Headline: Changes proposed to residential permit parking around St. Thomas

Short short version: Some "residential permit" areas might be consolidated. [That'll change everything.]


Twin City Bike Parking #31

 [Marcy-Holmes, Minneapolis.]

 [West Side, Saint Paul.]

 [Cathedral Hill, Saint Paul.]

 [West Saint Paul.]

 [Skyway, Minneapolis.]

 [Mac-Groveland, Saint Paul.]

 [Downtown, Saint Paul.]

[Downtown, Saint Paul.]


Signs of the Times #138

 No Public
(No Payphone no charging station)

[Door. Downtown, Saint Paul.]

The best
defense against
unwanted conversation.

[Board. White Bear Lake.]



[Window. White Bear Lake.]

These flowers
aren't made for

[Patio. White Bear Lake]

Still acceping deliveries

[Door. White Bear Lake.]

BABY Don't Reply
CUZ I can dish it out
But I can't TAKE it

[Bus shelter. Downtown, Saint Paul.]


[Yard. (not a real MNDOT sign). St. Anthony Park, Saint Paul.]

no clean water

[Utility thing. Flint, MI.]


Twin City Lamp Posts #12

 [West Side, Saint Paul.]

 [West End, Saint Paul.]

 [Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis.]

 [White Bear Lake.]

 [Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis.]

 [White Bear Lake.]

 [White Bear Lake.]

[Downtown, Saint Paul.]


Reading the Highland Villager #205

[A Villager enjoying sprinter.]
[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: Plan for new 5-story building on O'Gara's site is taking shape; proposal gets mixed response from area residents at meeting
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The owner of a bar / building / parking lot on Snelling and Selby wants to tear it down and build a much larger building without surface parking and with many apartments. There was a neighborhood group meeting about it. Neighbors are concerned about traffic, parking, Ayd Mill Road, and "canyons."  Quote from bar owner: "we need to do something drastic to stay here." The buildings are a hundred years old [and Charles Shultz's dad's barber shop was there]. Quote from neighbor: "we have to talk about Ayd Mill Road. Close Ayd Mill off at Hamline Avenue and dump that traffic onto Hamline." The bar owner will keep the ceilings and re-build a smaller bar in a new building. "Traffic is horrendous already. We want to support the development but something has to be done about the traffic." [Close Ayd Mill Road? That would solve a big chunk of the traffic problem.]

Headline: Board wants city-county plan for Highland reservoir; Hy-Vee, solar, greenhouse ideas no longer in running
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There is some usable land on Snelling Avenue where a reservoir used to be [and, funnily enough, right across the street from the Villager offices] and a the "Board of Water Commissioners" gets to vote on what to do with it. They initially had a lot of choices, including a grocery store and a weird strawberry farm, but are instead trying to get the city and county to work together. Currently the city wants a field for kids to play and the county wants parking for people to park their cars when they take kids to the ice rinks next door and maybe an indoor ice rink too. The city's plan is much cheaper, but still nobody knows who would pay for any of this. [Um, hockey and soccer have different demographics and kids from different backgrounds play those two sports, and I think that should be taken into account. This seems like a no-brainer to me.] 

Headline: Planning rolls on for recreational trail; five-mile route through Highland, West End may not be ready for six years
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: An abandoned rail line might become a bike/walk path. There was a meeting about it, and open houses. It would not be done for many years. Nobody knows how it will be paid for, but might get some Federal or regional grants. [Saint Paul doesn't necessarily have enough money to pay the 20% match for all the bike/ped grants it could receive, believe it or not. That's a damn shame, because those are good investments.] Article includes some specs of the potential project. Crossing West 7th Street would be a real challenge. [Picture the Hiawatha/Greenway crossing...]  

Headline: Dunkin' Donuts, Red's Savoy Pizza planned at Snelling-Hague; Coffee shop and mostly carryout pizza would replace old Dairy Queen
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A tiny Dairy Queen might become a one-story restaurant / coffee shop with a parking lot behind it. Some neighbors are disappointed that the building is not larger. Other neighbors are concerned about traffic and parking. The developer says that a multi-story building was not possible with underground parking on this size lot. Dairy Queen might have wanted to re-build here but would have demanded a drive thru. [I don't see how that could go wrong.] The neighborhood groups  would like a median to help people cross the street. [That is a very important concept that has been tragically ignored for generations.]

Headline: City OKs liquor, entertainment licenses for Ethiopian eatery
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A new Ethiopian restaurant can open off West 8th Street. They will be able to have music and entertainment.

Headline: St. Paul picks official name for new Griggs Street park
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The new park built in the vacant lot by the school will be called... "Midway Peace Park." [Parks Park would have been better, named after Gordon Parks, and fun to say.]

Headline: Commission supports outdoor seating at historic Waldmann
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A brewery that dates to 1857 will probably be able to have people drink beer on tables outside. Neighbors were concerned about noise. Other people claim that people drank beer outside in the past.

Headline: City is planning a trial expansion of disc golf course in Highland Park
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A disc golf course will be expanded, for a while at least. Neighbors are concerned about "encroachment" and pedestrian safety. [I would have liked to have seen the disc golf community testify in support of this project, if only because I imagine it would have been like this testimony.]  

Headline: Moratorium considered to protect 46 historic Merriam Park properties
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Old homes in an old neighborhood might get a "moratorium" for nine months to see if the city should protect them from demolition. There will be a survey of historical information about the homes, and to see if some of the area or all of the area have historical significance. [Very rarely to studies to determine if there is historical significance, done by historic preservation experts, not determine that there is historical significance.] College students are mentioned in the article. [Q: where are college students supposed to live anyway? Asking for a friend.]  Neighbors are concerned about size and scale of new buildings. One house is being torn down already, probably.

Headline: Tenants have mixed reaction to proposed River Bluffs sale
Author: Kevin Driscoll

Short short version: A strip mall in the suburbs has been sold and the owner would like to build housing there. [The strip mall looks like an old timey wild-west main street, but is not actually old.]

Headline: Tav on the Ave could see transformation under new owner
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: ["Tav on the Ave" is not a good name. Also, I have never been in here. It seems too much like the Hog's Breath on Rice up in Little Canada for my taste.] There was a meeting to discuss the new owner. Neighbors have complained about "noise, fights, and trash." Some would like it to close at 1pm, but the new owner wants to close at 2. "A name for the new business has not been chosen." ["Tavern on the Avern"?]

Headline: West End showers Corbett with caring
Author: Mary Hansen

Short short version: [The guy I wrote about who has down syndrome, worked at the grocery store, and was hit-and-run by a driver off West 7th Street is in the hospital. He has a broken jaw and just eat pureed food.] 

Headline: Recycling program falls short of city's goal for reduced waste
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The new recycle bins have gotten more people to recycle but the City Council goals still larger. Currently the city recycles 24% of its waste, but the goal is 35%. [A laudable goal! How to achieve it?] There were some complaints for a while, but those have somewhat faded away but not completely. Saint Paul might consider plow alleys to help the recycling trucks. [That'll be the day!] Recycling is way up in the less wealthy parts of town.

Headline: Marshall Avenue landlord loses appeal to retain student rental
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A guy who was letting students rent a house he owned can no longer rent it to students. There were too many people living in the home. Neighbors are concerned about parking and trash. Quote from neighbor: "overoccupancy is an open secret in the neighborhood." The owner of the home apparently filed a complaint on himself to try and get the extra students out of there. Quote from neighbor: "We're paying Summit Avenue property taxes to live in Dinkytown." [This quote might have a weeee bit of privilege showing.]

Headline: It's a Cub for The Capp: grocery is chosen for 46th & Hiawatha project
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: [This is in Minneapolis. It looks great. Not in Saint Paul, though. It's market rate, former parking lot, next to a light-rail stop. with street frontages along the sidewalk.]

Headline: Commission OKs Davanni's use of UST lot for 3 more years
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: [This is the first time I have been quoted in the Villager! I had a photo in here once, a photo of my right knee only. Wowee. Wait for it... It's the last line in the article. This is so meta.] A parking lot across from a sandwich shop that might have one day been used for student housing or a park will continue to be a parking lot for the next three years while the school and neighbors figure out what to do. A sandwich place uses the parking. The "conditional use" extension was approved by the Zoning Committee. Some people want the University to build  housing. The UST liaison says the school is prioritizing other spots for housing. The school almost converted to "green space" but then the sandwich shop people said they liked it for parking. Here's the quote at the end: [dashingly handsome] "Planning Commissioner Bill Lindeke agreed. 'I feel like this is a spot that would be perfect for housing. I hope we don't have to do this again.'" [Wow. Well said. That is a great point. I agree completely with it.]

Join me for a "Hostile Architecture Tour" of Downtown Saint Paul on April 22nd

[A architecturally demanding sidewalk in downtown Saint Paul.]
Architecture and urban design are often simultaneously fundamental and invisible, shaping our freedoms, granting the ability to act in certain ways while foreclosing many other possibilities.

"You can walk on this sidewalk but not through this wall," they say.

"Here there are stairs but no ramp," our space tells us, "and this place is only accessible to certain people."

"This street is only for speeding cars," the ubiquitous refrain, "so tread at your own risk." 

In this manner, our spaces speak in a thousand interrupting voices, shaping our freedoms and guiding our collective potential. This happens constantly, and we typically take these spatial limits for granted, our built environment blending into the backgrounds of our lives.

At least, that's true if you're white and/or well-off. If you're homeless, I imagine that the limitations of design are a constant presence in your life.

"This ledge is not for sitting," say the spikes.

"Do not be here," says the sign, literally, as do the eyes of the office workers and the posture of the police.

[Constructing the new Dorothy Day center.]
Join me on Sunday April 22nd for a walking tour of the "hostile architecture" of downtown Saint Paul.

The tour will be co-hosted with the Twin Cities DSA, and co-led by fellow streets.mn board member Dana DeMaster. We are going to walk around some of the often-subtle spaces for homeless people around downtown Saint Paul and hopefully lead a discussion of what's happening from an urban design and architecture perspective. I am hoping to share some thoughts on the limitations and possibilities of urban design, and how they might be viewed from the positions of the most vulnerable.  

The tour will include some basic facts about homelessness and social services in Ramsey County, some history of downtown Saint Paul and how its urban and public spaces have shifted over the last few decades, some examination of physical and often marginal spaces that are sometimes provide refuge for people without shelter, and hopefully a great many other topics that come up during the walk.

What: A guided 3.5 mile walking tour of downtown Saint Paul, focusing on the spaces used by vulnerable people
When: Sunday April 22nd from 1 - 3pm
Why: Many reasons
Where: Meet at the corner of Old Sixth and Dorothy Day Place (old Main Street) in downtown Saint Paul
Who: Anyone interested and ambulatory. Tour is free!

[The Saint Paul riverfront. Note the people sitting on the river landing, one of many spaces used by poor people.]


Twin City Neon #22

 [Downtown, Saint Paul.]

 [Downtown, Saint Paul.]

 [Longfellow, Minneapolis.]

 [Selby Avenue, Saint Paul.]

 [Cedar Avenue, Minneapolis.]

 [Rice Street, Saint Paul.]




100 Years Ago Minneapolis Walking Tour next Sunday April 8th

[Mmmmm... looks healthy!]

A friend of mine organizes an annual month-long health effort called "Buds of Spring" aimed at getting the summertime off on the right foot by having social events not organized around drinking. Way back in 2013, I had agreed to lead a walking tour as part of the event series, but on that day the rain rained and the wind blew and we ended up cancelling the tour.

Well, it's back! Presenting the "100 Years Ago Minneapolis" walking tour. We'll be walking around downtown, about 2.5 miles total, and looking around and thinking about what it might have looked like back in 1918.

It should be fun. Prepare to be amazed by the imaginary industrial landscape that surrounds you! Let's hope for better weather this time, or else it might be another five years before I try it again.

[Alley shacks!]
[Facebook event is here.]

What: 100 Years Ago Minneapolis Walking Tour
When: 4/8 at 4:00 pm
Where: Leave from the Dunn Brothers on 2nd and 3rd.
Why: Because it's not there
Who: Anyone who's into springtime! Event is free!

[See also, Details Uncovered from 1908 Minneapolis. Some additional 1918 photos follow.]

[Big ass sawmill!]

[Contiguous density!]

[Super old wooden buidlings!]

[It's already "hard to park"!]


Guns vs. Cars, Continued

The March for Our Lives went within shouting distance of my apartment last weekend, and as the topic has filled the news cycles I keep noticing how the technological parallels between guns and cars pop up in conversation.

For one thing, there are the slippery slopes:

"If you ban guns, why not ban cars too?"

"OK with me!"

More seriously, in a recent episode of the Reveal radio show about gun reform, a reporter make a comparison more explicitly. They asked whether gun reform could follow a similarly "successful" path as auto safety efforts.

Here's the description:
Reveal’s Stan Alcorn looks at another public safety threat that used to be responsible for more deaths each year than guns: automobiles. While gun deaths have remained about the same for decades, car deaths have declined dramatically. That decrease began when the government started collecting data on car accidents and passing it on to carmakers, which used it to design safer cars. Public safety advocates say what happened with cars could serve as a model for reducing gun deaths.

I had a few thoughts pop into my head while listening to this, and wanted to quickly share them.

The Car Safety Track Record

First, auto safety is not really a success story. Lots of charts and data point to guns and cars as the two biggest non-medical causes of death in the US. Both guns and cars kill about the same number of Americans, and if you add in public health problems linked to driving (i.e. not walking), cars are still the worse technology!

(At least owning a gun doesn't make you horribly unhealthy. Not physically, anyway... )

Even with the safety improvements of the mid-century, American car culture remains a fast track to the early grave. We shouldn't be touting our car-dependent society as any kind of success story, and there's a long way to go if we want to solve the public health crisis caused by driving and traffic crashes. In fact, with the addition of cell phones into the car-driver mix, those problems are quickly getting worse.

The Agency Problem

One of the tropes of the gun debate is the well-known phrase "guns don't kill people, people kill people."

That line of logic is interesting in compared to how we treat the car. In both cases, the technology forms a complex relationship that challenges the notion of fundamental human agency. Both examples bring into focus the distributed agency of the technological social structures that surround our human selves.

In other words, with guns, some people collectively adopt an an anthropocentric worldview that places humans as the fundamental (and often, the only) actor in the technological relationship. We pretend that guns are a passive technology, and the problem lies with individual human brains, connected to individual itchy trigger fingers. Therefore, solving "gun violence" should focus on things like mental health or policing.

(Never mind the thousands of cases of guns "accidentally" going off and killing people, or many situations where the gun-using human is not mentally fit to make decisions, as is the case with children.)

Meanwhile, in the world of cars, human agency is almost always stripped away. When faced with car violence, "I didn't see you there," or "it was an accident" are everyday utterances and entirely defensible within our deadly social and legal system. Except in extreme cases of intentional impairment -- the most common by far being drunk driving -- humans are never held responsible for the violence and death that they cause. The difference in these two cases between our social norms is striking to me, and the wonderful Andy Singer cartoon illustrates it neatly.

However, I believe both cars and guns offer the exact same type of human-machine relationship, and should be treated in similar manners. Each time you drive a car, it is as if you are waving around a loaded gun on a crowded city street.  In both cases, the machines wield a real agency over our lives.

Distribution of Cars vs. Guns

[% of US household ownership: guns on top, cars on bottom.]
That said, the big difference between guns and cars is their distribution rates.

While on the one hand, and bizarrely to me, there are a similar number of cars and guns in the United States. We have something like 265 million cars in this country and something like 300 million guns. In both cases, it's a bit less than one per person.

There are even relatively comparable percentage rates: for guns, it's around 40% of US households, and for cars it's 90%.

On the other hand, a big difference emerges around everyday social usage. The stat I've been seeing recently is that "three percent of the population own half of the American guns," for example. With cars, that would be far more evenly distributed.

And that collective acceptance holds for how guns and cars appear in our everyday lives. For example, unless you are in rural Wyoming, the social normalization of guns is extremely small in most US cities. I can't remember the last time I saw someone with a gun in public who wasn't a police officer, thank goodness, whereas I can't go for more than a minute without seeing or hearing a car driving the streets of Saint Paul.

Conclusion: More Similar than Different IMO

When it comes to guns and cars, I see both of problems having more similarities than differences. Both are technological challenges with huge public health risks. Both challenge our traditional "personal responsibility" assumptions about human agency. Both are structural issues that the US desperately needs to tackle if we want to improve our quality of life.

Maybe someday we will have marches to end car violence, where millions of people take to the streets to end the everyday normalization of car violence in our lives. Because car violence happens in a less focused way, with many many small deaths and violent incidents instead dramatic attention-grabbing moments, a movement like that is a difficult thing to imagine. And yet, a movement like that happened in Amsterdam in the early 1970s, and it really changed things in that city. At least at the local level, I do think there's hope for car reform.

[A "march for our children's lives", only aimed against cars, in Amsterdam, 1973.]


Signs of the Times #137

 We closed for
Super bowl!!
Be back
Monday bright
and early

[Door. Downtown, Saint Paul.]


[Wood block. Downtown, Saint Paul.]
Not a door

[Window. West Saint Paul.] 


[Doorway. Downtown, Saint Paul.]

 A friendly
Heads Up
to our Guests
if you park within
20 feet of a corner
or crosswalk
the City of Saint Paul will eagerly
ticket your car.

Please check to make sure you are
legally parked.
As us if you are unsure.

Tickets are no fun.

[Door. Payne Avenue, Saint Paul.]


[Pole. Duluth.]

During Construction

[Wall. Northeast, Minneapolis.]

 Mon. open
Tue. open
Wed open
Thurs open
Fri. open
Sat. closed
Sun. closed

[Window. Skyway, Saint Paul.]


[Sidewalk. West 7th, Saint Paul.]