Reading the Highland Villager #59

[The Villager lingers on a stoop.]
[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. That's why I'm reading the Highland Villager so that you don't have to. Until this newspaper goes online, sidewalk information must be set free.] 

Total # of articles about sidewalks: 12
Total # of articles about sidewalks written by Jane McClure: 10

Headline: St Paul releases ‘unworkable’ plan for limiting spread of student rentals [Surprisingly critical headline for the Villager. Are they becoming more of a journalistic gadfly? Is Jane McClure the next big muckraker?]
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: Story on the latest development in the plan to reign in the unending creep of St Thomas students through the neighborhood near St Thomas. The proposed ordinance, which will be up for debate at the planning commission on the May 4th meeting, would restrict the number of homes that would allow “students” to live in them that can be in the area from St Clair to I-94, and from the river to Snelling Avenue. [NOTE: I am on the commission, btw.] Article points out that the ordinance is almost single handedly the impulse of CM Stark [who is otherwise really good on transportation / sidewalk /bike and walk issues. note that for some reason it’s OK to discriminate against Tommies. Imagine if they passed an ordinance that restricted the number of African-Americans or Mormons that could live in an area. Are Tommies the last remaining discriminable group in America? –Ed]. Story highlights the heated debate that occurred when the planning commission passed the proposed ordinance. Article quotes Commissioner Oliver: “It’s not a student problem, it’s a housing supply problem.” Article includes the phrase “tenuous legal territory.”  Anyway, I will have more on this soon. It's the next big St Paul debate. Who woulda thunk it? -Ed.]

Headline: City approves revised plan for Jefferson Bikeway; but not before removing three new traffic circles
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: Report on the recent city council meeting where the Jefferson bikeway was approved. [See also: my liveblog of the meeting.] Article details CM Tolbert’s removal of the traffic calming traffic circles. Includes quote from transit for liveable communities (TLC) head Barb Thoman” We’re disappointed.” Includes description of the testimony by “a dozen bicyclists and Macalester-Groveland residents” who were upset with the changes, particularly stuff about public process. Article ends with an anti-bike boulevard quote [seemingly put there for balance] and a short history of the project.

Headline: Developer unveils plans for 20-unit apartment at Grand-Finn; some neighbors raise concerns over size of five-story building
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: Description of proposed new development at Grand and Finn that would house “as many as 80 students of the University of St Thomas.” [There goes the neighborhood! –Ed.] Article includes the phrase “neighbors expressed concerns about … disruptive student behavior.” Two homes on Grand would have to be torn down. Article includes at least two quotes from neighbors saying things like “family neighborhood” and “stick out like a sore thumb.” The developer’s last name is “Merry.”

Headline: Hopefuls wish upon STAR funding [Worst headline pun this fortnight?]

Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: Article on the projects that are competing for a $5.5M pot of city development tax money. Projects include the Saints stadium, the Schmidt brewery, Selby avenue streetscaping, an affordable housing project on University Avenue, and assorted other renovations and building projects.

Headline: Lucky’s to reopen Ran-Ham gas station
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: The gas station and corner store at Randolph and Hamline across from Cretin Durham Hall is going to re-open under the name “Lucky’s.”

Headline:  BZA takes a shine to variance for Summit Ave. solar panels [Is this a pun? I guess it is.]

Reporter: Jane McClure
Short short version: The Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) approved the variance for the person that put solar panels at the back of their yard. Somehow these solar panels aren’t controversial. [I can easily imagine the public meeting, where lots of people being their testimony with the words “I’m all for solar energy, but…” –Ed.]

Headline: Flood of comments delays vote on great River Passage [Best pun this fortnight?]
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: Lots of people have opinions and questions about the plan for the big park along the Mississippi river. The parks commission is going to push back their vote to May 9th.

Headline: St Paul grants noise variances for late-night light-rail work
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: Contractors building the train can work at night sometimes.

Headline: Coleman veto puts the icing on cupcake [A more obvious pun, yes. Probably 2nd best of the issue?]
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: Article on the [excellent] highly politically odd [and bureaucratically science-fictiony] resolution to the Grand Avenue cupcake situation, which involved the icty council and mayor collaborating to allow the business to open despite th concerns of the neighborhood about parking. Article includes quote from Mayor Coleman: “St. Paul is open for business.” [Note: this is the same exact phrase that Scott Walker used when he was elected governor of Wisconsin. –Ed.]

Headline: Thirteen homes eyed for Crocus’ New Hill
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: A development proposal was shown to the public. There will be thirteen single family homes in the spot where Visitation school used to be. Neighbors are concerned about what the homes will look like, and want an “architectural control committee.”

Headline: Editorial: Last-minute changes to Jefferson Bikeway ride roughshod over citizen participation process
Reporter: Colleen Williams-Freier

Short short version: Guest editorial [in place of Editor Mischke's usual screed] on the Jefferson bike boulevard [fiasco?] resolution. Writer "expresses ... frustration" with the final CM Tolbert-sponsored last-minute plan [which stripped out the three traffic circles], mostly on the grounds of un-democratic process, the extensive public engagement / public process work that went into the penultimate compromise plan. Includes the question: "How dare he ignore people's work since 2008?" Includes phrase: "This is not an acceptable way to govern a city." [Interesting that the Villager would publish an editorial that is now 180-degrees opposite from where they were previously on the bike boulevard. The rather incendiary reporting from Villager was one of the reasons that the bike boulevard became such a ridiculous political hot button in the first place, was it not? Anyway, now they're angry about Tolbert's 'ward-boss' type backroom deal thing. -Ed.]

Headline: Editorial: Meeting the neighbors: UST student finds reason for hope
Reporter: Michael Orth

Short short version: Guest editorial by a St Thomas student, reprinted from the Tommie newspaper. It's about his attendance at a neighborhood group meeting, and how awkward but somewhat satisfying it was. Editorial attempts to find a way to achieve peace and reconciliation between Tommies and NIMBY-Tommie neighbors. Says things like: "the vast majority on both sides are seeking a positive relationships -- one that fosters a healthy and vibrant community and supports productive dialogue." [Haha. Well, young peeople are supposed to be idealistic, aren't they? If they can solve the great Tommie/anti-Tommie battle, maybe there is hope for Israel/Palestine? -Ed.]


Julie said...

I'd love to see the figures on when all the NIMBYs near UST moved in. While certainly there's been some renovation and new buildings there in recent years, that was fairly predictable. I'm betting UST predates the whiny neighbors, who wanted the joy of living near an upper-class university and seminary, but with more seminarians and fewer upper-class youth.

Oh, and I forgot: They also want free rein over some of UST's private lands so they can walk their dogs.

And anyone who ever had a class in old McNeely or Christ Child Halls will tell you that some of that teardown/rebuild? NEEDED. OH YES.

(note: one of my degrees is from UST.)

Unknown said...

Shouldn't you have to add a disclaimer that you're on the planning commission anytime you write about something the planning commission did?

Bill Lindeke said...

well, good question. i am open to any advice on the matter!

the problem is that the planning commission basically touches on everything (e.g. Jefferson Bike blvd, comp plan, zoning, etc.). Here, I'm only trying to report on what's in the Highland Villager.

i kind of want to avoid connecting the blog w/ the job. i want to make an attempt to keep the blog separate from my official work.

as i understand it, the main legal issue has to do with the open meeting law, which is basically about not discussing issues w/ other commissioners / affected parties in private. I.e. all official commission business has to be in public, not in closed private discussion. the city's lawyer gave us a speech on that when we joined. other than that, you have to recuse yourself about any issue where you have a financial interest.

anyway, i'm new at this. it seems like lots of people on volunteer public bodies have "many hats", and somehow balance them all. there don't seem to be many clear rules about it, either.


Nathaniel said...

As per usual - great job!!!

I'm always amazed at St. Paul neighborhood groups inability to connect the dots - the most obvious being the two headlines of:

1) St Paul releases ‘unworkable’ plan for limiting spread of student rentals; and 2) Developer unveils plans for 20-unit apartment at Grand-Finn; some neighbors raise concerns over size of five-story building ...

So, the same neighborhood group that doesn't want single-family homes converted into student rentals IS ALSO AGAINST a development that would concentrate approximately 80 plus (?) students closer to campus, away from neighbors. One of the reasons a student housing problem exists is because this type of development has been so strongly opposed in the past.

St Thomas is large for a private college BUT it has only slightly over 1,000 incoming Freshman each year. With 80 new units housing (I'm guessing here?) 100 or so students - that is literally 1/10th of an incoming class being place on roughly 3 normal sized St. Paul city lots.

It'd take 25 (!) single family houses in the neighborhood to cover that (under the 4 "unrelated persons" restriction).

I encourage someone to do more research and run the numbers! -Nate

Nathaniel said...

Oh, and another thing ...

Students would be living on a bus route, walking and biking distance to things in both Grand Ave & Highland, and only one block from where they'd be going to school (and there'd be minimal parking). This is much better than having 100 students spread out throughout the neighborhood -

What does this mean? It'd certainly cut down on car trips, limit student's need for automobiles, concentrate students near student-oriented amenities and it'd probably lower the overall demand for single-family rental houses in the neighborhood.

Alright, I'm off to bed ... Again - good work Bill.