2017-11-01

Reading the Highland Villager #193

[Villagers slumming it in Mendota Heights.]

[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: Riverview advisory lays down tracks for modern streetcars on West 7th Street
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The policy committee [the one that makes decisions] decided to approve the “locally preferred alternative” for a modern streetcar down West 7th Street from downtown to the airport. Neighbors are concerned about traffic and parking. CM Noecker and two others voted against the recommendation.  CM Tolbert and many others voted for it. A neighborhood group wants buses instead of rail. Details of the project are unclear, and there are still many options about how it would work. The project still needs to get Federal money, and project “scoring” depends on these details about cost and ridership. The timeline is still ten years away. [If submitting a public comment on this, make sure to talk about the need for sidewalks instead of parking, and the desire for as much dedicated ROW and signal priority as possible.]


Headline: Marshall moratorium would allow study of historic homes
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version:  The City Council is going to pass a year-long moratorium on development along Marshall Avenue to study historic designation of some of the homes. A developer wants to built an apartment building. Neighbors are concerned about the age of existing homes. Quote from neighbor: “we’re all for development, but we’re asking that you be smart about it” and “we’re not suggesting that all things historical need to be frozen in time.” Article also mentions student issue: “moratorium supporters denied that they are anti-student or anti-tenant.”


Headline: St. Paul again delays decision on organized trash contract
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The City Council kicked the [trash] can down the road again on finalizing the trash contract. [I am guessing they are waiting until after the election for some reason. The city should just do it. Nobody is changing their mind.]


Headline: Elway extension would alter plans for former site of Riverview School
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Some street design changes by Lexington and West 7th would mean that a former school property development would be different because there would be a street running through it. [The intersection currently is very dangerous, so changes here would probably be a great idea.] People are concerned about how this will be paid for. The developer wishes that someone had told him about this earlier.


Headline: New study planned to improve transit connections to Ford site in Highland
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Now that the Riverview corridor is not going to the Ford site, there will be a study to look at how to connect the potential transit to the Ford site. [When they built the Green Line, Metro Transit also added a bunch of new and/or improved connections to the light rail to boost ridership. The same thing would happen here, I am sure.]


Headline: Group rallies to save West End home
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There’s a really old house that was falling down people are trying to raise money to save it. The city was going to require that it be torn down, but is holding off on that for a while. [I was delivering a flag near here a while back and it caught my eye. It’s absolutely covered in vinyl siding and is very small.]


Headline: Council is poised to adopt rules for short-term rentals in St. Paul
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The City Council is going to pass [they did pass] new rules for airBnB-type stuff, requiring permits and limiting size, etc. The Super Bowl is going to be in Minneapolis this year. There was an amendment to raise the fee on these platforms. Someone wanted to remove parking requirements from the policy but the Council was concerned about parking. [Parking demand for airBnB is highly context-dependent and variable, I am guessing, depending on where it is located. In many cases, people might not have cars at all. It’d be nice if there was some way to track this, but I am skeptical we will have any good data.]


Headline: City parks Hwy. 5/Shepard study; Paster reworking plans to redo Sibley Plaza
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city had studied how to tweak the onramps by the Highway 5 bridge to encourage people to drive on [the wildly underused freeway] Shepard Road instead of [supposedly pedestrian] West 7th Street. Only 15% of the cars heading into West 7th were going to 35E, as it turned out. [Much like the Ayd Mill extension, this freeway tweak was probably not a good use of money, in the end. It’s much better to invest local dollars in the Riverview project, for example, which could also improve West 7th for pedestrians will simultaneously offering a high-quality alternative to driving.] Also, the owner of a strip mall who was going to redevelop it, but then didn’t, but might again. The owner of a big warehouse by the river was going to develop it, but the City Council voted it down and now he is not doing anything with the property. Best quote [which encapsulates Saint Paul in a great many ways]: “A lot was set to happen and then nothing happened at all.”


Headline: Army Corps initiates detailed study of the future use of Mississippi locks
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The US Army Corps [which engineers the river] is studying whether or not to sell or close the locks in the river. [FUN FACT! They were opened about a hundred years ago.] They could be removed, or tolled, or owned by a non-profit. There are no businesses who use them any more. [That was kind of the point of having dredged river shipping in the first place, back when the river was primarily industrial.] Some environmental groups like getting rid of them. [I am assuming there would be more “rapids” or things like that!


Headline: Highland playground design gains support
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Neighbors had a meeting to look at playground equipment. Monkey bars and swings proved to be popular. Neighbors were concerned about sand. Money for the playground had been approved a few years ago, but then the money was used for sidewalks instead.


Headline: Fans of Pedro Park oppose city’s plans to sell police annex
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The City wants to sell an old building currently being used by the cops to developers, but there had been plans years ago to turn the building into a park instead. There was a temporary “pop-up” park built on the site a few years ago. Neighbors are concerned about pent-up demand for park space.” [If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If you ask me, the temporary park, built for a very low price tag, is great as it is and could be improved with a little more TLC and funding. Meanwhile, the cool old building could be developed and re-used. The fetishization of green space downtown has some limits, to me, and I don’t see why the city shouldn’t add a cool building to the tax base instead of taking historic property and tearing it down just because someone in the 1990s wanted some more grass to look at. The “Urban Flower Field” is cool and I don’t see why a park designer would need to improve it at great cost when it’s working right now. They could re-name it after old man Pedro and it’d be a win-win for everyone, as well as a sound fiscal move for the city.]


Headline: Rules of the roost: City loosens regulations for raising chickens
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: People who own chickens might be able to own more chickens and compost their poop. [Cluck.]


Headline: St. Paul’s restrictions on to-go containers are off menu for now
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The Council voted against requiring restaurants and stores to use compostable containers. [Another win for the Styrofoam lobby!] Instead they are going to “strongly encourage” such practices. [Doubtful that this will have much impact. Maybe in the future the City can make common sense changes. Particularly disappointing given that both CMs Thao and Noecker had supported the change when they ran for office two years ago.] Quote [from the styrofoam lobby?]: “The Minnesota Restaurant Association pointed out at the public hearing that there are no good recyclable options for some products, such as the lids for hot beverages.” [So you write the ordinance with a “hot beverage lid clause” built in. Easy peasy. Side note: Hot Beverage Lid Claus visits homes once per year, early in the morning before people are fully awake, entering the kitchen through the coffee machine to distribute sippy cups full of unspillable latt├ęs to hard-working mommys and daddys.]

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