2017-12-14

Reading the Highland Villager #196

[A Villager bundled up for the wintertime.]
[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 may vote Dec. 6 on validity of petition seeking a referendum on Ford plan’s repeal
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A group of people trying to overturn the city’s adopted plan to rezone an old truck factory collected signatures on pieces of paper and submitted them to the County election officials in the hopes that the officials would put them on the ballot. One organizer stated, “now we are organized, and we will not be ignored.” [*narrator voice* They were ignored.] Article includes some history of the issue. There was a question about how many signatures were required to put a ballot measure on the ballot, and whether or not they had enough. [*narrator voice* They did not.] Article includes some question about the validity of this avenue in the first place, and mentions the upcoming City Council meeting. [Update: The City Council voted unanimously to reject the petition because it was not legal. They did not bring up the voter threshold issue.]


Headline: City scrambles to solve growing homeless problem
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There are more homeless people in Saint Paul than there used to be, and shelters turn away people every night. They are creating an “overflow” shelter in a Ramsey County building downtown. Article includes photo of tents at a “homeless camp” by 35E and the Cathedral. CM Noecker is leading the conversation about reducing homelessness. The “tight housing market” and rising rents are big parts of the problem. The vacancy rate for rental housing is 2.4% in Ramsey County. [Building more housing would seem to be prudent, in this light. These people are paying the cost for the lack of options at the bottom. Having a massive increase in affordable housing funding and/or a transformation of the private-property-based socio-economic order would probably also work.] Quote from a guy at the County saying we need to build more affordable housing. Catholic Charities shelter is expanding. County people are trying hard to count homeless people but it is very difficult.


Headline: St. Paul embraces new police-civilian review board; all-civilian membership is hailed, though some don’t trust the process
Author: Kevin Driscoll

Short short version: There is a group of people that tries to keep the Police from making mistakes, and handles complaints. Article includes a lot of details about the process and perspectives of the group, which vary widely.


Headline: Advisory committee OKs modern streetcar line for Riverview Corridor
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A technical advisory group approved the modern streetcar concept for West 7th transit at a meeting. It will be expensive. Planners are hoping it gets ranked well by the Federal government. The national park service is worried about the river crossing. Quote from a guy there: “we’re not in any position to embrace or promote the idea of a new bridge.” [The new bridge concept that was originally raised would have gone from blufftop to blufftop and the train would have gone north of Fort Snelling by the visitor center. That was nixed by the NPS people, apparently, and how they are planning a very expensive and less ped/bike friendly tunnel instead. Then it turns out the NPS people are still not happy about it? Strange to me. I suggested during a Committee conversation that a new ped/bike/rail bridge next to the old bridge would be quite good for the park, the river, and Ft. Snelling because it would dramatically increase access and views of these things for people not in cars, unlike the ugly and polluting car bridge that is there today. When discussing river views and “scenic resources”, in my view, it is important to consider the existing human impact of things like roads, freeways, and already-built development and not treat this bit of land as it is a virgin forest.] There will be a meeting of the decision-makers. [They voted to approve it just today!]


Headline: Trouble brewing over Starbucks drive-thru
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A drive-thru coffee shop has been causing traffic to back up at a key intersection. A cop stands there often to direct traffic. Plastic bollards try to keep cars from blocking the bike lane. Starbucks people are looking to fix it by re-striping their parking lot. Quote from a neighbor: “I love Starbucks, but I was against this plan from the beginning. It’s a horrible place to put a drive through.” [For the record, I have never in my life gotten a drive-thru coffee.]


Headline: Misery was in good company at county tax hearing
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Property taxes went up in Ramsey County.


Headline: Planning begins to manage traffic, parking near soccer stadium
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Neighbors are concerned about traffic and parking during future soccer games. [If you build parking lots, they will drive. Let’s make sure instead that it’s very welcoming, convenient, and safe to walk and bike to the stadium.] Quote from a Planning Commissioner: “From my home three block away, I hear crashes on a regular basis.” [Prediction: the soccer game day traffic and parking will be terrible for a while, but will then get better.]

Headline: St. Paul has changes in store for permit parking program
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The “permit parking” zones, where only residents can park, is scheduled to be updated. Some zones may be removed, depending on how well used they are. Costs for new permits may increase, but probably not by much. There was a survey. Quote from the administrator: “almost nothing is universal about permit parking.” [The hassle of the way the city has been doing this program is almost impossible to describe. Each area has different rules and processes and hours, it seems.] Quote from same person: “Police have said that’s difficult to enforce” [referring to the short-term e.g. 1-hour limits. In fact, it’s impossible to enforce and are based almost entirely on the honor system, much like many Saint Paul traditions. Unless there are some seriously eagle-eyed whistle blowers, nothing happens.. The open secret about Saint Paul’s short-term zones is that nobody enforces them at all, and that goes double for permit parking short-term zones. The system is very flawed and would require huge increases in parking enforcement staff to make it work.] The plan will move forward and people will get to comment on the proposals.


Headline: Council considers new regulations for alternative financial institutions
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Odd credit agencies might be permitted in some zones. One particular credit agency was displaced and looking for a new location, but could not find one because of the zoning. They are now “happy in Mendota.” [I love Mendota. Very quaint, a home of 19th c. financial speculation, and a good place for a loosely regulated credit agency.]

Headline: Vacant 1509 Marshall building may house three new businesses
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: An old roller rink [wait, what?] is going to become new businesses after it was rehabbed. It could be lots of things, but might be an architecture firm, fitness center, and/or restaurant.


Headline: New housing eyed at Marshall-Western
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The old Boy Scouts HQ might be rezoned [NOTE: it was rezoned] and could become housing instead of its current offices. It would become TN2 zoning. Neighbors are concerned about traffic and parking. One neighbor was pleased, but the neighborhood group did not support the idea.


Headline: St. Paul JCC now seeking city approval for $15M expansion
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The Jewish Community Center in Highland might become larger. There might be new pools and other things. [Little known fact: I was in multiple musicals at the JCC when I was a child!]

Headline: Design still evolving for Marshall-Moore apartments
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There might be a new apartment building on Marshall Avenue that would be marketed for college students. [Though the article does not mention it, I understand that neighbors are concerned about students and tearing down the existing homes.]


Headline: Highland reservoir proposals include grocery, greenhouse
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There are a bunch of ideas for what to do with the land currently occupied by a now-unneeded reservoir. It’s on Snelling Avenue [directly across from the Highland Villager offices] and some of the ideas include a grocery store, a strawberry greenhouse, a solar array, an ice rink, and field space. [Can’t believe they suggested a Hy-vee across from the Villager offices!]


Headline: Rezoning sought for senior housing on Morning Star site
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: An old church and its [massive!] parking lot may become housing for older people. It would require TN zoning. [This is very similar to the Boy Scouts situation, only with older people.] There will be underground parking.


Headline: Union Park seeks district plan changes for part of Selby Ave.
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A neighborhood group wants to change the plan it created so that a stretch of Selby Avenue is reframed to only have “smaller scale” development or mixed-use buildings. There will be a public hearing. Neighbors are concerned about density and the character of the neighborhood.


Headline: HPS rejects request to replace Summit brick alley with asphalt
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: People in a fancy part of town cannot repave their alley except with bricks. The bricks are expensive and fall apart.


Headline: Landlord appeals decision to shut down overcrowded student rental
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A landlord had his “student rental” license revoked because too many students were living there. The limit is four but there were nine. [The limits are dumb, especially in larger homes. Students like saving money and living in smaller spaces, as I did when I was that age.] City housing inspectors inspected it.The city’s “unrelated adult” rules were in play. [That is another thing that is very backwards. Who are cities to say who can live together in a place or who can’t? Or what constitutes a “family”?] Quote from a neighbor: Over-occupancy is not only illegal, it’s dangerous.” [IMO Fire code is one thing but antiquated bourgeois morality is another. I’d be curious to know more about this particular situation.] Article is full of quotes about the landlord being frustrated about the situation. Quote from him: “he is … unhappy with his neighbors, who he believes simply do not like college students.” [Well, they are Tommies… Stay tuned for more on this evolving situation!]


Headline: New signals, other upgrades in store to make Grand safer
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There is a roughly $1M grant to improve pedestrian safety on Grand Avenue. [How many people had to get injured or die before we finally got around to doing this?] The plans include leading pedestrian intervals, new crosswalks, new pedestrian ramps, bumpouts and/or median refuges [probably bumpouts], and redesigned bus stops. There might be some restrictions on left-turns at some places. A median might be built at Chatsworth, which is planned to have a bicycle boulevard. Article includes some history of the street and safety issues.


Headline: Palace takes over Wild Tymes space; new bar-restaurant in works to complement operation of theater
Author: Kasey McKee [The Villager’s new bar and booze beat reporter?]

Short short version: The crappy bar with a bad name [but super cheap beer during happy hour!] was bought by the First Avenue folks. It will be rebranded [thank god]. It will be done by May 1st. There will no longer be music there. [Also thank god. Their patio was nice though. And their happy hour went all-day on Sundays. I bet that won’t still happen.]

2017-12-13

Signs of the Times #133


Please Enjoy
your
menchie's
Outside
Thank you!

[Door. Cleveland Avenue, Saint Paul.]

WHEN YOU RING THE BELL,
PLEASE PULL DOOR.

YOU WILL NOT HERE A CLICK.

THANKS

[Door. Location forgotten.]


Yanez's
TEARS ARE
NOT ENOUGH!

[Yard. Frogtown, Saint Paul.]

Just Say
NO
To Parking
Along Side Of
Building

[Wall. Location forgotten.]

 TRASH

[Fence bucket. West Side, Saint Paul.]


[some chemtrails nonsense]

[Pole. Location forgotten.]

 SLOWDOWN
KIDS
PLAYING

[Fake stop sign. West Side, Saint Paul.]
Close Today (MON)
due to ECLIPSE watching 
in Nebraska
We're so sorry for the
inconvenience!

[Door. West Side, Saint Paul.]


2017-12-08

*** 25 Weekend Sidewalk Links for You! ***



Sidewalk Rating: Slippery


With a clamor of bells that set the swallows soaring, the Festival of Summer came to the city Omelas, bright-towered by the sea. The rigging of the boats in harbor sparkled with flags. In the streets between houses with red roofs and painted walls, between old moss-grown gardens and under avenues of trees, past great parks and public buildings, processions moved. Some were decorous: old people in long stiff robes of mauve and grey, grave master workmen, quiet, merry women carrying their babies and chatting as they walked. In other streets the music beat faster, a shimmering of gong and tambourine, and the people went dancing, the procession was a dance. Children dodged in and out, their high calls rising like the swallows' crossing flights, over the music and the singing.

[From Omelas, by Ursula Le Guin.]

[Saint Paul's West Side before the cold front blew in.]



*** CLICK ON IMAGES FOR LINKS! ***

https://grist.org/article/antarctica-doomsday-glaciers-could-flood-coastal-cities/



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https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/11/25/climate/arctic-climate-change.html?_r=0



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https://www.perfectduluthday.com/2017/11/30/trolley-road-minnesota-point-winter-duluth-minn/



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https://www.magnumphotos.com/photographer/w-eugene-smith/


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Banning cars is as simple as it sounds: It’s restricting private automobiles from entering a geographic area. You might have already seen how this works in a pedestrian-prioritized historical district, which is common in bigger cities. So we start the ban there, in the biggest cities

[this]

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https://www.planetizen.com/news/2017/11/95941-what-one-oil-pipeline-spill-every-day-looks-map


*** ***

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/bill-mckibben-winning-slowly-is-the-same-as-losing-w512967


*** ***

You made another point about China. I have been to China recently as well. They are building lots of things, and the reason we shouldn’t be directly comparing the United States or developed countries in Europe or Australia with China directly is that it is starting from a much less developed base. So, when you’re in a country with no intercity highways, it’s very important to build freeways. When you’re in a country where we finished the interstate highway system in 1982, more or less, it’s much less important to build new highways because we’ve already connected all of the places that need to be connected and we’re just arguing about the widening of roads and capacity expansions rather than building connectivity in the first place.

[this]

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https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2017/09/beirut-tries-to-get-back-on-the-bike/540681/



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https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/best-train-trips?mbid=social_pp_twitter_atlas&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=atlas-page



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https://www.jacobinmag.com/2017/11/mcmansions-housing-architecture-rich-people



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http://stuffaboutminneapolis.tumblr.com/post/168267185664/winter-scene-loring-park-minneapolis-1931-via



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“Back in the late sixties, James’s comments about his former life in Minneapolis and teaching experience at the University had made me skeptical of the city ... I thought of it as ugly and his life there as sad and lonely. … When negotiations with the University concerning the placement of James’s papers to the Manuscript Department took place, I realized that ‘the bad guys’ had long left the University and the new ‘good guys’ involved were devoted to James’s work.”

[this]


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http://publications.newberry.org/makebigplans/plan_images/civic-plaza-1917


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https://www.reddit.com/r/Minneapolis/comments/2vuaq7/wtf_duluth_ticket_to_ride/


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https://99percentinvisible.org/article/leafy-neckdown-cornstarch-water-leaves-reshape-unsafe-intersection/


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https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2017/11/21/spots-parking-lot



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https://usa.streetsblog.org/2017/11/27/whos-to-blame-for-drive-to-urbanism/



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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pioneer_Square,_Seattle


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http://prostheticknowledge.tumblr.com/post/167868808201/a-computer-vision-systems-walk-through-times



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https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/06/upshot/what-happened-to-the-american-boomtown.html?_r=1


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https://www.citylab.com/equity/2017/11/new-city-church-battle-against-gentrification/546518/?utm_source=feed


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http://www.startribune.com/businesses-are-getting-hammered-by-franklin-avenue-bridge-construction/460399543/


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https://twitter.com/atlasobscura/status/931562709103063040

2017-12-07

Twin City Shop Windows #16

[West Bank, Minneapolis?]

[West Bank, Minneapolis.]

[Marshall Avenue, Saint Paul.]

[West Bank, Minneapolis.]

[West 7th, Saint Paul.]

[Memphis, TN.]

[New Orleans, LA.]

[Lafayette, LA.]


2017-12-05

Talking aboot Winnipeg versus Twin Cities Urbanism with the CBC

A few months ago, I went on a lovely trip up to Winnipeg, Manitoba with my mother. The city is about a seven-hour drive, but when you get you your destination, you're in a different country!

Winnipeg was fun to wander around, and I ended up blogging about my experience and observations there over at streets.mn.

You can check that article out there, but here's a highlight:
By the way, mode share in Winnipeg is something like 14%. That’s the metro area stats, by the way.  
Are those numbers in metric or Canadian dollars or something, because that is far far higher than Minneapolis?
The equivalent numbers for Minneapolis are something like 9% city-wide and 5% metro-wide. In Winnipeg, they are doing something right with the transit planning. I suspect its a complicated series of land use, planning, and financial incentives that create this more transit-friendly environment. Whatever the reason, it makes me jealous!

At any rate, Winnipeggers seemed both pleased and nonplussed by my piece, and I got a lot of good comments from Canadian readers on streets.mn and social media. My little observations got so much attention, in fact, that the CBC called me up yesterday and interviewed me for their afternoon news show on the local CBC.

Must have been a slow news day up north (LOL), but what an honor! I'm a big fan of the CBC and Canadian media, so this was pretty exciting.

Here's the whole interview, for your listening pleasure. We chatted about urban freeways, walking, skyways versus tunnels versus sidewalks, and some experimental bike lanes.

If you listen closely, I think you can hear the host seem rather astonished that I actually liked Winnipeg. "Really? You liked it? Wow," he keeps implying. It's rather amusing, eh?

Enjoy!

BONUS, eh!

2017-12-04

The Last Ice Palace of Saint Paul

[Plans for an ice palace that will never be built.]
The forecast high temperature today, on December 4th in Saint Paul, Minnesota, is 58 degrees. That might seem unusual, but it shouldn’t.

The warm air reminds me of a little-noted event that happened a few weeks ago. It was the announcement, made by a group of civic boosters, that despite the upcoming Super Bowl, there would be no ice palace in Saint Paul this year.

Here’s what one report said:
Even if they’d gotten the money, however, organizers also faced the challenge of having a place to harvest the ice. In the past, it could be chopped out of area lakes but too often lately the lakes don’t freeze early enough.

The planners envisioned an ice palace reaching 170 feet at its apex, which would break a current world record of 166 feet set in Minnesota in 1992 — also during a Super Bowl.
Though no fan of the Super Bowl, the story stuck with me because the plain truth is right there. There will never be another Ice Palace in Saint Paul.

Never.

That’s a crazy and absolute word, but it’s true. Saint Paul’s lakes will never freeze thickly and quickly again. People will never harvest blocks of ice, never again build a fantastic palace of frozen water. A tradition that's as old as anything in this city is dead forever.


[The 1887 Ice Palace in Central Park, built from 30,000 blocks if local lake ice.]
The first Saint Paul ice palaces were built in a park that no longer exists, Central Park by the State Capitol complex. The park was partly funded by a distant relative of mine, a wealthy merchant who built a mansion on its northeast corner in 1880. A few years later, in defiance of the long cold relentless winters, they began the Winter Carnival, an annual celebration of the city's most infamous season.

A few decades later, F. Scott Fitzgerald grew up in Saint Paul, and wrote an early story based on the Saint Paul ice palaces. It tells the tale of a southern girl named Sally Carrol who moves north for love, and quickly becomes alienated by the winter’s cold. The tale centers on the ice palace:
After another ten minutes they turned a corner and came in sight of their destination. On a tall hill outlined in vivid glaring green against the wintry sky stood the ice palace. It was three stories in the air, with battlements and embrasures and narrow icicled windows, and the innumerable electric lights inside made a gorgeous transparency of the great central hall. Sally Carrol clutched Harry's hand under the fur robe.

"It's beautiful!" he cried excitedly. "My golly, it's beautiful, isn’t it! They haven't had one here since eighty-five!"

Somehow the notion of there not having been one since eighty-five oppressed her. Ice was a ghost, and this mansion of it was surely peopled by those shades of the eighties, with pale faces and blurred snow-filled hair.
The story does not end well.

[The 1896 Ice Palace, built the year Fitzgerald was born.]

In the 1940s, they again built ice palaces in Saint Paul, designed by a man named Cap Wigington, the city’s African-American civic architect. Compared to the utilitarian buildings he was normally tasked with, the mercurial ice palace designs became elaborate dreams. The palaces were a chance for him to create the incredible, to capture the hopes of the city in ephemeral blocks, frozen for but a moment in time. Wigington made six ice palaces, and each of them melted crazily in the springtime.


[Wigington's 1937 Saint Paul Ice Palace.]
Growing up, I remember going to the Ice Palace as a kid. It was in 1986, when I was seven years old, and I  recall the cold smell of the crowd that lingered in the air, the dry scrape on my feet from the corners of the walls. The thick blocks, the lights shining in pastel colors, the monumental towers and the sheer impossibility of the building stick in my mind like a barely remembered dream. To me, that palace was the most fantastic.

A few years later, for another Super Bowl, they built another one, with cleaner modernist lines.


[The world record 1992 Ice Palace, that bankrupted the Winter Carnival. The record might never be broken.]

[The 2011 ice wall, a shrine to the lost past.]
In the remaining years, whatever was left of any Winter Carnival ice had shrunk to the size of a simple wall erected in a downtown park. A candle seemed to flicker alongside the ice as people strolled past, the light glowing like a shrine.

That was the end of the Saint Paul ice palaces. I saw them, and they are gone forever.

Climate change is typically viewed as an event horizon. By 2100, so they say, the seas will rise and Miami will flood. But in fact, climate change has already taken place. A major piece of culture that I personally remember has gone extinct, and Minnesota winter itself rapidly follows suit.

As I write this, the annual ice fishing show has just wrapped up at the downtown arena, but it’s hard to envision much future in that endeavor.  So too with cross country skiing, outdoor hockey, dogsledding, and snow forts, all things that will disappear on my watch, reduced to nothing by our collective climactic failure.

Years from now, when I am old, I will tell children about Saint Paul's ice palaces and they won’t believe me.

“When I was your age, we walked on lakes in the wintertime,” I will tell them. “We even drove trucks across them! People would build houses on the lakes and stay out there for weeks on end. And the snow covered the ground for months and months without melting.”

“We don’t believe you,” they will say. “That’s not possible!”

“When I was young, there was a blizzard on Halloween,” I will tell them. “Snow plied up to the windows, and everyone stayed home from school. In January, when I was your age, it got so cold that your nose hairs froze, each tiny little hair, frozen like a popsicle! When I was little, the air got to be twenty below zero! Once I took a pot of boiling water outside, tossed it the air, and it froze immediately. It disappeared and never hit the ground.” 

"You're lying to us!" they shriek.

“No I am not," I insist with a smile.

"When I was little, there were huge castles made of ice, right here in Saint Paul in the wintertime,” I will say. “I saw them with my own eyes. I went in one! When I was your age, I walked in a ice palace that was over a hundred feet tall. It had towers and lights and stairs of frozen water.”

They will say, “Are you telling the truth?”