Keep limit on student rentals

I oppose the proposed ordinance change that would allow six unrelated persons to occupy a dwelling unit in proximity to the University of Saint Thomas (“Saint Paul considers redefining ‘family,’” Villager, February 17). This Planning Commission recommendation, if approved, would threaten recent positive changes to our fraught town-and-gown relationship and would be a detriment to the neighborhood.

I have some background with the issue, having been a member and president of the Macalester-Groveland Community Council and a member of the West Summit Neighborhood Advisory Committee. The problem of Saint Thomas (UST) student rentals was the most contentious of that period and continues to simmer. In fact, Saint Paul and UST made real progress in these and subsequent years. After passage of the 150-foot distance requirement between student rentals, the attendant Student Housing Neighborhood Impact Overlay District and UST’s requiring some students to live on campus, we were approaching stability, if not a resolution, of a frustrating problem.

It was therefore astounding to hear of the proposal to increase the limit on “unrelateds” per household by 50 percent—from four to six. Within the student housing overlay district, this would be a huge mistake. The dynamics in the overlay district differ from those elsewhere in the city.

Within the overlay district, there is a delicate balance between single-family households and student rentals. It is difficult to convey the debilitating frustration of living in proximity to some student rentals. This is not just aesthetics nor a snobby NIMBY attitude. It is real feeling of threats to security, peacefulness and confidence in the future of one’s household. The proposal, if allowed, will encourage the growth of student rentals and erase our recent progress.

I understand the value of increasing density across the city and do not expect to reverse the trend toward rentals. However, we must manage such trends in a sensitive and responsive manner. The Student Housing Neighborhood Impact Overlay District exists for a reason. The reason is that its neighborhoods are subject to special strains. Our ordinances, if they are to have value, must respect such local conditions.

Joel Clemmer
Macalester-Groveland

First step in fighting crime

Saint Paul had a nearly 25 percent increase in crimes involving homicide, rape, aggravated assault or robbery in 2020. There was a 13 percent increase in homicides alone. I have heard many stories of armed robberies very close to my house. It is always on my mind when I leave my house or am home alone that there is a chance I get robbed.

 

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I should not have to feel unsafe in my own neighborhood. Changes must be made. I urge local, state and federal legislators to lower the crime rates by making it much harder for guns to get into the hands of bad people. This can start with something as simple as background checks when someone is buying a gun to make sure he or she does not have a history of violence. While this will not solve the problem, it is a good first step.

Teddy Archbold
Merriam Park

We need more police

On February 17 at 4 p.m., my wife pulled into our garage and was getting out of her car when a person pointing a gun at her stood in the doorway of the garage. He told her to “come here.” She said “no” and went straight into our house, called me and locked the door. It was a very disturbing experience.

We need more police. Our mayor has made excuses for the criminals and blamed the pandemic for the increase in crime. That is a falsehood that cannot be backed up with facts. If he would give up 12 of his administration appointments, Saint Paul could add 20 more cops.

Word has gone out to the other residents on Highland Parkway and Pinehurst Avenue between Fairview Avenue and Davern Street. We are no longer going to be silent. We have invested a lot in our city and are no longer going to let the activists control it.

Please start supporting the police and us residents.

David Sparrow
Highland Park

Solving conflicts on river road

Mr. Singer is right. There are frequent conflicts on the Mississippi River Boulevard off-road path caused by speeding bicyclists, among other factors (Villager Inbox, February 17). From my vantage point as a homeowner on river road and frequent user of the path, speeding bicyclists are the primary cause of these conflicts. There are bicyclists who are courteous, slow down and announce their passing. I try to thank them. Unfortunately, the majority do not. Mr. Singer would do the neighborhood a great service by providing Saint Paul Bicycle Coalition members with additional education and awareness about the need to slow down on the path and be courteous and announce their passing.

In the winter there are few bicyclists, walkers and runners on the path south of Ford Parkway. I suspect Mr. Singer’s statement that river road carries “an average of 2,000-plus pedestrians and bicyclists per day and considerably more in the summer” is somewhat overblown. Regardless, if all of those using the path were a bit more courteous, the problem for the most part would be solved.

Mississippi River Boulevard bike lane
A bicyclist had the southbound lane of Mississippi River Boulevard all to himself last week near Summit Avenue. Photo by Brad Stauffer

Regarding Mr. Singer’s discussion of another bike lane on Mississippi River Boulevard, very few bicyclists use the existing bike lane. I suspect there isn’t the appetite to ride in the street. The vast majority use the combined path and avoid the street. I doubt the city has the appetite or the dollars to remove the hundreds of trees and various utilities for another bike lane that can’t be justified. For years now, a few bicyclists ride in traffic on the east side of river road both in the summer and winter, and this has worked well.

Gary Marx
Highland Park

River road has gotten dangerous

Andy Singer of the Saint Paul Bicycle Coalition blames pedestrians for not getting out of his way when bicycling on the combined path along Mississippi River Boulevard (Villager Inbox, February 17). He has it backwards. The problem is, some bicyclists and scooter users go way too fast and do not yield to anybody. The posted speed limit on the path is 10 mph. Bicyclists try to go 30 mph next to people with a stroller and dogs going 1 mph. The sidewalk has many twists and dips, and the speedsters do not look ahead for problems. They should be out in the street where the sight lines are better and the biking is smoother and safer.

Last year, when the city closed river road’s southbound lane to motor vehicles, it made traffic chaotic and dangerous. The traffic was going any direction and any speed. For the first time ever, it was frightening to cross river road. The bright orange traffic cones produced a lot of glare that reduced visibility. Emergency vehicles and trucks were forced to park illegally in either the traffic lane or the bike lane, completely blocking traffic. The signs say “Share the Road,” but that’s impossible with traffic cones or concrete strips dividing the space.

We have a dangerous situation, and we are going to have a death or serious injury unless the city addresses the real problem. The city should consider lowering the speed limit on the combined path to 8 mph and enforce it. Prohibiting parking on the northbound side of river road is problematic for the homeowners there. It is difficult for many of our older family members and friends to walk from the streets further back from river road.

Bruce Jacobson and Ann Morrissey
Macalester-Groveland

The harm of one-way river road

Beware of surveys where there is disproportionate impact. As noted in the February 17 Villager, 56.6 percent of “respondents” liked the idea of one-way traffic on Mississippi River Boulevard to make way for new bike lanes. The one-way traffic proposal comes from the Macalester-Groveland and Union Park district councils. A view of the area clearly shows that very few residents in these neighborhoods have driveways and garages with access from river road. Almost all have alley access to their garages. This means little inconvenience for those living north of Randolph Avenue compared to those living south of Randolph.

The proposed change in traffic flow also negatively impacts Highland more. Southbound traffic to the Ford site will be forced to take Cretin or Cleveland avenues. Ford site traffic studies already project these arterial streets to be operating at capacity as they reach Ford Parkway. This will also have a negative impact on quiet residential streets like Mount Curve. Southbound traffic through Highland to access the airport or the southern metro area will also be forced through the Cleveland-Ford Parkway intersection.

All this disruption for a seasonal activity. The real solution is an improved, safer biking and walking path along river road, as was supported by the Highland District Council’s Executive Committee during the 2020 Capital Improvement Budget (CIB) process. Unfortunately, a Macalester-Groveland member of the CIB Committee spoke against this project, noting that he favored the one-way river road solution.

Thomas Romens
Highland Park

Editor’s note: The writer has used river road’s combined path as his primary running and biking route for more than 30 years.

Saint Paul’s crown jewel

I have overheard foreign tourists viewing the Mississippi River and its gorge from the Mississippi River Boulevard walking path. You would have thought they were standing on the south rim of the Grand Canyon. They were awestruck with the view.

Mississippi River Boulevard is the crown jewel of Saint Paul. I have run and walked it for 60 years, but no longer. It is too dangerous with so many speeding bicyclists on the path.

We are investing millions of dollars in the former Ford Motor Company property. Why would our community butcher our beloved boulevard with one-way traffic and at the same time totally reconstruct Ayd Mill Road with dedicated bike paths? Our city owns several feet of property on the east side of river road that is waiting to be used to widen the road for two-way traffic, bike lanes, parking and a walking path. Can’t we think big and think long-term about Saint Paul’s crown jewel?

Jack Schubert
Macalester-Groveland

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