April Greetings! Here's city-related news for residents of Ward 1 and beyond.
The COVID-19 pandemic dominates everything right now, including this update. Here we go:
Park use concerns: As we move into our second week of shelter in place, the concern I'm hearing most is that some park users aren't complying with the governor's order regarding group size and social distancing, particularly at the skate park and some of our city's 22 basketball courts. In line with recommendations from the MN Department of Public Safety, our city staff and police are monitoring these areas with the goal to provide education and seek voluntary compliance, rather than issue citations. Residents concerned about what they see are invited to call the SLP PD's non-emergency line at (952) 924-2618. Please don't call 911. It's also worth keeping in mind that some people going to public spaces are from large households so may be in a large group. Getting outside is important for health. But please do it safely!
Recreation facilities closed through May 15: For now, all reservations, events and programs at the Rec Center, ROC, and Nature Center are canceled through May 15, with the possibility that date could be extended. A decision has not yet been made about whether the Aquatic Park and Oak Park Splash Pad will be operational this summer.
Virtual Parks & Rec programming coming soon: Our innovative Parks & Recreation and Communications staff are collaborating to create eight weeks of virtual programming for residents of all ages. Every week, staff will introduce to the community an activity that people will be encouraged to complete, then talk about on social media. The program will be called “Park…at Home!” I'm looking forward to checking this out and hope others are too!
Senior facilities: Responding to pressure from the media, the Minnesota Department of Health has released the names of senior care facilities in the state where one or more person has tested positive for COVID-19. The list, posted yesterday, includes a care facility in St. Louis Park. SLP's emergency response team has been working closely with all of our senior care centers to provide guidance related to the pandemic, and will continue to monitor the situation and provide support.
Crime uptick: In SLP and elsewhere, certain types of crime have increased that are likely related to the pandemic. Our police chief reports verbal assault calls are up, as are burglaries, car thefts, and thefts of items from cars. With many businesses shuttered and less activity at construction sites, police are sending extra patrols to these areas. And here's a reminder to remove keys and lock your vehicles; 7 of the 18 vehicles stolen in the last two weeks were of cars with keys left inside.
How can you help our community stay strong? Many people are looking for ways to help others during this time. Here are some ideas:
Support our safety net organization: Thanks to the great generosity of this community's residents, businesses, and faith leaders, the St. Louis Park Emergency Program (STEP) exceeded its $120,000 pandemic-related fundraising goal in three weeks. But with unknown needs on the horizon including increased housing insecurity for some of our neighbors, more cash on hand will ensure more people who need help can get it. You can donate to STEP here. While STEP is no longer accepting food donations at their building, Vista Lutheran Church at 4003 Wooddale Ave. S. is now serving as a collection site and conveying the food (and cash/check donations) to STEP. Donations are accepted Tuesdays 8-5 and Saturdays 8-3; leave in the secure containers located on the parking lot side of the church. Related: Thanks to additional financial support from the City, STEP's emergency rental assistance program can now offer up to three months' rent. The program was previously limited to one month's rental support.
Sign up to volunteer: While the City's volunteer needs related to the pandemic and its aftermath are not yet fully understood, residents are encouraged to sign up for volunteer service in the community in the future. You can email the City's volunteer coordinator or call (952) 928-2847.
Support our local restaurants: Discover St. Louis Park has created a handy list of local restaurants offering takeout - please use it to keep our businesses in the black! In Ward 1, Nelson's Meats is offering free hot breakfast and lunch options for kids & families facing hunger - if you are in this situation or know someone who is, please help spread the word. Mexico City Cafe's menu is now online; they report dinner business is good but lunch is down by 50%. Working from home and want a change? Try Mexico City Cafe and Nelson's for lunch!
The City's Community Development staff is making a phone call to every small business in St. Louis Park to offer information and support in navigating this new landscape. Staff is also working on creating an SBA-type grant program for small businesses to complement the programs coming from state and federal government. If you're a small business owner in SLP, you can find resources and contacts here.
Here are some more ways you can stay informed:
The state has created a coronavirus website that includes an up-to-date dashboard with information on cases by county, age, race, gender, exposure type and other details as well as resources for child care, education, housing, volunteer opportunities and more.
The City's website has information on local news and resources as well as links to state and federal information related to the pandemic. Find them and sign up to receive email updates here.
SLP Mayor Jake Spano is providing video updates to the community twice a week via Facebook. You can find them here.
And finally, here's a bit of non pandemic-related news:
Scooters this summer: As of this writing, the city is planning to issue a request for proposals to vendors to provide scooters as a mobility service in SLP again this year.
SLP PD Officer cleared: Last week, the Hennepin County Attorney cleared an SLP police officer of criminal charges related to a January 2019 incident in our community. Read more here.
UCC/PPL affordable housing project status update: Nonprofit developer Project for Pride in Living has asked to postpone the planned April 15 public hearing for their proposed development at 3700 Alabama Ave. S. so they can further engage the neighborhood and revise their plans based on resident feedback.
The Quentin (formerly Cedar Place): At our meeting on April 6, Council will be asked to provide preliminary approvals for a new 5-story, 79-unit apartment building at 4900 Cedar Lake Rd. The project, if approved, will feature a new pedestrian trail connection from Cedar Lake Road along Quentin, a bicycle hub for residents; a green roof; landscaping with no-mow, native plants; and a solar array.
Sam's Club site: Oppidan has informed the City they are no longer pursuing the purchase and reuse/redevelopment of the former Sam’s Club site.
Our city council meeting tomorrow, April 6, and until further notice, will take place via Cisco WebEx. The public can monitor this meeting by video and audio here and on local cable (Comcast SD channel 17 or CenturyLink SD channel 8117 and HD channel 8617 ) or by calling +1 (312) 535-8110 meeting number (access code): 359 770 50 for audio only.
Thank you for reading, stay safe, stay home, and stay in touch.
I send out a monthly summary of city-related news to Ward 1 residents and interested others, posted here. If you’d like to receive it via email, let me know here.