Climate Action Plan: Tomorrow, Feb. 5, the City Council is set to approve a Climate Action Plan (CAP) for St. Louis Park. The CAP is the result of a years-long collaborative effort between youth and adults in SLP, with a goal to achieve net carbon neutrality by 2040. It includes a variety of incentives, investments, and public education and behavior change strategies including the development of a resource hub for residents and businesses; the installation of electric vehicle charging stations in public parking lots; and proposed new ordinances to require reduced energy consumption in commercial buildings. Click here (and go to page 7) for a full copy of the draft report.
Westwood Hills Nature Center: A two-year planning process endorsed by the previous City Council has resulted in a $12M proposal for a new building at Westwood Hills. The proposed new building is state-of-the-art, including multiple energy-saving features and larger space to serve youth from SLP and surrounding communities. I'm fully in support of a new nature center building, but I have taken the position that $12M is more than we need to spend on this project, given multiple other community priorities. A beautiful new nature center of a similar size was completed in Fridley last year for $5.5M. If you’d like to know more about the proposed building project and my thoughts on it, I encourage you to contact me. There are two upcoming opportunities for the public to review the plans and ask questions: Thurs., Feb. 22, 6-7:15 pm and Wed., Feb. 28, 6-7:15 pm. Both events will take place at the Nature Center, 8300 W Franklin Ave., 55426. Please attend if you can to find out more and determine your own position on this proposed investment.
Ranked Choice Voting: SLP’s charter commission, a group of resident volunteers, has been asked to provide a recommendation to Council on whether to move forward with adopting Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) for future local elections. RCV is being used in Minneapolis and St. Paul (as well as many other cities) and has resulted in a more diverse slate of elected officials, as well as more people voting. The Charter Commission is hosting two upcoming opportunities for SLP residents to learn more about RCV. They are: Tues., Feb. 13, 6 pm: Q & A on RCV with a panel of experts and Tues., Mar. 6, 6 pm: Listening session for the charter commission to hear from the public. Both events will take place at City Hall. The charter commission will vote on its recommendation to Council at its March 13 meeting. Click here to learn more about RCV.
Beltline Boulevard SWLRT Station: Keep your eyes on this one! Sherman Associates, a Minneapolis-based real estate development company, will be granted formal approval on Monday to design a mixed-use development near the proposed new light rail station at Beltline Boulevard and Hwy. 7. The current plan includes two, 120-unit apartment buildings and 72,000 square feet of office space, as well as a four-story parking ramp. At our last council meeting, I urged the developers to present us with a unique and interesting design that adds to our community aesthetic, not a cookie-cutter development that looks like it could be anywhere. The tentative schedule is for construction to begin in late 2018. Click here (and go to page 93) for an early stage rendering of the development. Watch for more information and opportunities to make your voice heard on the proposed design.
Minnetonka Boulevard improvements: We have a long way to go, but I’m pleased to report that funding for improvements to Minnetonka Boulevard west of Highway 100 has been added to the list of legislative priorities the City Council has prepared for state lawmakers. Improvements east of Hwy. 100 are already in the County’s long-range plan, and will likely be initiated in the next 2-3 years. I will continue to push for safety improvements to this main artery through our ward and city.
Affordable Housing: Did you know that almost half the residents of St. Louis Park live in rental housing? At a council study session on Feb. 12, the city’s Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing (NOAH) work group will present a draft ordinance to protect low-income renters. Under the proposed ordinance, new owners of certain rental properties will be required to pay relocation benefits to tenants if they choose to increase rents, execute non-renewals of leases without cause, or implement new screening criteria within 90 days following the ownership transfer of the property. I support this ordinance and will continue to support the implementation of policies to protect renters in our community.
New Teen Center for SLP: At the Feb. 12 study session, we’ll also be hearing from SLP youth about their request for a modest amount of funding ($25,000) to launch The Nest, a youth-designed safe space for teens in our community. I support this allocation of funds and hope the rest of the council does too! Individual donations to this newly formed 501c3 are also welcome and encouraged; click here to donate.
Next Ward 1 Meetup: Thanks to the 15 or so folks who attended my first Ward 1 meetup on Jan. 7, where we shared ideas for neighborhood commercial redevelopment of the Historic Walker-Lake district. The next meetup is next Sunday, Feb. 11, 3-4:30 pm, at Park Yogurt, 6416 W. Lake St., 55426. The topic will be Affordable Housing. You can find a schedule of future meetups here.
A few more helpful bits of information to help you stay engaged in local politics: