June greetings! Here’s city-related news for residents of Ward 1 and beyond.
More anti-racism resources: Last weekend I shared my thoughts on policing and racial equity in St. Louis Park, and included a link to anti-racism resources including podcasts, movies, books, and articles. For those unsure where to start their anti-racism learning, here’s a shorter list of books (only) including a few children’s books. Learning about anti-racism is something actionable that white people can do and if you are a white person and haven’t already, I hope you’ll start.
I also hope you’ll read this commentary by our school superintendent Astein Osei in last week’s Sun Sailor, on the role of school systems in creating an anti-racist democracy.
Please vote: Another civic responsibility we have, if eligible, is to vote - in every election. It’s so easy! Anyone can request an absentee ballot here. If you prefer to vote in person, St. Louis Park City Hall will be open for early voting beginning June 26. Help decide who’ll be on the ballot this November for the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House – so important to our shared future. Visit here to see who’s on the primary ballot. Primary voting ends Aug. 11.
Repeal of Rental Housing Ordinance: Renters are a big part of the St. Louis Park community – currently 45% of all residents are renters, including many families, seniors, and others who have lived here for years and consider SLP their forever home. Due to gentrification, unscrupulous landlords, and other factors, renters are at higher risk, as a group, of losing their homes than residents who have the capacity to own. To protect renters, city council recently shared our unanimous support for a plan to repeal the city’s Crime Free/Drug Free Rental Housing ordinance. The ordinance was adopted in 2008 with the goal to keep rental housing safe by requiring landlords to terminate tenant leases when certain activities took place in or around their units including loud parties or marijuana use. The ordinance may have served a purpose with certain “problem” landlords years ago but, in my view and the view of the council, is more harmful than helpful in the current environment. A workgroup of renters, landlords, housing experts, and advocates studied the ordinance over a nine-month period and made recommendations to council. The ordinance is currently suspended, with repeal anticipated this summer. I’m glad we’re taking this step to eliminate police involvement in the private housing market – police will still enforce the law but not get involved in lease terminations. Here’s a great article on this topic if you’re interested in learning more.
Your questions about our police: In light of global attention on policing, council members and city staff are receiving questions from community members about the culture, training and policies of the SLP Police Department. Here’s a new webpage with responses to frequently asked questions (you can ask your own questions there too).
Related, the city has a new online incident reporting tool where you can submit reports of non-emergency incidents such as lost property, theft, theft from a vehicle and vandalism without calling dispatch. Police will follow up once the report is filed. Emergencies and incidents in progress should be reported to 911.
Union Park Flats: Council is set to approve a proposal tomorrow (June 15) from Project for Pride in Living and Union Congregational Church to construct a 60-unit affordable housing project in the Elmwood neighborhood at 3700 Alabama Ave. S. The project will be mostly two- and three-bedroom apartments to accommodate some of the many, many families in the metro area in need of affordable housing. The project was reduced from 80 units to 60 units in response to concerns of some homeowners in the area. More info on the project here.
STEP needs to move: STEP is taking action to right size for present and future needs by working to secure a bigger building and parking lot. In a presentation to council last month, STEP leadership asked council to consider making a direct loan to the 45-year-old nonprofit, our community’s primary safety net organization, to help make the move happen before the end of the year. Discussions with the city are continuing. Here’s more from STEP on why they need to move.
Let’s get moving on the census! An accurate census is critical to political representation, federal funding, and informed decision-making for the next decade. SLP is doing okay with our response rates (76% overall as of last week) but certain census tracts in the city are below 65% - and in every area, 100% is the goal! Here’s a map with up-to-date response rates by zip code and census tract. If you’d like to be involved in the important work of increasing response rate to our local census, please contact Planning & Zoning Supervisor Sean Walther here. More info on the city’s census efforts can be found here.
COVID-19 testing in SLP: Park Nicollet Clinic now has a drive-up testing for COVID-19. Tests are by appointment only for symptomatic patients. More info here. Here’s a list of testing sites statewide.
Local business does good: In some upbeat pandemic news, St. Louis Park-based business Sailcrafters has switched its operations from making and repairing boat sails to manufacturing face shields. They’ve made more than 10,000 since April, donating them all to health care facilities and first responders across the country including 3,800 to senior facilities in SLP which has helped keep our local health care providers, first responders, and seniors safe. Pretty cool!
Status of parks, pool & rec programs: Speaking of cool, the Aquatic Park is scheduled to open July 1, and the Splash Pad will open on or before that date. The Outdoor Skate Park opened last week and all tennis, pickleball, and basketball courts are up and available for use. These openings are in line with the Governor’s orders, with measures in place to help protect the health and safety of those who choose to participate. Check the city website this week (links above) for specifics on safety measures at various facilities. The Parks and Recreation Department also just put out an online version of the summer brochure that includes activities for kids, youth and adults for the remainder of the summer.
Related, here’s where you can find a list of activities that are postponed, like 4th of July fireworks and National Night Out, as well as other pandemic-related city news and updates.
Street, sidewalk and bikeway improvements: Despite some moving parts due to the pandemic and other factors, work continues to improve our streets, sidewalks and bikeways. This year’s pavement management project is currently underway in Fern Hill (eastern portion) with completion expected by the end of summer. Hang in there, Fern Hill! The western portion of the project (Monterey Blvd to Hwy 100), originally scheduled for 2021, has been postponed to 2022 to allow for a robust public process in 2021. If you’re thinking a sidewalk, bikeway, or other improvement would be a good addition to next year’s street maintenance project in Fern Hill (west side), please make sure to attend and participate in the public meetings and/or reach out to staff here. You can also let me know your ideas here.
Here’s more on streets, sidewalks & bikeways:
The first phase of the Monterey Drive, Beltline Boulevard & 36th Street bikeway project is underway, with reconstruction of Monterey Drive from Excelsior Blvd. to Park Commons Dr. Info/map here.
To provide safe access to the future Beltline Boulevard Light Rail Transit Station from the Wolfe Park and Triangle neighborhoods, the city is planning pedestrian improvements in and around the station including Beltline Boulevard, Co. Rd. 25 Service Road, Ottowa & Lynn Avenues. Work is planned for 2021. Info/map here.
The Dakota Park Bridge & Bikeway project will get underway this fall with construction of new bikeway segments north and south of the planned pedestrian/bike bridge over the BNSF railroad tracks. The project includes a protected bike lane between Minnetonka Blvd. and Lake St. The protected bike lane is a pilot project and will be the first such facility in the city. Project info/map here. Along with the protected bike lane, I’m eager to see the Dakota-inspired public art components planned for this project by Native American artist Angela Two Stars and students from Peter Hobart Elementary.
Street and sidewalk reconstruction in the Historic Walker Lake Area continues this summer with expected completion this fall. Info on the construction project here.
Walker Lake sidewalk poetry project: Speaking of Walker Lake, SLP residents and students are invited to submit a poem that, if selected, will be stamped in the new sidewalk to be constructed along the high school stadium on Lake St. between Dakota Ave. and Walker St., and on Walker between Lake St. and The Block restaurant. Poetry in all languages is welcome. Selected poems may also be used in other locations in the city during future sidewalk construction or repair projects. The deadline to submit a poem is June 30. Info here.
We lost a community sage: Longtime SLP resident, former school administrator, Sun Sailor columnist and advocate for vital aging Bob Ramsey passed away last month. Bob advised me in my run for council and asked me to be an advocate for elders in our community, which I have tried to do but would like to do better. In that spirit, here’s a survey by the Governor’s Council for an Age-Friendly Minnesota to gather ideas about what’s needed to make Minnesota more age-friendly and its communities better places to live for everyone. Here’s a link to the Age-Friendly Minnesota website. Do you have ideas for how SLP can be a more age-friendly community? Please email me here.
Free fresh food for all! Local nonprofit SLP SEEDS is growing vegetables to share with STEP’s food shelf clients and anyone else in the community needing or wanting freshly grown food. The food is free or, for those with the capacity, pay what you can/pay it forward. Pickup is available Saturdays 8-2 and Tuesdays 12-7 at 3260 Gorham Ave. S., Suite 150, SLP. If needed, they will deliver. SLP SEEDS also has garden beds, potted plants, and seeds available (free, pay what you can, or pay it forward). Visit their website for more information.
MinnesoThai is today, Sunday, June 14! MinnesoThai is a celebration of the traditions of Minnesotan and Southeast Asian cultures and is happening TODAY at Wat Promwachirayan Temple, right here in Ward 1. The event will be virtual and livestreamed this year starting at 10 am and include cooking demonstrations, dance performances, chants and blessings by the monks, and more. You can also order Thai food for pickup between 10-5 pm. Now more than ever, Wat Prom needs community support and ordering food today helps. It’s also delicious! For more information, including a menu, check out the event website. Here’s a handy link to the livestream of events from 10-3.
Common Sound 2020: Beth El Synagogue/Common Sound’s 3rd annual outdoor music festival has moved online this year due to the pandemic. They’re partnering with Twin Cities Film Fest to produce a compilation of recorded music video performances that will be shown over a five-day period from June 24-28; a kids’ edition with family-friendly music is also available. Tickets are $11, and net proceeds will benefit Minnesota Central Kitchen and Second Harvest Heartland. Info on artists and ticket sales here.
Final note: our local news matters! Please sign up to receive the St. Louis Park Sun Sailor by mail (it’s free). Even if you get the paper already, you must renew to continue receiving it in the coming year. Help keep our local newspaper alive and kicking!
Thanks for reading, be well, and please 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.