Bridge updates: The new Louisiana Ave. Bridge and trail under Louisiana Ave.are set to open Oct. 18, allowing pedestrians to cross Louisiana Ave. by walking under the bridge instead of crossing four lanes of traffic. Now that’s progress! Work on the Dakota-Edgewood Bridge, while nearly complete, has progressed slower than expected over the last few weeks due to supply chain issues. While the bridge is still expected to be open for use in late October, a grand opening event planned for November will be moved to spring.
Dakota Avenue bollards: The Dakota Avenue protected bikeway demonstration project is coming to an end later this month. Thanks to all who provided feedback on the pilot, which staff will compile and present to council this winter along with recommendations for future protected bikeway projects.
STEP & stable housing: Did you know that one out of every 100 SLP households received housing assistance from STEP in 2020? That’s five times the number of households who got housing help from STEP in 2019. With their small staff, STEP distributed a whopping $768,058 in federal stimulus funds to more than 250 households last year. STEP is playing an important role in keeping people housed, but there’s more work to do to address housing affordability and stability in our changing community.
Just Deeds Project: Nationwide, the housing sector has a long history of creating barriers to homeownership for people of color, particularly African Americans, including in St. Louis Park, where in 1952 the first Black family to move to St. Louis Park was forced out due to discrimination. More than 1,800 homes in SLP have racial covenants in their titles which, while no longer legally enforceable, are an ugly reminder of past legal discrimination. SLP is joining other metro cities to participate in Just Deeds, which connects residents with attorneys to remove racial covenants in their property titles. Just Deeds is slated to launch in SLP this month and will include information sessions, workshops, and film screenings to deepen residents’ understanding of systemic racism in the housing sector. More info coming soon here.
New tax levy: Last month, council gave preliminary approval for the establishment of a new tax, called the Economic Development Authority (EDA) levy, to fund Climate Action investments along with salaries related to the city’s Development Fund. The EDA levy, pending final approval, will collect a relatively modest $500,000 from all property owners in 2022, or about .00161% of estimated market value. I support Climate Action investments but hesitate to get behind a new levy when Climate Action investments and staff salaries can be part of our general fund levy, providing optimal transparency for taxpayers around the tax increases being proposed. The preliminary EDA levy question passed 5-2, with council unanimously agreeing on the importance of clear communication to the public on the purpose and impacts of the proposed new tax.
Other tax news: Council also recently approved a preliminary general levy increase of 6.5%, to provide staff with flexibility as they continue to budget for 2022, with the expectation that the final levy will be considerably lower. Determining where I stand on the levy each year is one of the hardest parts of being on council; balancing high expectations for city projects and services with the desire to keep taxes low is a challenging undertaking. I welcome your input on the topic of taxes and city services here. You can also share your support for or opposition to levy increases in-person or virtually at the city’s Truth in Taxation Hearing on Dec. 6. Here’s more information on the City Budget process.
TIF questions: Tax Increment Financing, or TIF, can be a valuable tool for cities in attracting investment and promoting economic development. TIF redirects future tax growth in a designated geographic area for a designated time period to a developer, rather than city coffers, to subsidize the developer’s costs to build a project in that area. Currently, nearly 12 percent of our tax base is tied up in TIF, which is higher than most surrounding communities and impacts what we need to collect from property owners each year to maintain core services. I’m interested in working with my colleagues in the coming year to explore whether our current use of TIF is maximizing shared community resources to achieve our strategic goals. We’ll be talking about TIF at our Oct. 11 study session; attend in person or find video viewing instructions here.
Fern Hill Pavement Management: The western portion of the Fern Hill neighborhood (between Monterey and Toledo) is in line for street improvements next year. Potential changes include sidewalk additions, new on-street bikeways, street narrowing, and traffic modifications including neighborhood traffic circles at key intersections. Here’s a map of staff-recommended improvements. Currently, there are no sidewalks proposed for portions of Raleigh (2800, 2900 blocks) and Salem (2600, 2700, 2800 blocks), leaving potential gaps in the network for this heavily walked neighborhood. If you live on or near these blocks in particular, now is the time to request desired sidewalks. A project open house is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 14, from 5:30-7 pm at City Hall. You can also contact staff directly to share feedback and ask questions. Here’s a link to the project page.
Potential land conveyance: The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) has reached out to city staff regarding a parcel of land west of Toledo Ave. and south of 28th St. in the Fern Hill neighborhood. This parcel includes Rock Island, part of the original Lilac Park which was built by the WPA in the 1930s. MnDOT no longer needs the land and has begun a review process to relinquish ownership. When this process is complete, which can take months to a year or more, SLP will be first in line to have control of the land. City staff have begun brainstorming possible future land uses that align with our strategic priorities and will bring this information to council in the next 2-3 months. Stay tuned!
DSLP website: Discover St. Louis Park is our city’s tourism authority, funded through a 3% lodging tax. DSLP has just launched a new website useful with information on food, drink, festivals, events, experiences & more. Useful for visitors & residents alike! Check it out here.
mystlouispark app: Recently I spotted an abandoned bike near my house. It’d been there for several days so I snapped a pic and sent it to mystlouispark. It occurred to me many residents may not know about this convenient mobile app, where residents can submit information and service requests on a variety of issues ranging from abandoned property to downed trees to missed garbage pickup. The app features One Voice Translation to support more than 17 languages and can be accessed via smartphone or computer.
Friends of the Arts leadership change: Longtime St. Louis Park Friends of the Arts director Jamie Marshall has left his position after 5+ years of building community through the arts in SLP. Council declared Sept. 20, 2021 “Jamie Marshall Day” to recognize the many projects he led during his tenure including the Historic Walker Lake mural, Art-Walk in the Park, Community Storytelling Forums, Arts for Life Scholarships, and so much more. Thanks Jamie & good luck!
New business in town: Fadesss Barber Studio has opened at 8009 Minnetonka Blvd. across from Texa-Tonka Mall offering adult & kid haircuts, face shaves with hot towels, and other services.
Endorsements & lawn signs: It’s local election season, and while I don’t have a challenger this time around, I hope to actively engage voters in the way they expect to be engaged during a campaign season. I recently secured endorsements from the Sierra Club and the Minnesota REALTORS® Political Action Committee which demonstrate my commitment to environmental & housing issues. I welcome invitations to meet with neighborhood, business, faith, and other groups – please email me here to set something up. If you’d like a lawn sign, please let me know and I'll bring one by!
Here's a select list of upcoming events:
Bike the Park, through October 9. Take a bike tour through SLP with the help of a handy map created by city staff. Follow the map to reach a variety of destinations using trails and bikeways. Find iconic landmarks along the route, snap a photo of yourself and share your photo on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram (@stlouispark). Route is about 5 miles. Info and map here.
Fern Hill Pavement Management Open House: Thursday, Oct. 14, 5:30-7 pm, SLP City Hall Community Room, 5005 Minnetonka Blvd.
Seeds Feeds Virtual Cookoff for World Food Day, Saturday, Oct. 16, 10-11:30 am. Sign up by Oct. 11 to guarantee a bag of ingredients or sign up to get the grocery list. Info here.
Thanks for reading 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.