March greetings! Here’s community news for residents of Ward 1 and beyond.
Southeast Bikeway: Last week, City Council voted to approve the staff-recommended plan for the Southeast Bikeway, part of the city's 10-year Connect the Park plan. The 1.72 mile future bikeway will run from the Rec Center to the city’s south border with Edina, and connect the Chain of Lakes in Minneapolis to the Excelsior & Grand area. The plan was considered in two parts, with the Wooddale section voted on separately and passing on a 4-3 vote. Council will discuss Connect the Park in depth next month to ensure plans for the remaining segments align with current strategic and budget priorities. Do you have thoughts about Connect the Park, bikeways, and getting around the city safety? Please share them here.
COVID-19 preparations: Like communities across the globe, SLP is preparing for the possibility that we will have to contend with the impacts of Coronavirus Disease 2019. SLP public safety officials have protocols in place to ensure clear communication with local health care providers, school district staff, and other key players in the event of an outbreak. Our city manager also has plans in place that will maintain core services like public safety, sewer & water, and street maintenance; however it's possible that discretionary/non-critical services could be impacted. At City Hall and everywhere else, it’s important for everyone to practice frequent and thorough hand washing, cover coughs, avoid touching your face, and stay home from work and school when illness is present. You can find up-to-the-minute information on global spread of the virus here.
Crime-Free Rental Housing Ordinance: A council-appointed workgroup made up of renters, property managers, and community members has been studying our city's Crime-Free/Drug-Free Rental Housing Ordinance over the past year. Implemented in 2008, the ordinance mandates that property managers terminate the leases of tenants who engage in disorderly or criminal activity (including drug-related activity). The ordinance was crafted in response to a growing number of tenant complaints, at the time, about disorderly behavior in rental housing. Present-day concerns about city overreach, lack of due process, and racial equity, among other concerns, prompted council to suspend implementation of the ordinance in late 2018 and appoint a workgroup to study it and make recommendations. A majority of workgroup members (6 of 9) have indicated their support for repealing the ordinance. Council will discuss next steps on March 10 and again on March 23.
It's Census time: A lot rides on every U.S. Census including the 2020 Census! Watch for a postcard in the mail this month about completing the Census online. This year's results are expected to funnel more than $15 billion in federal funds to Minnesota; however each person not counted results in an estimated loss of $28,000 in funding for school, food, housing, transportation and other programs. Minnesota is also at risk of losing a congressional seat due to slower population growth and potential undercounting. The U.S. Census Bureau predicts higher than normal non-response rates in several SLP census tracts, based on historically undercounted populations in those areas including people of color and indigenous people, babies, college students, seniors, and snowbirds. Here's a map of predicted non-response rates in SLP. If you want to make sure everyone in SLP is counted, there are ways you can help. Find out more here.
SWLRT-related road closures in and around Ward 1: Beltline Blvd. will be closed March 13-15 to set bridge trusses, with car traffic diverted to Hwy. 100 and pedestrians and bikers flagged through the work area. Wooddale Ave. between Hwy. 7 and W. 36th St. is currently reduced to one lane in each direction and will be closed for 30 days later in the spring, with detour information for cars, bikes, and pedestrians yet to come. Learn more and sign up for weekly SWLRT construction updates here.
Food insecurity in SLP: Hunger is a part of life for many people in SLP, evidenced by the fact that our community food shelf, S.T.E.P., serves about 4,000 community members each year. To guide council and the community in responding to this community need, the City contracted with Wilder Research to conduct a community needs assessment. Council will discuss the assessment results, as well as a proposal from local nonprofit SLPSEEDS for city partnership on a tiny mobile farm, year-round greenhouse and other food access-related projects, at our March 9 study session. Related: The city will pilot farmer's markets in five locations around the community this summer and fall; watch for details soon.
Dakota Park bridge & bikeway update: Near-final plans for the long-awaited Dakota Park bridge and bikeway are in. The projected cost of the bridge/bikeway is now about $9 million, about $3 million of which is covered by federal funding already secured. This is an increase of about $780,000 over previous estimates. The increase is due to new information on soil conditions in the area, requiring sturdier footings and additional soil removal, along with higher costs for materials and construction due to competition with SWLRT bridge projects. To reduce costs, staff is recommending a stairway on the north side of the bridge not be constructed (the south side stairs remain in the plan) and the public art component of the project (which includes work by a Native American artist as well as Peter Hobart students) be postponed and funded through outside sources sometime in the future. I’m in favor of maintaining both the stairs and the art, which together comprise about 3.5% of the total project budget ($315,000). Stairs on both sides of the bridge will allow walkers to traverse the bridge more quickly, making it more pedestrian-friendly which aligns with our commitment to prioritizing pedestrians. And creative placemaking through public art has myriad public benefits including increased community engagement, safety, and sense of identity that, in my view, warrant the use of public funds. Council will discuss this project tomorrow night, with approvals planned for March 16 and construction commencing in summer 2020 and completing in summer 2021. Do you have thoughts on this major infrastructure project in Ward 1? Please share them here.
Resources for recyclers: Here's a short fun video and here's a user-friendly doc (with photos) on what/what not to recycle in SLP!
Finally, here’s a select list of upcoming events:
My monthly meetup is TODAY, Sunday, March 8 from 3-4:30 pm at the Birchwood Park shelter, 28th St. & Zarthan Ave. S. Meetups will now take place the second Sunday of the month, and my intention is to send this update the first Sunday so folks can plan ahead. Monthly meetups are informal opportunities to share ideas and opinions and ask questions related to city council business. All are welcome!
Historic Walker Lake Mural Paint Party: Mon., March 16, 2:30-6:30, Perspectives, Inc., 3381 Gorham Ave. S. Join artists from GoodSpace Murals to paint a section of the Historic Walker Lake community mural. No artistic experience or abilities necessary! Info here.
Energy Demonstration Project Open House: Wed. March 18, 4-6 pm, and Sunday, March 22, 12-3 pm, 3611 Glenhurst Ave. S. The city purchased a tax forfeiture property and worked with a contractor to make energy-efficient upgrades and general home improvements including a residential fire sprinkler system. Attend one of the open houses to learn about energy efficient home improvements, energy audits, city rebates and loans, and fire safety.
Open mic poetry jam: Wednesday, April 1, 6:30-8 pm, Yum! Kitchen & Bakery, 4000 Minnetonka Blvd. An evening of reading by poets from our community. If you write rhymes, rap, free verse, prose poems, haiku, or any kind of poetry, you're invited to sign up to read. Info here.
Introduction to Permaculture: Saturday, March 21, 9am-1pm, Lunds & Byerly's, 3777 Park Center Blvd. Explore opportunities in urban permaculture and design, including how permaculture can be used to redesign social relationships. Sponsored by SLP Seeds. Info and registration 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.