Greetings! Here’s city-related news for residents of Ward 1 and beyond.
New solid waste services: This fall new companies will be hauling away our garbage and recycling, and likely our yard waste too. Council recently reviewed bids (without knowing the names of the companies) and approved staff’s recommendation, primarily based on cost, for new five-year contracts with Buckingham Companies for garbage and recycling and Republic Services for organics. More info to come from the City on this soon.
City to take ownership of Rock Island area parcels: After waiting years for the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to make their intentions clear, the City will soon take ownership of two land parcels totaling 1.69 acres along the 2800 block of Toledo, in the Fern Hill neighborhood. The south parcel, which includes the remnants of “Rock Island,” part of historic Lilac Way, will be transferred from MnDOT to the city for zero dollars, provided it continues to be used for park purposes. The north parcel will be sold to the city for $187,000, with no restrictions on its use. Both parcels will remain “as is” for the foreseeable future while staff and council focus on other projects and priorities.
Protecting renters: When older apartment buildings are sold, and the new owner raises the rent and/or changes the rules, people and families in our community may be forced to move. Council approved a tenant protection ordinance in 2018 that, while not a panacea, seeks to protect people and families from sudden involuntary displacement. The ordinance requires new owners who are raising rents or changing lease requirements to provide tenants three months’ notice before implementing the changes, or pay relocation benefits if tenants must move, before the three months are up, because of the changes. Council recently directed staff to make the temporary ordinance permanent and increase the relocation benefit. Of the 18 properties that have had to comply with the ordinance since 2018, eight are in Ward 1, many along the future LRT line.
Protecting renters, part 2: Rent is dramatically outpacing wages these days, and displacement happens when rents increase whether or not a building is sold. To preserve the affordability of existing rental housing, our city participates in the 4d affordable housing incentive program. The program reduces property taxes for owners who agree to keep at least 20 percent of their units affordable for the next five years. The program has historically been underutilized in SLP, but this year two properties are participating, which will preserve the affordability of 464 units in the city through at least 2028.
Deer in Lake Forest: I’ve heard from many residents of the Lake Forest neighborhood about the damage deer are doing to landscaping in the area, particularly this year. As a first step in considering any potential future actions, the city has put together an online survey for Lake Forest residents on the topic of deer. The survey closes May 17.
Related: SLP residents in any neighborhood can report an issue with deer or other wildlife by visiting mystlouispark (search “wildlife”).
New SLP climate equity map: I’ve written before about redlining and its enduring impacts on racial segregation and homeownership gaps. Now I'll share that historically redlined areas are also, on average, five degrees warmer than non-redlined areas, due to lack of tree canopy, excess pavement, and other factors. Homes within these areas are also typically older and less energy efficient. That means the median energy burden, or percent of income spent on energy bills, is much higher nationwide for households of color, particularly Black-led households, than white-led households. Climate change disproportionately affects young children and seniors, too, of all racial backgrounds, who are more susceptible to poor air quality and extreme temperatures.
In line with our commitment to creating a more sustainable, resilient, and just community, city staff have developed a climate equity map. The map will help ensure future investments are benefiting people particularly vulnerable to climate change, and identify areas where climate-related emergencies (e.g. extreme weather events) may have a more severe impact. I had to read the instructions carefully to use this map, but once I got the hang of it, I discovered some important and surprising facts about our city.
Cutting back on construction noise: Construction noise till 10 pm, seven days a week? Not any more in SLP. Council recently directed staff to change the allowable hours for construction noise (power equipment, manual tools, etc.) to from 7am-10pm to 7am-8pm. I lobbied for more significant changes but was unable to gain the needed support. The ordinance change will likely take effect later this year.
Cannabinoid sales in SLP: Since the city began licensing businesses to sell cannabinoid products earlier this year, nine businesses have secured licenses: The Block Restaurant, Epic Bodyworks, Function Massage & Acupuncture, Natreum, Park Tavern, Parkway Pizza, Salt Salon Spa, West End Tobacco and Cigar Market, and Westside Market. City staff recently completed mandatory inspections of licensed businesses to verify compliance with city and state requirements, and all samples were in compliance.
New K9 program: The SLP Police Department plans to launch a K9 (police dog) program this fall. The K9 program will assist the PD in locating suspects and missing persons, detecting explosives, engaging in community outreach, and more.
Spin scooters on their way: Last year 660 users took about 1,300 scooter trips in the city through a licensing agreement with Spin. Later this month Spin will deploy up to 75 scooters in SLP in line with our commitment to provide convenient ways for people to get around the city. New this year is a partnership with Golden Valley and Hopkins to use the same vendor to make it easier for users to travel between these communities. The city has so far been unsuccessful in attracting bike share vendors.
Changes to “Move up in the Park” program: People who love the Park and want to raise a family here sometimes move away because they want a bigger house and can’t find one in SLP. Years ago the City created Move Up in the Park, a 0% interest loan program for qualified homeowners wishing to add even a little bit more living space to their current homes. The city recently expanded eligibility for the program by raising both income limits and maximum loan amounts.
Sidewalk poetry call for submissions: Poetry in the sidewalk is so lovely! Anyone with a connection to SLP can submit up to two original poems for consideration in the current round. Selected poems will be sandblasted into the sidewalk in various locations throughout the city. Deadline for this round is today, May 7, by midnight. Info here.
More trees please! Did you know homeowners can request a tree be planted in the boulevard or public right of way adjacent to their property, at no cost to them? Email city staff here and they’ll visit your property to determine if there’s appropriate space for a tree or trees. Trees are maintained by the city, though help with watering the first three years after planting is appreciated.
Sign up for Smart911: Smart911 is a free optional service newly available in SLP that allows residents to provide information dispatchers can use during an emergency. Residents provide critical information they want responders to have—like their home or work address which cell phones don’t show, as well as medical conditions, number of children in the home, etc. – that’s displayed to the SLP dispatcher when a call is made, supporting a faster and more detailed response. More info and sign up here.
Here’s a select list of upcoming events in our community:
SLP Arbor Day Event, Saturday, May 13, 9am-12pm, Sunset Park, 3328 Xylon Ave. S. Register here to participate in tree planting, or simply drop by for a morning of free family friendly activities. Gloves, snacks, tools, training, and trees provided.
Honoring the Youth Powwow, Saturday, May 20, 12-6 pm, Recreation Outdoor Center (ROC). Hosted by the American Indian Parent Advisory Council at SLP Schools and SLPHS’ Youth Intertribal Council. Grand Entry (1 pm), Dancing, Drumming Food, Vendors, and Honoring Ancestors.
All are welcome; more info here.
SLP Groundwater Plume Info Sessions, Wednesday, May 24, 11:30-12:30 (virtual) and 6-7 pm, SLP City Hall. Hosted by the Environmental Protection Agency, for residents interested in being part of a community advisory group regarding site cleanup. Email here to find out more and RSVP. There will also be a session May 23 at 1:30 pm at the Edina Library. More info on the project here.
Lenox Foundation Fundraiser, Parkway Pizza, Tuesday, May 30, 11am-10pm. 10% of the day’s proceeds benefit the Senior Program at the Lenox Community Center.
West End Wednesdays, Farmer’s and Artisan Market, May 31-Sept 13, 4-8 pm, The Shops at West End. Food trucks, live music, and vendors.
Thursday Food Truck Nights at Muddy Paws, June 1-Sept 14, 5-8p, Muddy Paws Cheesecake.
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.