Greetings! Here’s city-related news for residents of Ward 1 and beyond.
Vote local: Local leaders have a major impact on our community and daily life. They decide how much we’ll pay in property taxes, where things are built, and what our community’s direction and priorities will be. You know this, but do you vote in local elections? Not enough people do. This fall we’ll elect a new mayor, two at-large city council members, and four school board members. Early voting begins Sept. 22 at City Hall and Election Day is Nov. 7. A total of 11 candidates have filed for seven open seats. Find out who’s on the ballot here.
School Resource Officer (SRO) changes: The complex topic of School Resource Officers has been in the news in recent weeks, after changes in Minnesota law that prohibit SROs from using certain types of physical restraint on students. This is an evolving story. The SLP School District has released this statement regarding shifts in SRO roles for the coming school year.
Beltline Station Development subsidy: The status of the 380-unit, mixed-use Beltline Station Development in Ward 1’s Triangle Neighborhood continues to evolve. Last month, council approved additional financial assistance for the developer, Sherman Associates, to close a new gap in financing that emerged due to the economy and other factors. While I value many components of this development, including 22 new family-size apartments with affordable rents, I voted to oppose these additional subsidies. My opposition stems from concern over the high percentage of our city’s tax base tied up in Tax Increment Financing (TIF), along with other financial assistance we’ve recently provided Sherman and other for-profit developers. Council ultimately approved the additional subsidies by a 5-2 vote. While I continue to support the Beltline Station Development, I’ll also continue to voice concern over our city’s current utilization of TIF and other subsidies for developers and their impact on taxpayers.
USI moving further into Ward 1: US Internet (USI) moved through Ward 1’s Fern Hill and Birchwood neighborhoods this summer, promising lower cost, high-speed internet later this year but creating headaches and surprises along the way. Some residents were disappointed to see handholes and boxes, which allow access to underground fiber cables, installed in the right of way in front of their homes. I understand this. Others were frustrated they didn’t receive timely notice about the work that would be taking place. In my view, staff has done a good job following up on resident complaints, letting USI know when improvements are needed. The city is required to allow private companies to work in the right of way if they meet the requirements of their permits. Staff is continuing to work with USI to ensure they meet permit requirements, including conducting quality restoration following installation. Here’s a map of current and planned USI coverage areas. If you have concerns or issues regarding USI work in your area, please contact city staff.
Parks & Rec survey: The SLP parks and recreation department has launched a survey to gather information on how people get information about programming and events, in order to improve offerings and make them more inclusive for all. Please take a minute to complete the survey. Thanks!
Minnetonka Boulevard redesign tweaks: I’m excited for the planned redesign of Minnetonka Boulevard between France Avenue and Hwy 100, which will make this stretch of county road safer and more comfortable for walkers, rollers, and drivers. Earlier this year, residents of the Fern Hill neighborhood voiced concern over a plan to remove a left turn lane from eastbound Minnetonka Blvd. onto Inglewood Ave. as part of the project, potentially doubling the amount of traffic on Joppa Ave., a two-block stretch home to local shops, congregations, and a school. I’m happy to report that the County has revised its plans to allow left turns onto Inglewood Ave. Learn more about the project here. Construction is planned for 2024-2025.
Affordable commercial space: Owning your own space is a game-changer for businesses, particularly small businesses and independent entrepreneurs. As part of our commitment to small & local businesses, SLP is partnering with the Partnership in Property Commercial Land Trust to create 6-7 affordable, for-sale commercial spaces for qualified, limited-income entrepreneurs through a pilot project at 4300 36 ½ St., former site of the Second Debut clothing store. The City recently secured two grant awards totaling $134,000 from the Met Council to support this project. Funds will support community engagement and planning processes. Related: here’s an interactive map with all currently available business spaces (for lease or sale) in SLP.
Climate action and you: SLP is doing a lot to promote sustainability, climate action, and environmental stewardship, but it can be challenging to understand what specific actions we each can take. Here’s a great place to start: the city website’s sustainability page, which has information on solar rebates, utility bill consultation, electric vehicle incentives, tree planting discounts, pollinator friendly landscaping, home electrification, and more. Personally, I’m curious about the environmental and cost benefits of home electrification and plan to take a deep dive into all that soon. Check out these fun videos on electrification featuring our own Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
Rental assistance for schoolkids & their families: Kids in the Park is a partnership between the City of St. Louis Park, the St. Louis Park Emergency Program (STEP) and the SLP School District to help low-income rental households with kids attending school in St. Louis Park. This is a great program and if you or someone you know might be eligible, I encourage you to apply. Thirty households are currently receiving assistance through this program, which provides some level of rental assistance for four years as well as other supports. The waitlist for new families is open through October 13. Email here for info.
Arrive + Thrive: Arrive + Thrive is a planning process to guide decisions about development, investment, and uses in and around the city’s three light rail station gateways and West Excelsior Boulevard. The first phase of the planning process provided an interactive map where residents shared 150+ site-specific ideas and suggestions you can read. An Arrive + Thrive community advisory group has been formed and members chosen, but spots remain for renters, youth, and/or BIPOC members who are currently underrepresented. If you or someone you know is interested in joining, please reach out to city staff. Community engagement will continue into fall and winter. More information on the project here.
Youth and parent leaders wanted: Children First has created a cradle to career partnership called the Park Partnership for Success. The partnership is currently seeking applicants for paid and unpaid roles including its Latino Parent Group, Youth for Change Coalition, and Central Clinic Advisory Council. Email here for more information.
Tree canopy goal & more: Trees absorb carbon, provide shade, habitat and many other benefits, and are key to addressing climate change. And—no surprise—our tree canopy in SLP, like in other cities, is shrinking. Current estimates put canopy coverage in SLP at 33.6%, down from an estimated 38.15% in 2015. Emerald ash borer is a major culprit, along with other tree diseases and drought, all of which will likely further reduce the canopy in the near future. Development and engineering projects also result in the loss of mature trees, although the city has a track record of preserving trees when we can. Staff and council recently had a wide-ranging discussion on preserving and growing the tree canopy in our community for current and future generations. Council directed staff to set a long-term tree canopy goal and dedicate more resources to tree preservation in future budgets. You can read the staff report on this topic here.
Water website: The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District (MCWD) is an intricate ecological system encompassing 178 miles and touching 29 cities and townships in the west metro, including St. Louis Park. It’s one of the largest urban watershed districts in the state, and most of us probably take it for granted. Knowing and caring just got easier! MCWD has launched a great new website that includes information about paddling opportunities, volunteer opportunities, and other ways you can make an impact to maintain and improve this ecological treasure. The site also includes information on past and current projects in SLP including the planned Greenway to Cedar Trail Connection. Check it out!
Here’s a select list of upcoming events in our community:
Green Line Trail Status Meeting, Thursday, Sept. 7, 6 pm, Steel Toe Brewing. Bring questions about the Green Line project's impact on trails and get information about timing of the trails reopening. Met Council and city staff will be present. Hosted by Access Hopkins.
Birchwood Moves! Saturday, Sept. 9, 10am-2pm, Birchwood Park. 5K, 1 mile, and kids dash for folks of all ages and abilities. $5 includes a t-shirt and lunch. Info and to register here.
St. Louis Park Art Fair, Saturday, Sept. 9, 10am-5 pm, the ROC. 75+ Minnesota artists along with food trucks, community partner booths, and Youth Mini-Market. Info here.
Community Storytelling Event, Thursday, Sept 14, 6:30 pm, St. Louis Park Library. Staff and members of Vail Place will talk about the organization and how its support for individuals with mental illness has impacted their lives. Supported by St. Louis Park Friends of the Arts.
MinnesoThai, Sept 16 & 17, West End Festival Site. Free event showcasing authentic Thai street food along with cultural performances, live music, art and souvenirs, a beer and wine garden featuring local brews, kids’ bounce houses, fire dancing and more. Hosted by Ward 1’s own Wat Promwachirayan.
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.