Teaming up for good

Part 2: Can we improve parking in Linden Hills village?

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In the last Connector, I wrote about the parking issues in Linden Hills, and while a big part of me wants to take a break from this topic and write about both “Dobbs V. Roe” and the Jan. 6 hearings, I’m going to resist and stay on this local topic today...
We left off with the trolley right-of-way, the 50-foot-wide, publicly owned, partially blighted, not-really-an-alley that runs from the east corner of Settergren’s parking lot to Xerxes. I had been talking about how I believed it could be turned into a one-way “roadway” that could provide at least 80 angled parking spaces, a number that would go a long way toward reducing our parking problem. Plus it would also be wide enough to include a highly improved walking path.
Was I being realistic? How much would that cost? Who would pay for it? I met with 13th Ward Council Member Linea Palmisano to discuss. (Full disclosure: I’ve known and liked Linea for a long time, since we served together on the Linden Hills Neighborhood Council.)
She began our conversation by informing me that at current prices, it might cost $800,000 or more to construct the solution I was suggesting. And then she said, straight out: “It is not city’s priority to build new parking for businesses.”
I knew this, but still... This is valuable land that belongs to the city, and to us. And it is being wasted. Linea agreed, and we then spent several minutes recollecting all the times that we and others had become involved to try to do something there. But every time, things just fizzled.
“I’ve wanted to do something with this area since I was first elected in 2014,” she said, adding:
“I think this thing could be much more than an alley. But we need a vision for it, a modern vision. And on top of that, we need someone to champion the cause and carry it through.”
I was immediately reminded of the famed Margaret Mead quote: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
And I also remembered a conversation I had with our previous Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, about how important it is to have “champions.” It takes a village, but it often takes one person in the village to really make something happen. (Ritchie has been championing the idea of Minnesota holding a World’s Fair, lately.)
Linea asserted that she’s willing to be the champion on the government side, but it will likely require a regular citizen, or possibly a small committee at LHiNC, to get something off the ground. And dare I say it, LHiNC’s put a lot of effort into this already over the years.
Linea also stressed another fact: that once something is done there, once it becomes “designated” as an alley, or a road, or park-like area, it won’t change again. It’s current non-designation leaves it open to possibility. And that cuts both ways. It’s sort of “nothing,” until it becomes “something,” and once it’s something, it can’t go back. We, as a community, might be able to decide what to make of it... Or someday, it might just get decided for us when a new development goes up on 44th street.
All this said – what about parking?
Clearly, there is one highly under-utilized parking lot right in the node, at St. Thomas Church. But it’s private property. Might the church be approached with a proposal that would benefit them while helping the community? It could be a revenue stream for them; they already rent a small swath of their land to Martina, for parking. Surely there would be a way to keep their playground safe while adding a helpful amount of parking to the community.
Again, we’d need a champion: someone to do the work of planning and pitching the idea.
It always comes down to this, doesn’t it? Who will do the work that you don’t get paid for?
My goal with these two columns has been to promote helpful change: What can we citizens do to affect this quintessentially local issue? My goal with many of my other columns is to promote change on grander scales. What can we do, to make the world more just? And more safe?
It’s easy to become overwhelmed. It takes strength, and humility, to focus on one thing. I recommend it.

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