Thanksgiving 2023

I wrote this for Thanksgiving 2020. I am posting it today because one of the many things I am thankful for is that it isn’t 2020.

Happy Thanksgiving! This Thanksgiving will be very different for many of us who are used to hosting family and friends.

Since it is just two of us this year there may be enough pie for three meals.  There is plenty of wine too and I may need to drink a little extra so that I am not tempted to whine. I buy wine throughout the year and store it in my wine cellar (basement) for the holidays.

There is always something to be thankful for.   Please stay safe and remember that your actions today will have an impact on those around you and on the community.

Alexander Ramsey House

Alexander Ramsey House – St. Paul Minnesota


New Zoning ordinance in St. Paul

multi-family housingLast week the Saint Paul City Council voted to allow multi-family housing units to be built on lots previously limited to single-family homes.  Those multi-family homes can be duplexes, triplexes, or fourplexes, and maybe even a six or an eight depending upon the size of the lot.

Increasing density will increase the number of housing units. We need more housing in St. Paul. More housing means that housing will be more affordable.


  • Create new residential zoning districts H1 and H2: to replace the existing, single-family-only R1, R2, R3, R4 districts, other low-density RT1-RT2 districts, and some lower-density Planned Development (PD) districts. The standards for these districts and the semirural single-family only RL district are also revised.  Both districts allow for a variety of neighborhood-scale housing options including but not limited to duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, accessory dwelling units (ADUs), townhomes.
  • Update regulations for accessory dwelling units: to increase the allowable size and number allowed per lot (up to two ADUs per single-family home).
  • Add density bonus options: for ownership housing affordable to households earning 80% of area median income (AMI) or rental housing at 60% AMI; or for retaining an existing home; or for family-sized (three or more bedroom) units.
  • Incentivize keeping existing homes: with the above density bonus options as well as greater flexibility to add two attached ADUs if the single-family home is existing.
  • Update the cluster development ordinance: for greater flexibility in 1-4 unit housing development and lot layouts in exchange for an open space requirement.
  • Create more and updated design standards: including some that are tweaked from the popular traditional neighborhood (T) zoning district design standards.
  • Create new options for lot splits: including revisions to flag-shaped lots and the introduction of “back lots” and “reverse-flag lots” for more housing options.

For more information go to

October 2023 heat wave

It got up to 90 here in the Twin Cities yesterday.  Temperatures in the 60s would be closer to normal. For the first time, the Twin Cities Marathon which was supposed to take place yesterday was canceled due to extreme heat.

The weather in Minnesota in the Fall is unpredictable. It will be hot today too. We may even see 90 again. Later this week the weather will be more October-like.

I took this picture during the 2009 Twin Cities Marathon. It was cool that day and rainy too. People in the picture are wearing hoodies and jackets. It was a typical early October morning.

TC Marathon 2009
Twin Cities Marathon October 4, 2009

In the last few years, several events have been canceled due to weather or because of the pandemic. We can look forward to more canceled, postponed, or changed events due to the weather.

Throwback Thursday – Fire station 3

I am a fan of historic preservation. This old fire station is the home of Hope Breakfast Bar. The food is wonderful and so is the restaurant. The old fire station, built in 1872,  sat empty for years and was used for storage and almost demolished.

It sits on the corner of Grand Avenue and Leech Street and is surrounded by a newish hotel and luxury apartments. There are some coffee shops and a clothing store across the street.

The area has become a destination on Saturday and Sunday mornings. The street in front of the restaurant has been turned into an outdoor dining area.

before and after fire station
Fire Station becomes a restaurant

Hope breakfast bar

The weather has never been better

We get the best weather this time of year. It is cooler and dryer but not cold and right now the air isn’t smokey. The air conditioner is on but it does run much if at all and the furnace isn’t needed yet.

It is a great time for indoor and outdoor painting and landscaping projects and window washing too. Also great for walking, biking, and just being outside.

It is also a wonderful time to go house hunting. The number of houses on the market is up slightly.

If you are a homeowner planning to sell in the next year take some fall pictures of your house as the leaves start to turn.

Enjoy the weather any way that you can. We all know what comes next.

Maple Leaf
Maple leaf


City fines punish the poor

doll house

Fines from the city are sometimes used as punishments or incentives. The registered vacant building program is a great example. Some homeowners end up in the program because the city has determined that their home is not fit to live in. The house becomes a “category 2” registered vacant building even though the owner is often still living in it and there hasn’t been a code compliance inspection. Category 2 is the designation for multiple code violations.

The owners of these properties are charged a $5000 fee. When they can not pay it the fee is attached to their property taxes. The owners may be seniors on fixed incomes and others who are struggling to make ends meet. The largest concentration of these houses are in the neighborhoods with the lowest average home values.

Fines are not based on income they are the same for everyone.

For people who are living at the poverty level or slightly above a $5000 fine can cause a downward spiral that they can not recover from. It is meant to be an incentive to fix up the property but it doesn’t seem to work that way. It may be an incentive for wealthier homeowners and the owners of rental properties but for people who are struggling financially, it is just plain cruel.

Research done at the Humphry Institute suggests that cities target low-income residents and people of color with fines and fees. Court fees and legal fees can also disproportionally hurt the poor. They are not based on income.

To learn more about the City of St. Paul registered vacant building program go to and search for “registered vacant building program”. I don’t like to put links to pages on the city website because they rearrange them frequently and I end up with dead links.

Also, see The city of St. Paul is cruel to the elderly

There is a property tax deferral program in Minnesota for elderly homeowners who can not pay their property taxes. The program may help seniors who can not pay their property taxes.

I believe that there should be health and safety standards for property in St. Paul but I don’t think fining the poor is going to get us there. They will end up using money that could have been used to fix up the house to pay fines.