The Star Tribune Editorial Board's "A solid vision for St. Paul Ford site" (Aug. 7), breezily announcing support for the proposed redevelopment plan of the Ford site, seemed to have been taken directly from the news releases drafted by the city of St. Paul.
Like those news releases, the editorial glosses over deep flaws in this monstrous affront to the neighborhood. It ignores problems with crowding, congestion, pollution, noise, traffic and overtaxing of community services. It brushes aside the valid concerns of thousands of neighbors who care deeply about their neighborhood and don't want to see it degraded. It fails to recognize that this proposal is essentially a coldhearted plan to cram a hyper-dense cluster of oversized apartment towers into the middle of a residential neighborhood.
The Editorial Board notes that there is " … strong opposition from some neighbors …" as if there are just a few cranks opposing the city's plan. In reality, it isn't just "some neighbors" opposing the plan. A large and growing group of neighborhood residents have formed "Neighbors for a Livable St. Paul" — a nonpartisan, noncandidate-aligned grass-roots group of citizens who believe we must Stop the Ford Plan. Rethink the Development.
While supportive of many announced goals for the redevelopment, the group is united in calling for greatly reduced density, lowered caps on building heights and much more green/recreational space.
The Star Tribune parrots the city's news releases touting 100 community meetings as evidence of outreach and input gathering. Yet considering the 10-year history of planning, it is strange that the city presented only a single option to the community, and withheld it until the end of 2016. Few neighbors understand the implications of the plan or have considered alternatives. Those who have provided input have consistently underscored three central problems discussed above, but there is no indication of the city's willingness to modify the plan in response to those concerns.
It is reasonable to conclude that community input has simply been ignored.
Similarly, the editorial accepts the city's pronouncements regarding traffic and parking impacts on the neighborhood. According to the city, the new population won't want cars — they'll walk and bike and take the bus. The magic of the proposed street grid will mean that the traffic congestion already experienced in the neighborhood will simply evaporate. The addition of 10,000 people coming and going each day will scarcely be noticed! Of course, this is sheer nonsense. Traffic and congestion problems can't help but get worse with the density that the city has proposed.
Like the city, the Star Tribune abdicates its role as advocate for the community and shrugs: " … one of the requirements that Ford set for selling the property was that the buyer/developer could not build single-family residences. That question is out of the city's hands."
The "requirements that Ford set"? Where is the outrage? Since when is it OK that a multibillion-dollar multinational corporation with no interest in the community gets to decide what happens to property it is abandoning? Since when is it acceptable for the city and the Star Tribune to simply roll over and fail to demand that Ford bring the land back to a fully usable condition and clean things up to a standard that any potential resident, regardless of economic status, should expect?
The problem isn't that "some neighbors" oppose the city's plan. The problem is that "some politicians" — along with advocacy groups and large corporate interests — are backing a plan that is in opposition to the very valid concerns of the neighbors.
At times, elected officials have actually cared about the people and the communities they were elected to represent. There was a time when local newspapers like the Star Tribune stood up for neighborhood concerns. Apparently, those times are gone. However, residents who care about the neighborhood won't follow their lead. We will continue to fight to ensure that what happens at the Ford site does not damage the community, but instead benefits and enhances it.
Bruce Hoppe, Charles Hathaway, Char Mason, Pat McGuire and Nancy McGuire are members of Neighbors for a Livable St. Paul.